Press conferences are strange
It’s an open secret that they generally consist of misleading statements, boilerplate talking points and other untruths. That said, they are the only way to assess the stated goals of an organization and its general manager.
While it may be a less than credible medium for relaying information, we can take a look at Mike Gillis press conferences to judge whether or not his stated goals translate into trades, signings, and on-ice strategy. Can we trust Mike Gillis press conferences?
A good place to start would be…at the start. The introductory press conference.
For most casual fans this was their first impression of Mr. Gillis. While he spoke in the stock sports manager parlance, he did seem to be a departure from Dave Nonis because he stated some controversial opinions. Unfortunately for both Gillis and Vancouver Canucks fans, the part of this particular press conference that is most often remembered is also the part that has the least long-term relevance to the team.
Gillis stated that: “[The Sedins] are front-line players but I don’t know if they’re players that the team will be built around going forward.”
This was both lauded as an honest evaluation of current players on the roster as well as criticized from a morale-building standpoint. Even if you don’t think a player is vital to the long-term health of the team, you don’t say that publicly. This has become a continuing theme with Gillis.
He doesn’t seem to know when to keep certain beliefs or plans to himself. We’ll return to this point later.
Several other key points that were made during this press conference were forgotten altogether.
Gillis was correct to state that the forward group needed to change, and several of his additions (Chris Higgins, Maxim Lapierre, etc.) went on to fix what Gillis identified as team deficits: grit, toughness, competitiveness.It’s debatable whether Gillis was correct in saying the team he inherited was “not even close” to being a Stanley cup contender.
Gillis also honestly confessed that he had no pre-conceived beliefs, and that everything was under review.
If there is one thing that even Gillis haters will recognize, it’s that he has left no stone unturned when it comes to seeking competitive edges. You know the examples: sleep doctors, sports psychologists, etc.
He was one of the first GM’s to use the offer sheet process to sign a restricted free agent when he targeted David Backes.
He hasn’t shaken up the scouting staff to the extent that most fans would like, but there has been a top to bottom culture change in Vancity.
The place where Mike Gillis really fell apart in communicating his stated goals was the Luongo situation.
I think we can consider this somewhat of an aberration, as his other press conferences were generally fairly predictive of what he was aiming to accomplish.
In stating that Cory Schneider was “the guy” and that they greatly desired to move Roberto Luongo, Gillis torpedoed his own leverage and telegraphed what he wished to do in such a way that he made his job more difficult.
If anything Gillis was too honest and open with us, and this highlighted his greatest professional failure: the Luongo-Schneider situation.
Much like his opinion about Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin not being “foundational” players, by naming Cory “the guy” and expressing a desire to trade Luongo as soon as possible, Gillis failed to leave well enough alone and in doing so may have set the organization back significantly.
What does this mean for the 2013 Vancouver Canucks?
In his most recent end of season press conference, Mr. Gillis stated a desire to get bigger, tougher, and younger at the forward position.
We can call this an honest statement, as the Canucks are likely to play one or two young forwards this season, but really this is a matter of spin more than strategy.
The Canucks are caught in a cap crunch, and players like Jordan Schroeder, Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, or Nicklas Jensen will have to be part of the picture moving forward if the Canucks want to ice a competitive team within the confines of a shrunken salary cap.
As with most things, the old dictum of “trust, but verify” holds true.
Gillis has done a good job of communicating with fans. In fact, he has done much better than many general managers, and the few occasions where he has been too open have been self-destructive.