For several seasons the Vancouver Canucks have been operated by the same three key personnel.
Owner Francesco Aquilini, general manager Mike Gillis, and head coach Alain Vigneault have been working together since Vigneault joined the team in 2007, and the goal has always been the same: to win a Stanley Cup.
In pursuit of Lord Stanley the team’s ownership has consistently spent up to the salary cap while remaining behind the scenes, pulling the strings necessary to facilitate a winning club.
For years the team has been willing to pay the cost of success, offering players like Mats Sundin $10-million per year to play in Vancouver while “saving” money on a front-loaded contract with superstar goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Following this formula the Canucks have become a stable and successful franchise, however only recently has the team encountered a price too high for the Aquilini family.
The amnesty buyouts offered to NHL teams this off-season allowed for up to two contracts to be bought out without any cap-related penalty, however the actual cost of any potential buyout remained a significant punishment.
In the case of Roberto Luongo‘s mammoth contract a buyout this summer would have cost Canucks ownership $24-million, and that price was simply far too high for Francesco Aquilini, leaving the Canucks no option but to trade their younger, more affordable starting goaltender.
It was an easy decision for Aquilini, who certainly didn’t become one of Vancouver’s most prominent businessmen by spending millions of dollars to cover up a managerial mistake. In pursuit of long-term savings general manager Mike Gillis committed more of the team’s money to one employee than anyone ever should, and since then the team has suffered the consequences.
Enter John Tortorella, an intense and successful head coach expected to succeed where Alain Vigneault ultimately failed.
Currently Vancouver’s “window to win” is wide open, and Torts has been hired to see that vision through. But what happens if Tortorella isn’t the man to push the Canucks over the top?
Having fired the franchise’s most successful coach of all time general manager Mike Gillis is arguably the man most responsible for the Canucks’ success moving forward, and heading into a full 82-game season I imagine his seat is slightly warmer than it was one year previous.
Gillis may have talked a big game during his end of season press conference this year, but dealing Cory Schneider certainly wasn’t one of the bold moves GM MG was hinting at.
The Vancouver Canucks have just over $5-million in cap space remaining for the 2013-14 season, and the team’s president and general manager faces a considerable amount of pressure to find quality players at bargain bin prices, but will it be enough for the Canucks to improve on two seasons of playoff disappointment?
Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: players play, and coaches coach, but general managers choose them both.