Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Canucks Fire GM Nonis

The team that is likely the biggest surprise to have missed the playoffs is the Vancouver Canucks. They suffered significant injury on their defence and yet only missed the playoffs by three points. This was a significant dropoff from their Northwest Division winning season last year. The team fell by 17 points in the standings from season to season. In an intense hockey market as Vancouver somebody had to be made a scapegoat of somebody to explain the dropoff.

The scapegoat was chosen to be general manager Dave Nonis. Nonis has been Canucks GM for the past three seasons. The team is probably in better shape after Nonis's run than it was before him. This is largely because he acquired Roberto Luongo from Florida and goaltending is extremely important in the NHL today. The criticism of Nonis is that aside from the best trade in the Canucks NHL history what has he done for the Canucks? Of course it's somewhat unfair to subtract a person's greatest move when evaluating their job performance.

Dave Nonis's Vancouver Canucks have been very close to the salary cap every year in his running the team. This has handcuffed him. It can be argued that this problem is partly his fault. A top level GM would have been able to make a move to create some salary space without weakening the team. Only a handful of GMs have been able to make these moves (Brian Burke and Lou Lamoreillo come to mind). Most GMs are not on this level. Most teams must have acceptable GMs who are not the most elite GMs in the league. Dave Nonis was among this group. It is possible to replace Nonis with a better GM. Some exist. But it will be very hard for the Vancouver Canucks to get one. Most likely, the Canucks will make a lateral move and hire a new GM equally capable as Nonis, but not any better.

In Nonis's favor, he resisted the urge to make a short-sighted move that would have increased the Vancouver Canucks shortterm chances this year. Had he made a move, giving up several pieces of the Canucks future for a free agent to be, the Canucks would likely have made the playoffs this year. Likely, they would have lost quickly in the first round and it would be a bad move overall. For that reason alone, I don't think Vancouver should have fired Dave Nonis. He should have been rewarded for looking after the Canucks longterm interests.

Vancouver is quickly becoming a "media fishbowl" the way Toronto and Montreal are. There are many media members who owe their jobs to second guessing the people running the local team. They spend their time pointing out how the local team is wrong and regularly call for the heads of the people in charge. Vancouver hired GM Dave Nonis when their ownership listened to this media and let Brian Burke go. This was Orca Bay's biggest mistake. Brian Burke went on to build the Stanley Cup winning Anaheim Ducks. Nonis has improved the Canucks somewhat by acquiring Roberto Luongo, but has been unable to make the Canucks a serious Stanley Cup contender.

The best way to build a winning team in the NHL is to hire a top level GM and leave him alone and let him build a winning team. Vancouver has been unwilling to leave that GM alone when they had one in Brian Burke. They didn't give Dave Nonis enough of a chance either. Until that changes, Vancouver will never win a Stanley Cup.

1) We find the stories that Brian Burke would return to Vancouver hard to believe. The guy has a dream job. Working/living in southern California he's already cemented his place with a Cup. There is almost zero pressure.
2) If he decides to go back to Vancouver or worse yet to the Leafs then we will have to reassess how smart Burke really is!
3) Meanwhile in Atlanta, Don Waddell still has a job. Go figure!
It seems Toronto fans have a bad habit of daydreaming that everybody on earth wants to be part of their team. If you have a weakness find the best possible guy to fill the void and just daydream that he is on his way to Toronto (regardless of plausibility).

Vancouver fans are learning that same useless skill.

Vancouver had Burke. They let him go. He has built a Stanley Cup winner when he was gone. Why should they think they might get him back?
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