Ex-Canuck Cody Hodgson a complainer, ‘didn’t want to be here,’ says GM Mike Gillis
General manager stands behind his coach, says Zack Kassian will ‘be a more influential player for us’
VANCOUVER — Cody Hodgson is gone, but apparently not forgotten.
Mike Gillis, who had been largely silent on the reasons why he traded the player he made his first draft pick as Vancouver Canucks general manager four years ago, labelled Hodgson a chronic complainer during his end-of-season post-mortem Tuesday at Rogers Arena.
"There clearly were issues that were ongoing," Gillis said of Hodgson. "I spent more time on Cody's issues than every other player combined on our team the last three years."
Gillis made the comments while defending the trade deadline day deal that sent Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for winger Zack Kassian and defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani.
"We made a determination that he didn't want to be here, we built him into something we could move," Gillis said. "There were six young players that I would have traded him for if any of them were ever made available. One was made available at the trade deadline and it was Zack."
Later in his 30-minute session with the media, Gillis alluded to Hodgson's defensive deficiencies and suggested he was not up to the tasks that normally come with being a third-line centre in the playoffs. The Canucks acquired veteran Sammy Pahlsson in a separate trade that same day to replace Hodgson.
"We put Cody on the ice in every offensive situation we possibly could," Gillis said. "I don't think he took more than five or six defensive zone faceoffs and that was by design. And like I said earlier, I don't regret that move. I'd do it again. I'd do it today."
Gillis indicated the organization has high hopes for the 21-year-old Kassian, who was a healthy scratch Sunday when the Canucks bowed out in five games to the eighth-seeded Kings.
"Zack is a commodity that is impossible to get if we develop him and make him into the player we think he can be. There's five players in the league that I think are the equivalent and you can not get them, you can not get them in free agency, you can't get them in a trade. So it's really up to us and I think Zack is going to be a more influential player for us moving forward."
Gillis touched on a number of subjects during his question-and-answer session, but offered few specifics. He professed his strong support of coach Alain Vigneault, who unlike past years was absent from Tuesday's session. But Gillis said the team's owners, the Aquilini family, will make the ultimate call on any personnel changes.
Gillis will meet with ownership some time in the next week or so.
"My future will be discussed first," he said. "I am the president of this team and the general manager, it is my responsibility what happens on this team. So before we get to anybody else we are going to discuss my role and how I have done.
"Then we will move onto every element of the organization like we do every year. It's not going to change, everyone will be evaluated on what they have done, how they have performed and we'll make decisions after that."
But Gillis made it clear he supports Vigneault, who like Gillis has one more year remaining on his contract.
"It gets exasperating sometimes," Gillis said of speculation regarding Vigneault's future. "This guy is the winningest coach in this team's history. We just won two Presidents’ trophies, you know, lost in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final. Is that when you decide you are going to start getting rid of people?
"I know there are a lot of teams that are envious of where this team is today in a lot of different ways and having a good head coach is one of the reasons they are envious. I think Alain's record speaks for itself. He is a professional coach, he is extremely hard-working, he is a bright guy. We have gone through an awful lot over the last four years off the ice that have been really difficult things for all of us. We have done it together, we have done it as a group. I think Alain is an excellent NHL hockey coach."
Gillis said any contract extension for Vigneault would have to wait until his meetings with ownership are done. Gillis also might be in line for an extension as he indicated Tuesday he is not ready to sail off into the sunset after his deal expires.
"I really enjoy the competitiveness of it," Gillis said of his job. "There are parts of it I don't enjoy, but I really enjoy working with these people … I really enjoy the players, I really enjoy the coaching staff here, Lorne (Henning), Laurence (Gilman), Stan (Smyl), we have, I think, one of the best organizations in the game in terms of how we work together. That to me is real enjoyable and I'd like to continue that."
Gillis acknowledged that despite the fact the Canucks had a strong finish to the regular season, winning eight of their final nine games, he had concerns about the team heading into the playoffs.
"Heading into the playoffs we won a lot of games at the end that I thought our team was somewhat indifferent in and met a team in the playoffs that was very well coached," he said. "They played hard, they won some games that could have gone either way and suddenly you are down 3-0 in a series and it's very difficult to climb your way out of it.
"I am extremely disappointed, everybody in this organization is extremely disappointed. The result isn't acceptable based on where we think we are as an organization and a team. But it's happened and now I am going to look forward to the changes we need to make."
Among those changes, Gillis said, will be making the team bigger and younger. He also stressed that the Canucks will continue to try and play an offensive brand of hockey.
"You have to continually try and make changes to get better and address certain things and we did that," Gillis said. "We got a bigger player in Zack, we got a bigger player in David Booth, We are going to continue to try and get bigger and stronger in the context of having a good offensive team."
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