VANCOUVER — Vancouver Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis talked to The Vancouver Sun on Monday. Here are more comments from Gillis:
• ON THE CANUCKS’ SECONDARY SCORING WOES:
“Zack (Kassian) has an opportunity to be a big-time player. If he continues to grow, it opens opportunities for other people to be moved around in the lineup that improves the rest of the lineup. When we get (David) Booth and Ryan (Kesler) back, we don’t have secondary-scoring issues.”
(Cam Cole: That’s assuming they come back to play at a high level?)
“Well, you never know, but we have a pretty clear idea, and suddenly the lineup changes dramatically. I think you’re going to see (2009 first-rounder Jordan) Schroeder in our lineup, a highly skilled player who will help our power play.
“The way we were constituted to start this year, we just needed to get through this first 2-3 weeks, and neither of our goalies was particularly sharp in the first two games.”
• ON ORGANIZATIONAL PHILOSOPHY:
“The one organization that I followed very carefully when I was an agent was Detroit, and Ken Holland, who I think is as good a GM as there is in sport, and leaving players in the minors longer does a couple of things for you. One, it lets them develop. And we have quality coaching there. And two, it helps with your salary cap, because coming out of an entry-level deal where they’re prepared to make the step into the NHL, they are still in a position of having to earn their (second contract).”
• ON NICK LIDSTROM, AND THE SEDIN TWINS:
“Detroit had Nick Lidstrom who has set the bar for everybody, and any young player coming in there knew what the expectations were of what you do daily.
He made everybody better. We’re trying to emulate that.”
(CC: Not everyone is lucky enough to have a Nick Lidstrom?)
“Well, we have those two brothers that make whoever they play with better, and they have set that standard, and that’s been the guiding light for this place since I’ve been here, is to make them as good as they can be and they’ll drag those other guys along and show them what it takes to be elite players.
“That’s what they’re doing.”
• ON ROBERTO LUONGO, AND CHARACTER:
“We have a really good player here who brings a tremendous amount to the team, his professionalism, his willingness to work — he’s the kind of player that changes the culture on a team and shows players what it means to be an elite-level player.
“And that’s what happened when we got Mats (Sundin in 2009). I know you weren’t in favour of that, but we did it for reasons that weren’t necessarily just on the ice. And yeah, maybe the goalie lets in a bad goal once in a while, or maybe the guy is a little older and a little bit slower, but what he’s bringing in terms of changing the culture of the organization is profound. And long after they’re gone, that lingers.
“We [signed Sundin] because we knew how hard this guy worked, the way he lived, what he stood for, particularly in Sweden, with Swedish players, and we felt it was really important that the culture here continue to evolve and grow on accountability and a real workmanlike process, day after day after day.”
(CC: Daniel and Henrik needed advice on how to stay in shape?)
“No, but they saw the consequence of a career spent like that, and they got reinforcement about the payoff of doing it all the time. It’s an inhibiting factor for lots of players who never understand that, never get it.”
• ON RETAINING TALENT:
“I was an agent for a long, long time, and I understand that there are players who won’t make that sacrifice, who have different values, and we wanted to keep the ones that were prepared to participate the way we thought they should — and we kept them.
“We’ve kept pretty well everybody we’ve wanted to keep. And where we haven’t been able to, we’ve tried to replace them with people we felt were prepared to do that for this organization.
“In doing so, we’ve taken some chances, tried to do some things differently to give them opportunity to be the best they can be, and for the most part it’s worked pretty well for us.”
• ON CANUCKS’ SCOUTING:
“We’ve been slowly making changes over the years, to address some concerns I’ve had — let some people go, made a fairly significant change internally. Eric Crawford is far more involved on the amateur side.”
• ON PROSPECTS, OR DEARTH OF:
“If you look at our picks, Yann Sauve got hit by a car, almost killed. Luc Bourdon was killed. Those are not things you expect to happen. We’ve traded picks in order to try to win Stanley Cups. We’ve picked at the end of the first round for three years.
“We picked Cody Hodgson which got turned into Zack Kassian who I think is going to be an impact player here. We’ve picked a lot of young defencemen who are coming along but they take time. I’m sure there’s people who don’t even realize Peter Andersson is a player we left in Sweden for two years who’s going to be a really good player. And Kevin Connauton we think is going to be a very good player.
“We expect some of those players will be ready to emerge now — Andersson, Connauton, Frankie Corrado, who is ahead of schedule. (Danish centre) Nick Jensen left junior hockey to play in the Swedish Elite League. (Belleville Bulls centre) Brendan Gaunce is the captain of his team, we think is going to be a solid player. We’ve got college players we picked later in the draft so that they could stay in college, and we wouldn’t lose their rights.
“(Harvard defenceman) Patrick McNally, he’s in college, so he’s not right in your face, so people tend to forget about him.”
• ON THE CANUCKS’ SCANT TURNOVER IN PERSONNEL:
“There’s Garrison, and you’re going to see Schroeder, this year. Aaron Volpatti didn’t play at all last year and he’s going to add something to our fourth line. Dale Weise seems to be a better player this year, who should help us.
“It’s difficult when you have a good team to turn over a lot of players. Ideally, next year, I think we’ll have more turnover, because the cap changes and we have some younger players we feel will be ready to make the step.
“So we won’t have to sign the older, kind of journeyman player.
“Our hope now, as some of these younger guys step into our lineup, is that we start to get younger over the next couple of years, and we’ll retain our core guys that they’ll learn from, and it seems to be the kind of process that allows you to stay pretty good over a long period of time.”
• ON TOUGHNESS:
“One of the reasons we made the Kassian deal was we wanted that element, but from a guy who could play. We hadn’t played well two months prior to the playoffs last year, our goaltenders were just that good that we won a lot of games we shouldn’t have.
“But we have a bigger body in Garrison, a bigger body in Zack, Aaron Volpatti, Dale Weise has made a stride. So I do think we have a different look.”
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Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis (left) works the phones alongside assistant GM Laurence Gilman during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Gillis says his team has a number of good prospects in the development pipeline.
Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images Files, Vancouver Sun