Canucks GM Mike Gillis had a bad day, too, with coach’s firing
'I have no idea how that could happen,' general manager says of leaked reports of Alain Vigneault's ouster
VANCOUVER — Wednesday was a bad day for Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. It continued a poor season for general manager Mike Gillis.
Fifteen days after the Canucks' second straight first-round exit from the National Hockey League playoffs, Gillis fired Vigneault and top assistant coaches Rick Bowness and Newell Brown. But even that job went poorly, as Vigneault learned of his dismissal from media reports before Gillis had spoken to him.
“I have no idea how that could happen,” Gillis told reporters summoned to Rogers Arena for a Wednesday afternoon press conference. “I had a meeting scheduled today … at 10 o'clock with our ownership group. I was in that meeting until two o'clock. I came out of it and I phoned Alain at 2:15. Then I found out that someone in Quebec had said this had happened.
“I think it's terribly unfortunate. I wish that wasn't the case. But it's completely beyond my control.”
News of Vigneault's firing broke in Quebec while Gillis was still meeting in Vancouver with Canucks chairman Francesco Aquilini and the owner's family. More than 90 minutes after the initial report, the general manager called his coach to say he was being fired after seven seasons that represented the best spell of sustained excellence in franchise history.
Vigneault's 313 wins in Vancouver, six Northwest Division titles and a 2011 charge to within one game of the Canucks' first Stanley Cup wasn't enough for the 52-year-old to keep his job.
Gillis said Vigneault was fired because of the Canucks' playoff failure the last two years.
But a factor also was Vigneault's long tenure and the need to change coaches to achieve what Gillis said two weeks ago was his plan to “reset” the organization.
“That's the most immediate and logical change you can make, I believe,” Gillis said Wednesday. “But I also think we need to do more as well for where we're headed as a group and an organization. When things like this occur, it isn't one person. It's all of us.
“We're in a results-oriented business and if you look at the last two playoffs we've been in, we were the higher-seeded team but lost. There comes a point in time where the message has to change and we have to be better. We simply didn't get the result that we expected, and in this business you have to get results.”
After the Canucks were swept by the San Jose Sharks 4-0 earlier this month, Gillis acknowledged he had wanted to do more as a manager but found it difficult to improve the roster in the “messed up” lockout-shortened season.
Other teams, however, found ways to improve.
The Canucks, fast and skilled, have been left behind in the NHL trend towards big, brawny teams. Gillis was unable to trade backup goalie Roberto Luongo, planned poorly for the anticipated loss of injured centre Manny Malhotra, and at the trading deadline in April managed to acquire only five-foot-eight centre Derek Roy.
The Canucks also purchased from the St. Louis Blues their own minor-league affiliate, but so far don't know if or where it will operate in the American Hockey League next season.
Gillis has much work to do beyond changing coaches.
“This has been a draining season for a lot of us,” Gillis said. “I'm looking forward to the next chapter in this organization. I think we're well-positioned to continue to improve and get better and I'm excited about where we're going to go from this point forward.”
Gillis said he has no timeline to hire Vigneault's replacement.
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