Firing Nonis the right move
It's been asked, more than once, in hockey circles: "Where would the Canucks be without Roberto Luongo?"
And I've often thought the same, albeit with a twist: Where, exactly, would David Nonis be without The Trade?
The announcement Nonis was finished as GM in Vancouver leaked out at about 9 p.m. Monday night, and a few hours later, the postmortems were just beginning to come in. Bob McKenzie doesn't like the move, and neither does Iain McIntyre, the Vancouver Sun columnist who has covered Nonis's every move.
But I do. And so, too, do an awful lot of fans in Canuckville.
The Luongo deal was, without question, a fleecing, and gave Vancouver a piece it's needed since the fall of 1970, but recalling Nonis's next significant transaction over the past four years isn't nearly as easy to call.
Since May, 2004, the organization has made one safe move after another (with the one exception).
Nonis signed Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison to long-term contracts when better options were available (Scott Niedermayer comes to mind), foisted the goaltending duties on Alex Auld in his first season and lost Ed Jovanovski for nothing as an unrestricted free agent in Year 2. And that's just for starters.
The Trade, in fact, masked a lot.
Nonis free-agent signings/acquisitions
2004: Jonathan Aiken, Joe DiPenta, Lee Goren, Wade Flaherty, Jeff Heerema
2005: Steve McCarthy, Craig Darby, Jozef Balej, Anson Carter, Richard Park, Brent Johnson
2006: Sean Brown, Mika Noronen, Keith Carney, Eric Weinrich, Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek, Willie Mitchell, Marc Chouinard, Jan Bulis, Taylor Pyatt, Rory Fitzpatrick, Dany Sabourin, Jeff Cowan
2007: Brent Sopel, Bryan Smolinski, Ryan Shannon, Brad Isbister, Byron Ritchie, Curtis Sanford, Aaron Miller
There's really not a lot of there there. A cast of mostly minor leaguers and waiver-wire castoffs, with only one truly impact signing in Mitchell, who while effective, isn't bringing anyone out of their seats.
For the most part, Nonis's busy work involved keeping what he'd been left by mentor Brian Burke.
In 2004, he re-signed Dan Cloutier, the Sedins and Alex Auld. A year later, Naslund, Morrison, Sami Salo, Mattias Ohlund and Matt Cooke all got two-plus year deals.
Krajicek and Ryan Kesler re-signed in 2006 and Linden in 2007.
And in the meantime, the prospect pipeline hasn't produced nearly enough to fill the holes.
To be fair, there's no way Nonis could absolve years of poor drafting in such a short span — in fact, I think he's done a decent job building the organization behind the scenes (although not taking Anze Kopitar was ridiculous) — but once he pulled the trigger on The Trade in 2006, his focus had to change.
The Canucks had to win now — and they were going to have to take some chances in order to do so.
That never happened.
It's not hard to see why so few fans are up in arms over Nonis's dismissal, as what they're really after is for something to cheer about with this team. It's been year after year of a defensive club producing mediocre results, a vanilla team on the ice backed up by a vanilla management style.
If this was Dave Nonis going for it with his superstar between the pipes, I'd hate to see him playing it safe.
Nonis seems like a great guy, a local who has spent a decade with the team, and he's been far from the worst GM over the past four years. He just hasn't done enough to show me he's the one who can lead this team where it needs to go while Luongo's still on board.
When Burke went to Anaheim, he gutted the team, shedding salary and veterans and remaking the team into an exciting, hard-hitting winner. He moved Sergei Fedorov's contract for Francois Beauchemin, dumped Vinny Prospal and Sandis Ozolinsh, Joffrey Lupul and Keith Carney, and won the Stanley Cup, a little more than a year and a half after arriving.
Meanwhile, four years after Burke left Vancouver, the Canucks have changed but stayed the same, made moves to keep pieces that haven't worked and all along, sat on the bubble. Winning as much as losing, not picking high in the draft, and really going nowhere.
The fans know it, and ownership does too.
It was time for a change, and if Nonis has proven anything, it's that that's not his strength.
Moving Van [Lowetide]
Dave Nonis Fired [Orland Kurtenblog]
And Tom Benjamin will have something worth reading soon.