Tuesday, April 15, 2008

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.



At 3:21 a.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He brought in stiff after stiff after stiff.
The Canucks lost.
And they were the most boring team in hockey.
The only mystery is why it took 8 days after the season ended to gas him.
Or why Vigneault still has a job.

At 3:53 a.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair, I wouldn't compare Nonis to Burke, simply because Burke inherited a team ripe with up and coming young players, which gave him a lot more assets to deal. Nonis, meanwhile, inherited a team with virtually no prospects and a guy named Dan Cloutier.

And I wouldn't blame Nonis for not signing Scott Niedermayer. If you recall, Niedermayer turned down a max contract offer to stay in New Jersey. It then became pretty obvious that he wanted to play with his brother in Anaheim, regardless of what other offers he got.

At 4:21 a.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be noted that the Canucks finished only 3 points out of a playoff spot, despite missing Ohlund (their no.1 defenseman), and Morrison (their 2nd line center) down the stretch of the season.

At 7:53 a.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Meanwhile in Atlanta Don Waddell still has a job. Go figure.

At 8:41 a.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firing Nonis a terrible move. While the fans may not be "up in arms", 23% of fans who closely follow the team on one board (hockeysfuture) have given the move a thumbs up (about 60% disapproving, rest undecided). The main reason I'm not thrilled with the move is that I along with the large majority of fans approve of Dave Nonis' work, particularly his long term focus on doing what was best for the team; restocking the barren prospects cupboard that he inherited while consistently icing a competitive team. This offseason was expected to be a year where big player personnel changes that fit into a long range plan were made to bring this team to the next level. I am genuinely afraid for the future of the franchise at this moment. Ugh.

At 8:50 a.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger godot10 said...

Luongo's contract has 2 years to run. He was lot likely to sign an extension with the players Nonis put in front of him, and the ugly hockey style that Vigneault played.

It was critical to signing Luongo to an extension next summer to dump Nonis now, because next summer would be too late.

At 9:32 a.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of your blog, James, but feel you've missed the mark on this one. I agree that the Canucks have been traditionally over-conservative (and this goes back to Pat Quinn). But I think Nonis performed quite admirably with a heretofore unknown cap constraint. The moves he made were almost all universally applauded up until this season, whether re-signing Näslund, trading for Luongo, signing Mitchell, or the slew of trades at the 2006 deadline.

To say "It's been year after year of a defensive club producing mediocre results," when the club has only been such for two seasons -- one of which was tops in team history -- is pretty strange.

There are a lot of fans up in arms over a Hugo Chavez (i.e. credibility-killing) move on Aquilini's part.

At 10:10 a.m., April 15, 2008, OpenID vancouverviewpoint said...

James, for what it's worth, I think your analysis is spot on.

As a long suffering Canucks fan, I have been frustrated by Nonis' unwillingness/inability to make the personnel moves necessary to make this team better; to make it a legitimate contender.

The exception, of course, is Luongo but, as you point out, that can only mitigate the case against him in small measure.

You do well to highlight the embarrasing amount of dross this guy has brought into the team since he took over as GM.

Canucks fans deserve better. Hopefully we get it.

At 10:40 a.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

"There have been no prospects".

Gee, in 4 years. I wonder whose fault that is? Certainly not the defending Stanley Cup champion GM's fault... nah, couldn't be. He left the team ripe with Jason Kings and Alex Aulds!

Nonis was left with a team core that lost a prime year, an albatross in Bertuzzi, no goaltending to speak of, and a captain who, earlier than expected went on a decline.

He lost a ridiculous amount of man-games on his blueline, never having his intended starting six start a single game.

He had no prospects beyond Ryan Kesler, who was a stretch at his draft spot in that 2003 draft class anyways.

He inherited a terrible coach. That's right, I called Crawford terrible.

And he had to deal with a salary cap.

It's because he isn't a boorish oaf that he got fired this early, and yes, because the product wasn't entertaining.

And honestly... how can firing a guy be considered "the right move" until there's a replacement made anyways?

What the hell is happening here in the Canadian markets already? Geez, these kind of moves are the makings of Ronald Corey's Habs. Honestly, with the Sens, the Leafs, and now the Canucks... can't wait to see what kind of lunacy Katz brings to the Oilers.

Compared to this, Calgary hiring Keenan was about as level-headed and logical of a decision that has been made since the Penguins hired Bowman to succeed Johnson.

At 10:55 a.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger Navin Vaswani said...

you're right. other than mitchell, it was all garbage that nonis brought in.

At 10:59 a.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger McLea said...

Well, if we have learned anything in the past two days, it’s that the commenters on these threads are incapable of offering an impartial analysis on any issue involving Sean Avery or Brian Burke.

Throw a strong personality into the mix and everyone here loses their ability to assess a situation objectively. Unfortunate really.

At 11:23 a.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

I'll state this... I don't think Burke is a terrible GM, but I do think he inherited a great situation in Anaheim and left Nonis with nothing. The best player he drafted in Vancouver not named Sedin he couldn't even sign (Umberger).

3 NHL seasons is not enough time to put your stamp on a team. That being said, if there is a real saviour coming in here it may be a moot point. Montreal replaced Andre Savard after only 2 1/2 NHL seasons because Gainey came in, and it was the best decision that ever happened there.

Nonis got the job half done in Vancouver. This summer was his to make the team absolutely his and finish the job he started in 2006.

And honestly, when you're talking prospects, please look up the record:


Compare 1999-2003 to 2004-2007. Even just the year 2004 was a better draft than any Burke had outside of picking the Sedins (Schneider, Edler, Brown, Ellis and Hansen). That's not even including getting Bourdon and Raymond out of 2005.

It's a terrible record from 1999-2003 that left Nonis with only these good young players to build around: Sedins, Bieksa, and Kesler. Every other selection was a bust. Just look at the 2002 pool.

Nonis was given lemons. He made lemonade in 2006-07. He didn't come up with anything new by this season and that's all he gets?

At 11:50 a.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

He lost a ridiculous amount of man-games on his blueline, never having his intended starting six start a single game.

It is a mistake to think that the number of games lost to injury is entirely independent of the GM. One place that research is interesting these days is looking at the quality of team medical staffs, and who does a good job of keeping their players in the game.

Clearly, games lost to injury isn't something that a GM has complete control over. However, hiring good medical people is as important a part of the job as hiring good players.

At 12:35 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger Steve Patterson said...

it was absolutely fair to fire nonis. he lucked into one trade that has carried him the past three years, but if you take away that trade, then he's done a terrible job.

the last straw was this year's trade deadline. so he couldn't get brad richards...fair enough. but there were plenty of other offensive players out there that other teams obtained, and his best effort included shipping away matt cooke for a 'b' version of cooke in matt pettinger. he knew the team needed a boost, but did nothing, and the team missed the playoffs because of him.

his strategy of waiting until naslund and morrison's contracts expire, and then going after this summer's ufa's, was also misguided. the pool of talent of unrestricted free agents this year is among the worst in recent memory. he should have recognized that and not put all his eggs in one basket.

the prospects he has supposedly 'stacked' are good only if you compare them to the canucks prospects of the past, which were terrible. in the northwest division, it would be fair to say that vancouver is last in terms of good young players.

his worst mistake, though, was not putting his mark on the team. he continued the failed makeup of the team from the burke era, if you count the lockout, for 4 years. that is way too long without a shakeup. yes, the team overachieved last year because they played a tight system under vignault and luongo stole them a bunch of games. but it's the gm's job to see that the season was more of a mirage than anything else. he couldn't and now he's gone.

At 12:35 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous cynical joe said...

Ironically, I don't think the decision to fire Dave had much to do with him. I think Aqualinni found a guy he wanted more, who is, or shortly will be, available and Dave's contract was nearly up and thus the move. Dave unfortunately mirrors his team: he's basically a second-liner in a tough division of star players. I'm sure he'll land as an Assist. GM or VP in charge of the cap at wherever Burke ends up.

At 12:44 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Junior said...


Any idea whether this move is in any way related to the status of Naslund or Linden (i.e. was either player musing about retirement out loud, but hoping instead for a regime change and a new contract?)

At 12:48 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger John said...

I think this was a poor move. Nonis lost his first year to the lockout. He was already saddled with the Bertuzzi circus, but he a core that had been a top offensive team the last time it played.

First season back, he is killed by poor coaching, worse goaltending, a team captain who is supposed to score but seems to prefer sulking, and a star power forward who is a shell of himself. He gets rid of the bad coach, dumps Bertuzzi, gets Luongo, locks up the Sedins, and brings in a new coach.
When a half season goes by with poor results, the coach shifts to a defensive philosophy and the team prospers - the offensive core has faded from what it had been, but the defense is strong and the team rallys after Christmas to make it comfortably into the playoffs.
The final season, the team sticks with the defensive mindset in front of the star goalie, but injuries ravage the blueline, the forwards still can't score, the farm system isn't rebuilt yet, and the star goalie has his mind on his pregnant wife still in Florida. Even with cap space available, the price for trade deadline help is so steep that (with the support of ownership) no mortgaging-the-future deals are made.

And now he is dumped.

Sure he didn't make many big splash deals, but when he took the job Morrison/Bertuzzi/Naslund were star offensive leaders. Morrison and Naslund were key cogs - who knew their skills would decline so quickly; yet still be a cap hit. Bertuzzi was moved, but Luongo was also a major cap hit. The players signed looks like the ones that would take the money that was available.
And as for boring/defensive hockey, when your scorers stop scoring you need to stop goals to have a chance to win. If Vignault had some more impact up front the style could be different. You play with the cards you have.

Nonis is a victim of offensive players that could no longer score, a blueline that didn't get to play a single game as a complete unit, and a new ownership that backed him up just long enough to send a shiv into his back.

At 1:17 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous treved said...

Couldn't have said it better John. I'm pretty surprised that Mirtle would support such knee-jerk ownership behavior. He's usually much more astute.

It's an easy punchline to point to the mostly tepid players that have been brought in. The true story is his ability to re-stock the prospect cupboard, sign top players to below-market contracts, and free up money Burke had pissed away.

In hindsight you can point out many flaws, but at the time I'm not sure he could have done that much better.

Plus what I can't get over is that they had a record setting season last year. This year they are two weeks from the end and one point out of first. If they win half those last games nobody is even dreaming of firing the GM.

How can you base his job performance on the play of the team in those last 7 games? They play well he's a genius, poorly he's fired? I don't see how his actions have any impact at that point. Don't give me the trade deadline bs....

At 1:30 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pray tell, what ripe young talent did Burke inherit?

Sure Bertuzzi and Naslund were already there as was Ohlund and Aucoin, but he kept them around and made them useful. Schaefer and Scatchard I guess might fall under this, but they haven't gone on to star elsewhere by any means

The prospect pool in 1998 when Burke took the reins was full of names like Josh Holden, Chris McAllister, Brad Ference and Harold Druken. If Canucks fans want to point fingers at poor drafting and terrible scouting, the blame goes farther back then Burke.

At 1:49 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

How can you base his job performance on the play of the team in those last 7 games? They play well he's a genius, poorly he's fired? I don't see how his actions have any impact at that point.

Oh, honestly now, is that what I've done? What I'm saying is that this team, last year, this, wasn't a contender. I picked them to miss the playoffs this season because of just how inept they'd been, and because Nonis simply didn't

He can stock the prospect cupboard all he wants, but the goal, with Luongo, is to win now. This is Vancouver's best window to win, and he had to go for it.

You've got to either tear it down and build through youth or try and make a run. Which route, exactly, was Nonis taking?

I'm shocked how split the thoughts on this one are. Quite the wide range of opinion on this one.

As for your comment about the record-setting season: Last year's team won 17 games in OT or the shootout, adding 34 points. Let's face it, it's really not fair to compare the current era standings, point for point, and say things about how the season compares historically.

That team may have narrowly won a division title, but they had as much chance of winning a Cup as they did beating the Ducks who did.


At 1:50 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Any idea whether this move is in any way related to the status of Naslund or Linden

I don't think so; although Nonis gave ownership his action plan last week and there may have been something they didn't like.

At 1:52 p.m., April 15, 2008, OpenID vancouverviewpoint said...

Just to follow up on the last post, we are talking about a team that has used first round picks (often near the top of the drafting order) to select players like Libor Polasek, Jim Sandlak, Alex Stojanov, Jason Herter, Dan Woodley, Mike Wilson, J.J. Daigneault, Jere Gillis, Joceyln Guevremont, Rick Lanz, etc.

Indeed, the problem goes back to this franchise's inception.

As a Canucks fan, this is perhaps the most disconcerting piece of information I deal with when reflecting on the state of the franchise.

At 1:56 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger Kel said...

What did Burke inherit when he arrived in Vancouver? Definitely more than you thought. Established stars: Messier, Bure and Mogilny. Upcoming star: Naslund, Bertuzzi, McCabe, Ohlund. Other notable youngsters: Aucoin, Scott Walker, Steve Staios. There was no salary cap and therefore it was easier to deal away a star. Nonis inherited a team built based on the old CBA (no cap, long rights to draft pick and late UFA)

At 2:14 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger John said...

It seems that if you believe Nonis hasn't done much besides keep the seat warm, you are happy he is now gone.

If you believe Nonis inherited a team where the players were injured or didn't play up to their "pre-Nonis" levels, then you think he got a raw deal.

I'm not a Canuck fan (far from it), but I don't think they were as good as their record showed on 06/07 or as bad as they were in 07/08.

I think Nonis has them in a position where a GM can put his stamp on the team. I think Nonis believed this was his chance to finish building the team from the goal out; but now his successor will get the opportunity.

At 2:16 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger Doogie said...

can't wait to see what kind of lunacy Katz brings to the Oilers.

How about stability?

So far, Lowe has done nothing but sign his good young RFA talent, and Katz has gone on record as saying he'd spend to the cap every year, and support Lowe without interfering in the hockey operations department. Until he does otherwise, I'm inclined to believe that's what's going to happen. Kevin Lowe may not be Bob Gainey (Gainey refused to give Souray $5.4M long-term), but he's also not John "No Movement Clause" Ferguson, and Daryl Katz is, so far as I can tell, nothing like MLSE -- if anything, that distinction belongs to the "dearly departing" EIG. The main problem I foresee with Katz is a lack of willingness to stop the nepotism dead in its tracks, since he's apparently friendly with many of the Boys on the Bus, but I guess we'll have to wait and see on that, too.

Pray tell, what ripe young talent did Burke inherit?

Getzlaf, Perry, Lupul, and Penner spring immediately to mind. (We're not talking about what Burke had to work with in Vancouver.)

At 2:28 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous vadim sharifijanov said...

I've read a lot of commentators absolving Nonis of blame because of the incredible number of games lost on defence this year. Well, Bieksa getting hurt was just bad luck; no one could have seen that coming. Mitchell and Ohlund getting hurt, he should have seen that coming. Any Canucks fan could have told you at the beginning of the season to stock up on depth on defence because Mitchell and Ohlund are going to miss at least 10 games a year. Aaron Miller? How many games did you expect him to play? And what about Salo? This is a guy who is practically guaranteed to miss 20+ games or play hurt every year. He's a good PP contributor and a solid top four defenceman, and he's signed to a very reasonable contract. Nonis couldn't have shipped him off to some win-now contender for a younger, more durable defenceman? Philly got Brayden Coburn for Alexei Zhitnik. Colorado got Ruslan Salei for Karlis Skrastins.

In the end, you can argue that Nonis did an okay job and maybe he deserved more time. But this team needs to change its culture, and it needs to change it NOW while there's still a chance of Luongo resigning. Beginning the season with a very good top six on D hoping that none of them miss significant time while knowing that at least four of them are very likely to miss time is either stupid or disingenuous. Doing almost nothing to address the scoring problem while putting all of his eggs in a basket that rides on a very good but injury-prone D, I think, very fairly sealed his fate. Luongo and a few good contracts aside, Nonis has done very little to deserve another chance, not with so much at stake.

At 2:48 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous treved said...


You're probably seeing such a wide range of opinion because this firing makes no sense.

The guy wasn't really given a chance to do anything.

Coming out of the lockout they were a top scoring team and he would have been lynched if he hadn't resigned Naslund, etc.

That didn't work, so he reshuffled dramatically (I think 14 new players on the opening day roster) and they bust out a record setting season (OT record be damned). Again, he would have been roundly ridiculed if he busted up that team, so instead he fiddled with it.

You can argue he didn't fiddle enough offensively, but we really have no idea what he could have gotten (or had to give up), plus he was pretty tight against the cap.

And now, just when he has the excuse and the money to make dramatic moves, the rug is pulled out.

So the naysayers will say it's a good firing b/c he would have been too cautious and messed up this chance. And the supporters will argue there's little evidence to go by, and he should have been given a shot, especially compared with some unknown replacement.

Unless the replacement is Burke, Quinn, or Holland, I just don't get why you don't give the guy a chance. If it doesn't look good in October, fire him then, Doug Armstrong style.

At 2:54 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I think it makes perfect sense. If I was in that ownership group, this is the move I'd advocate as I simply don't see Nonis being decisive enough to rebuild the team.

I think getting Brunnstrom, and guaranteed the kid he'd play on the top line, was going to be one of his major moves.

That's not turning things around in Vancouver.

At 2:58 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

Last year's team won 17 games in OT or the shootout, adding 34 points.

I don't like the math here. I'd have said that the OT wins added 17 points, and even then I'd say that you probably have to measure against a team that wins half its games that go to OT. So I dunno, 7 or 8 extra points is where I'd peg it.

At 3:03 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

You're right, Sleek. All I mean to say is that comparing the eras has become more complicating than looking at point totals.

At 3:27 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger PPP said...

Wow, sounds like a real clusterf*ck out on the West Coast.

When can we expect to see the "Why the Canucks Stink" article in Maclean's?

At 3:49 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the armchair GMs are dismissing too easily how the team's coma-inducing style played into this.

You can poindexter the draft record all you want and discuss who inherited what until you've constructed a mobius strip of prospects and suspects, but the rumbling out here is that people were turning off their TVs as the year wore on. There was talk that season-ticket renewals were going to be challenging.

It's barely a decade ago that this team couldn't fill half the Pacific Mausoleum. Those days could easily return if fans are faced with ponying up to watch the Sedin Sisters play with themselves in the corner for two minute stretches.

Nonis turned the most entertaining team in hockey into the most boring.

My only problem with this move is that they haven't fired Vigneault yet.

At 3:53 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

So far, Lowe has done nothing but sign his good young RFA talent, and Katz has gone on record as saying he'd spend to the cap every year, and support Lowe without interfering in the hockey operations department. Until he does otherwise, I'm inclined to believe that's what's going to happen.

It wasn't a comment based on anything, just more on ownership behaviour we've seen in the recent past for Ottawa, Toronto, and now Vancouver. Toronto is more a result of a split board. Melnyk was supposed to be all that and a bag of chips for the Sens but has proven to be very meddling and even destructive. Aquilini was supposed to be better than McCaw. Katz is right now, an unknown. He'll say things, but it'll be his actions that truly speak. I'm more than willing to give him fair due, I was just making a bit of a snide remark not really directed at Edmonton.

At 4:02 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

You can poindexter the draft record all you want and discuss who inherited what until you've constructed a mobius strip of prospects and suspects, but the rumbling out here is that people were turning off their TVs as the year wore on. There was talk that season-ticket renewals were going to be challenging.

If that's the reason, then I'm all for the move. I don't like the move from the on-ice results/personnel moves; if teams are worried about losing their product's appeal then that's their perogative. This is entertainment, after all.

At 4:40 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bottomline: 3 years is hardly enough time to judge a GM.

Now perhaps Mirtle's right and Nonis is a horrible GM, but if every GM was given only a 3 year window to prove their worth, I think you'll be seeing a lot more firings from here on out.

At 4:41 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Whether this is a good move depends entirely upon what happens next. I agree that Nonis wasn't given a fair shot; there are very few times when I think that three years is sufficient. However, there are three things that could justify this move, and they are hard things to judge from outside.

1) Ownership may have decided that Nonis was simply the wrong guy, based upon personality or discussions about what he planned to do this summer. That's something those of us on the outside are going to have a hard time evaluating. It comes down to whether you trust the judgment of those who made the move.

2) Ownership may have had a very specific guy that they think is better. This is something that I suspect doesn't happen often enough. Even if you think that Nonis is satisfactory, you may find a candidate that you think is a lot better. Again, this kind of move is based upon information that the rest of us don't have. If this was the motivation, all we can do is see how the next guy performed.

3) Ownership may still think that Nonis is a good choice, but only for some other team. There are very few people who are a great choice for GM in all circumstances. Some are good at putting the finishing touches together for a championship team. Some are good at rebuilding from scratch. Another thing that I don't think that teams do often enough is get the right guy for the specific team that they have, and I really don't think that they understand when the GM they currently have has become the wrong guy for their specific team. When that happens, you're better off firing someone too quickly than too slowly.

One consequence of this third point is that I think that it isn't fair to judge a GM (or a coach, for that matter) solely upon whether they win championships. There are very valuable GMs out there who are good at some other aspect of the job. In the NBA, Doug Collins was a great coach, but he never won a title. Note, though, that teams he coached had a tendency to win championships after he left. That's not a coincidence. Collins excelled at taking raw material and preparing it.

At 5:16 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger Mike said...

Mirtle's completely right. Following Nonis-style hockey has only been tolerable because he landed Luongo. The goalie aside, every night you saw how the team wasn't built to win, especially against the likes of the best teams in the conference (Sharks, Flames, Wild, etc.)...teams that exploited every weakness the club had. That's not looking at the final 10 games, that's two entire seasons where even the most casual NHL observer knew what the team's weaknesses were. At every turn where you would hope he'd compliment the Luongo steal, he'd plug in a Bulis or an Isbister and cross his fingers. That's great financially but the results speak for themselves.

Going back to Luongo, he's all that team has and he's two years into a four year deal. If this team doesn't change and show something better on the ice, why would he want to come back? And the idea of a Nonis-style team without Luongo (unless Schneider is ready) trying to stay competitive in the NW division is a painful thought.

At 6:15 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger Chiba Chiba Y'all said...

I can remember Luongo to Vancouver rumours while Burke was here, and there has been plenty said about Keenan's attraction to Bertuzzi, so whether Nonis is a genius or not for that trade doesn't really make me fall in love with the guy.

That obvious point of message board contention aside, I would prefer Nonis over a GM like Regier (better to take a chance on a bunch of nobodies arriving than watch a bunch of somebodies leaving), but I just can't believe it was world's worst decision 2008 letting the poor guy go.

I'm with j. michael neal on this one though. Nonis definately wasn't tanking so bad that he 'deserved' to be fired, but he was fired and I'd offer it points to there being more at play here, a la Jeff Brown (sans the affair). Sometimes people just don't fit chemistry wise. Could be someone else has expressed interest in the job, could be Nonis lost his standing, could be a million things. Whatever it is, it's a bigger move than Nonis pulled off this year or last and that's a fact, jack. (Sorry Isbister, my apologies to you Mr. Miller).

At 7:46 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ratings on local Sportsnet broadcasts were down 20 per cent in the Vancouver market this year. If you're going to be a boring hockey team, you *have* to win, otherwise you lose the attention of the fans. This is a business decision as much as anything; the Aqullini's have a successful franchise and they don't want to see Nonis run it into the ground by playing a passive style. Plus, let's face it, this was not a team that was ever going to win a Stanley Cup. Nonis proved during his tenure that he was all about safe moves—settling for mediocrity rather than going for glory.

At 7:50 p.m., April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's also a small possibility that this had something to do with Nonis's ridiculous assertion that the Canucks were "closer to contending than last year", despite the fact that they were 17 points worse in the standings. If Nonis took that attitude with the Aquilini's, basically lying to their faces, then it's no wonder they fired him.

At 8:21 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger antro said...

Well, your knowledgeable commenters have corrected you on almost every point in your post, James, and to be honest, it's clear that you don't know the Canucks organization very well when you say things like Nonis signed Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison to long-term contracts when better options were available (Scott Niedermayer comes to mind). Other posters have corrected your many other mistakes.

But when you say things like lost Ed Jovanovski for nothing as an unrestricted free agent in Year 2, you sound plum ignorant about recent NHL history. Did you know that they introduced a salary cap, and that the Canucks were up tight against it? Did you know that the Devils lost Scott Niedermayer for nothing in 2005? Lots of organizations had to adjust, and yes, DN kept the Brian Burke core post lockout. But when it didn't work, he quickly adjusted, and started building an organization through youth.

I'm not saying he was God's gift to Vancouver, but the jury was still out. If you want to make an opposing argument, at least consider recent hockey history.

At 8:56 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Nonis knew the cap was coming; that was hardly news. It was up to him to either sign his assets or get something of value for them, and a lot of his signings (like Naslund and Morrison) backfired.

There's a reason the Canucks have been so pressed for cap room the past three years — Nonis signed too many underperformers to deals they couldn't live up to.

I may be in Toronto, but I follow the Canucks as close any team.

At 8:58 p.m., April 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

If you want to make an opposing argument, at least consider recent hockey history.

Two playoff misses in three years, one of which came when this team should have been heading towards contention for a championship.

They haven't been anywhere close to that level in the three years Nonis has been there, the product's not entertaining and new ownership feels they can do better. So do I.

At 12:18 a.m., April 16, 2008, Blogger Jonathan said...

If you look here: http://coppernblue.blogspot.com/2008/04/team-records-post-lockout.html

you'll see that during Nonis' tenure (post-lockout, in other words), the Canucks record was 15th in the league. And yet, 6 teams with worse records still have their GM (ATL, TB, EDM, WSH, STL, CHI)

At 1:25 a.m., April 16, 2008, Anonymous Kevin Forbes said...

I made this comment before when Vancouver was officially eliminated from the playoff race, but would like to throw it out there again:
"It's just poor planning that for a bunch of years there, Vancouver was a team that "all they were missing was a goalie." Now they have a goalie and they just don't have a team.

The window of opportunity already closed on that Vancouver of the early 2000s, arguably before they even made that Luongo trade. So now the question is will they be able to turn things around while Luongo is there."

The poor planning is as much Burke's fault as it is Nonis's but Nonis gets the fall because of his indecision.
If he wanted a Stanley Cup contender, then make the deals, throw some first rounders out there, utilize Luongo, Morrison, Naslund, Ohlund and the Sedins and get them support, throw some money out for free agents, trade Bourdon and others.
If he wanted to scrap that plan (this based on both Burke's moves prior to leaving the Canucks and his moves since joining the Ducks, appears to be Burke's personal modus operandi) then go the other way and not resign Morrison and Naslund, or trade them for something younger and try to quickly slough off that dead weight and rebound while you still have Luongo.

Nonis did neither. He made the big Luongo trade and then it seems he did nothing further to supplement the team or otherwise fortify it for a championship run now or build for a playoff run in the future.

It doesn't matter if people feel that turning the team around could of, or could not have been done in the three years that Nonis was given. Certainly other franchises have been able to change their fortunes in a quicker amount of time. But what matters is that the ownership expected Nonis to right the ship and he simply did not. Other then the Luongo trade, there's not a lot that he did in fact do and so that's why he lost his job.

At 3:02 p.m., April 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Washington Caps were in the same situation as the Canucks. Playing poorly and boring to boot. What a terrible waste of an evening having to sit through those two F2F this year at the Verizon. The Caps however, did show patience with a bland GM and turned it around with a new coach. Nonis could have been in the same situation, even though he like GMGM picked the previous coach (Who some how won the Admas last year). Luongo, relatively speaking, is at the same point in his career as Ovechkin since goaltenders last that much longer so both teams have a premiere building block to work with. Yest everyone is showing the Caps the love, and Nonis is fired.

If your name is Milbury there should be a three year cap on being GM.


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