Friday, April 18, 2008

The Nonis split

Online vote: Did Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini make the right choice in firing GM Dave Nonis?

Yes 51.39%
No 48.61%
I find the split over whether Dave Nonis should have been fired fascinating. Generally when a coach or GM is axed, it's either universally applauded or panned — and more often its the former.

Part of the reason Nonis is a toughy is that this team is poised to potentially put together a strong cast for 2008-09, and I can easily envision a scenario where Nonis is being lauded for his dirty work when this team potentially takes off.

There's no question, Aquilini's press conference was anything but confidence-inspiring for Canucks fans, but we're really not going to know whether the franchise falls on its face until the new manager is put in place.

And maybe not even then.

So far, however, the Vancouver media is pretty heavily in the Nonis camp, led by the Sun's Iain MacIntyre (who sounds downright inconsolable lately). I agree with Tom Benjamin, it could get ugly, and maybe this franchise's history dictates a certain degree of pessimism. But the sky hasn't yet fallen, and Vancouver's white knight is one good hire away.

While the owner's nervous press conference ramblings are being dissected bit by bit in search of answers, the fact is, if the team was going to make a firing, it should have been now — and it doesn't necessarily demand that a candidate be instantly available. Very little will take part in NHL front offices over the next seven weeks while the playoffs run their course, and that's plenty of time to instill an action plan.

With what we know, is it honest to say the "Canucks losing starts now?" And was Fabian Brunnstrom worth putting the organization on hold?

How can we know?



At 11:27 a.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger Luke said...

I think linking to a Tony Gallagher column takes away from your argument. The gist of his argument seems to be that if Nonis's replacement is good, the Canucks will win, and if he isn't, they'll be bad and get good draft picks. That's an inane argument, and there's no reason to think that Nonis was going to settle for mediocrity next year. As everyone has already pointed out, his hands were pretty tied this year, and it's hardly his fault that the team lost the plot at the end. He gambled on Markus Naslund continuing to be a solid player, on Brendan Morrisson continuing to be an iron man, and a rock solid defense that was talented and deep. Naslund lost it, and Morrisson and the defense corps were injured.

I really don't see how anyone could have done better than Nonis this year, except by trading away the future for Brad Richards. Nobody can seriously believe the Canucks were a Brad Richards away from winning the cup this year, not with a weak Naslund, a lame Morrisson and a banged up defense.

At 11:33 a.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I've never, anywhere, advocated for the Brad Richards move. I think I may have even spoke against it.

In any event, Nonis should have addressed this team's problems far earlier.

My argument isn't the same as Gallagher's here; I'm saying that if Nonis's replacement is good, all's well. If he's bad, dump on ownership all you want.

Why the mad panic now? Nonis was an average GM who failed in four years to build any positive momentum. Someone new comes in and gives it their best shot.

At 1:06 p.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger Timothy said...

I don't think that the issue at hand is not whether or not the new GM will be an improvement or not. Chances are very high, I believe, that the organization hires a competent general manager who will manage the short and long term interests of the team.

I believe the issue at hand, is in fact what role does Francesco Aqulini play in team operations moving forward? The article by Matt Sekeres touches on this really well. The manner in which the Aqulini's have handled the dismissal has drawn them into the spotlight. Their motivations appear to have been a purely fanatical knee-jerk reaction, rather than a rationalized understanding of the cap implications and the role of this summer's GM.

The mad panic is because Aqulini, as Sekeres said, "has placed himself squarely at the centre of the club's competitive fortunes." And unfortunately, based upon his rationale at the press conference, he is probably not the person best suited to make this decision. Even John McCaw had Stan McCammon as his middle man.

At 1:33 p.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger rickibear said...

Nonis Traded for Luongo (best goalie) and set up the third best defence in the league.

His next step was to correct the offence. Use the money from Naslund/Morrison to get a second scoring line that can be the primary line in the playoffs to cover for the Sedins lack of playoff production.(Hen: .46P/GM Dan: .42p/GM) His first year as GM he is forced to sign Nas/Mor to keep owners happy.

Or if he has the courage trade the twins for a difference maker valued around at around 7.5M and take the 4.5M extra that would be required to sign the sedins next year (12M) to do other things. The Sedins are not difference makers or they would have carried the team to the playoffs more than once in the last three years. Thjat was by default last year. If the new owners are willing to spend to the cap bring in a second line group the likes of: Brunnette, Stillman, Etc.

The next GM that comes in here will get to ride off the coattails of Nonis's work.

Que Brian Burke he has a chance to have another gm win a cup for him.

At 1:55 p.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger Pinder said...

I think most of the Vancouver media has a man-crush on Nonis just because he's a nice guy and was usually accommodating towards them. Nonis even agreed to call again after his vacation for his regularly weekly call-in to the Team 1040.

I think Nonis was done when he acknowledged in his presser after the regular season that "There are holes in this team that we need to address. They are not new. They didn't just appear in the last week of the season." Which is basically admitting that you couldn't get it done.

Also I hear a lot of old hockey guy names like Pat Quinn being mentioned. Does Pat Quinn have any idea of how the cap works? Has he been reading the new CBA since he's been out of the NHL? I doubt it. Any new GM has to be a cap-ologist now.

At 1:57 p.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger Kel said...

The Tony Gallagher column is really ridiculous. An idiot GM can do a lot of damage than just losing your biggest stars. An idiot GM can give out no-trade-clauses to bad players in addition to long expensive contracts (Toronto fans would be the first to tell you that). An idiot GM can trade away draft picks years ahead so that the lottery picks "earned" from losing go to other teams. It's not a no-lose situation like he described.

At 3:34 p.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger Kel said...

By the way, a very respected source online (I know, just a poster of a forum, but she's backed by her history of insider knowledge.) has claimed that following with confidence:

1) The next GM of the Canucks will be Mike Gillis.

2) Luongo has not and will not ask for a trade or waive his no-trade clause.

3) Brunnstrom is not completely off the table yet.

At 3:38 p.m., April 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does the Vancouver media own TVs or actually go to the games?

Fans don't buy tickets based on whether the GM has stocked the cupboards down in Manitoba. They want to be entertained.

Nonis assembled the most gawd-awful boring team since Jake Lemaire invented the trap.

It was unwatchable, loser hockey.

I don't care whether his hands were tied; my eyeballs were tired.

Nonis had to go because he iced a terrible product last year and then spent the summer adding more 1-goal-scoring plodders.

People subjected to Canucks games should pray fervently that the new GM has the green light to do whatever he wants. And the first thing should be what rickibear suggested earlier: exchange the soft-as-Jello, coma-inducing Sedins Cyclers for a legitimate first-line dynamic FW and figure out what to do with the excess cash.

Aqualung didn't get rich without selling a more than a few widgets to satisfied punters. He'd have heard plenty of rumblings about plummeting TV ratings and hesitant season-ticket renewals.

This was a business decision by a businessman.

At 4:17 p.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger Steve Patterson said...

i can't believe that simply because nonis is more well-spoken than acquilini that they're willing to dump all over the move. the way that journalists have lauded over what nonis did is simply seeing everything with rose colored glasses.

nonis is all style and no substance. he says the d-core is top 5 in the league. really? in the league of anaheim, detroit, san jose and others? he claims about how many great prospects there are. but besides edler and raymond, both of which would be long shots to be all stars at some point in their careers, who else is there of real value? and he claims he believes the team underachieved this year and were hit hard with injuries.

the fact is the team missed the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years. the franchise hasn't made it past the second round since 1994. they play boring hockey. the overachieved last year because they were lucky not to have any injuries, luongo stole them a bunch of games, and they won an insane amount of games in overtime.

this year, they finally get hit with a realistic amount of injuries, have a normal overtime record, get above average goaltending instead of hall-of-fame like goaltending, and they get 88 points. 88-90 points seems about right for this hockey team, and nonis should've realized this. instead, he played it so safe that the team regressed and now he's fired.

At 4:48 p.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I agree entirely with the last two comments, but isn't it interesting how divided everyone is? Bizarre.

Nonis is going to catch on somewhere and probably get another shot as a GM at some point.

At 5:24 p.m., April 18, 2008, Blogger godot10 said...

What free agent is going to sign in Vancouver when the Sedins are unrestricted next summer, and Luongo the summer after that?

Nonis didn't have the three most important players tied up.

How was Nonis expecting to attract free agents without the core signed long term, and when Vigneault was playing stultifying hockey?

At 12:35 a.m., April 19, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

What's interesting that I'm getting out of this is the apparent anxiety that Luongo 'only' has two years remaining on his contract and might not want to resign.

Two years still seems like a significant length of time, to me.

It may be that the Canucks really are just a free agent or two from being a top quality team. But if the goal is to go all out just to be a mediocre team for the next two years so that Luongo doesn't leave so that you can continue to be a mediocre team for years after that...

...well, then, welcome to Leaf-land, where every player who has a good year gets locked up with long-term deals, and every year is spent telling yourselves that you're just one or two players away from being a great team.


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