The Vancouver Canucks didn’t take long and didn’t look too far, to replace the recently fired Brian Burke as General Manager. Stan McCammon held his second press conference in less than a week, announcing the promotion of vice president and director of player Personnel Dave Nonis to the pivotal GM’s job.
Nonis who was very much a protégé of the fired Burke, was near tears at times when recounting the advice from Burke on this decision and his friendship with Burke through the years, a friendship that goes back to Burke’s time in the NHL head office. Well versed in matters of the collective agreement and the architect of the teams salary structure the last few years, Nonis’ promotion will bring a sense of continuity to a team that has been rocked by its early exit from the playoffs and Burke’s sudden and unexplained dismissal.
McCammon once again chose not to explain why Burke was let go, while his understudy was promoted into the job. A situation that many Vancouver observers (possibly unfairly) call Burke lite. Nonis said that some changes will have to be made to the team that disappointed its fans for the second year in a row. But the coaching staff won’t be where the moves are made, McCammon took advantage of the gathering to announce that Marc Crawford’s staff had been kept on for the upcoming season, as had the bulk of the off ice vice presidents. That includes long time Canuck favourite Steve Tambellini, who finds himself a newly named vice president and assistant general manager. While the players may not get paycheques next year, the off ice Canuck payroll is knee deep in vice presidential pay envelopes.
The Canuck’s are hoping that the promotion of such favourite sons as Nonis and Tambellini will help to cushion the backlash against the dismissal of the popular Burke. Though if sweeping change was the idea behind the Burke firing it seems curious they would turn to his right hand man to fill the vacancy. It’s doubtful that there would be much change in strategy between the Burke era and the Nonis one, feeding the rumour mill that Burke’s dismissal was purely one revolving a clash of egos between Burke, McCammon and McCaw.
In his press conference Nonis mentioned how he would not have taken the position without the blessing of Burke, whom he spent a number of days with discussing the opportunity. It’s a situation that harkens one back to a similar discussion between Burke and Pat Quinn, when Burke first interviewed for the Canuck job. At the time the topic of McCammon was high on the conversation list between Quinn and his friend and student. At the time it’s been said that Quinn warned Burke to watch McCammon carefully, which if true would make for a very prescient comment.
Nonis would not need that advice having watched first hand the relationship between his former friend and boss and his corporate overseer. It would however explain why he agonized over his decision to accept the high profile position in hockey mad Vancouver. Born and raised in the city Nonis always had dreams of working for the Canucks, now Nonis has finally received his wish. It will be interesting to see if all that glitters turns to gold.