Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Canucks sweep from the top

"As owners we made a commitment to deliver the kind of hockey our fans deserve. At the same time, with leadership comes responsibility. So our search begins today for a new general manager, and our focus going forward is on a winning season in 2008-09." --Francesco Aquilini, owner Vancouver Canucks

Missing the playoffs has proven to be a costly and career changing circumstance for Dave Nonis, who up until Monday evening was the General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks.

Nonis was relieved of his duties on Monday night, as the Vancouver ownership group led by Francesco Aquilini decided that accountability for a disappointing season rested first and foremost with the architect of the team.

Nonis, who had been GM of the Canucks for three years now, had up and down seasons, filled with joy and anticipation and disappointment and trepidation. The latter proving to be the key ingredient to his demise.

He inherited a Brian Burke team that seemed close to the Holy Grail only a few years ago, but which unravelled after the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident at GM Place, a situation that seemed to cast a pall over an under performing team that never quite made the jump to championship status.

Last year they were the talk of the West, a team that seemed ready to finally deliver on the promises made since they last made a run for Lord Stanley's Cup. That run of course stumbled in the playoffs, as they ran out of scoring changes, ran out of gas and most importantly ran out of time.

Two years later the fans had run out of patience, while the owner seemed to have had a change of opinion on how his team was going to be evolve over the next few years.

As late as the start of this season, there was an expectation in Vancouver that it was a stepping stone to better things to come, the disappointing free fall of the late stages of this season and Nonis' inability, or indecision in picking up some secondary scoring left many Canuck observers wondering where this team was heading.

With many questions left unanswered at the end of the season and with key players requiring tough decisions, the process for Nonis would be to retool his team, while keeping true to his blue print of not giving up the future for the present.

His blue print will now be handed over to someone else, already the list of names grows by the hour. A returning Brian Burke or the ever popular Pat Quinn, the current in house favourite Steve Tambellini, or a blast from the past in Scotty Bowman moving west for one last challenge, the names of any number of former GM's or those that might be, were all bounced around the Vancouver radio sports shows on Monday night, as the Canucks fans digested the moves and wondered what it all means.

Someone else who may be wondering about things, will be last years coach of the year Alain Vigneault. His status as coach could very well be at risk with a new GM coming into the picture, as the Canucks season unravelled the complaints grew louder about boring hockey, too much defensive structure and lack of scoring punch on a nightly basis. If they're going to change the direction of this club, it very well may involved a change in the way that they play the game in Vancouver.

The same game plan that last year pushed the Canucks to a record season, this year couldn't back them into a playoff spot. With a fall like that changes were expected, though one wonders how many saw the GM as the first move of what should be a very interesting off season on the West coast of Canada.

The only question is, judging by the Aquilini edict of immediate results is there anyone willing to take a chance on working in the hot house atmosphere that the Canuck's position seems to have become be these days.

Vancouver Sun-- Canucks general manager fired
Vancouver Province-- Canucks fire GM Dave Nonis
Canadian Press-- Vancouver Canucks fire Dave Nonis as NHL team's general manager
Globe and Mail-- Dave Nonis, fall guy
National Post-- Canucks part ways with GM Nonis
TSN-- Firing Nonis the wrong move
Georgia Straight-- Vancouver Canucks fire general manager Dave Nonis

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