Tony Gallagher on how the Canucks got here
‘They panicked and haven’t recovered’: Tony Gallagher on how the Canucks got here
Whenever Tony Gallagher comes out of the woodwork to discuss the state of the Vancouver Canucks, everyone tunes in to listen.
And last Wednesday, the legendary Vancouver Sun columnist stopped by Donnie & Dhali – The Team to discuss the issues piling up around the Canucks franchise, both on and off the ice.
For someone who has watched the Canucks since the beginning, Gallagher has seen the best and worst times the organization has faced. But even with some lean years in the history books, this season looks like a potential new low for him.
“We’ve seen it before, maybe not as bad. The tradition here is not strong, and that’s a problem,” Gallagher said.
The main problem in Gallagher’s eyes comes from ownership and their inability to let the Canucks properly rebuild the team in favor of shooting for mediocrity.
“You have to start at the top with the Aquilinis. Their inability to find successful management is quite surprising. And yet we know they can do it,” Gallagher said. “I mean, they found that early in their tenure as owners when they brought in Gillis and that crew and had great success disrupting the talent that they inherited and improve it by making a serious run and then coming back, and then I I think the ownership kind of panicked and moved Gillis out of there and there was a lot of public heat on them. That was their first introduction to public heat at that time, around 2014-2015 … and they panicked and haven’t recovered.”
“The proof is in the pudding when it comes to ownership. Owners are responsible for hiring the management team. How many times have they appeared in the playoffs? Where are they now in the standings? Here’s your answer.”
He then detailed how the loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final completely altered ownership’s mindset toward the team and how it was supposed to be built.
“After the loss in 2011, I think there was a real push from ownership to get away from the speed and skill that Gillis was trying to do and that he had successfully done. In 2011, the Canucks were [clearly] the best team in the league, it was ridiculous. But after that, I think there was some meddling,” Gallagher said of the sudden change in philosophy.
“There was a push to make the team tougher like Boston at the expense of speed and skill. And I think management realized they wanted some of that, too, after 2011. But there was a little interference at that time. In the last six years, I have no idea.”
The root of the team’s current problems on the ice is clear to Gallagher; the road of uneven construction.
“There is no doubt that there is a tremendous imbalance in the team. They have all these forwards making money, they have no defense and the pressure that has been put on Demko is remarkable,” Gallagher said.
“The management crew that they have is just reaching for straws and virtue signaling, and they’re starting to think on the ice. You’re looking at the product that they’ve put in front of you and you’ve got a large number of very well-paid forwards that have got the square root of Sweet Fanny Atom, and yet they’re all making massive money.”
And Gallagher wasn’t just referring to Jim Benning, either. He has his reservations about the new head office in charge and what its real end goal is.
“The first thing I thought was, why the hell does Jim Rutherford want to come here? He’s getting long in the tooth, and I don’t understand these guys who want to stay in hockey until the end,” Gallagher said of the president of Hockey Ops of the Canucks.
“Managing the Vancouver Canucks is a huge challenge. You have many kinds of geographic strikes against tradition. The fan base is impatient and has been badly abused over the years. He’s a solid person and has a very good management record. But no I could understand why you would want to get involved here.”
Gallagher also questioned Rutherford’s decisions to fill the front office with largely new names with no experience in the positions for which they were elected. While he had high praise for assistant GMs Cammi Granato and Ryan Johnson, he still felt that much of front office work these days revolves around learning rather than solving, and he wondered what really Dale Tallon’s job as Senior Advisor.
“Patrik Allvin is a rookie GM… I don’t know if he makes any decisions. Emilie [Castonguay] and Cammi are new to the business and Ryan Johnson has some good young experience under his belt,” Gallagher said. “I don’t know much about Derek Clancey, but Dale Tallon, his senior adviser, I don’t know what the senior board has been so far, but I’m not sure it’s too exciting.”
“I’m sure they’re learning on the job and maybe one day, they’ll all be very successful. But right now, there’s a pretty high price to pay.”
If I had to offer some wisdom to ownership on how to turn things around, it would be to make sure they’re listening to the right people when it comes to hockey decisions.
“I would suggest that the people they asked for advice at one stage are different from the people they asked for advice at a second stage. And they should take note of that,” Gallagher said. “Obviously, when the Aquilinis are going to make decisions, they need people’s advice because their focus is business and real estate… But when it comes to hockey, they need advice, they need help, and where do they go for that advice is crucial.”
“So far, the returns they’ve gone to haven’t been very successful or paid off.”
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