Mike Gillis fired; is John Tortorella next?

Rory Boylen
Mike Gillis

Well, that didn’t take long.

As the rumblings this morning suggested, change happened sooner than expected in Vancouver as the team fired GM Mike Gillis the morning after Rogers Arena fans let out the “Fire Gillis” chant at the end of an embarrassing loss.

From the Canucks:

“On behalf of my entire family, I would like to sincerely thank Mike Gillis for his hard work and the many contributions he made on and off the ice during his tenure,” said Francesco Aquilini, Chairman, Canucks Sports and Entertainment. “The Vancouver Canucks had success under Mike’s leadership, and we nearly reached our ultimate goal; but I believe we have reached a point where a change in leadership and new voice is needed.”

He will leave with mixed reviews. On one hand, he led the team to within one game of the Stanley Cup after three years on the job. On the other, he completely botched his goaltenders, among other things, and left the team in a confused and broken state.

Gillis only missed the playoffs once as GM of the Canucks and paid the price. But it’s hard to make an argument against firing him, since so much seemed to be mishandled in personnel decisions over the past year or more. In any normal situation, this would appear to be an obvious move and it may work out in the long run. But Vancouver isn’t a normal situation right now. It’s not even clear if the coach, a major tenure-defining hire for any GM, was Gillis’ first choice. He certainly made it clear that the team is not playing the style he envisioned or believed would be successful in the West.

Perhaps the owners were involved too much, or perhaps this is the sound of a GM who sensed the end of his reign and aimed to blow off some of the stink and separate himself from the disaster.

Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini will be available to the media Wednesday, which suggests he hopes to have another announcement to make (re: a replacement as GM or president) at that time. Trevor Linden’s name has made the rounds, but whenever a replacement is officially named the first thing everyone will turn their attention towards is how he handles the coach.

John Tortorella’s style became worn out in New York and he proved to be a mismatch with Vancouver’s lineup. The firings would get costly for the Aquilinis if Tortorella followed Gillis out the door, but he’s proven to be such a failure in Vancouver that his destiny should be tied to Gillis’. If he is back behind the bench in 2014-15 under a new GM, more unneeded controversy will follow the team out of the gate: this time about how much control the GM actually has to create a team in his vision.

It’s impossible to defend Gillis in all this, since the team obviously took a dive under his watch. But the Canucks’ fortunes turned on a dime when the new coach and the new style took over.

As much as Gillis can be blamed for the fall of the Canucks, Tortorella should be right there with him.

And that’s why the coach will be at the center of attention when a new GM is hired.

If ‘Torts’ stays, how much change in leadership will there really be?

Follow Rory on Twitter