The Vancouver Canucks have confirmed that they have fired general manager Dave Nonis. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Sam Leung
VANCOUVER - The man hired to replace Brian Burke followed in his predecessor's footsteps Monday when the Vancouver Canucks fired Dave Nonis as the NHL team's general manager.
Nonis, 41, had one year left on his contract with Vancouver but his firing came after the Canucks missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.
"The decision to relieve Dave of his duties was difficult," team owner Francesco Aquilini said in a release. "I think this important change in leadership is critical to the future of the team and the direction we need to take.
"It's not acceptable to our fans or to us as owners that our team isn't in the playoffs."
The move comes just over a week after the Canucks missed the NHL playoffs, finishing three points out of eighth place with a 39-33-10 record.
During a season-ending news conference Nonis said the Canucks "are not far away" but there would be changes on the team before next season. He probably didn't suspect he would be one of the first victims of the Canucks' failure.
"As owners we made a commitment to deliver the kind of hockey our fans deserve," Aquilini said. "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."
During Nonis's term Vancouver had a 130-91-25 record and won one playoff round.
The Canucks were a team built on sound defence that struggled to score goals. The club wasn't always exciting to watch but still played before sellout crowds at GM Place.
Nonis was criticized at the trade deadline for falling to make any deals that would add offensive punch. The Canucks also failed to attract free agent Peter Forsberg to Vancouver.
Even in late March the Canucks looked like they would hang onto for a playoff spot. On March 21 Vancouver was playing for first place in the Northwest Division and the third seed in the Western Conference. They ended the season a pathetic 1-7 and were embarrassed 7-1 in their final game of the season at home.
Nonis was hired as the Canucks' ninth general manager on May 6, 2004, after the bombastic Burke was fired. Following the lockout season, the Canucks struggled to a 42-32-8 record and finished out of the playoffs.
There were major changes on the team that off-season.
Marc Crawford was fired as coach. Nonis was hailed as a hero for his deal that brought goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver in a trade for forward Todd Bertuzzi and for hiring Alain Vigneault as coach.
With Luongo playing spectacular in goal, and Vigneault's calm behind the bench a contrast to Crawford explosive style, the Canucks set a team record with 49 wins and 105 point to finish first in the Northwest Division. They needed seven games but beat Dallas in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Burke's Anaheim Ducks in the conference semifinals.
Vigneault won coach of the year honours.
Saddled with high expectations the Canucks struggled to deliver this season. Injuries depleted their blue-line and star Markus Naslund failed to recapture the magic that once made him a 48-goal scorer. The once unbeatable Luongo looked average many nights.
Nonis is a man whose baby face hid an iron will. While more soft spoken than Burke, he still possessed a fiery temper. He'd scream red-faced at officials from his box during Canuck games and sometimes would scold local reporters if he didn't like what they wrote.
He also could be charming and funny when talking after practice.
Nonis was born and raised in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, where he played minor hockey. He was captain of the University of Maine hockey team, where he earned an MBA.
He spent six seasons as the Canucks vice-president of hockey operations where he was the team's chief contract negotiator.
His firing was met with surprise on Vancouver sports call-in shows. Some names being tossed around as a replacements include former Vancouver coach Pat Quinn in an interim role and even Trevor Linden, the veteran forward who is expected to retire this summer.