Vancouver Canucks: What would Mike Gillis’ restructure look like?

VANCOUVER, CANADA - OCTOBER 9: Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini and Canucks General Manager (R) Mike Gillis (R) discuss matters in the stands of General Motors Place on October 7, 2008 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, CANADA - OCTOBER 9: Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini and Canucks General Manager (R) Mike Gillis (R) discuss matters in the stands of General Motors Place on October 7, 2008 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Mike Gillis suggested a concept where NHL team could employ a team of four assistant GMs. What could that look like for the Vancouver Canucks?

Former Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis is making headlines again following his presentation at Ryerson University at the TeamSnap Hockey Coaches Conference.

Gillis is a notable learner and outside-the-box thinker that has put extended research into winning cultures and sports managements throughout the world. The progressive-minded Gillis spent time in the Swiss league for two years with Geneva along with stops at Stanford University, Nike Sport Research Lab, University of Michigan, Campus BioTech in Switzerland, the KHL, China, Spain and Australia.

Gillis has a history of promoting sports science. While in his position as president and generalmaanager of the Canucks, he utilized sleep doctors and other analytics to help prolong each player’s careers, health and to be able to use them in the best ways for them to succeed. While his tenure with Vancouver was successful in many ways, there is no doubt ways that Gillis wanted to improve and better himself going forward.

It’s admirable for an executive to look to reinvent himself and the game around him by pushing the boundaries of sport in order to have an edge. Many executives could develop a method or working style and stick to it regardless of it’s success.

One concept that Gillis brought forward at the conference was an idea born from several elite soccer clubs in England that he had observed, was that in an ideal situation, an NHL team would have a team of four assistant GMs. The benefit that he pointed out was that it would take the weight and pressure off of one person and spread it out over a group of highly qualified individuals to all influence the overall direction of the organization.

Let’s take a look at how this idea could look in an ideal situation for the Canucks following this Gillis model.

Director of hockey culture and sports science: Mike Gillis

It is such a natural fit to place Gillis here. Creating a position solely around the research and strong suits of Gillis so that he can impact your franchise with his outside the box thinking while not serving as GM.

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Gillis has said that he is interested in a specific kind of position and this would allow the progressive executive to work without the pressure of handling the weight of GM and President again.

President of hockey operations: Jim Benning

Ultimately, this is a two birds with one stone type of move. Benning gets a promotion and has his workload reduced to a much more manageable size.

It has been a divisive tenure for Benning, split opinions on whether he has done a great job or not but he is undeniably the reason that the Canucks are turning the corner with an exciting young core. Handing the day to day managing reigns off to someone else could help both positions be better fulfilled.

General manager: Pat Verbeek

Verbeek is a highly regarded executive that is currently second in command with the Detroit Red Wings after Steve Yzerman brought him along after working together in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.

A former director of pro scouting and now with his focus on player personnel, the Canucks would gain a very qualified and experienced executive that was pivotal in the creation of the modern Lightning. Offering him the reigns as the GM could entice him to leave Yzerman and the Red Wings.

Assistant GM and capologist: Lawrence Gilman

Bringing back a beloved former member of the Canucks front office would be a well received hire. Currently in a role with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gilman is a master of utilizing cap space. The Canucks team during his tenure was plenty of evidence and you can believe that much of the Leafs cap moves have Gilman influence.

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Assistant GM and senior VP of hockey operations: Chris Pronger

Right now, Pronger holds a similar position in Florida except that instead of assistant GM, he is a senior advisor to Dale Tallon. This position would allow him to assist Benning with hockey operations while also growing his resume in terms of his eventual goal to be an NHL GM. With lots of experience with the Panthers and with the NHL Department of Player Safety, he could bring lots of expertise to a team of this construct.

Assistant GM and director of player personnel: Ron Hextall

Before being relieved of his duties with the Philadelphia Flyers, Hextall served as a scout,director of player personnel and GM and built up a strong prospect pool for the Flyers. A large part of Hextall’s position would be to enhance the prospect depth of the Canucks and to overlook the Utica Comets and Kalamazoo Wings programs with player development. With rumoured issues down in Utica last season, it would be welcomed to have the parent organization have more of a hands on approach going forward.

Assistant GM and director of scouting: Judd Brackett

With a strong draft record and much fanfare, Brackett is a prized commodity for the Canucks. In this structure, it makes room for them to promote Brackett while he remains the head of the scouting department where he has had much success thus far.

It is clear that having so much expertise in your franchise would be beneficial. While it could sound like there are too many cooks in the kitchen, with varying roles it would allow all aspects to be well covered and thrive.

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There are many different executives that could thrive in these roles but these ones in particular are already exemplary and leaders in their respective positions. Biggest cost for the team or Francesco Aquilini would be money.