Bring Us the Head of Dave Nonis!

Or, um, maybe that doesn't really fix the Canucks.

By Steve Burgess 15 Apr 2008 |

Steve Burgess is a regular contributor to The Tyee.

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No more Nonis: Pulled early?

Oh man, did that feel great or what? Dave Nonis is toast! Canucks miss the playoffs and the GM's ass is gone. It's like when you stub your toe and you have to turn around and punch somebody. It just feels good.

Then sometimes the guy you punched punches back six or seven or 13 times and you are too busy swallowing teeth to worry about the pain in your toe.

On Monday, Vancouver Canucks general manager Dave Nonis received from team owner Francesco Aquilini a polite thank you and a pink slip. One year ago Nonis was Davey the Boy Genius, author of the greatest trade in franchise history and the brains behind a division-winning team that had completely turned itself around from a dismal 2005/2006 campaign. Today Nonis has the same job as Elliot Spitzer. Poor Dave didn't even get a hot night with a pricey hooker.

Take it from Churchill

Nonis didn't get much at all, in fact. Certainly not a decent chance to prove himself -- that was scheduled for this summer. Nonis did make the aforementioned cannonball splash with the 2006 Todd Bertuzzi-for-Roberto Luongo trade. But this off-season was always going to be his real opportunity to remake the Canucks. Finally unburdened of the huge Marcus Naslund contract plus the sizable salary of Brendan Morrison and a handful of others, Nonis would have had plenty of salary cap room. Reconstruction would not -- will not -- be easy. There's a dearth of quality free agents available this year. But the man had shown he knew how to swing a trade, and he was in a great financial position to exchange promising youngsters for large star contracts. I'll bet he was looking forward to it. Now he can look forward to talking trades with the boys down at the Legion Hall.

Winston Churchill could have warned him. After leading Britain to victory in World War II, Winnie got dumped in the very next election. Nonis only needed to gain a single vote. But Aquilini didn't hire Nonis in the first place and for all we know was waiting for the first good chance to get rid of him. At any rate, he took it.

Nonis's inaction at the trade deadline will be cited as the chief justification for his demise. He did nothing, and the team subsequently followed his example. But how many trades could he have made? Considering the options, a deadline trade would have amounted to putting perfume on a pig. Short of swapping Byron Ritchie for Spider-Man, nothing on the available menu would have made much difference.

Blame the local mojo

Besides, you can't blame Nonis for the water. It has to be the water around here -- what other explanation is there for the way players perform once they arrive? I'm not just talking about Mark Messier, or Russian superstar Vladimir Krutov who arrived here a legend and then stuffed himself like a foie gras duck until he was big enough to map. I hope I'm not talking about Roberto Luongo, who will surely recover from a mediocre stretch drive. No, there are other recent examples. Look at this year's playoffs -- Brian Smolinski is scoring for Montreal and Keith Carney got a big goal for Minnesota. As 2007 deadline acquisitions for the Canucks, those guys looked like beer leaguers. Why do players underachieve out here? The Canucks must be loading up their locker room with Depleted Uranium Energy Drink.

Now what? There's already speculation that Anaheim GM Brian Burke will boomerang right back to Vancouver. His wife works here. He knows where the good restaurants are. He probably misses Tony Gallagher, too. Burke has one year left on his Anaheim contract, but it didn't stop people from predicting he would jump to Toronto in March.

But Burke didn't jump to Toronto. And unless there is some secret arrangement I know nothing about -- it happens -- I can't imagine the Ducks waving a cheery goodbye as he skips off to a conference rival. Besides, negotiating Burke out of his contractual bonds could be messy and if the Canucks don't get someone on the job quickly there could be chaos. Deadlines are coming.

Meanwhile if recent history holds, Nonis will sign with the LA Kings and take them to the Stanley Cup. We'll somehow trade for Alexander Ovechkin, just as he discovers a new love for deep-fried Mars bars and hollandaise sauce.

Just another chapter in the ongoing tale of hockey's Washington Generals.

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