Kevin Bieksa is pushing for the Leafs to hire former Canucks GM Mike Gillis
Former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa has an idea to fix the Toronto Maple Leafs — and he’s apparently bugging his colleagues about it.
Speaking this week on the 32 Thoughts podcast, hockey insider Elliotte Friedman (Bieksa’s panel-mate on Sportsnet) said that the longtime NHLer is favouring an old pal for the vacant Leafs general manager job following the firing of Kyle Dubas last week.
Bieksa’s pick? Mike Gillis, who served as the Canucks general manager from April 2008 to April 2014, roughly coinciding with Bieksa’s best years in the NHL.
“Bieksa’s hot on that one. And the reason is, is that Bieksa thinks that the Maple Leafs right now are the same as the Canucks were in like 2009 like a team that is on the cusp,” Friedman said.
In the 2009 playoffs, which was Gillis’ first year in charge of the team, the Canucks won their first-round series over the St. Louis Blues, before losing in the second round to the Chicago Blackhawks, a fate they’d suffer in 2010 as well.
During Gillis’ run as Vancouver GM, the franchise had arguably their best stretch in team history, winning two Presidents’ Trophies and the 2011 Western Conference Final, while making the playoffs in five of six seasons and winning five playoff rounds.
But after failing to qualify for the 2014 playoffs, Gillis was let go and replaced by Jim Benning, widely panned as arguably the worst GM in franchise history over his seven-year tenure.
Gillis has not taken another job in the NHL since being let go by the Canucks, though he did teach a sports law course at the University of Victoria.
Meanwhile, Bieksa spent 10 seasons in Vancouver, where he had 56 goals and 185 assists across 597 games for the Canucks in his career.
“Bieksa is a big Gillis guy… could [the Leafs and Gillis] work together? You know, how do they feel about all this?” Friedman added.
But both Friedman and Bieksa know that the media pressures in Toronto aren’t going to be any easier than in Vancouver.
“Gillis was another guy by the end of it… couldn’t stand the media in Vancouver, you have to be able to deal with that. But Bieksa is big on Gillis, he really is,” Friedman concluded the thought.
No other credible reports have linked Bieksa to the Leafs, but it’s interesting to wonder what he could do in charge of a different Canadian team.
The full podcast is available below:
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