If Gillis's first name was Jack, and he made all the best trades, the headline could be, "Jack of All Trades."
The Vancouver Canucks have been one of the NHL's best teams for most of the season and, barring a major collapse, will go into the playoffs as a Stanley Cup frontrunner. They've never been better constructed or positioned to win. With that in mind, as the NHL trade deadline nears, general manager Mike Gillis faces tremendous pressure to do everything he can to fix any possible areas of weakness within his team.
But everything is questionable. Any move he makes or doesn't make comes with risks, and no matter what he does (even if he does nothing, maybe even especially if he does nothing), he will be immediately questioned and criticized. Let's examine his three choices and weigh the pros and cons for each:
Pros: No paperwork.
Additionally, you avoid the bidding wars. Mike Gillis has gone on record as saying he's not a fan of the NHL trading deadline, and for good reason: it's the exact opposite of a sale. Everything costs too much, especially when you know it'll be cheaper later. If you have to have it now, you can stomach it, but Gillis doesn't have to have anything. His team, as presently constructed, is on top of the NHL, and their chemistry is fantastic.
Holding fast at the deadline is a way to tell them that, too. Sometimes a simple vote of confidence is more effective than any player acquisition.
Cons: Sometimes it isn't. If the players don't get the job done, you have to answer to everyone for your inability to get them that final piece. For example, the Canucks need a fourth-line center. Granted, they could go into the playoffs with Cody Hodgson or Alex Bolduc or whomever in the middle and it might work, but if the team can't get past the second round, Gillis is going to face a lot of criticism for failing to acquire a better option.
The worst con, though, is that you've completely wasted James Duthie's considerable talents by giving him nothing to report.
2 MAKE A DEPTH MOVE
Pros: You can address any small area of need, or simply get a piece that puts your team over the top. Often, your players can read this as a sign you believed they were a piece away, so the vote of confidence angle holds up. A small trade shows you're still hard at work to piece together a winner.
It also serves to get the fans off your back, and considering everybody has a trade proposal, at least one guy is going to be convinced you read the e-mail he sent you.
Plus, even if you overpaid, it didn't cost that much, and the immediate benefit is a player that can help you right away.
Cons: Whatever you get, you likely won't have it for long, and the team with whom you deal will almost certainly have their piece of the trade for longer. Eventually, that draft pick or prospect you traded is going to be somebody. If he turns out to be somebody significant, well, you're not the guy who traded a pick or prospect for a rental, you're the guy who traded Superstar X for a rental.
Heck, if any superstar is drafted within twenty picks of a draft pick you traded, someone will claim you technically traded away that superstar as well, since you traded away the right to draft him, (even if you still wouldn't have). All of this is exacerbated if the guy you acquire turns out to be pretty useless. Then you're the guy who traded Milan Lucic for four games of Mika Noronen.
3 MAKE A SPLASH
Pros: Everyone will love you. On paper, your team simply gets better. You get a major asset.
Cons: You probably have to hold a press conference. On a Monday. Who wants that?
Additionally, when you trade for somebody good, you generally have to give away some good stuff. You can't give a little and get a lot. Unless you're this guy (or trading with Joe Nieuwendyk).
Worse, even if you're comfortable with what you traded and you get the big name you want, the threat to team chemistry is always looming. A big trade typically means tampering with the delicate core of your team, and a lifetime of Saturday afternoon movies has taught me it's never a good idea to tamper with unstable cores--you run the risk of accidentally blowing everything up.
If that happens, then you look like a complete idiot, your team looks stupid for losing despite being stronger, on paper, than before, and suddenly those pieces you were comfortable trading turn out to be four Lucices. That's when you get fired, and in the years to come, you find yourself on the TSN panel reporting on trade deadline day, like some sort of ironic, repetitive, purgatorial punishment for your hubris.