VANCOUVER – Dave Nonis has no regrets over the way he managed the Vancouver Canucks.
The former general manager, who was fired Monday, says he wouldn’t have done anything different, even though the Canucks missed the playoffs two times in the last three years.
“I think I worked pretty hard to do the right things for this organization,” Nonis told a news conference Wednesday. “Everyone has changes they would make over time, there are tweaks you would make.
“In terms of what we are trying to do here, would I change things? No, I wouldn’t. We wanted to have a team here that would win four playoff rounds, not one. If you look at what we are trying to accomplish, I think we were pretty far down the road.”
One of the criticisms levelled against Nonis is he didn’t make any major moves to improve the Canucks at the trade deadline and possibly help the team make the playoffs.
Nonis argued trading away young talent for a short-term gain is a mistake.
“Would I make deals to save myself? No,” he said. “I think that’s the coward’s way out.
“If it was make the playoffs or be fired, I wouldn’t trade away our best young players to save my skin. That’s a pretty dangerous cycle to get into.”
Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini said Tuesday that no “one specific thing” led to Nonis being fired. But Aquilini said he wants the new general manager to possess the leadership skills to build the Canucks into a competitive team that can win the Stanley Cup.
He also said missing the playoffs was unacceptable.
Nonis said the Canucks are closer to being a championship team than many people think.
“This team is pretty well positioned to take a serious step forward,” he said. “I believe if they hire the right person, there is no reason to think that can’t happen.
“I hope it does. I will be able to look back and say those are the pieces I put there.”
Nonis spoke in calm, measured tones during his 50-minute meeting with the press. He often paused to take sips from a bottle of water.
At times he was defiant. There were also several instances when his voice quivered and he looked near tears.
Nonis also managed to inject a little humour, saying he didn’t listen to the Aquilini news conference because he was too busy chasing camera crews off his lawn.
Being fired was difficult, and not something Nonis expected.
“Owners always have the right to do what they want to do,” he said. “Reasons? They might not like the colour of my tie. That’s what they can do.
“It’s up to them to make the decisions. They spent a lot of money to buy this asset. They want to have a winning team. They are going to make decisions they think will help them win.”
In one veiled criticism, Nonis did say it’s important to for ownership to have a plan and stick to it.
“If you want to have success you have to be able to make difficult steps and not listen to what people are saying,” he said. “We love to look at teams that are successful and how well they are run and what they do.
“I just don’t think at times we want to do what they do. I think if you want to be a top-tier team you have to act like one and do things that are very difficult.”
Nonis was hired May 6, 2004. During his term Vancouver had a 130-91-25 record. Sandwiched between not making the playoffs the Canucks set a franchise record with 49 wins and 105 points and finished first in the Northwest Division in the 2006-07 season.
A native of the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, Nonis’s biggest coup as GM was trading the disruptive Todd Bertuzzi to Florida for goaltender Roberto Luongo prior to the 2006 season. He also signed free agent defenceman Willie Mitchell, drafted defenceman Alex Edler and found diamond-in-the-rough forward Alex Burrows.
Among Nonis’s failures was never finding the players to give the Canucks some scoring punch, not solving the team’s lack of depth at centre, his free-agent signing of Marc Chouinard, and not finding the winger to compliment Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The search for his replacement has already started but Nonis thinks Steve Tambellini, Vancouver’s assistant general manager, should get the job.
“Steve Tambellini should be the GM,” Nonis said. “I think he’s a pretty bright guy who understands what needs to be done. If I’m looking at who I bring in, he would have to be someone I would consider.”
Other possible candidates include Mike Gillis, a former player and current player agent; Doug Armstrong, the former Dallas Stars GM; and Jim Nill, the assistant GM and vice-president with the Detroit Red Wings.
For the time being Nonis plans to take his family to Hawaii for a vacation.
“I’m going to wait and see what happens,” he said. “I don’t plan on not working.”