No JFJ repeat with Nonis

SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Like the decision or not -- and we didn't -- there was a certain amount of logic behind the decision to fire Vancouver Canucks general manager David Nonis.

Fact is, Nonis would have been entering the final year on his contract and ownership, before finally deciding on a dismissal, was not keen on the idea of giving him an extension. If he stayed, Nonis would have had to earn it with results next season.

Based on those doubts, the feeling was: Do you allow that same general manager, whom you don't feel confident enough in re-signing, to chart the course for the future by determining the fates of Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison, both unrestricted free agents, and spending the $20 million US or so that is available to reach the salary cap next season?

The answer, obviously, was no.

There is a parallel to the scenario that unfolded in Toronto last summer, when then-GM John Ferguson Jr., was promised an extension by club president Richard Peddie, but the board refused to grant it. Ferguson made moves in the off-season -- some worked, some didn't -- and probably managed more like a guy looking to survive than to continue along the original course of building the team.

We all know how that turned out.

Canucks ownership decided it wasn't going to roll the dice the same way. It didn't have the confidence, for whatever reason, in Nonis and feared that if mistakes were made, they would cripple the team, not for one season, but for several seasons to come.

We are not sure why there was a lack of confidence in Nonis. He pulled off the big Roberto Luongo deal, and he avoided taking a huge chunk of the present and future of his team to acquire Brad Richards. He tried hard to get Richards. But when the price got too steep, he backed away, although that point was rendered moot because Dallas was Richards' first choice.

Nonis' team finished with a club-record 105 points a year ago and won a playoff round. Not bad. This past season, the Canucks were decimated by injuries on defence and had a somewhat distracted goaltender down the stretch. They missed the playoffs by three points in a tough conference.

But Nonis also seemed to have a plan to add as many as four top-six forwards, beginning with unsigned Swedish prospect Fabian Brunnstrom, to change the dynamic of the team away from defence-first and create more of a balance.

In the end, however, Nonis missed the playoffs in two of his three seasons, his team faltered down the stretch and the owners didn't think he was the guy to fix the problems.

This much we do know: The guy who succeeds Nonis is taking on a pretty good situation team-wise.

AVERY'S ANTICS

There have been suggestions that the NHL rewrote the rule book to deal with New York Rangers pest Sean Avery and his antics this week, when he was waving his arms and stick in New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur's face.

The rule is the rule: Unsportsmanlike conduct. All the league did was add an interpretation of how that situation pertains to the existing rule.

It was the right call. Avery may have been trying to do whatever it takes to win, but he crossed the line of conduct and better to rule now than after the inevitable mayhem.

Truth is, what ultimately transpired might better be described as the league offering a reminder of how the rule can be enforced.

It was Pittsburgh pest Jarkko Ruutu who recalled an incident when he was in Vancouver, when Canucks teammate Todd Bertuzzi apparently tried something similar.

"(Bertuzzi) tried the same thing with his hands and got a two-minute penalty for it." Ruutu told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You can't do that."

PRICE COMPARISON

The similarities between Canadiens goalie Carey Price and Patrick Roy keep on coming.

Both won a Calder Cup. Both won their first regular-season games in Pittsburgh. Both battled through their rookie seasons and were named starters in the playoffs.

Price became the first goalie since Roy and Tom Barrasso to win 20 games while under 21 years of age. Now, with his shutout Tuesday, Price became the first Montreal rookie goaltender to earn a 1-0 playoff shutout since, you guessed it, Roy, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final in 1986.

Steve Penney also earned a 1-0 playoff shutout for Montreal in 1985.


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