When asked if Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella would return next season, his own general manager was as candid as he could be.
"I'm not sure I'll be back next season," said Mike Gillis.
Speaking to the Team 1040 in Vancouver on Thursday, the Canucks' general manager spoke of his club's failure to live up to the success of past years, but refused to heap all the blame on his coach.
"John is a proven winner and competitor," said Gillis. "The running of this team is my responsibility and I feel that the last few seasons we have been chasing goal posts that have been moving and got away from our core principles of how I want this team to play and how we want to perform and the tempo we want to play with.
"People want someone to blame but the reality is that as an organization we have deviated from things that have been successful and I know will be successful. We will get back to those levels and that style of play that we started six years ago and we have the personnel to do it."
Gillis added that believes that the system in place is solid enough for any coach to find success, but acknowledges that the Canucks' failures this season are broad.
"If given the resources and the players are committed to it, any coach can coach the team that he has," explained Gillis. "But having said that, our problems are far reaching and will be addressed. If people don't want to get onside with how I view this team and how it's supposed to play then they won't be here.”
Gillis also said that he believes that everybody in the organization, from top to bottom, is in line to go under the microscope at season's end.
"I think everybody is open for evaluation," he said. "We've had players who have severely underperformed. Our team has underperformed. I think that we're all open for evaluation and deserve evaluation and that's what's going to come. We'll go through a thorough evalutaion of what occurred this year. We'll go through a thorough plan of where we see we have to go and they'll make a decision about what route they'll choose."
Now in his sixth year leading the Canucks' front office, Gillis admits that this season has brought him frustration unlike any other.
"We've had a lot of success in the past and none of this sits well with me," he explained. "It's been an incredibly frustrating season on a variety of different levels. For me, I'm committed to getting back on the levels that we expect and we have a plan do it.
"We had a plan six years to do it and we got as close as we could get. We learned a lot of lessons from that and I'm tired of chasing a moving target. We are going to get back to the fundamentals and the principles that I believe in and that's how we're going to play. Like I said, if people don't want to comply, and we did this six years ago, we made hard choices. Those hard choices are going to come again if we don't see people get on the same page."
One player that Gillis refused to fault in his team's struggles is goaltender Eddie Lack, who became the team's starting goaltender following the trade of Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers at the deadline.
"You get people in Toronto who just love to carve the Vancouver Canucks and it's going to be unending, so we're used to it now, but it's unfortunate for a young guy like Eddie Lack," said Gillis. "Eddie is a very special player. He's got great personality, he's got great size and his emergence allowed us to think a little bit differently about where we were going."
For his money, Gillis thinks Lack should be in the conversation for the league's top rookie.
"If we had given Eddie any run support this season, he would certainly be, in my mind, a nominee for the Calder," posited Gillis. "He probably wouldn't win it, but he should be in consideration based on the way he's played. He's lost more one-goal games than any goalie in the league. He's second in the league in shutouts with half the games played."
Gillis also expressed his faith in his goaltending tandem on the whole, including the recently acquired Jakob Markstrom, who came over from the Panthers in the Luongo deal.
"I think Jakob Markstrom is another 24-year-old goalie who has all the attributes to be a top-flight goalie in the National Hockey League," he said. "I feel strongly that we have two young guys who are in their prime. I hope our fans get behind them and support them."
The Canucks currently sit 10th in the Western Conference, six points behind the Dallas Stars for the final wild card playoff spot. The Stars also have two games in hand on the Canucks. The Canucks play the first of their final five games on Saturday when they host the Los Angeles Kings.