LOL, Vancouver got to beat up on Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Calgary for the last 3 -4 years. That is impressive?
Thus why I pointed out if the Canucks win the division this season I'd call him a pretty good GM. Right now he's got nothing going for him other than a moderatly well priced aging core. If he turns that into winning this new division that's pretty impressive.
The core was there yes, the point you and most of the other people are missing is that they accomplished nothing under Nonis the three previous years. That's why Nonis was fired. Crosby and Malkin are two of the best players in the league, currently, but they can't win a Cup by themselves. You have to surround your best players with a group that can win. This is where Nonis failed and Mike was more successful, that's all I'm saying.
So then the question is what did Gillis do that previous GM's did not to make the core as great as it has been. And this is the point the splits the Gillis lovers/defenders and haters/criticizers. If you believe that the moves Gillis made when he first got to Van are the primary reason for cores progression then you think Gillis is a top GM. If you believe that the players naturally progressed then you don't think Gillis is that great as any GM would have been able to help them reach their potential.
This is a question that I do not think there is an answer to. Many on HF feel one way or the other and will point at many different arguments (such as your yearly points or others pointing out that none of Gillis acquisitions are currently the best players at that position). But I feel without being able to know what other GM's would have done we can't know.