Opinions from the desk
If you have not read part #1 of my article, you can find it by clicking the link attached to this sentence.
Now, I will discuss the more intriguing part of my article. Giving the title of Awful GM to a NHL manager is very difficult for me because of the different GM deviations that exist. There are some GMs that are amazing at certain aspects of a GM's job, and they should be acknowledged for that. The two archetypes of GMs detailed below will help explain why people should not blindly claim a GM is bad, and instead they should understand and value their talents.
Example of a Developer GM
Dave Tallon is the perfect example of a Developer GM. As the current GM of the Florida Panthers, he is best known for building the core of the Chicago Blackhawks cap-era dynasty. As director of player personnel, assistant GM, senior adviser, and GM, Tallon had his say on who Chicago drafted and how they developed their talent. Tallon may not have the ability to finalize a Stanley Cup winning team, since he has never won a Stanley Cup as a GM, but that is exactly why I consider him a developer GM. Hockey analysts may question his overall ability as a GM, but there is no question he is a genius at drafting and developing.
Examining the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks roster will demonstrate the drafting and developing abilities of Tallon. That team was completely built by Tallon, and won the Stanley Cup the season after he was made a senior adviser. Chicago was led by some superstars that included first round picks Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Brent Seabrook. Even so, there were many influential players that were signed by Chicago, or drafted in the second round and later.
With that in mind, I looked at four of the last five rosters to win their first Stanley Cup in the Salary Cap Era (2005-2018). This choice was made to try and examine these organization’s rosters before they had their depth talent taken away by the salary cap. Hypothetically, these four teams should be the most skilled because they had not lost their talent due to salary cap restrictions. Washington's roster was heavily affected by the salary cap when they won, so it would be unfair to include them.
This criteria was designed to show that Tallon was very skillful when he developed his Stanley Cup winning roster. It is very easy to draft NHL players in the first round, sign them as free agents, or acquire them through trades. The real skill comes from picking the hidden gems and developing them for your team. Tallon was able to find these gems on many occasions, which is why he is a Developer GM.
Since there are two teams that had 9 players that fit the criteria, it is important to compare Tallon's 2010 Blackhawks to the 2012 Kings. There are two points that expand my research subjectively to prove that Tallon's drafting and development abilities was more impactful on Chicago than the combined efforts to build Los Angeles. Firstly, the 2010 Blackhawks were completely developed by Tallon from 1998 when he was hired as director of player personnel. Whereas, Dean Lombardi (The GM of the 2012 Kings team) was only with Los Angeles for six years before winning the cup. He had an impact, but many key decisions were made before he arrived. Secondly, the players with the aforementioned criteria included many stars like Duncan Keith, Dustin Byfuglien, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and other impactful players. The Kings had their share of impact players under the criteria, but other than Jonathan Quick, most of their stars did not meet the criteria. This research, and evaluation of the research, proves that Dave Tallon is an amazing drafter and developer.
Overall, Dave Tallon is the perfect example of a Developer GM because of his outstanding drafting and development talent, while still having glaring weaknesses in other aspects of the GM role.
The Solidifier GM
The frustration an organization experiences when their team is close to winning, but can not capture the Stanley Cup, is unimaginable. These teams have an elite core of players, but something is not clicking. That is the problem Solidifier GMs solve quicker than you can snap your fingers. These GMs are masters of taking an established team, and adding the right pieces to win the Stanley Cup. They accomplish this through strategic signings, trades, and personnel changes. They may not be able to acquire many prospects that play in the NHL, but they know what changes to make and when to make them.
Example of a Solidifier GM
It was looking very bleak for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early part of this decade. They had won their first Stanley Cup in 2009, and 5 years later, Crosby still only had his name etched in the Stanley Cup once. This led to Jim Rutherford being hired as the GM in the summer of 2014, and Crosby now has three Stanley Cup rings in his jewellery box. Rutherford was not hired to start a rebuild or make drastic changes, he was hired to solidify the core and add the proper pieces around the team to win another Stanley Cup (or two).
When Rutherford has made trades, they have been designed to take advantage of teams that undervalue their players. Excluding the Brassard trade, which was an aggressive move to try and win a third Stanley Cup, Rutherford has made many low key moves that have paid off. There are four trades in a row that Rutherford made, which really define the type of trade he likes to make. In those trades, Rutherford acquired Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, Carl Hagelin, and Justin Schultz (plus a second round pick) for the combined value of two third round picks, Brandon Sutter, Rob Scuderi, and David Perron. Wow. He acquired four key pieces of both Stanley Cup championships in return for, two third round picks, a third line centre, a depth defensemen, and a second line winger respectively. In my opinion, those are some of the most intelligent trades made in the last 5 years; Rutherford is clearly an expert at acquiring undervalued assets.
"Wow. [Rutherford] acquired four key pieces of both Stanley Cup championships in return for, two third round picks, a third line centre, a depth defensemen, and a second line winger respectively."
As I have stated, the skill in drafting NHL players comes after the first round because it is pretty easy to draft a NHL player in the first round. Knowing this, Rutherford was GM of the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers franchise from 1997-2014. Using the criteria of 250 games (when a NHL player gets their pension) to define what an NHL player is, Rutherford does not have much success drafting players after the first round. Over the 17 years he ran that franchise, Rutherford drafted only 11 players after the first round that became NHL players (played 250 NHL games). That is an abysmal record of drafting. Even so, Carolina still won the Stanley Cup in 2006 and appeared in the Eastern Conference Final in 2009.
Jim Rutherford may not be the best at drafting and developing talent, but he knows how to build a winner through savvy trades and signings, especially in this cap-era.
GM’s have a complex job with many different aspects. Knowing this, I hope hockey analysts and fans stop evaluating GMs with such a narrow lens. Just because a GM is not amazing at all aspects of the job, that does not mean they are automatically bad. There are Elite GM's and there are truly Awful GM's. Even so, the Developer and Solidifier GMs may be blindly considered bad or good, but they provide immense value to an organization.
The best teams start from the top, and with my categorization of GM types, teams could potentially build management dynasties.
- The Scout