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What We Learned: Which NHL general managers deserve to be fired?
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it. Today’s What We Learned is written by Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski; Ryan Lambert returns next week.
By Greg Wyshynski
Watching an NHL team changing its regime is like watching the controlled demolition of a rather large building.
BOOM, there’s the trigger on a big trade, in an attempt to shake up the roster before personnel changes hit the managerial ranks. BOOM, there go the assistant coaches, as the team hopes some new voices will reinvigorate a moribund squad. BOOM, there goes the head coach, as the team still fails to meet expectations (and, ultimately, blames itself for the coach’s demise).
But the biggest blast takes a while longer. The one that finally destroys the foundation and topples the building.
The one that ends the tenure of a general manager.
These top-level firings rarely happen in-season – although Scott Howson left the Columbus Blue Jackets carrying a cardboard box with some coffee mugs and a Rick Nash jersey in February. Of the NHL’s 30 GMs, only four were hired during the regular season: Jarmo Kekäläinen in Columbus, Bob Murray in Anaheim, Jay Feaster in Calgary and Paul Holmgren in Philly.
No, most general managers are turf’d in the offseason or during the playoffs, and this year will be no exception. Here are a few GMs that might hit the unemployment line before they hit the beach this summer – and a few GMs that fans wish would join them.
Darcy Regier, Buffalo Sabres
The idea that Regier might survive (again) is floating through Buffalo, but columnists like Bucky Gleason continue to point out the obvious: That the mess the GM has created shouldn’t be his to clean up. He had a strong trade deadline, no doubt, but that should be his swan song. Now it’s just a matter of which former Sabre Terry Pegula decides to nostalgically hire for the gig. (My money’s on Rick Dudley.)
Greg Sherman, Colorado Avalanche
Total regime change would seem in order for the Avs, who have “sucked for Seth” more efficiently than many believed they could. Coach Joe Sacco is certainly gone, and Sherman could follow him out the door. Mile High Hockey doesn’t want to see this happen, but it could be inevitable, with Eric Lacroix waiting in the wings (or, in our wildest hockey fantasies, Patrick Roy for either job).
Steve Tambellini, Edmonton Oilers
At some point, the ax is going to fall on the general manager whose ineptness has led to a slew of high draft picks (that’s great!) but not to a winning team with them on the roster (that stinks). Terry Jones of the Sun writes that if the Oil are to turn the corner, it must be sans Tambo:
To get the players the Oilers need, they’re going to have to give up more than a Hemsky. You have to give up something to get something. Tough decisions lie ahead.
Is there any public confidence in Tambellini, based on his record and the performance of the pro scouting department in general, to make the deals to get the right guys to give the young talent the chance to succeed? The answer is no.
You’d just hate to see Ralph Krueger be one-and-done with him.
(UPDATE: Yep, he’s toast. And in season no less!)
Jay Feaster, Calgary Flames
He’ll probably get one more trip to the buffet with the Flames, but the lack of success on the ice for Calgary and Feaster’s baffling missteps as GM (see the Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet debacle) are enough to send him packing.
Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers
It’s hard to believe that the man who constructed the most surprising team in the NHL last season – and a division champion – would be on his rump one year later, but the Globe & Mail feels that Tallon’s on the hot seat. Again, this is one that would surprise us a bit, given his work down there.
Paul Holmgren, Philadelphia Flyers
One assumes Homer is safe, as the ax would fall on Peter Laviolette before it does Holmgren (and Flyers sources say the same thing). But at some point, the construction of this team and the decisions Holmgren has made will have to be put on trial. And every time Sergei Bobrovsky pitches a shutout in Columbus, well …
Are there any other general managers that deserve a spot on the hot seat?
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are having trouble scoring in the first period, which is usually their worst period. Period.
Boston Bruins: Carl Soderberg was cleared to join the Bruins, and the big Swede could be a boost to the Bruins’ offensive depth even if he’s not the most fleet-of-skate player.
Buffalo Sabres: Jerry Sullivan on Terry Pegula: “Fans can be very forgiving in this town. They’re not happy with the team, and for good reason. But they respect a guy who’ll take a hit and doesn’t run from trouble. Pegula is the one who made the promises and swore his allegiance as a fan. He’s not your typical owner. Fans deserve more from him.”
Calgary Flames: Max Reinhart scored his first NHL goal with his brother and mother in the stands watching. Said Theresa, his mother: “I don’t usually get that excited, but this is pretty good.” We’re sorta sad for her.
Carolina Hurricanes: There were three first-period fights between the Canes and Bruins – Kevin Westgarth vs. Shawn Thornton; Jay Harrison vs. Zdeno Chara; and Nicolas Blanchard vs. Gregory Campbell. Said Coach Kirk Muller: “That’s just showing that guys care and they want to take this thing to the end.” Said Jack Edwards: DON’T POKE THE BEAR!
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford was happy to see the Hawks not get intimidated by the Blues in their win on Sunday. “The most important thing is not to get frustrated when they give us a cheap shot and the ref doesn’t see it. When you spend energy trying to get them back or get frustrated by a hit … that’s not so legal, you’re only taking away from your focus on the game.”
Colorado Avalanche: Giggy was torched by the Hockey Night in Canada crew for his “Vegas” comments about the Avs, with PJ Stock believing he should have kept the criticism “in house.” Because, as you know, the house always wins when it comes to Vegas.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Artem Anisimov traveled with the Jackets to Denver after taking that nasty hit from Charlie Coyle of the Wild. No supplemental discipline for Coyle, by the way, as the NHL determined he didn’t target the head.
Dallas Stars: The good news is that the Stars are right in the mix for a playoff spot. The bad news is that they’re not exactly playing like a playoff team in these wins.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Preservation of the Wings’ playoff streak, which is at 21 consecutive seasons, has become their rallying cry. “I think a lot of people would be happy to see us miss the playoffs,” said Jimmy Howard, speaking on behalf of the Western Conference but not NBC.
Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall is appearing in a Crystal Glass commercial, and took part in a casting call. “I took drama in high school, but since then I haven’t done much acting,” said Hall. Well that’s news to Chris Mason.
Florida Panthers: Kevin Dineen was sorry that Panthers fans had to settle with seeing the rest of the Penguins kick the crap out of Florida, instead of the injured Sid and Geno. “It’s always a disappointment for the 18,000 people there; you always want to see the premier players,” Dineen said. “It’s kind of like spending lots of bucks on a Heat game and not getting to see LeBron. That has a little sting to it. But they’ve been down this road before, missing quality players and always having a response.
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick has been a different goalie at home and on the road. From LA Kings Insider: “After stopping 19-of-20 shots, his save percentage rose to .917 at home, while his goals against average fell to 1.75. On the road, he’s .885/3.21 and will likely be the goaltender in net when the Kings travel to the Shark Tank, where he was pulled earlier in the season and where San Jose has built a 14-1-5 home record.”
Minnesota Wild: The Wild should get Matt Cullen back on Monday, which is means you might be able to cancel the Amber Alert on Devin Setoguchi’s offense.
Montreal Canadiens: Great news for Carey Price, as his coach understands it’s OK he was pulled in Saturday’s loss vs. the Leafs. “He’s a good kid, he cares. But Carey’s had a good season, he has character and I know he’s going to bounce back. I have no doubt about that,” said Michel Therrien.
Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg, thrown to the fire. The rookie played 18:37 in his NHL debut on Sunday, finishing with a minus-2 and two shots. Kid looked good on the power play.
New Jersey Devils: Marty Brodeur doesn’t believe it’s time for a Pete DeBoer tantrum to spark the Devils. “You know what? There was never a time in these 10 games that they could be mad at us. That’s why it’s so hard,” Brodeur said. “Because usually you get in a funk and somebody goes crazy and you get the Pat Burns or the (Brent Sutter). There’s no reason. It wouldn’t be warranted for anybody to snap at a player or this or that.” So no Ftoreky bench tosses? For shame.
New York Islanders: Nice work here by Andrew McDonald to save a goal vs. the Rangers.
New York Rangers: Brad Richards is still having a season from hell. Take out his 3-point night vs. Pittsburgh, and he has two assists in his last eight games.
Ottawa Senators: Here’s how Cory Conacher overcame juvenile diabetes to make the NHL. Wilfred Brimley approves.
Philadelphia Flyers: Another day, another “will Ed Snider buy out Bryzgalov?” story.
Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan on the playoff race – “If we win every game, I’m sure that we’re in, so I guess that we’re still in control, but it’s going to be tough.” Well, yeah.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin’s sunburn makes Deadspin. Seriously, if he had to miss a game due to a severe sunburn, I’m blaming the Penguins trainers for not having a sufficient supply of aloe.
San Jose Sharks: Adam Burish had a lot of questions bugging him this season. “Am I doing what they want? I don’t know if I’m doing what they want. Should I do more here? Should I do more there? Should I be more reckless? Should I be more careful? Should I be smarter? I think it’s a feeling out process with a new team and a new coaching staff you don’t really know too well.”
St. Louis Blues: David Backes tormented Jonathan Toews on Sunday with some big hits. Must be getting ready for Sochi.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Some clutch work from the Bolts and Teddy Purcell here, as they rallied to tie the Caps.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Here’s how Randy Carlyle captures the chemistry between Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak: “They’re two smart hockey players. They’ve got very high I.Q., as far as hockey is concerned. They can go out and they know where one another are; they play off of one another; they look for one another and they think the game in a lot of the same manners. And that’s what we’ve tried to find in Kadri and Lupul, but we seem to have it more with Kadri and [Nikolai] Kulemin, because of the absence of Lupul. We’re always trying to find pairs that we can feel comfortable with, trust on the ice.”
Vancouver Canucks: Derek Roy has one assist in five games since joining the Canucks. Might Ryan Kessler as his right wing get him going?
Washington Capitals: Nice snipe from Mike Green here to give the Capitals an OT win over Tampa.
Winnipeg Jets: Toby Enstrom is no longer day to day but is now week to week. So that sucks.
Play of the Weekend
This is what Thomas Vanek does. Wow.
Gold Star Award
In honor of Ryan Lambert, the college hockey geek that usually writes this column, and Katie Baker, a proud alum, kudos to Yale on their Frozen Four win.
Minus of the Weekend
Well, if Leafs fans weren’t drooling over a matchup against the Habs before …
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
“Example” has seen a lot of Jordan Eberle this season and not a lot of Slava Voynov. Just a prediction.
Why are we watching a foreign movie? You’d think if it was any good they would make an American version.