A couple times in the last two or three weeks I’ve heard people say that teams take on the personality of their head coach. Specifically they were saying this in an effort to criticize Claude Julien. I just don’t think I can agree. The coach is on a day to day basis the most influential member of club management, but that’s about where it ends.
The general manager on the other hand not only selects the coaches, and the players, but selects the scouts, the assistant general managers, and trainers. They also set the priorities of personality, and physical attributes they value. It is also the GM who (in most organizations) has the final call on trades, draft choices, and what players are assigned to and recalled from a minor league affiliate. On top of that, they have the final say what free agents are pursued or resigned.
Bearing those things in mind, let’s look at two general managers that have been appointed recently, and the types of players they have brought in, made captain, and attempted to move.
First Brian Burke, Toronto Maple Leafs:
- Dion Phanuef, aggressive, hard skating defenseman who has drafted high and has a reputation for playing on or over the edge. Has not had his defensive game flattered much in the last couple seasons. Also has a reputation for not having his head in the game for long stretches of time. He was brought into the Maple Leafs via a trade with the Calgary Flames. After twenty six games of tepid play last season, he was named captain in the off season, a position that had been vacant since the departure in 2008 of Leafs icon Mats Sundin.
- Phil Kessel, was acquired from the Boston Bruins in exchange for two first round draft picks and a second round pick (Tyler Seguin 1st 2010, Jared Knight 2nd 2010, and upcoming 1st 2011). Kessel was and remains widely praised for exceptional speed, and a shot release that puts him in the top ten or fifteen players in the league in both. He’s also got a well documented history of failure to perform against top teams, isn’t gifted with an impressive work ethic, and probably accumulates almost as many hits her year as Tim Thomas. He’s not shown a willingness to play through pain for the good of the team.
- Mike Komisarek, picked up after he earned himself a one way ticket to anywhere but the Bell Centre. He’s a defensive defenseman, who plays with an edge, engaged in a very one-sided feud with Bruins winger Milan Lucic where he lost a couple fights, including one where he spent months on the shelf as a result of an injury sustained during the fight. He gouged the eye of the much smaller Matt Hunwick and hasn’t covered himself in glory as a Leaf.
Now a look at some of the key free players Peter Chiarelli has brought to the Boston Bruins.
- Zdeno Chara. Has responded well to both coaches he’s played for a Bruin, his former Islanders General Manager’s lone complaint of him is that he wanted to much money. He came into a town with a history of elite defensemen and earned himself a Norris trophy. Has, been a fixture of the team, played the 2009-10 season with a dislocated finger. Soft spoken off the ice and willing to give time to fans.
- Marc Savard. Came in a point per game player with a reputation for soft play, and defensive nonexistence. In the time he’s been in Boston, his points total has dipped slightly, but he has also been a large contributor to the penalty kill, and has led the team in scoring three of the four plus seasons here. By nearly any conceivable measure, he signed a contract extension well under his fair market value to remain a member of the Boston Bruins.
- Mark Recchi. As the NHL’s elder statesman by more than two years, on the surface it’s an interesting question as to why he’s on the roster at all. That is until you remember he’s one of the handful of players to hit over 1000 games, 1000 points, and 1000 penalty minutes. Also, certain minor stars of the NHL like Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos credit him with helping them hugely. Add that to the Bruins pretty young roster, and the upcoming talents and he’s a very, subtle element in the developmental progression of several players.
When you look at the rosters of both teams, see interviews with the core players, and look at who’s wearing the letters on the front of their jerseys you’ll notice that for the most part the Bruin’s players are soft spoken, introverted, and even if they play a very physical game, lean towards the cerebral thinking mans player. If you look at the Maple Leafs roster, you get one dimensional, high risk high reward style players who are more emotionally driven. I don’t think you could watch five minutes of footage of both GM’s and come away with any impression other than that these are the men who have crafted their teams.