The NHL’s Entry draft is right around the corner. With only 30 general manager positions in the NHL there’s always four guys and gals waiting to take advantage of a failure. For some general managers the way to keep themselves employed is to get it right, Peter Chiarelli and Ken Holland are currently on that path. For others, like Glen Sather and Mike Gillis, simply filling the seats most nights appears to be enough. For others a constant coaching carousel is the ticket to maintaining a Teflon exterior. For still others a perpetual chain of blockbuster trades that serve as a reset button for bad drafting or non-development.
But the gentlemen in this list are all on the hot seat, having dodge enough bullets to level a small arena.
George McPhee – Washington Capitals.
Personally I’m baffled as to how GMGM is still employed. He’s iced a team that’s consistently near or at the cap, that can’t seem to get out of first gear in the post season. With the amount of talent on the rosters there should be at least one or two Stanley Cup Finals appearances. Since 1997 when McPhee took over the Capitals, the team has failed to make the playoffs in one third of the seasons played. They failed to make it out of the first round in three additional years. The sixth coach patrols the bench under McPhee’s tenure, and yet the team still can’t go anywhere. The 2009-10 season saw the Capitals rack up 121 points in the regular season and get stomped out of the playoffs in the first round by the eighth place Montreal Canadians. If draft doesn’t yield one or two players that make an impact next season, one has to wonder how much longer Ted Leonis will tolerated flashy mediocrity. With the leagues realignment slotting them into an eight team division with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, the resurgent New York Islanders, and the plucky Columbus Blue Jackets for the next three season or more easy victories against the former Southeast division paper tigers will be a much rarer thing.
Doug Wilson – San Jose Sharks
The Sharks seem to have been on the cusp of greatness for a decade. Yet they can’t seem to get it done in the post season. Patrick Marleau holds nearly every regular season record on the teams books, and in the post season becomes the living example of “hockey isn’t played on paper”. Joe Thornton has won major awards, continues to be one of the NHL’s best faceoff men, and has only begun to figure out the post season in the last two or maybe three trips.
In the ten years since Wilson was hired, what has the team done? In the regular season everything, in the post season not a damn thing. They’ve been sliding slowly down the division rankings each season. In the three conference final appearances (the last three years ago) they have a total of three wins. Two of those wins came with a largely inherited roster back in the 2003-2004 season, and one appearance they were swept, and a single win in the most recent. Only one of those three conference finals defeats came at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.
With an aging and expensive core of players, and a declining salary cap, it is likely that without scoring big in the draft or at the latest free agency, the chum used to get this school in order will be Doug Wilson.
Paul Holmgren – Philadelphia Flyers
While Holmgren has been one of the most exciting general managers to watch in the way he maneuvers the trade market, his success rate is a bit iffy in all other regards. Several of the big free agents and trade pieces have failed to deliver in any meaningful way. Pronger was signed to a long term deal despite a history of injuries and suspension and is retired in all but name. Ilya Bryzgalov and just about every other goalie to land in the Flyers crease under Holmgren can be grade downwards from really bad to unspeakable. The only real exception to that is the 2012-13 Vezina trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who was traded away for the 4th round pic that turned into Anthony Stolarz, the 2nd round pick that was used for Taylor Leier, and one more fourth rounder in the 2013 draft. As a goalie, Stolarz is likely 3-4 years from the NHL, and Leier had a solid but unspectacular season for the Winterhawks playing with likely top pick Seth Jones.
The health disaster that has been the Flyers blueline in recent years has been compounded by the addition of questionably talented blueliners like Schenn, and the doubts reinforced by the acquisition of Streit for both a high dollar amount and long term for a 35+ contract. The 11th pick is unlikely to get an impact defenseman, unless it is used to trade for someone, and while other teams struggle with the salary cap, the Flyers even after buying out Briere seem to have built themselves a whole prison planet for their cap situation.
Darcy Regier – Buffalo Sabres
When Terry Pegula bought the Buffalo Sabres he promised a change in the status quo. In that time, things have changed. The team has spent more money and gotten worse. Last season we saw the end of the NHL’s longest running coaches tenure as Lindy Ruff was banished from The Isle of Misfit Toys. NHL newcomer Ron Rolston was brought up from the AHL to coach the team. Wilson isn’t just short on NHL experience as he never played above the ECHL, he’s short on head coaching experience of any kind. In 2009-10 the US National Under 17 roster was under his stewardship, and they failed to make the playoffs. The next year he took over the Rochester Americans who bowed out in the first round of the AHL playoffs. With less than two hundred games as a head coach of any kind he was dropped into the NHL, and failed to spin straw into gold.
The rosters that Regier has assembled don’t bear up under much scrutiny either, nor does the inability to land free agents. John Scott, Steve Ott and Ville Leino were three of last years additions to the team, and just from looking at them it is hard to imagine what he was trying to accomplish. To the best anyone can remember the biggest accomplishment for each was Ott: limiting himself to two game misconducts, Scott: concussing another player and playing three games were he hit double digits in minutes, Leino; playing more games than Rick Dipietro.
Most damning of all is the fact that in the last six season, four times the team failed to qualify for the post season, and the other two times the team lost in the first round. In that time the teams scoring has eroded and the defense has gone south. With two first rounders and two second rounders and a top ten pick, the teams fortunes can change, if Regier and company can manage to draft well he might retain his job.
He didn’t help his creditability much by failing to move more than two name players at the deadline after just short of calling it a firesale. He had to keep part of Pominville’s salary, and the players he got back in these transactions include a goalie who couldn’t steal a roster spot from the chronically injured netminders in Minnesota, and an unexciting Johan Larsson.