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Stanley Cup Winning GMs and Some Free Advice for MLSE's Board of Directors

November 26, 2007, 2:02 PM ET [ Comments]

It's been reported that over the summer Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment hired an executive search firm to seek out the man who would take over control of their hockey operations. According to the story, the firm came back with four names - Brian Burke, Lou Lamoriello, Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe - all of whom were unavailable. When sent back to the drawing board they came up with the name of Scotty Bowman who either wasn't willing to relocate or wouldn't take the job without being able to have full control and to clean house.

Since I know that MLSE keeps a very close eye on the bottom line, I'm offering up some research on General Managers, most notably those who have won Cups in the past, along with some advice on how to proceed - free of charge from TDS Executive Search Management and Consulting.

First let's look at three common arguments when discussing potential candidates...

Argument #1 - We want a former superstar, somebody who knows what it takes to win the Cup like Messier, Francis or Yzerman.

Fact - 18 GMs have won the Cup since 1967. Eight of those 18 had NHL playing experience. Only four played in over 500 games and two played in over 1000 games.

Former Players: (8)
Keith Allen - 28 GP, 0 G, 4 PTS
Bob Gainey - 1160 GP, 239 G, 502 PTS
Ken Holland - 4 GP (goaltender)
Craig Patrick - 401 GP, 72 G, 163 PTS
Jim Rutherford - 457 GP (goaltender)
Glen Sather - 658 GP, 80 G, 192 PTS
Serge Savard - 1040 GP, 106 G, 439 PTS
Milt Schmidt - 776 GP, 229 G, 575 PTS

4 with 500+ games experience
2 with 1000+ games experience

No NHL Playing Experience: (10)
Brian Burke, Jim Devellano, Jay Feaster, Cliff Fletcher, Irving Grundman, Pierre Lacroix, Lou Lamoriello, Sam Pollock, Neil Smith, Bill Torrey


Argument #2 - We want somebody with a Stanley Cup on his resume as a GM.

Fact - None of the 18 GMs have gone onto win a Cup with a second organization. Six moved on after winning the Cup and weren't able to or haven't yet been able to replicate the prior success:

Fletcher (Toronto, Phoenix)
Gainey (Montreal)
Sather (NY Rangers)
Schmidt (Washington)
Smith (NY Islanders - very briefly)
Torrey (Florida)


Argument #3 - We don't want somebody who's been a GM before and wasn't able to win.

Fact - Two General Managers didn't win until moving on to a new situation:

Burke (Hartford, Vancouver)
Patrick (NY Rangers)


For reference, here's the list of Stanley Cup winning GMs:

2007 Anaheim - Brian Burke
2006 Carolina - Jim Rutherford
2004 Tampa Bay - Jay Feaster
2003 New Jersey - Lou Lamoriello
2002 Detroit - Ken Holland
2001 Colorado - Pierre Lacroix
2000 New Jersey - Lou Lamoriello
1999 Dallas - Bob Gainey
1998 Detroit - Ken Holland
1997 Detroit - Jim Devellano
1996 Colorado - Pierre Lacroix
1995 New Jersey - Lou Lamoriello
1994 NY Rangers - Neil Smith
1993 Montreal - Serge Savard
1992 Pittsburgh - Craig Patrick
1991 Pittsburgh - Craig Patrick
1990 Edmonton - Glen Sather
1989 Calgary - Cliff Fletcher
1988 Edmonton - Glen Sather
1987 Edmonton - Glen Sather
1986 Montreal - Serge Savard
1985 Edmonton - Glen Sather
1984 Edmonton - Glen Sather
1983 NY Islanders - Bill Torrey
1982 NY Islanders - Bill Torrey
1981 NY Islanders - Bill Torrey
1980 NY Islanders - Bill Torrey
1979 Montreal - Irving Grundman
1978 Montreal - Sam Pollock
1977 Montreal - Sam Pollock
1976 Montreal - Sam Pollock
1975 Philadelphia - Keith Allen
1974 Philadelphia - Keith Allen
1973 Montreal - Sam Pollock
1972 Boston - Milt Schmidt
1971 Montreal - Sam Pollock
1970 Boston - Milt Schmidt
1969 Montreal - Sam Pollock
1968 Montreal - Sam Pollock

39 seasons, 18 Stanley Cup Winning GMs:
7 - Pollock
5 - Sather
4 - Torrey
3 - Lamoriello
2 - Allen, Holland, Lacroix, Patrick, Savard, Schmidt
1 - Burke, Devellano, Feaster, Fletcher, Gainey, Grundman, Rutherford, Smith

Where are they now?

Allen - Executive VP, Philadelphia
Burke - Executive VP & GM, Anaheim
Devellano - Sr VP/Alternate Governor, Detroit
Feaster - Executive VP, GM & Alt. Governor, Tampa Bay
Fletcher - last employed by Phoenix, 2007
Gainey - Executive VP & GM, Montreal
Grundman - Retired
Holland - VP, GM & Alternate Governor, Detroit
Lacroix - President, Colorado
Lamoriello - CEO, President & GM, New Jersey
Patrick - last employed by Pittsburgh, 2006
Pollock - passed away in 2007
Rutherford - President & GM, Carolina
Sather - President & GM, NY Rangers
Savard - Retired, age 61
Schmidt - Retired, age 89
Smith - last employed by NY Islanders, 2006
Torrey - Alternate Governor, Florida

Active GM = 7


Prior Experience, Current GMs:

Truth is that there is no formula for success when it comes to GMs. That much is clear by examining the collective work experience of the seven current GMs who have won Cups (dates may not be exact, info was pieced together from multiple sources).

Brian Burke
1973-77 Player, Providence College & BA in History
1977-78 Player, AHL
1978-81 Harvard Law
1981-87 Lawyer
1987-92 VP & Director of Hockey Operations, Vancouver
1992-93 GM, Hartford
1993-98 NHL Head Office
1998-04 President & GM, Vancouver
2004-05 TV Analyst, TSN & CBC
2005-current Exec VP & GM, Anaheim

Jay Feaster
Law Degree, Georgetown
Lawyer, McNees, Wallace & Nurick, Harrisburgh PA
1989-90 Assistant to the President, Hershey Company
1990-xx GM, Hershey Bears
1989-98 President, Hershey Bears & VP Hershey Sports & Ent.
1998-01 Assistant GM, Tampa Bay
2002-current Exec VP & GM, Tampa Bay

Bob Gainey
1971-73 Player, OHA, AHL
1973-89 Player, NHL
1989-90 Head Coach, France
1990-93 Head Coach, Minnesota/Dallas
1992-02 GM, Dallas
2003-current GM, Montreal

Ken Holland
1974-76 Player, WCHL
1977-85 Player, AHL, NHL (4 gms)
1985-89 Scout, Detroit
1989-94 Amateur Scouting Director, Detroit
1994-97 Assistant GM, Detroit
1997-current VP, GM & Alternate Governor, Detroit

Lou Lamoriello
1969-81 Head Coach, Providence College
1982-87 Athletic Director, Providence College
1987-current CEO, President & GM, New Jersey

Jim Rutherford
1967-71 Player, OHL, CHL
1971-83 Player, NHL
1983-94 Compuware Sports, GM OHL
1994-current President & GM, Hartford/Carolina

Glen Sather
1964-67 Player, CPHL
1967-77 Player, NHL, WHA
1977-78 Head Coach, WHA
1979-89 Head Coach, Edmonton
1980-00 GM, Edmonton
2000-current President & GM, New York
2003-04 Head Coach, New York


Laundry List of Potential Candidates:

Current GMs (some could be available in the summer)
Brian Burke, Don Waddell, Peter Chiarelli, Darcy Regier, Darryl Sutter, Jim Rutherford, Dale Tallon, Francois Giguere, Scott Howsen, Brett Hull/Les Jackson, Ken Holland, Kevin Lowe, Jacques Martin, Dean Lombardi, Doug Risebrough, Bob Gainey, David Poile, Lou Lamoriello, Garth Snow, Glen Sather, Bryan Murray, Paul Holmgren, Don Maloney, Ray Shero, Doug Wilson, Larry Pleau, Jay Feaster, David Nonis, George McPhee

Notable Former GMs:
Doug Armstrong, Mike Barnett, Craig Button, Bob Clarke, Al Coates, Jim Devellano, Rick Dudley, Cliff Fletcher, Pierre Gauthier, Pierre Lacroix, Mike Milbury, John Muckler, Pat Quinn, Pierre Page, Craig Patrick, Neil Smith, Dave Taylor

Notable Assistant GMs:
Jim Nill, Steve Tambellini, Ron Hextall

Other Potential Candidates:
Bob Nicholson, Colin Campbell, Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Glen Healy, Brian Lawton, Don Meehan, Mike Murphy, Scotty Bowman, Mike Gartner, Doug Gilmour, Ryan Walter

Nobody asked for my opinion, but while I'm giving out free advice, here's what I'd do if I was MLSE.

1) Let Richard Peddie focus on what he does best. He's done an unbelievable job at building MLSE into an empire and it's too bad in some ways that the performance of the hockey team has overshadowed his business acumen, at least in the media. While he wields considerable power within the organization, the board needs to find a way to convince him to take a step back when it comes to the hockey team, similar to what happened with the Raptors and Colangelo.

2) Hire a President of Hockey Operations. The first guy I'd look at is Bob Nicholson. I have no idea whether he'd even consider leaving Hockey Canada, especially with the World Championships, World Juniors and Olympics on Canadian soil over the next few years - but if he's willing to listen I'd make it worthwhile. Otherwise there are guys like Bowman and Campbell, maybe even Pat Quinn who have considerable clout and connections within the hockey world.

3) Let the President Hire the General Manager. Maybe you end up with a Nicholson-Tambellini combination, or Bowman-Nill. Maybe Dave Taylor like I suggested yesterday or one of the many other names from the list above. Maybe the President will choose to assume the role of GM and groom his eventual replacement.

I don't believe this can/should wait until the summer for two reasons. Firstly the moves that can happen this year with have huge ramifications for the future (ie Sundin and the need to stockpile prospects and clear future cap space) and secondly because I just don't believe they should sit around and hope to nab Brian Burke which may or may not be feasible.

4) Let the General Manager hire the Coach

5) Spare no expenses in hiring the best and most scouts, coaches and administration and in giving them the best tools/technology.

It's enough with the politics and the idea of having a committee instead of a GM. I'm all for having the best people in place for each role but there's a certain structure that needs to be there in order for the organization to be functional, efficient and successful.

The role of NHL General Manger is an extremely difficult one. There's the players, coaching staff, scouts and administration to manage on a day-to-day basis. There's the complex CBA and the cap. You have to make decisions all the time that will impact both the short and long-term future.

Hiring the right candidate can lead to winning the greatest trophy in all of professional sports. Hiring the wrong candidate can set a franchise back for many, many years.

This may well be a monumental week in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With the whole hockey world watching it's time for MLSE to finally start building a hockey team that is as successful as their business enterprise.

Danny - [email protected]
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