Tag: general managers

Hurricanes hand GM Jim Rutherford a four-year contract extension


If there’s one theme to the Carolina Hurricanes’ way of doing business, it might be “loyalty.”

Sometimes that preference reaches into the realm of the slightly ridiculous, as the team tends to bring back retreads with notable frequency. Just look at their history with Anton Babchuk, Cory Stillman, Erik Cole, the Kaberle brothers and even their once-fired head coach Paul Maurice for examples of this phenomenon.

While the team’s on-ice results seem to be on one year and off the other – possibly as a result of the Canes’ dependence upon stars Eric Staal and Cam Ward – the team seems like a solid hit in its non-traditional market. It’s my guess that fact (and his glistening 2006 Stanley Cup championship ring) explains why the Hurricanes decided to hand general manager Jim Rutherford a four-year contract extension.

It’s true that I don’t agree with every decision Rutherford makes, but considering Carolina’s restricted budget, it seems like he does a very solid job of putting together an attacking roster. Last year’s seventh overall pick Jeff Skinner won the 2011 Calder Trophy and most of their recent first round picks have been direct hits (even if they ended up on different teams).

The team might struggle with the loss of a key player such as Cole – who bolted for the Montreal Canadiens’ substantial deal – but it was the most cost-effective and risk-conscious option for a player with a troubling injury history. My guess at this moment is that the Canes will struggle to fight for a playoff spot in 2011-12, but for the most part, Rutherford seems like he knows what’s he is doing.

Gary Bettman’s new concussion protocols make NHL GMs upset

Gary Bettman

Despite the fact that the changes were announced during last week’s GM meetings, Gary Bettman apparently didn’t poll the league’s 30 general managers regarding changes to concussion diagnosis and protocol, according to Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun.

From the sound of things, some GMs are pretty upset with the changes Bettman enacted regarding how teams diagnose concussions. They have an especially big problem with the provision that forces a player who might have been concussed to meet with a doctor instead of a trainer during a 15-minute process.

A few general managers anonymously spoke with Francis about their issues with the changes Bettman made. They were upset by the fact that the league’s commissioner didn’t clear the changes with them and pointed to “the unreasonableness” of the new protocol.

“I have no problem treating these things cautiously but this is an overreaction, a knee-jerk reaction,” said the GM, insisting at least a third of the GMs agree with him and will make their feelings known to the league.

“We weren’t allowed to vote or discuss it. I was in the bar with about 10 other guys afterwards and they were all grumbling about it. I’m not opposed to beefing up the protocol but we know it doesn’t take 15 minutes and that’s my biggest concern. There’s a right way and a wrong way. This is what doctors told the league is best to do but we’re the ones to have to put the thing in practice and it doesn’t make sense.”

With an eye on identifying and managing the increasing number of concussions the NHL has seen this year, Bettman instituted the directive at last week’s GM meetings as part of a five-point plan to improve player safety. As part of the concussion protocol, the NHL commissioner took the power away from trainers who have typically tended to banged up players and put it squarely in the hands of the game’s host physician. Some have worried host doctors could either take their time getting down to see a visiting player or err too much on the side of caution to deprive a visiting team its star player.

“We don’t worry about a doctor’s ethical stance — they have way too much integrity for that,” said the GM, who requested anonymity for obvious reasons.

“I’m worried about how much time it takes. Maybe a doctor is dealing with another player at the time. Why 15 minutes and why is it out of the trainer’s hands? What about a guy like (Milan) Lucic who gets drilled and is always slow to get up but is never hurt? Does he sit for 15? We have to sit down and talk about it with the league and the doctors in the room at the draft this June.”

Considering the fact that a substantial chunk of the league’s teams at least have a shot at earning a playoff spot despite the fact that there’s less than a month left in this season, it’s clear that every game counts. That means that pulling a player out of a game prematurely could impact teams who need every win and every point they can get.

Francis reveals that some teams are so concerned with the timeliness and availability of opposing teams’ doctors that they might try to get their own team doctors to accompany clubs on road trips. Such a measure could be costly and also complicated because there might be markets where an out-of-state doctor might not be licensed to practice medicine, Francis explains.

In other words, there might be some considerable growing pains from these changes. It’s surprising that Bettman would make a choice that is reportedly so unpopular among GMs, since that seems like the one group of people the controversial commish manages to please through thick and thin.

That being said, in a climate where concussion consciousness is at a new height, maybe it’s better to overreact rather than ignoring a growing problem. Personally, I prefer an overreaction to an oblivious shrug.

NHLPA pleaded with general managers to eliminate headshots three years ago

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The more things change, they basically stay the same. With the GMs meeting in Florida on Monday, one of the major items on the agenda is headshots. Just last year in the wake of the Matt Cooke/Marc Savard incident, headshots were also on the agenda. Judging by the story Glenn Healy tells, the general managers didn’t want any part of the debate three years ago. Even back then the issue was on the agenda—and still we don’t have a legitimate answer or solution.

Here’s what former NHLPA executive (and current NHL analyst) Glenn Healy had to say about his experience in dealing with the NHL general managers:

Three years ago, after polling their players, Paul Kelly and Glenn Healy spoke to the general managers in the National Hockey League and made an impassioned plea for the elimination of head shots in hockey.

The reaction of the GMs, Healy remembers? “Silence.”

“I could feel the knives in my back as I was walking out of the room, everybody staring at you,” said Healy, who was then Kelly’s assistant with the NHL Players’ Association.

“The response was that there was no response. We knew we were working in a hostile environment.”

At some point, changes will have to be made. Maybe the answer is a rule change that penalizes any hit to the head (no matter the situation or perceived intent). Maybe the powers-that-be will want to introduce something that slows players down when they are throwing themselves into one another. Maybe the helmets can be made to be more effective—and maybe the elbow pads can be made to be LESS effective. Maybe the officials on the ice will start calling charging penalties when players line up opponents in a vulnerable position. Maybe the NHL needs a bigger ice surface. There are a ton of ideas floating around the hockey world.

Everyone around the NHL seem to have a different opinion on the headshot discussion. But their is one thing people aren’t debating: Headshots and concussions are a problem that need to be addressed. So when we hear the general managers – who should want to protect their multimillion dollar investments – greet concerns over players’ health with silence, there’s been a systematic breakdown.

The answers should be coming from the top as GMs should want to protect their players. The NHLPA should be as bold as they were three years ago – and keep the brazen stance until something is done to protect its constituency. The sides might not agree on the ways to solve the problem, but they should agree that there is a problem and something needs to be done to rectify it. There are plenty of answers out there; and some are better than others.

The one solution that is not acceptable is inaction. The GMs need to listen, look at the problem, and do something. Anything. Try something to help protect the players. Suggest something that can be implemented. Regardless, start finding out what works. Start finding out what DOESN’T work. Whatever they do, start doing something. The problem isn’t going anywhere and it isn’t going to solve itself.

If not, we’ll be having this exact same conversation in three years—and the only difference will be three more years of injured players. And the only reason for the injuries will be because the people who should care the most chose to look the other way.