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.

As Panthers get ready to host Blackhawks, Dale Tallon tries to put past with Chicago behind him

Dale Tallon

While he wasn’t the acting Chicago Blackhawks general manager when the team won their first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years, Dale Tallon still made most of the personnel moves that allowed the team to power its way to the top of the NHL.

While he places his stamp on a troubled organization as the new general manager of the Florida Panthers, Tallon must put those Hawks roots behind him. Even if there might be some instances in which that past seeps through (example: trading with the Blackhawks to acquire Jack Skille).

His new team will host his old team Tuesday, as the fading Panthers will play against the red-hot Blackhawks. It should be an emotional evening for some – particularly former Panthers winger Michael Frolik, who wasn’t expecting to be traded to Chicago – but Tallon at least claims that he’s moved on.

On Sunday night, while watching his Panthers lose to Washington, Tallon said he has completely divorced himself from the Blackhawks organization in a career that spanned four decades. While he says he still watches Chicago games on television, he does so no more than other teams in the league.

“I’ve cut the cord, had closure and have moved on,” Tallon said. “I wish them nothing but the best, wish them success. I’m focused on the Panthers and that’s all I care about. It will be interesting and different, but there’s nothing there for me know. I have to keep the faith and keep working here. It was a great 33-year run there, but the day I drank out of the Cup, that was it for me.”

From a short-term standpoint, not much as changed under Tallon. After all, the Panthers are still a scrappy and unremarkable team who will likely fall short of a playoff spot but also fail to get a great draft pick.But that ignores the long-term view. Tallon is building a big team (exemplified by his decision to draft hulking defenseman Erik Gudbranson instead of Cam Fowler with the third pick) and is stockpiling prospects. Naturally, it might take time to land a Patrick Kane or a Jonathan Toews – a lot of that comes down to landing the right pick a the right time – but there’s more reason to believe in the Panthers’ future now than in the last 10 years.

Hopefully he won’t get fired (or, ahem, “resign”) before these prospects can grow this time around.

Flyers hand GM Paul Holmgren three-year extension reportedly worth $4.5M


The Philadelphia Flyers announced the signing of a high profile figure today, but the good news is that it won’t have an impact on the team’s paper-thin salary cap. Well, not directly, at least.

That’s because the Flyers signed a deal with someone who doesn’t skate with the team, as they handed general manager Paul Holmgren a three-year extension reportedly worth $4.5 million.

While I look at the disastrous 2006-07 season that resulted in the dismissal of Bobby Clarke and Ken Hitchcock as a bit of an aberration akin to the San Antonio Spurs being awful long enough to draft Tim Duncan, it’s undeniable that Holmgren is responsible for the club’s impressive makeover.

His tenure began by raiding some of the Nashville Predators’ best talents, as he engineered trades to bring in important defenseman Kimmo Timonen and useful pest/scorer Scott Hartnell. He was in charge when the team drafted James van Riemsdyk. Holmgren made savvy pickups like a waiver claim on Michael Leighton last season, the signing of Sergei Bobrovsky and a crafty trade to land playoff standout Ville Leino. Perhaps his most important long-term moves might be the cap-friendly contracts he negotiated with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, though.

Of course, there’s also the dramatic improvement the team made once Holmgren decided to hire Peter Laviolette last season to boot.

Even some of his “biggest missteps” such as giving Danny Briere a lengthy, expensive deal and flubbing on the 35+ rule with Chris Pronger have worked out pretty well. Maybe those contracts will devolve into albatrosses later on, but Briere was the leading scorer of the 2010 playoffs while Pronger was a huge difference maker as the team struggled with goalie injuries. It’s hard to call either move bone-headed now.

The team may always have questions in net, although that situation is greatly improved (and besides, skimping on goaltending has been their M.O. for years, with mostly solid results).

Beyond that flippant goalie criticism, the only consistent problem facing the Holmgren years has been getting under the salary cap. Yet when you look at other contenders in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Vancouver, it’s clear that most top teams acknowledge that’s just the price of doing business.

Considering his impressive track record so far, the Flyers are wise to allow Holmgren to manage their business going forward.