Monday, January 30, 2017

Which GMs are facing the most deadline pressure? (Western Conference edition)

The NHL hit the midway mark on its schedule a few weeks ago. But for many, the true halfway point of the season is the all-star weekend. That’s the event that closes the book on the first half, and officially sends us towards the homestretch.

For some teams around the league, that’s good news. The season is going well and the roster is largely set, so bring on the playoffs. But most teams still have some work cut out for them. And those are the teams whose GMs will find themselves in the spotlight with the trade deadline just four weeks away.

Are they buying? Selling? Standing pat? If prices start rising, how long can they stay at the table before folding their hand?

And maybe even more importantly: Can they afford to be wrong?

Some of these guys have a tougher few weeks ahead of them than others. So let's take a look around the league at all 31 GMs, and figure out which ones are under the most pressure as we head towards the deadline.

We'll start with the Western Conference today; we'll be back tomorrow with the East.

Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers are finally headed back to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, and Chiarelli gets a big chunk of the credit for that. We can argue over how much credit he should get, but that's not really the point. He pulled off the Taylor Hall/Adam Larsson trade and landed Milan Lucic and Kris Russell, and now the Oilers are good again.

Could they be better? Sure. And you could make a case that this year's Western Conference is there for the taking, and the Oilers have as good a shot as anyone. But the team is finally headed in the right direction, and even an early exit this year wouldn't be viewed as a failure. Chiarelli can pick his spots; in the eyes of the fans, his big moves have already paid off.

Pressure rating: 2/10

Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks

In theory, Bowman won't be under much pressure at all. His Blackhawks are already good, if flawed, and they're sitting solidly in a playoff spot and still within range of the Wild for a division title. And they've won three of the last seven Stanley Cups, so nobody will be calling for his head even if the rest of the season goes bad.

Will that matter to Bowman? Probably not — he's long been one of the more aggressive GMs in the league, which is a big part of why his teams are always so good.

So sure, Bowman will probably be front and centre over the next weeks. Not because he has to, but because that's just how he operates.

Pressure rating: 3/10

Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are facing what could be the end of an era, with both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau heading to UFA status in the summer. In a perfect world, they'd load up and make one last run before losing one or both of their longest-serving players. They've got the cap room to add some help, so it will be interesting to see how Wilson plays it. But with the team playing well and no obvious weak spots in the lineup, it's unlikely to be anything major.

Pressure rating: 3/10

George McPhee, Vegas Golden Knights

Sure, the team doesn't exist yet. But the league has ruled that the Golden Knights will be able to start making trades as soon as their final payment has been made, which should be in early March. That's after the trade deadline, but the types of moves the Knights will be making — those involving draft picks, prospects or expansion draft considerations — wouldn’t be affected by that.

That doesn't mean that McPhee will be pulling off any blockbusters quite yet, and he can't make any moves at all until that last check clears. But at the very least, he's going to be very busy laying the groundwork for the Knights earliest days, and the decisions he makes now could have an impact for years to come.

Pressure rating: 3/10

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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