Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Who's the best GM of all time? Just follow the bad trade chain.

Who’s​ the best general​ manager​ in​ the​ history​ of​ the NHL?

On​ the surface, that​ seems like the​ sort​ of question that​​ we can’t really answer. You’ll have your opinion and I’ll have mine, and we can have fun debating it back and forth. But ultimately, it’s all a matter of opinion.

Or is it? When it comes to these sorts of questions, I’ve always been a big fan of stripping away emotion and hometown bias and going with a calculated, scientific approach. And there’s an opportunity to do that here, because part of a GM’s job involves occasionally going head-to-head with their colleagues. We can never read too much into a matchup between goalies or coaches or players, because the results will be determined by the rosters around them. But when GMs sit down to hammer out a trade, it’s just them. Just two men, locked in a battle of wits to see who can get the best of the other.

That should give us an opportunity to answer the question of who was the best in an objective way. All we need to do is go back through the trading records and see who got the best of who. After all, you can’t be the best GM ever if some other GM took you to the cleaners in a head-to-head matchup. We just need to work our way down the chain, looking for any trades that were clearly lopsided, and we’ll eventually get to an answer we can all agree on. It’s practically foolproof.

The only question is where to begin. That’s tricky, but I think there’s a logical answer: We start with the reigning GM of the Year. After all, if the league says a guy is the best in the business at this very moment, that seems like as good a place as any to start our search.

As it happens, the current GM of the Year is a legitimate contender for our Best Ever crown. That would be George McPhee, who won the 2018 award after working a near-miracle with the Golden Knights. He has nearly two decades of experience as an NHL GM, and he’s taken two teams to the Stanley Cup final. If you’re looking for someone to call the best, you could do a lot worse than George McPhee.

Except that for all McPhee’s success, he made one of the worst trades in recent history back in 2013, when he sent Filip Forsberg to the Predators for Martin Erat and a minor leaguer. It was a disastrous trade, as Forsberg quickly developed into one of the league’s best young wingers while Erat barely did anything in Washington. The deal has been referred to as a “dumpster fire”. And who was the GM who robbed McPhee blind in that deal? That would be David Poile.

So McPhee clearly can’t be the best GM ever. Instead, it’s Poile. See how this works? Simple and straightforward.

Except that while Poile certainly won his fair share of trades over his 36 years on the job, his record isn’t exactly spotless. Back in 1992, Poile was GM of the Capitals when he traded winger Dino Ciccarelli to the Red Wings in a straight-up deal for Kevin Miller. The 31-year-old Ciccarelli had scored over 100 goals in his three full seasons in Washington; he turned out to have over 160 more left in him, on the way to joining the 600-goal club and making the Hall of Fame. Miller lasted all of 10 games in Washington.

So sorry, David, you can’t be the best GM of all-time when you get robbed like that. Instead, we’ll hand those honors over to the man that fleeced you: Red Wings’ GM Bryan Murray.

Murray’s a solid pick; he was a GM for four different teams over the course of a quarter century. Unfortunately, he also had some shaky deals. Back in 2013, he traded Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first-round pick to the Ducks in a deal for winger Bobby Ryan. That pick ended up being in the top 10, and the Ducks used it on Nick Ritchie. Meanwhile, Ryan has largely been a bust in Ottawa, and the team is currently trying to unload his massive contract. It was a clear loss for the Senators, and a win for Anaheim GM Bob “No Relation” Murray.

So Bryan can’t be our best-ever GM. But maybe Bob can be.

Unfortunately, the best GM ever wouldn’t have traded one of the top defensemen in the league without getting any impact assets back in return. That’s what Murray did back in 2009, when Paul Holmgren got him to part with Chris Pronger for the low price of Joffrey Lupul, Lucas Sbisa and two late first-round picks. Pronger immediately led the Flyers to within two wins of a championship, making the deal a big win for GM Paul Holmgren.

So Murray isn’t the best GM after all. Paul Holmgren is.

Except that he can’t be, because he once traded James van Riemsdyk to the Maple Leafs in a straight-up deal for Luke Schenn. That was a bad deal on the day it went down, and has been getting worse ever since. Schenn was barely a useful third-pairing guy, while van Riemsdyk had multiple 30-goal seasons in Toronto and just got a ton of money to come back to the Flyers. Chalk up a big win for Leafs GM Brian Burke.

So Holmgren is out. The best GM ever was actually Brian Burke.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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