Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Every GM class of the cap era, ranked from worst to best

It’s the middle of July, and we’re getting dangerously close to that time of year when the NHL essentially shuts down. Not officially, of course, but there’s about a six-week stretch where we don’t get much in the way of big signings or trades. It’s almost like the GMs all go on vacation.

Great, that makes this a perfect time to rank them.

Specifically, we’re going to rank each of the GM classes of the cap era. That means we’re going back to 2005 and judging each calendar year based on which full-time GMs were hired (with a glove tap to our friends at NHL Trade Tracker).

The ground rules are simple. We’re judging based only on what a GM did with that team, not anywhere else before or after. Interim GMs don’t count. And each hire in a given year gets equal weighting – if a year saw five guys hired and one of them was a modern-day Sam Pollock, that will boost the ranking but only to a point; the other guys matter just as much.

Each class gets ranked based on their impact, their success, and their entertainment value, based on a strict system of me pulling a number out of the air and running with it. Highest total wins.

We’ve got 19 years to work with, and we’re ranking all of them. Well, almost all of them, because…

Not ranked: Class of 2023

GMs: Barry Trotz (NSH), Kyle Dubas (PIT), Brad Treliving (TOR), Craig Conroy (CGY), Danny Briere (PHI)

Look, I think I've shown over the years that I’m willing to be entirely unreasonable when it comes to a ranking, but even I have my limits. These guys have been on the job for a few weeks, most of them have barely done anything newsworthy yet, and I'm not even sure Conroy knows that free agency has started. I can’t sit here and pretend that I can pass judgement on any of them yet. (But check back in August, when my 6,500-word Dubas vs. Treliving scorecard should be ready to go.)

#18. Class of 2017

GMs: Rob Blake (LAK), Jason Botterill (BUF), Dale Tallon (FLA)

I like the work Blake has done in L.A., even though he hasn’t won anything yet. The good news is that he’s easily the best GM of the class of 2017. The bad news is that it would be just about impossible not to be, since Botterill didn’t really work out in Buffalo and Tallon 2.0 in Florida was so busy vanquishing the Computer Boys that he ended up doing more for the Golden Knights than the Panthers.

Impact: 3/10

Success: 2/10

Entertainment: 2/10

Total: 7/30

#17. Class of 2022

GMs: Chris MacFarland (COL), Mike Grier (SJS), Pat Verbeek (ANA), Kent Hughes (MTL), Patrick Allvin (VAN)

It’s far too early to rank last year’s class with any degree of fairness, but life’s not fair so here we are. Only one year in, this group isn’t exactly crushing it; aside from MacFarlard, who took over a Cup champion, it’s been a whole lot of wheel-spinning for this group. Hughes at least gave us a great draft moment in Montreal, and Grier might be about to drop an Erik Karlsson blockbuster. But for now, it’s been a lot of talk and not much action – which is probably about right when three of the five teams are rebuilding, and one of them probably should be. Let's call this class a work in progress and slot them in here for now.

Impact: 2/10

Success: 2/10

Entertainment: 4/10

Total: 8/30

#16. Class of 2009

GMs: Stan Bowman (CHI), Greg Sherman (COL), Joe Nieuwendyk (DAL), Chuck Fletcher (MIN), Randy Sexton (FLA)

First things first: I cover the NHL for a living and I have zero recollection of Randy Sexton returning to the league to be the Panthers GM for less than a year. I do remember Nieuwendyk’s unsuccessful stint in Dallas, and poor Sherman being GM in title only while Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic did his job for him. Bowman won three Cups in Chicago with Dale Tallon’s roster, but ultimately left in disgrace. And that leaves us with Chuck Fletcher, who lasted almost a decade in Minnesota and was responsible for some of the most thrilling moments in franchise history like, uh…

Impact: 3/10

Success: 5/10, basically all from Bowman

Entertainment: 2/10

Total: 10/30

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