5/21/14: Three Thoughts – Real GM, Armchair GM, If I Was GM

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Thought #1: Looking at the General Manager Candidates

Yesterday was both funny and not amusing as WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh posted a graphic that included Pierre McGuire as a GM candidate for the Penguins. As you would expect, it was met with a plethora of freaking out with some positive comments mixed in sparsely.


So far, here are all of the GM candidates I have heard linked to the Penguins.

From every source (PG, Trib, Yahoo, ESPN, etc):

Jason Botterill, Current Interim GM – The Penguins’ noted “capologist” is currently handling business as the search for a GM, which does include him as a candidate, continues. He took over as Pittsburgh’s assistant GM in the summer of 2009 and is well-known for his knowledge of salary cap details, negotiations, and contract work in general. The big questions lingering with Botterill is what role he actually played in the previous regime’s “failures” and how similar are his philosophies and strategies to Ray Shero’s. There has been talk for several seasons that he is ready for a GM job, but will ownership want a clean break from the previous group?



Pat Brisson, Player Agent with CAARuled out, decided to remain an agent and not pursue the GM job.

Jim Benning, Boston’s Assistant GM – Ruled out, expected to be announced as Vancouver’s new GM on Friday.

Pierre McGuire, NBC Analyst – Mostly known for his overzealous commentary in between the benches on NBC, McGuire has history with the Penguins as a former scout and assistant coach for the early 90’s Cup teams. He was later a coach and assistant GM in Hartford, though his time there was quite rocky. Upon his firing, players tore him apart saying they had no respect for him, nor did other teams. He was also considered a “control freak” and an “egomaniac” on his way out of Hartford. After Hartford, he was a scout for a short time in Ottawa before getting fired and then coached an ECHL team for a year before leaving to go into broadcasting in 1997.

Despite the awful reviews on Pierre in the NHL two decades ago, he has been a rumored candidate for several GM positions in the last few years and plenty of time has passed since those failures long ago. No one will doubt his player knowledge, or at least his willingness to learn and study players to get to know them. Though it’s difficult for many, separate his broadcasting obnoxiousness from his actual knowledge and the idea isn’t nearly as crazy as many would suggest. However, count me in a group that would want to see him in an assistant GM role before considering him for the actual GM position.

UPDATED: Apparently Pierre said on TSN690 in Montreal that he has no interest in the job out of respect for Ray Shero, who he is close friends with.

Julien BriseBois, Tampa Bay’s Assistant GM – BriseBois seems to be quickly gaining favor in rumors. His role has mirrored Jason Botterill’s closely as he has taken care of the Syracuse Crunch and also dealt with contracts/negotiations/salary cap issues. He has been in his current role since 2010. Back in 2012, several Montreal writers suggested him very favorably for the Canadiens’ GM opening. The only negative I’ve found on him in any articles is that he lacks the coaching/playing career that several GMs have. Personally, I don’t think that matters too much. His good track record managing AHL teams and his education (JD/MBA) certainly make him a promising candidate.

Paul Fenton, Nashville’s Assistant GM – Fenton took over for Ray Shero as Nashville’s assistant GM in 2006. One of the more intriguing notes in his history is that he managed Nashville’s entry drafts from 2003-2008 (read: Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, and Kevin Klein all in one draft, Pekka Rinne in the 8th round, several other quality depth players). His drafting wasn’t flawless by any means during those years, but I would imagine Pens fans would see it much more favorably than Shero’s drafts lately. The biggest concern with Fenton would be that he could be very similar to Shero as he has learned from GM David Poile just as Shero did.

Joe Will, San Jose’s Assistant GM – Will has been an assistant GM for the Sharks for two seasons, though he has been with the organization since it was created in 1990 as a scouting coordinator and also as an assistant to the GM (great organizational clarity, San Jose). He takes care of player payroll and is also a scouting coordinator for the team.  He has been given praise for his ability to find low cost talent, something the Penguins would certainly need given their current roster situation, and has also been noted for his use of various statistical analyses (not necessary using “fancy stats”) in other leagues to find underutilized talent.  He sounds like a promising candidate, but San Jose has also written the book on earlier-than-expected playoff exits.  The question is who is to blame in San Jose?

From Scott Burnside:

Tim Burke, San Jose’s Director of Scouting – Burke has been in charge of San Jose’s entry drafts since 1996 and is responsible for their evaluation of talent all over the world. Per San Jose’s site, the Sharks are 2nd in games played by their own draft picks since 2003 despite having the lowest average draft position in that timeframe. I haven’t seen his name linked by anyone other than Burnside, but his drafting prowess certainly earns a second thought based on the recent problems everyone has discussed. I don’t believe Burke will end up being a candidate given his success and relationship in San Jose. I also have my doubts that any team would promote him straight to GM (as opposed to assistant GM first) when he clearly has a strong niche role right now. Still, who knows what could happen.

Claude Loiselle, Toronto’s Assistant GM – Loiselle has been an assistant GM in Toronto since 2010 and was an assistant GM in Tampa from 2005-2009. He is another highly-regarded “capologist” like many assistant GMs are now and he is also viewed pretty similarly to Jason Botterill. Before he became an assistant GM in Tampa, he worked for the NHL and dealt with salary arbitration and the CBA, which gives him a little bit of varied experience compared to other possibilities. Toronto decided to retain their entire staff after a disappointing year, but the rocky ground that they stand on is certainly noteworthy for the potential of Loiselle. I haven’t seen him linked to the Penguins by anyone local, but he seems to fit well in the Botterill/BriseBois category of assistant GMs that are ready for the real job.

Tom Kurvers, Senior Advisor to Tampa Bay’s GM – Kurvers is currently the senior advisor to Steve Yzerman and was/is also part of the US Men’s National Team Advisory Group for the 2014 IIHF world championship. He’s a former director of player personnel for Phoenix, where he oversaw all scouting. He was then hired as the assistant GM in Tampa from 2008-2011 before moving into his current position. Just like with the rest of Burnside’s suggestions, I haven’t seen him linked to Pittsburgh anywhere else, but USA hockey certainly thinks highly of him. Of course, they thought highly of a couple of other guys…

Originally From Rob Rossi:

Marc Bergevin, Montreal’s GM – Bergevin will forever be linked to Mario Lemieux since they are best friends, but I don’t foresee the Montreal GM leaving his overachieving Canadiens.

Rob Blake, LA’s Assistant GM – Blake has only spent one year as the assistant GM in Los Angeles and probably isn’t quite ready to move into a GM position yet. As Rossi notes, he would need a strong supporting staff that can handle the cap and contract negotiations well. At that point, you’re looking at a guy like Botterill supporting Blake, which is probably not a viable situation.

Don Maloney, Phoenix’s GM – Maloney has been Phoenix’s GM since 2007 after serving as NYI’s GM from 1992-1995 and NYR’s assistant GM from 1996-2007. He has a plethora of experience and has dealt with both financial and relocation concerns in Phoenix. While it may be appealing for him to move to a stable franchise with money to spend (cap not withstanding), he signed a long-term extension last year and I don’t see him leaving that.

Newer from Rob Rossi:

Jeff Gorton, NYR’s Assistant GM – Gorton spent seven years as an assistant GM in Boston, was the interim GM in Boston for four months, and then was let go when current Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was hired. In those four months, Gorton traded Andrew Raycroft to Toronto for Tuukka Rask…not bad, right? He was picked up by the Rangers afterwards, working his way up from scout, to assistant director of player personnel, to assistant GM for the past three seasons. His draft work has been hit or miss according to every article I’ve seen about him, but he is viewed as an up-and-coming GM candidate with Botterill’s qualifications as well.


Rick Dudley, Montreal’s Assistant GM – Dudley was the GM in Ottawa for 1998-1999, then was hired by Tampa Bay (they traded for his negotiating rights) and worked there until being fired in 2002. That same year, he took over as Florida’s GM before getting fired two years later and then accepting an assistant GM role in Chicago. He left Chicago in 2009 and joined Atlanta as an assistant GM, taking over the GM role in 2010. He then moved on to the director of player personnel role in Toronto in 2011 and finally left that position to join Montreal as the assistant GM in 2012. With that kind of turnover, how could you not want him as a GM?!? He was given a reportedly-lucrative extension this past season by Montreal after being linked to the Buffalo opening, but that doesn’t seem to be the type of thing that would stop him from moving on as his past suggests. I’m guessing money would play a big factor in chasing after Dudley, and given his past history, I certainly don’t find him to be an optimal candidate at all.

With all of that, here are my thoughts for now. First of all, I would replace Botterill. There are several candidates that are probably on par with him and I would rather see a fresh start with the firing of Shero. The organization should just make a clean break for as much as they pinned on Shero alone so far. Julien BriseBois interests me the most out of the entire group above. If this was an ownership video game and I was picking from the above candidates, I would go with BriseBois as the GM and chase after Tim Burke as an assistant GM. I would also consider a second assistant GM to join Burke, one who is probably not on this list but can serve in the “capologist” role. That’s my ideal situation though and incredibly unlikely to happen.

What is likely to happen? I don’t think a single one of us knows.

Thought #2: Forget Reality, Be An Armchair GM

If you haven’t checked it out yet, CapGeek has added an Armchair GM feature that allows you to play around with buyouts, trades, and signings to create your realistic, ideal, or drug-induced roster for next season. CapGeek currently has the upper limit of the cap set at $71,100,000, but if you realistically want to set a roster, reduce that number. As James Conley posted yesterday, the cap is not going to be as high as we all thought a year ago due to currency exchange rates. Personally, I am using a $70 mil. upper limit.

Thought #3: My First Armchair GM Results

Here’s the roster I created on my first run with the Armchair GM feature. It needs some work and I will continue to post new/different ideas every few days or every week as the offseason progresses. Feel free to send yours in (hockeymeesh@gmail.com) and perhaps we can post them on Fridays and comment on them.

Let me know what you think!

I'm a huge fan of Vrbata despite his hot/cold streaks.  I had to keep Gibbons, of course.

I’m a huge fan of Vrbata despite his hot/cold streaks. I had to keep Gibbons, of course.

The defense has question marks, but could surely survive until the trade deadline.

The defense has question marks, but could surely survive until the trade deadline.


Thanks for reading!!  Casey (@PensNationCasey) and I recently did a podcast discussing some of the GM candidates and the Penguins free agents.  Check it out on iTunes.