Top-10 NHL General Managers: Ranking 6-10by Dom Lunardo November 27, 2020 1 comment
Former NHL executive Brian Burke once proclaimed that being a general manager or a head coach in the National Hockey League was one of the most prestigious jobs because there are only 31 of them (or 32 if you count Seattle).
Across the hockey landscape, fans, players, and teams alike “live and die” by decisions made in the front office. Being a GM is not an easy gig by any stretch of the imagination. It takes guile, adaptability, and instinctual fortitude to be a “top guy” in this league.
Without further ado, here is Part I of hockey’s top general managers (six through 10).
No. 10: Pierre Dorion, Ottawa Senators
Pierre Dorion of the Ottawa Senators gets the ball rolling at number 10. Although the Senators have little to show since their unexpected run in 2017 that saw them come to within a goal of a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, Dorion has done a masterful job at the helm in one of hockey’s smallest markets. Home to one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL that includes the likes of Drake Batherson, Tim Stutzle, Erik Brannstrom, Logan Brown, Jake Sanderson, Josh Norris, and Jacob Bernard-Docker, among others, Dorion has helped guide an often misled ship in Canada’s capital city in rather short order.
The Sens are young, exciting, and have shown that they are willing to spend big money bringing in guys such as Evgenii Dadonov and Matt Murray to complement the likes of Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, and stud blue-liner Thomas Chabot, who are already part of the fold. Dorion’s body of work as GM has been impressive, and the Senators should be one of the league’s most explosive and offensively-gifted teams in the span of two to three years. Stay tuned, Sens Army, because his team is coming.
No. 9: Julien BriseBois, Tampa Bay Lightning
After Steve Yzerman departed sunny Tampa Bay in Sept. 2018, Julien BriseBois was brought in to take the reins of one of hockey’s most talented teams. Left at his doorstep were the likes of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilivskiy, Mikhail Sergachev, and former Norris Trophy and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Victor Hedman. He appears at No. 9 on this list for his ability to seek talent, adjust his roster accordingly, and “keep the band together” with the ever-present “hard” salary cap.
At the end of the 2018-19 NHL campaign, the Tampa Bay Lightning put together one of the single-best regular seasons in NHL history with an unbelievable 62-16-4 record, cruising to 128 points and the Presidents’ Trophy. Fast-forward nine days and his team was gone, swept away (4-0) at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This sent shockwaves across the hockey world. Changes were needed heading into 2019-20, and BriseBois went to work.
During last February’s trade deadline, Tampa’s GM severed ties with not one but two first-round draft picks (among others) in exchange for the key acquisitions of Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, and Zach Bogosian, who each played integral roles in helping Tampa hoist Lord Stanley’s mug. After knocking on the door for a few seasons, the Bolts finally overcame its demons with a Cup triumph.
While some GMs are reluctant to go “all-in” at the deadline, BriseBois never flinched and put his team in motion ahead of a 16-6 playoff record inside the NHL bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. What stands out about BriseBois is the precedence he sets with his club. His contract negotiations with two of the NHL’s top players in Point and Vasilevskiy showcase all that you need to know about how this team conducts business. Not only has the team experienced success with BriseBois, but they’re well-positioned to do so in the future with one of the deepest teams in hockey.
No. 8: Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens
Managing a hockey club is never easy. Managing a hockey club in the hot-bed of Montreal, Qué? That’s quite a different story. Enter Marc Bergevin. Born and raised in Montreal, Bergevin will enter his eighth season at the helm when the puck falls this year. Although playoff success has been limited in La Belle Province, Bergevin has assembled a competitive team in rather short order. With that in mind, all indications point towards a very bright future.
As a club, the Canadiens hold one of the league’s deepest prospect pools and some of the best young talents not yet in the NHL with the likes of Cole Caufield, Alexander Romanov, Cole Caufield, Mattias Norlinder, and Jordan Harris. In addition, the Habs also boast current roster players such as Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry, Nick Suzuki, Carey Price, Phillip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Josh Anderson, and Shea Weber. This team is heading in a promising direction and much of the praise has to go to its GM. Look for the Habs to be a formidable force this season.
No. 7: Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
Next up is Joe Sakic, who is hoping to replicate a Hall of Fame playing career in the front office. When you think of the Colorado Avalanche, one thing comes to mind: top-tier talent. After all, how can it not with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen leading the charge and other top prospects such as Alex Newhook and Bowen Byram streaming down the pipeline?
In today’s ever-changing NHL landscape, it is typical for GMs and teams to make those moves that make you say to yourself, “What was he thinking?” Thankfully for fans of the Avs, Sakic has yet to make such a move. In fact, he is renowned for making astute trades (Branon Saad, Nazem Kadri, Devon Toews) in addition to acquiring some high-end talent at the NHL Draft.
Sakic is methodical, confident, and has proven that he can manage the salary cap with the best of them. No one really knows how this season will play out, but one thing is clear. All indications point towards Sakic and his team heading for a collision course with Lord Stanley.
No. 6: Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman had his fingers all over the Tampa Bay Lightning’s pie that claimed the 2020 Stanley Cup. Now, he’s a man on a mission with hopes of doing the same with the team that he captained, the Detroit Red Wings. Hockeytown as the Red Wings have witnessed a long (and rather painful) rebuild over the past few years. However, the team has a talent nucleus rounding into form and excellent young prospects that are quite enticing. Yzerman has done a tremendous job tinkering and retooling a lackluster and porous Wings team.
Of his many strengths as an NHL executive, Yzerman’s best is his propensity to value a player’s talent. He can scope talent with the best of them and has an excellent grasp as to what his team needs. Yzerman has quickly assembled the likes of Joe Veleno, Moritz Seider, and recently-drafted Lucas Raymond to complement the likes of Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. Yzerman is methodical, patient, savvy, and not afraid to make a bold move for the benefit of his club. The Wings aren’t projected to win many games this season, but one thing remains certain. Detroit will be one of the most fascinating teams to watch over the next 12 to 18 months.
Stay tuned for Part II of this series.
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