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Silver Nuggets: Is There a Such Thing as a Good GM?

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There seems to be a lot of recency bias involved in deciding whether a GM's tenure has been good or not.

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There has been a lot of hand-wringing in Ottawa lately over GM Bryan Murray's tenure. He did a lot to reinvigorate a bare prospect cupboard, but now nearly everything from that overhaul is at the make-or-break point. The team has insisted on promoting grit over skill recently. We've had at least three seasons in a row in which the blue line was the Senators' biggest weakness and he did nothing to address it through trade or free agency. This past summer, the team let Erik Condra walk to give Alex Chiasson a bigger chance.

But at the same time, there have been great moments with GMBM. The team's scouting and development has improved greatly under his tenure. Draft steals like Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Mike Hoffman have all occurred on his watch. Stone's skating improved as a direct result of training with Sens' staff. Matt O'Connor chose the Sens in part because of their great development program. The trade of David Rundblad and a 2nd-round pick for Kyle Turris was a coup. The trade of Robin Lehner and David Legwand for a 1st-rounder (Colin White) is setting up to be another shrewd move.

I do think this team could do more, no question, especially with respect to maybe using some kind of number in their evaluation. Not the number of hits or fighting majors either. But I'm not convinced that Ottawa would be much better with someone else as GM. On the whole, NHL GMs are conservative. They tend to be loyal to a fault. They can reward the wrong things. Guys who have won the Stanley Cup get bonuses for winning, even if they're someone like Ben Eager who really had nothing to do with the Cup win.

Everybody's favourite guy to pick as a good GM is the Dallas Stars' Jim Nill. After all, he got Tyler Seguin, acquired Patrick Sharp for very little, and re-signed John Klingberg to what's turning into a steal of a deal. But let's remember that Nill also traded a 6th-round pick for the rights to 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar and signed him to a two-year, $5M-per-year deal. Just one year later, he traded Gonchar for Travis Moen (who is still on the roster) because the team couldn't handle Gonchar's cap hit. How about falling prey to the chemistry Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza showed in Ottawa, signing Hemsky to a three-year, $4M-per-year contract, only for him to regress to 30-point seasons. Or, you know, having $10.4M wrapped up in goaltending for each of the next two seasons. Sure, Nill's had some big hits, but he's been far from perfect.

Marc Bergevin did the Jeff Petry trade and extension, but he also waited far too long before making a Jarred Tinordi deal, and has somehow managed to nearly cap out his team despite having Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher on extremely affordable long-term deals. Tim Murray executed his tank expertly, but I'm not sure that trading a 1st-rounder for Lehner was smart, and contracts like Josh Gorges' and Matt Moulson's may come back to haunt him. Ken Holland has been the posterboy for great GMs for a long time, but he's had some head-scratching moves like the Justin Abdelkader extension or the whole Dan Cleary debacle.

I think it's easier to pick out the bad GMs. No one will argue that Mike Millbury was terrible in his role. But even some of the ones who get laughed about now have some serious hits. Don Sweeney may have traded Dougie Hamilton for very little and made some questionable draft picks, but he also somehow parlayed Milan Lucic into two first-round picks. Garth Snow was terrible for years, but then he somehow acquired Jaroslav Halak, Nick Leddy, and Johnny Boychuk for next-to-nothing to start 2014-15 and the Islanders were super competitive.

I think the label of "good GM" or "bad GM" is heavily influenced by what moves the GM has pulled recently. I also think there's a certain amount of luck involved. We'd all be a lot harder on Ken Holland if he hadn't struck gold with late-round picks Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Do I think Ottawa could benefit from having a new voice in charge? Absolutely. But I think there will always be moves that the fanbase couldn't stand.

Sens Links:

  • First, last night's stinker of a game against Edmonton [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, SensChirp]
  • Trevor argues that the Sens face long odds to reach the playoffs, just like last year [Silver Seven]
  • Michaela has this week's ever-popular Five Thoughts [Silver Seven]
  • Jeff's Bingo Bites take you through the AHL All-Star Game, where the 3v3 got a little overused [Silver Seven]
  • Luke Peristy with a "wild nerdy" (his words, not mine) post about how modeling in the NHL has a long way to go [WTYKY]
  • Mike Wheeler sums up the LeBreton Flats ordeal in comic strip form [Bonk's Mullet]
  • Captain Karlsson is the cover boy for Sportsnet Magazine this month. Shannon Proudfoot takes you through some of the interview questions they didn't publish, including his favourite spots to eat in Ottawa. I agree that El Camino is great. [Sportsnet]
  • The latest episode of the 6th Sens podcast, in which Nichols is joined by Bruce Firestone and Travis Yost [The 6th Sens]
  • Ian Mendes' latest, on Jared Cowen dealing with being a healthy scratch yet again [TSN]
  • User Colin4000 takes you through the Top 10 plays in Sens history. You can't argue with #1, though I think #10 should be higher, and I found Peter Schaefer to always be a frustrating player. [Silver Seven]
  • Ken Warren walks through some of the worst numbers that describe the Sens' season [Ottawa Citizen]

Other Links:

  • Scanlan writes about how Connor McDavid generates media buzz just by existing [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Is Mikhail Grabovski good or bad? Some of both writes Dave Halcomb. [Today's Slapshot]
  • Pekka Rinne's save percentage is was down this season. Is it because he's facing fewer shots? [In Goal Mag]
  • A perfectly-executed troll piece, about the possibility of P.K. Subban becoming a member of the Boston Bruins [Stanley Cup of Chowder]
  • Another great Habs troll piece, this time suggesting that Randy Carlyle is the man to replace Michel Therrien. Could you imagine Carlyle in a French-speaking market? [Pension Plan Puppets]
  • As the Devils unveil a statue of Martin Brodeur, a look at what made him such a unique, dominating talent [All About the Jersey]