Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bruins Fire Mike O'Connell

Yesterday, the Boston Bruins fired general manager Mike O'Connell. Was Mike O'Connell a bad GM? I'm not sure her was. I think most people believe he is a bad GM because they do not understand what his mandate from Boston owner Jeremy Jacobs is. When salaries increased in the 1990's, Jacobs decided that there may not be any purpose trying to build a Stanley Cup winning team. What was important was setting up a system that guaranteed him a maximum profit. There was no reason to gamble upon a higher priced team that may be a Stanley cup contender, since the possibility exists that the team would fail and possibly lead to losses (or reduced profits).

In Boston, Jeremy Jacobs is a very involved owner, who makes sure that his profits are maximized, even at expense of having a winning team. Team president Harry Sinden is also very active trying to keep Jacobs profits as high as possible. It is unclear how much reign Mike O'Connell actually had to be a general manager who institutes a plan to try to build a winning hockey team. I do not think he ever had the chance to try it.

This situation has alienated most of the Boston diehard fans. Boston has been a historically strong hockey market. Killing that market has been no easy task. It took years of Jeremy Jacobs neglecting the fans. The fans have caught on. Attendance in Boston is down.

To make matters worse, Boston made a trade designed to save money that is awful from a hockey standpoint. They traded Joe Thornton to San Jose. Thornton is having a very good season. He is the second highest scorer in the NHL and a serious MVP candidate. Somebody needs to fall for that move in order to try to save face with the fans. You cannot fire the owner. So you blame the general manager.

Mike O'Connell did a good job maximizing Jeremy Jacobs profits at the expense of building a good hockey team. This was the job he was hired to do. He is being made the fall guy because he made an awful hockey move in the process.

Has Boston turned over a new leaf? Probably not. Why did they fire their GM now with 11 games left in the season? They replaced him with Jeff Gorton, who had been the team's assistant GM. If the plan is to let Gorton be GM for an extended period of time, then the plan is to hire another puppet GM for Jacobs and Sinden's cost cutting. If the plan is to find a new GM who might have the power to actually make a change, wouldn't that have been better done in the summertime when more quality GMs are available?

Here is the TSN article on the issue.

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