Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Sign Of A Poorly Run Team

Now is the time when teams do their planning for next season and beyond. The contract buyout period is currently underway. The draft is this weekend. Free agency is less than two weeks away. In order to do this in as effective a manner as possible, teams should have their staff in place for next season. At the very least, it should be clear who will be the general manager and coach of the team next season. However, there are a few teams that do not have their coach in place yet.

The Atlanta Thrashers, Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning have not hired coaches for next season yet. If they were well run organizations, they would have. Now is the time when teams will plan their attack for the summer. They will decide what their roster will look like next year. They will begin to make trades and decide which of their current players to sign and to not sign. A coach should have some input into the process. It is good to have a team built that a coach is comfortable with. If a coach favors a certain type of player, some effort should be made to obtain those players. Of course, this is impossible if the coach is not known.

It Tampa Bay, the problem is a change in ownership. The probable new ownership group led by Oren Koules wants to bring in Barry Melrose as their coach, but cannot do so until their purchase of the team is approved by the NHL (assuming that it is). This leaves GM Jay Feaster to run the draft and beyond. It looks as though the new ownership will make the mistake of being a hands-on ownership and may undo some of the moves Feaster makes before they can succeed. There are problems in Tampa, but they are not Feaster's fault.

In Atlanta, it has been clear that a new coach was needed ever since GM Don Waddell fired Bob Hartley six games into last season. Waddell took over the coaching position on an interim basis and has yet to find the new coach. Waddell has a history of adding the coach after the team is in place and thus making it clear to the new coach that he is expendable and has no place in team building activities. When Atlanta expanded to the NHL, Waddell did not hire the first coach Curt Fraser until after the expansion and entry drafts were complete. Moves such as these tell potential coaches that if they have a choice; Atlanta is not the place where they want to be. Moves such as these are why Atlanta has never been a competitive team and why they likely will not be until Waddell is replaced.

Los Angeles was slow to fire coach Marc Crawford; despite the fact it was clear that he hade to go midway through this season. I don't know what took GM Dean Lombardi so long to make his decision. As a result of his procrastination, Los Angeles is stuck without a coach during the important decision making period of the off-season and that hurts the Kings future and chances to find a top coach (if only because the better candidates are already hired).

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a coach in Ron Wilson, but they do not officially have a GM. Cliff Fletcher is still officially interim GM, though he will likely be kept into next season. This is also a poor management situation. Ownership is taking too long to find a permanent GM and it will likely prolong their rebuilding process by making it a disjointed mishmash of the plans of multiple GMs. At least, Toronto has their staff in place for next season and can plan for it, although it is clear that staff won't be the longterm management staff.

A well run hockey team has their staff in place well before the draft and the critical period where planning for next season begins in earnest. However, a few teams have not got their staff together despite it being less than a week until draft time. This example of poor management helps to explain why Atlanta, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Toronto are not contending teams in the NHL. Building a good team starts with good management and none of these teams have it right now.

Comments:
Having a coach before the draft means squat. The coach has no impact and the coach in many cases won't even be around when the draft players even make the NHL. These teams should get a coach before free agency though if they intend to bid on any free agents. But I suspect most of those teams will just be going after second tier free agents who may not have a lot of choice anyway.

The Leafs have a GM. It's Cliff Fletcher. They have a coach and a full (and growing) scouting staff. When you have a more than competent person running the show now and in no rush to hire a new GM now, waiting for the best candidate is the right way to go about it. Picking up the wrong candidate now is the wrong way to go.
 
I just covered the Cliff Fletcher situation in a blog. I can only see the interim decision as a thorn in the rebuilding program, he is basically limited to releasing and buying out... hardly a building block if your once bitten twice shy GM won't bring anybody in or offer anything on the table. I guess Toronto are willing to bite the ice for a season before beginning anew, I wonder how keen the often dogmatic Ron Wilson will be to stick around for the show, but then again if they assure Burke, an old friend of Wilson's, I guess he could be persuaded.
 
For the specific act of drafting players in the entry draft, the coach doesn't matter. But there is a lot more going on than just the drafting of players. Every team is fielding trade offers and a coach's input should be taken into account on trade offers. It goes well beyond draft day. Right now teams are deciding which players to try to re-sign, which to buyout, which to give qualifying offers to etc. A coach should be consulted on that process as well. Not having a coach by this stage in the game is a mistake. It is a sign of a poorly run franchsie.

The Leafs have an interim GM. His name is Cliff Fletcher. He is a competent man. The problem is he is old and doesn't want to be GM indefinitely. The problem with that is he is embarking on a multi-year rebuild and wont be around at the end of it. Who knows who will be in charge at the end of it. It is highly likely that whoever it is would have made different moves than Fletcher along the way and that will wind up prolonging the process. It is in the best interests of the Leafs to find their permanent GM now. They have had months to do it. So far they have failed. You are correct that rushing into the wrong choice is a bad move, but so is waiting forever because you are unable to identify who the good choices are that are out there.
 
My main point in my defense of the Leafs GM situation is that waiting for the right GM is best. Getting the wrong GM will set the franchise back far more than going with Fletcher for another year and getting the right one. It is really difficult on your part to argue the Leafs strategy of waiting for the right GM.

So, the only argument against the Leafs is that either the right GM is available right now and they haven't been able to identify him or that they wait and choose the wrong candidate when they get around to hiring the right guy. Since we don't know the latter you really can only argue that the right candidate is available now (or was available). That seems to be your argument though you have never produced any names.

As for having a coach on staff in order to help make trades, it really depends on who the coach is. If the coach has NHL experience then yeah, he might have some input into the NHL players abilities. But if they do not, then their input is minimal and it really doesn't matter. It also doesn't matter about getting players to match a coaches coaching style because a good GM will get players and a coach that match the style of play that he things will be a winning combination. Only the most experienced coaches will have any significant say in player transactions.
 
A GM cannot get players that will suit his coach when he hasn't even selected that coach. That is why Atlanta and Los Angeles are doing things wrong.

As for your Toronto apologetics, Fletcher doesn't really have the full reigns of the Toronto franchise and he knows it. Basically, his job is limted to drafting the best players he can and getting rid of those who don't fit in longterm plans. Anything like a blockbuster trade is not going to happen because he isn't the permanent GM. He is a babysitter for the franchise. Not a permanent GM.

The wait for a permanent GM slows things down. This wait is unnecessary. Competent GMs are out there. Want four potential GMs who would be available and could do a good job? Craig Patrick, Dane Nonis, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Neil Smith. That's hardly an exhaustive list. Everyone of them would be available right now. It wouldn't surprise me if the Leafs wait for a GM winds up failing to get Brian Burke and winds up with somebody like that one year from now who was always available.
 
A GM cannot get players that will suit his coach when he hasn't even selected that coach.

You are right, but he can get a coach that will suit the team he is trying to build. If the GM has a vision for the kind of team he wants, he will select the players and the coach that fits that team style. Bad management would be to have the coach dictate to the GM makeup and style of the team.

As for your Toronto apologetics, Fletcher doesn't really have the full reigns of the Toronto franchise and he knows it. Basically, his job is limted to drafting the best players he can and getting rid of those who don't fit in longterm plans. Anything like a blockbuster trade is not going to happen because he isn't the permanent GM. He is a babysitter for the franchise. Not a permanent GM.

Time will tell if Fletcher has full reign on making hockey moves or not. I believe he does and I believe if he can make a mega deal, like the one he did to acquire Sundin, he will. But he won't make a mega deal for a 34 year old player, it will only be for a player entering their prime years.

The fact is, with the Leafs contract situation the way it is there is only so much he, or any GM, can do. Toronto isn't in position to do a complete rebuild this summer like the Flyers did last summer. Any GM who took over this team would be in that exact same position. This summer is going to be more about setting up the Leafs so that next summer they can make the Flyer-like overhaul. Ideally the new permanent GM will undertake that Flyer-like overhaul but this summer it doesn't matter so much.

In fact, one could argue that Fletcher is better suited for this role because he doesn't give a crap about winning right away and has no pressure to do so. A new GM, particularly an unproven one who might feel the need to win early to keep his job, might look to make an impact immediately where as Fletcher is just looking to set up the franchise for the long term future and acquire long-term assets that the future permanent GM can use.

I honestly don't see anything wrong with waiting a year to find a better GM because I have the utmost confidence in Fletcher and trust him to make the right moves for the team.
 
Bad management would be to have the coach dictate to the GM makeup and style of the team.

Good management is to consult with the important members of your management team to make the right moves. The coach should be involved in those moves.

Obviously, the coach shouldn't dictate the moves - but nobody suggested that idea except for you. However, the coach should buy in to the moves and the best way for that to happen is for the coach to be on board and consulted.

It is a pipe dream that a team can build a team that is right for a not even hired coach and then go out and hire that coach. It is a backward way to do anything. It makes as much sense as a man buying a wedding dress then going out and finding the woman to marry who will wear that dress.

I honestly don't see anything wrong with waiting a year to find a better GM because I have the utmost confidence in Fletcher and trust him to make the right moves for the team.

The problem with waiting a year is you have no certainty that a better GM is going to be available in a year. You have no certainty that the people available right now cannot do a good job. You have no certainty that the person/people you have in mind as candidates in a year will be any more available (they might just use your GM search as leverage for a big contract extention). The only thing that is certain is that your team will not be rebuilt by the interim GM. It will still be in the rebuilding process when the new GM comes along. The new GM will have some different ideas from Cliff Fletcher and will have a different plan (in some details at least). This disjointed mishmash of leadership will almost certainly prolong the process.

The interim year under Cliff Fletcher will make it even longer for the leafs to contend again (assuming that they do eventually reach the level of being a contender).
 
Not to interrupt you guys, but isn't it a little bit of both? As GM, you want a coach who excels at managing the type of team you're building - but the bottom line is succeeding as a franchise (in wins as well as finances). If you can only get a good coach who is suited to a different style of team play, then it is the GM's job to make the moves to give his coach his sort of a team.

Sticking to only one kind of plan, come hell or high water, is not usually a recipe for long-term success.

It helps to think in terms of tiers of skill.

4. Mediocre coaches and GMs, of course, are legion: they can have occasional success under perfect circumstances, especially if their players outperform expectations.

3. Good coaches and GMs get good results even if things aren't ideal, but tend to only succeed with one kind of team, and struggle when given talented teams that require a different style.

2. Great coaches and GMs can succeed with different styles of teams, and adapt themselves to get the most from their personnel.

1. The elite - true pioneers, these leaders not only have great success with lesser talent because of their ability to motivate and teach, they also can blend styles, and integrate players who don't fit the rest of the team's philosophy without wrecking the team, or ruining the player.

As one moves up, one of course can see advantages that are inherent in the increased skill: a wider talent pool, for example, as a better coach can take on players that other coaches can't succeed with because of style clashes.

I think that one of the secrets to the continued success of the longest-termed execs and coaches - in any sports league - is that ability to be flexible. In short, if one of these franchises can find an executive or coach in one of the higher tiers, then the rebuilding gets easier.

If not, or if ownership meddles, then you get the New York Islanders - who have everyone "in place" but can't dig themselves out of their hole.
 
Good management is to consult with the important members of your management team to make the right moves. The coach should be involved in those moves.

It depends somewhat on the coach but sure, any input the coach can give is certainly beneficial but to say that an organization that doesn't have a coach hired the day of the draft is a poorly run team is just exaggerating it a little bit. There are a lot of reasons why you might call the Atlanta Thrashers a poorly run team, but not having a coach going into draft day is probably well down on that list. The Lightning are dysfunctional because they don't have an owner, not because they don't have a coach. Outside of a few long time, highly experienced coaches, few have much say in player transactions.

It is a pipe dream that a team can build a team that is right for a not even hired coach and then go out and hire that coach.

That is pure nonsense. The Washington Capitals were built before Bruce Boudreau was hired but somehow he was right for that team and vice versa. It is the upper management that sets organizational standards and then brings in the players and coaches that will fit into the organization.

The problem with waiting a year is you have no certainty that a better GM is going to be available in a year. You have no certainty that the people available right now cannot do a good job. You have no certainty that the person/people you have in mind as candidates in a year will be any more available (they might just use your GM search as leverage for a big contract extention).

Sure, you can never know what the future may hold. Maybe you are right and the guy they are waiting for won't be available. What you do know is the present situation though and you make your decisions based on that. That present situation is:

1. They have one of the most experienced GMs in the league running the team in Cliff Fletcher and they have just hired another very experienced hockey guy in Coates to go along a number of existing hockey people and will seemingly soon add Joe Nieuwendyk to the fold in some management capacity. MLSE believes the current management group will serve the team well.

2. They are not enamoured with the available group of GM candidates.

3. They know that a number of highly qualified and proven GM candidates have contracts expiring one year from now.

You may disagree with #2 and believe that there are qualified candidates (though you haven't mentioned any) but you are not MLSE. If you did accept #2 as true then the only logical step would be to let the current competent management group run the team and hope to pick up one of the guys coming of contract next summer.

Rushing into a wrong decision is always the worst thing a team can do, particularly when there is no rush to make a decision.

Plus, the Leafs have planned for this all along. That is why Fletcher got a contract through August 2009, not August 2008.

The interim year under Cliff Fletcher will make it even longer for the leafs to contend again (assuming that they do eventually reach the level of being a contender).

Two points.

1. It depends on what Fletcher does. If he signs a bunch of 35 year olds to long term no movement contracts then yes. If he does what he has said he will do and refocus the organization on player development, bring in younger players, and rid the team of some big contracts, then no, having Fletcher around won't hurt the rebuilding of the franchise as that is exactly what any GM taking over the Leafs should do.

2. The difference between being a contender and a subpar team in the NHL, particularly in the eastern conference, is minimal. Becoming a contender in the age of mass-mediocrity, free agency at 25-27 years of age, and a rising salary cap is not that difficult and can be done in a few years. See the Flyers as an example. Even if Fletcher did nothing this summer the Leafs could be turned around for the 2009-10 season with some smart moves next summer.
 
PSH: Good management is to consult with the important members of your management team to make the right moves. The coach should be involved in those moves.

DJ: It depends somewhat on the coach but sure, any input the coach can give is certainly beneficial but to say that an organization that doesn't have a coach hired the day of the draft is a poorly run team is just exaggerating it a little bit.

PSH: It most certainly is a sign (and a strong one) of a poorly run team to not have things together well enough to have a coach in place to provide input in player decisions.

I suppose there might be circumstances where a team might not have a coach in place and might also not be a poorly run organization, but in the case of the four teams I mention in this post there are no such circumstances in place. All four are poorly run organizations.

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PSH: It is a pipe dream that a team can build a team that is right for a not even hired coach and then go out and hire that coach. It is a backward way to do anything. It makes as much sense as a man buying a wedding dress then going out and finding the woman to marry who will wear that dress.

DJ: That is pure nonsense. The Washington Capitals were built before Bruce Boudreau was hired but somehow he was right for that team and vice versa. It is the upper management that sets organizational standards and then brings in the players and coaches that will fit into the organization.

PSH: While it is true that muich of the Washington Capitals team was built before Bruce Boudreau was hired as coach, that does not in any way make it an ideal situation.

In Washington's case, a good young core of players (including Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Semin) was put into place making a situation where it was clear that the team would improve regarless of the coach hired. And Boudreau was not as removed from the franchise as you make it sound. He was the coach of their AHL affiliate before being hired as head coach. He had already coached many of the players on the Capitals when they had worked their way through the AHL.

The fact that a situation existed where Boudreau could succeed despite not being hired as head coach until November does not make it an ideal situation. it does not make it a pattern that teams should strive to emulate. It is unlikely to work out unless you already have a good young core in place and if you do have that core then any competent coach will likely do well.

That said, I am sure Boudreau was consulted about the major trade deadline moves the Capitals made to acquire Cristobal Huet and Sergei Fedorov. I am also sure that Washington would not have made the playoffs without making those moves.

Lets be clear what you consider "success" in this situation. If a team barely qualifies for playoffs and then loses in the first round (as Washington did) you consider it such a big success that it can show that even if they were forced to do something that is non-ideal (and if they had to do things over again would probably have changed. I am sure in hindsight they would rather have had Boudreau in place to coach the team well before the season began.) this is enough of a success to prove that it doesn't matter when you hire your coach and a team is not (in general) poorly run to have neglected to put one into place by this point of the off season. Is that your point? I think a much better way to interpret the situation is that a team with a good young core will improve. It is almost impossible for them not to improve. They can still do things wrong and improve. You interpret this to mean it is OK to do things wrong and that interpretation completely misses the point.

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DJ: 2. They are not enamoured with the available group of GM candidates.


You may disagree with #2 and believe that there are qualified candidates (though you haven't mentioned any) but you are not MLSE. If you did accept #2 as true then the only logical step would be to let the current competent management group run the team and hope to pick up one of the guys coming of contract next summer.

PSH: Several comments back I said: The wait for a permanent GM slows things down. This wait is unnecessary. Competent GMs are out there. Want four potential GMs who would be available and could do a good job? Craig Patrick, Dane Nonis, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Neil Smith. That's hardly an exhaustive list. Everyone of them would be available right now. It wouldn't surprise me if the Leafs wait for a GM winds up failing to get Brian Burke and winds up with somebody like that one year from now who was always available.

So this point you make is entirely wrong.

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DJ: Even if Fletcher did nothing this summer the Leafs could be turned around for the 2009-10 season with some smart moves next summer.

PSH: And if the right bold moves are made now by 2009/10 the Leafs would be further along. The problem is that Fletcher is not in a position to make bold moves. He does not have that authority. Any bold move must be left to the next (unknown) GM. Fletcher is in place to babysit the team. To draft well. To jettison some older players. To lose. To wait until a new GM comes along. The Leafs turnaround (if they have one) would be much faster if they skipped Fletcher and moved on to the permanent GM now.
 
PSH: It most certainly is a sign (and a strong one) of a poorly run team to not have things together well enough to have a coach in place to provide input in player decisions.

DJ: As I said, a coach can provide some input for sure, but any organization that gives the coach more input over the dozens of scouts and other people specifically paid to evaluate players is a poorly run organization. On the scale of importance it is well down on the list.

Now, I will agree that if you have an experienced and well informed coach that taking his input into consideration is something a GM should do, but it is more like icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

Oh, Atlanta has their coach now so they are not a poorly run team. And one of the reasons why they didn't hire the coach before is because he was busy winning the Caldar Cup.

PSH: While it is true that muich of the Washington Capitals team was built before Bruce Boudreau was hired as coach, that does not in any way make it an ideal situation.

DJ: Do you really want me to run off list of times where a new coach was highly successful despite not being with the team when the core was built? Mike Babcock took Anaheim to the Stanley Cup in his first season with the Ducks. Larry Robinson won the Stanley Cup after taking over as coach with 8 games left in the regular season. Neither of those guys had much if any input in how the teams were built and with some more thought I could probably give you a dozen more examples from recent history.

I think you are way over evaluating the importance of the coach in player personal decisions. When hiring coaches it is far more important to get the right coach, not get a coach quickly.

PSH: Several comments back I said: The wait for a permanent GM slows things down.

DJ: In the Leafs situation, that slow down is minimal because there isn't a lot that they can do this summer considering the contractual situation of many of their players. So long as Fletcher focuses on getting rid of short term assets and bring in long term assets he is moving the franchise forward. For the Leafs, next summer is far more important as far as major trades or free agent signings are concerned. If you trust Fletcher to do what is right for the long term health of the franchise then there is nothing significantly wrong with having Fletcher run the show until MLSE finds the GM that they feel 100% comfortable with.

As for the GM candidates you mentioned, Dave Nonis was offered a Director of Player Development role but MLSE didn't think he was experienced enough or had enough success as a GM. Cheveldayoff has no experience as an NHL GM, or any role at the NHL level for that matter. That is not the kind of candidate the Leafs are looking for. To me, Neil Smith is a bad choice as a GM. Yes he won the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the Rangers but after that his track record has been shoddy at best. Craig Patrick is 62 years old, past his prime according to you and probably older than the Leafs want to go if they are looking for a GM for the next 10+ years. Also his track record over the past 10-15 years has been questionable too. I am not sure either fit the mold of who the Leafs are looking for.

Furthermore, the Leafs really want to model their franchise after the Red Wings where there is a GM but several other highly qualified people advising him. This is why they wanted Ken Holland or Jim Nill. They know the system and how it works and are comfortable working in it. Neil Smith would not fit in such a setup (he quit the Islanders because he didn't want to fit into a similar setup) and I suspect Craig Patrick would not either. Nonis could have and Cheveldayoff may but not as the GM. Such an organization structure isn't built over night and takes the right people and personalities to make it work. Getting it right is more important that getting it done quickly.
 
David

I don't know what happens with you. Whenever somebody disagrees with your heartfelt opinions (particularly if they involve the Toronto Maple Leafs) you run into some crazy argumentative mode that doesn't see logic anymore. You write longwinded posts and comments that are full of strawmen, comparisons that often miss the point and other mischaracterization of what is being said. This case is no exception.

If you read the title of this post it is "A Sign Of A Poorly Run Team". You mischaracterize that in your most recent responce. Atlanta finally has a coach in John Anderson. They got him after the first pre-draft trades were made. That is a little late in the game. That is a sign that they are a poorly run organization. It is not the only sign, but it is a sign. Anderson could have been introduced as coach last week, after he won the Calder Cup, but for some reason Atlanta did not make that move until now.

Once again (second time I have pointed out your mistatement) I am not saying that coaches should dictate player moves. They shouldn't. They should have osme input. They should be part of the team. It is the best way to make a strong team - to involve the important people. You cannot involve them if they are not even hired yet.

You then try to argue that it is possible to have a good team that is mostly built and hure the coach afterwards. Of course that is true. That statement in no way contradicts anything I am writing. Of course it is possible to have a good team and then add a good coach and do well. It is even better to have the coach involved in the player movements as soon as possible. Coaching vacancies should be filled far enough in advance of the draft that the coach is onboard for any pre-draft trades. You may still do well if you don't have that in place, if you have a good team, but it is a sign of a poorly run team. You then go on to cite some entirely irrelevant examples of Anaheim doing well when they hired Mike Babcock well before the draft in 2002. They hired him properly. That was not a sign of a porrly run team. Its not surprising when a team that is well run does well.

Then you jump into the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I gave you four potential candidates to have been hired as Leafs GM. They all have strong points and like anyone they all have weaker points. That is true if you hire a GM now and it is true if you wait. You dismiss all the candidates basically as too old or too young and inexperienced (if you do that with a broad enough brush you can dismiss everybody on earth). Your most interesting comment is at the end.

Furthermore, the Leafs really want to model their franchise after the Red Wings where there is a GM but several other highly qualified people advising him. This is why they wanted Ken Holland or Jim Nill. They know the system and how it works and are comfortable working in it. Neil Smith would not fit in such a setup (he quit the Islanders because he didn't want to fit into a similar setup)

If you think Detroit and the New York Islanders have remotely the same management set up you do not understand either.

Detroit is well run. Mike Ilitch has found a good hockey man and let him run the team. Over time, they slowly acquired a bunch of people who work well together. Jimmy Devellano joined the team in 1982, Ken Holland in 1985, Scotty Bowman in 1993, Jim Nill in 1994, Mike Babcock in 2005 and Steve Yzerman in 2007. That is how you build a good management team. You do it slowly. You add people who will work well together and be on the same page with one another over a period of many years. Ilitch has stayed in the background and let the hockey men run things. That is why Detroit works.

The New York Islanders have a ridiculous situuation. Charles Wang has his finger on any major decision. He is not a hockey man. He may own the team but that doesn't qualify him to make hockey decisions. When it became clear how stupid his situation, where he wanted lots of hockey men under him who had no final say on anything because Wang would take it if it was an important move things quickly fell apart. Neil Smith was fired before he even GMed one game. Pat LaFontaine quit. How did Wang find a GM who would be subservient to him? He hired the backup goalie in Garth Snow. The Islanders really don't have any proven hockey men running things. Ted Nolan is the closest they have an as the coach he has less input than a GM or his assistant should have (which is not to say coaches should have no input at all and also not to say that coaches should dictate moves). The fact Neil Smith would not do that is a plus in my mind. He knew it was a stupid situation. He didn't stick around.

What will happen in Toronto? My best guess seeing Richard Peddie operate is that he will not give his GM enough room to run the team his own way. He wants a good group of hockey men in the Detroit model, but he doesn't understand what the Detroit model is. You can't just go out and sign a bunch of free agent hockey men and expect they will work well together. Finding the right people who have the right synergy takes years. Detroit's current management team started to come into place 25 years ago and they are still adding parts. What is important is the hockey men in charge add the parts and NOT the ownership. Ownership needs to find a good hockey man to run things and leave him alone and let him run things.

Toronto ownership found Cliff Fletcher. Fletcher, aside from being old, is a good hockey man. He is in the Hall of Fame. He is a former GM of the team. His main problem was that he was willing to give up the future to win now. That eventually got him fired. Does it sound like the first choice to rebuild a team? No. But it will have to do. The problem is ownership won't leave him alone to run the team.

What would happen if Brian Burke were added as Toronto GM (since that is the pipedream)? My best guess is to look at his run in Vancouver. Orca Bay owned the Canucks and interfered in his decisions. Eventually things fell apart and he left the team. He went to Anaheim and won the Stanley Cup. He made some good moves to win the cup, but could not have done so without the good young players already available in Anaheim. People like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and the parts used to trade for Chris Pronger were very important and they were not put in place by Burke. In Toronto he won't have those kinds of parts. It will be a slow porcess to obtain them. This process is delayed even further by the interim year under Fletcher before it even begins. While the slow process is underway, there will be plenty of time for Burke to fight with ownership when they interfere and htings could deteriorate. It is entirely possible that they will get fed up with the choice that they waited for before he has a chance to succeed. That is a realc possibility given the state of Toronto's ownership.

If I was Brian Burke I would be very wary of entering such a situation. I would think staying in Anaheim where I already have a winner and I already have ownership I can work with would be a smarter move. I would not be surprised if he agrees with me.

That said, Toronto will have to find a GM someday. And the man available likely won't be any better than the current crop of available GMs (of whom I gave you some examples) but a year will be wasted waiting for the decision.

The biggest problem in Toronto is ownership. Ownership will likely interfere with their new GM whenever they get him. Their desire to set up a Detroit-like situation without understanding what the Detroit situation will also likely fail. Hiring a GM (any GM) won't change things unless he can change the way the ownership works (which is not likely). Not hiring somebody makes things worse. It allows ownership (non-hockey men) more input in hockey decisions. They will screw them up. They are screwing them up. That is a textbook case of a poorly run team. Toronto is a poorly run team. Their prolonged multi-year GM search will make it worse. That is what I talk about in this post - poorly run teams. Toronto is one. That is why I discuss them.

As an aside. Fletcher's first player movement since the season ended is trading a draft pick for 33 year old Jamal Mayers. What do you think of that? Isn't that a minor example of giving up the future for over the hill players? Isn't that the kind of thing he should not be doing? I know somebody must play for the Leafs next year and they must make the salary floor, but why trade a draft pick for Mayers. I am sure there are many players who are roughly equivalent to Mayers who will be available as free agents.
 
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