Hey, did you know the Leafs have a new GM? I can’t remember whether we’ve brought it up on this site before.
Anyway, he’s not really new, but he’s new to calling the shots. He’s spent the past couple of years apprenticing under Lou Lamoriello, but I’m willing to wager that there are some different philosophies when it comes to personnel, and that might become apparent very soon.
It’s because of that, I thought I’d take a look at five recent GM hires and see how much they did in their first offseason as GM to try and establish how many changes we can expect Kyle Dubas to make.
Botterill took over the Sabres in May, 2017. The team finished the season with 78 points and obviously missed the playoffs as a result.
What he notably did:
- Hired Phil Housley as head coach
- Traded a 3rd round pick to Montreal for Nathan Beaulieu
- Lost William Carrier in the expansion draft
- Drafted Casey Mittlestadt
- Traded Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, and a 3rd round pick to Minnesota for Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella, and a 4th round pick.
- Signed Benoit Pouliot, and Chad Johnson (G)
- Let Dmitri Kulikov, Cody Franson, and Brian Gionta leave in free agency
To Summarize: The Sabres were a struggling team and still are after Botterill’s first season in Buffalo. The moves to bring in Beaulieu and Scandella definitely show that the long term upgrading of the Sabres defense was his priority, but he made two notable trades and limited himself to depth free agent signings.
Botterill was never going to turn the Sabres into a winning team overnight, and arguably it is in the best interest to fall flat and pick up Dahlin in the process.
Blake took over for his mentor, Dean Lombardi after the Kings missed the playoffs.
What he notably did:
- Promoted John Stevens to head coach
- Traded Ben Bishop’s rights for a 4th round pick
- Re-signed Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli
- Bought out Matt Greene
- Lost Brayden McNabb in the expansion draft
- Drafted Gabriel Vilardi
- Signed Mike Cammalleri and Darcy Kuemper
- Let Jarome Iginla, Rob Scuderi, and Teddy Purcell leave in free agency
To Summarize: Blake didn’t do a heck of a lot other than the coaching staff overhaul. In fact, the departure of McNabb makes it seem like the Kings would have been worse. With the core of Kopitar, Carter, Doughty, Muzzin, and Quick it’s safe to say they had faith in their group to get back to playoffs. That faith got them swept by the Golden Knights in the first round.
Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar having rebound seasons can certainly account for the GF% rebound, but overall losing Brayden McNabb looks like it has hurt the team. A healthy Jeff Carter might be enough to improve some of those numbers though.
Oh boy. Dale Tallon took back his GM role last spring and banned all forms of math from Southern Florida.
What he notably did:
- Hired Bob Boughner as Head Coach
- Somehow managed to lose both Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault to the Vegas Golden Knights
- Drafted Owen Tippett
- Signed Evgeny Dadonov and Radim Vrbata
- Let Jagr and Vanek leave in free agency
To Summarize: My hire until the end of August time frame omits the Jason Demers trade, which was a pretty significant Tallon move, but it’s hard to look at Tallon’s summer and not just focus on the expansion draft debacle.
Somehow the numbers don’t hate Tallon. I’d still say that we aren’t wrong to be hard on him, since he still mismanaged the expansion draft, but this is probably a case of a team reinventing itself too often.
Dorion had a surprisingly good first year as the Senators GM, but makes for a great cautionary tale about year two and buying into your own hype.
What he notably did:
- Hired Guy Boucher as Head Coach
- Drafted Logan Brown, and also Maxime Lajoie, and Jonathan Dahlen who were pretty decent pickups. I wonder what happened to that Dahlen kid.
- Traded Mika Zibenjad and a 2nd round pick for Derrick Brassard and a 7th round pick
- Re-signed Mike Hoffman, Cody Ceci, and Ryan Dzingel.
To Summarize: Dorion, like Dubas was a promotion, and as such you might see less desire to overhaul the work that had already been done. He drafted fairly well, and made a move to upgrade their center position in the short term, which helped make them a playoff team.
More and more it is becoming clear on why things blew up for the Sens this season, but looking at the initial season after Dorion, he appeared somewhat impactful.
Naturally, Chayka’s age and background as the founder of Stathletes is going to make people want to compare him to Dubas, that’s why I’m doing that.
What he notably did:
- Acquired the rights to Alex Goligoski for a 5th round pick and signed Goligoski to a 5 year deal
- Traded Maxim Letunov and 6th round pick for a 3rd and 4th round pick
- Acquired Datsyuk’s cap hit and the 16th overall pick for Joe Vitale, the 20th overall, and a 2nd round pick (used the pick to draft Chychrun)
- Drafted Clayton Keller
- Traded 2nd round pick for Anthony D’Angelo
- Signed Jamie McGinn
- Bought out Antoine Vermette
- Traded a 3rd round pick for Lawson Crouse and Dave Bolland’s cap hit
To Summarize: There was a fair bit of excitement here with unconventional moves to acquire Goligoski, Chychrun, and Crouse. He drafted well with Keller and Chychrun, and although McGinn and D’Angelo didn’t work out he was able to flip both of them for assets later on. While the Coyotes still have a long way to go, the two first round picks made in 2016 along with Oliver Ekman-Larsson are probably the cornerstone of the franchise.
To say its a process in Arizona is probably an understatement and even though there was an upward trend across the board with the Coyotes this season, it seems like Chayka still has a lot of work to do.
What About The Three Headed Monster of Shanahan, Dubas, and Hunter?
This is probably the most insightful way of identifying what Dubas will do this summer, since he played a big role in the pre-Lamoriello/post-Nonis era.
What they notably did:
- Brought in Mike Babcock as head coach
- Acquired the rights to Zach Hyman for Greg McKegg
- The trade downs of the 24th overall draft pick turning it into the 34th, 61st, and 68th overall picks (Dermott, Bracco, Dzierkals)
- Drafting Mitch Marner
- Trading Brad Ross and a 4th for Martin Marincin
- Signing Mark Arcobello, P.A. Parenteau, Matt Hunwick, Daniel Winnik and Shawn Matthias
- Oh yeah, and trading Phil Kessel, Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs, and a 2nd for Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Nick Spaling, a 1st and 3rd round pick.
To Summarize: I think the Kessel deal is what taught the Leafs that they needed some experience management in Lou Lamoriello. Not that it’s a bad deal because that 1st turned into Freddy Andersen, Kapanen is a player, and not having Kessel was a big part of what helped the Leafs bottom out for Auston Matthews. Like Chayka, the Leafs were active at the draft with what would be considered unorthodox moves in the NHL.
How great does that graph make you feel? Certainly the leveling off of CF% and xGF% is happening a little soon for my liking, but the immediate bounce after Nonis left, gives me hope that lightning can strike twice and Dubas’ perspective can add to results the team is already achieving.
All of those examples show GMs inheriting a team far worse than the one that Dubas has just stepped into. Most of them had to replace head coaches, clear salaries, and rebuild a prospect pipeline. You could argue that Dubas may want to do those last two things, but they aren’t as much of a priority as trying to be competitive over the next couple of seasons.
The biggest lesson to learn is that GMs in the NHL don’t come in and radically overhaul teams, largely because trading in the NHL doesn’t happen, and partially because of the manufactured parity of the league leads everyone to believe only a couple of adjustments are ever needed.
I think it’s clear the best approach is to identify what you are trying to accomplish instead of trying to undo the work of your predecessor. Tallon’s tear down approach was completely unwarranted, while Buffalo and Arizona took advantage of their situation to build.
Looking at the summer of 2015, the Leafs added Marner, Kapanen, Dermott, Hyman, Bracco, and Timashov to their prospect pool and they shed over $6M in long term salary, setting them up nicely for the future. While it probably won’t come on such a grand scale this go around, these are moves I’d be excited to see Dubas repeat.
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