05 May 2012

MvsW #0111 QoD

Marek vs Wyshynski #0111 (Apr 24, 2012) Question of the Day:
Who should win GM of the year?

Definitely not Dale Tallon, despite the fact that he's nominated for the award.  Dale Tallon dicked up hard, as he is prone to do, and was rewarded for it by failing into a division title because the Capitals inexplicably shit the bed for the entire regular season.  Everyone points out that the reason Tallon signed all the UFAs this off season was to hit the salary floor.  Of course, that ignores the fact that he signed 7 UFA's to hit the 2011-2012 salary floor (and notably, the last year of this Collective Bargaining Agreement), and instead of giving them money just for this year's floor, he handed out a total of 28 years and 112 million dollars.

The Panthers ended up being one of the worst division winners of the last 30 years, and Tallon will point to that (meaningless) banner as proof of his success this year.  And hey, I guess you could call it a success.  But the point is, he got a very small improvement this year, at the cost of future years.  That strategy works when you're trying to get over the hump and win a Cup, where the "future costs" will be due when your window has closed.  Instead, Tallon's short-term and uncreative accounting will have "future costs" right when this team is trying to become an elite team behind guys like Huberdeau, Gudbranson, and Markstrom.

Aside: I think there's something interesting about Tallon and Kris Versteeg's success this year.  Remember, a big part of the reason why Versteeg has wandered across several teams while scoring 25+ goals a year, is because CHI had to prematurely jettison him as a cap casualty after winning the Stanley Cup, because of Dale Tallon's supreme screw-up as the Blackhawk's GM in accidentally allowing him to become a quasi-free agent.  As a result, Versteeg (and others) ended up getting paid more than CHI would've wanted.  

In the end, Versteeg ended up getting traded several times over, until he ended up in Florida, reunited with the man who originally screwed up his second NHL contract, Dale Tallon.  It makes me smile to imagine that Dale Tallon somehow actually planned all this back when he botched the RFA qualifying offers.  "Barker is going to end up sucking anyways..." and "If I mess up with Versteeg now, then later on after I get fired, I'll be able to reacquire him 3 years later..."

Anyways, back from that tangent, I suppose I should point out that my answer to the question is probably David Poile.  If nothing else, I can point to Tyler Dellow's chart of NHL team records over this CBA (since the lockout) and note that the Predators are one of the 5 most successful teams since 2005, and have done it while spending way less than most of the rest of the league.  To some extent, I think this is probably the best argument - a GM's job is about a lot more than "right now" and more about where you're going next year and the year after, and how you're going to get there.  Of course, reaching those levels of success with obstacles other franchises don't face (namely, their finances and ownership situations during that time) makes the case even stronger.  Poile ought to have one of these on his desk.

Further than that, I've honestly been impressed with the testicular fortitude that Poile has displayed this year, while trying to walk a very fine line.  We've previously discussed the Suter/Weber situation here on StB.  Poile has been dealt a tough hand, but he's played it masterfully.  Maybe it will blow up in the end, with Weber and Suter walking out, but no one can point the finger at Poile for it at the end of the day.  Most GM's would've dragged the contract issues into the media, used it as an excuse to trade the player and save their own skins, and probably have gotten a rather poor haul in exchange for a #1 defenseman, rather than risk losing him for "nothing".

That "nothing" is misleading though - the "nothing" is a chance at postseason success, and a chance to convince the player that you're building something real, and to get them to commit to being a part of it.  Poile isn't throwing in the towel on Suter or Weber - he's trying to get them to stay, and he's playing the whole thing out publically in a manner where no one is the bad guy, helping keep things friendly between franchise and player.  In doing so, he's continued to help a fledgling fan base (relatively speaking) continue to grow, by giving it something to cheer for, rather than stomping on all their hearts and blaming a greedy franchise player for the heartache.

Poile has also handled the mess that is Alexander Radulov in a similarly masterful manner for years, which has finally culminated in his being able to bring in a first-line forward in this most critical of years for no cost at all.  Poile has committed to this season and to the fans and to his star players.  Maybe it won't work out in the end, but it's been a tough hand from day 1 in Nashville.  He's done some great things with that hand, and all of it has been culminating into this one season.

Over the last several years, we've seen a lot of GM's go all out to lose intentionally, and usually in a pretty dramatic fashion. There's a whole lot of incompetent folks at the front of NHL front offices, and the way the NHL has incentivized losing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  If nothing else, I'd like to see a GM be rewarded for being smart instead of lucky.  And I'd really like to see an NHL GM be rewarded not for going all out to lose and rack up draft picks, but to be rewarded for following a plan and building a team and going all out to win games.

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