With due respect to all of our valued American readers, I think even they would agree that Canada is the hotbed of hockey. As such, players and management for Canadian teams tend to face more scrutiny day-to-day when things aren’t going so well for their clubs.
The 2017-18 NHL seasons is over a month old right now, and already some fans north of the 49th parallel are already freaking out. What the hell is going on in Montreal? And Edmonton—I thought you were supposed to contend? While things are off to a rocky start in those two cities, things are rolling along much better in other Canadian cities.
The Leafs are off to a great start, causing many overzealous fans to proclaim the Maple Leafs as legitimate 2018 Cup contenders. This is of course malarkey, much like the hot start that the Vancouver Canucks have gotten off to.
Nonetheless, some fans in Edmonton and Montreal are respectively calling for the heads of Peter Chiarelli and Marc Bergevin already, and in Toronto they’re calling for a Lou Lamoriello statue to be erected. As such, I thought it would be fun to look at the track records of each current GM of every Canadian team and pick out their best and worst moves since taking the helm. As an added bonus (and to hit the minimum 15-entry mark, lol), I’ve added THE WORST move of them all to end the list. Enjoy:
15 Calgary Flames Best: Dougie Hamilton Trade
June 26, 2015: Brad Treliving acquires Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins for a 1st round pick and two 2nd round picks
The Flames hired Brad Treliving on April 14, 2014 to replace interim GM Brian Burke. At the time I didn’t know much about him, other than the fact that he was the son of the guy on Dragon’s Den who wasn’t a huge asshole. Three and a half years into his tenure as GM, and I’ve actually been impressed with his work thus far.
We chose the Hamilton acquisition here as the best move, but other contenders included the Travis Hamonic trade from this past summer and the drafting of Matthew Tkachuk, whose already had a major positive effect on the club. We decided to go with Hamilton though, as it’s pretty rare that you are able to acquire a bonafide number one defenseman without surrendering any roster players.
14 Calgary Flames Worst: Troy Brouwer Signing
July 1, 2016: Treliving signs UFA Troy Brouwer to a four-year, $18M contract
Free agent season is when any general manager is most prone to making mistakes, and Treliving made one on July 1, 2016 when he signed Troy Brouwer to a four-year contract worth a total of $18M. Brouwer was fresh off of a great postseason with the Blues, scoring 13 points in 20 games en route to the club’s Western Conference Final defeat at the hands of the Sharks.
As so often seems to happen, the Flames over-valued the small sample size and paid Brouwer big time. For what it’s worth Brouwer is a solid bottom-six forward who still does serve a purpose, but at $4.5M per season it’s tough to figure out just what Treliving was thinking here. Luckily it’s one of maybe two bad moves he’s made since taking charge in Calgary, so Flames fans can hold solace in that fact.
13 Edmonton Oilers Best: Cam Talbot Trade
June 27, 2015: Peter Chiarelli acquires Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers for a 2nd round pick, a 3rd round pick, and a 7th round pick
When I look at the Oilers roster construction under GM Peter Chiarelli I have a whole lot of questions, but credit where it’s due, this trade was amazing. Chiarelli took control of the Oilers in April 2015 and just a few months later he pulled the trigger on this deal that brought in a bonafide starting goalie, a piece the Oilers had been missing for a few seasons.
Not only did Chia manage to snag Cam Talbot, but he did so without giving up much at all. Three draft picks is peanuts when you are getting a top-tier starting goalie in return. At the time nobody was really sure if Talbot was a full-on starter (he’d always played second fiddle to Henrik Lundqvist in New York), but the risk paid off in spades and it’s now the best move Chia has done as GM of Edmonton.
12 Edmonton Oilers Worst: Trading Jordan Eberle
June 22, 2017: Chiarelli trades Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome
Honestly, there were a handful of trades/moves I wanted to include here. Chiarelli has been in charge for many questionable moves. I could have put the Kris Russell four-year, $16M extension here. I easily could have made it the seven-year $42M contract he handed over to Milan Lucic in the summer of 2016 the entry. Of course I could have made it the Taylor Hall/Adam Larsson deal. But in that case, I at least understood that he was taking away from a position of strength to address an area of weakness.
That brings us to last June’s Eberle trade. The Oilers were unhappy with Eberle’s playoff performance, and unwisely put way too much stock into a 13 game sample size and sent him to the Island for Ryan Strome. Some say it was a cap-motivated move, which would make sense in the summer of 2018 but not now. Now, early into the season, Edmonton fans are wondering where their secondary scoring has gone.
11 Montreal Canadiens Best: Hiring Claude Julien
February 14, 2017: Marc Bergevin hires Claude Julien as head coach
I believe that the Montreal Canadiens currently employ the worst GM of all Canadian teams. It’s a close call though, as the above entry is beginning to give Marc Bergevin a run for his money. Nonetheless, like every GM, Bergevin has made at least one good move, and we’re calling his 2016-17 mid-season hire of Claude Julien his best during the tenure.
Julien had recently been let go by the Boston Bruins, and the Habs made the call to swoop in and grab the Francophone coach before he was snatched up by another team. I obviously was never in the room, but the general consensus was that Michel Therrien had lost the Canadiens players last season. Julien was as good a hire as any, as we’ve all seen what happens when the Habs hire a coach who doesn’t speak French.
10 Montreal Canadiens Worst: The Trade
June 29, 2016: Bergevin trades P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber
I feel like there are still a few Habs fans out there who are in denial of this trade, but I’m sorry: this was a brutal judgment call on the part of Marc Bergevin. He traded away the six peak years of P.K. Subban for 10 (!!!) years of past-his-prime Shea Weber. I like Weber just fine, but at this point in his career his five-on-five play leaves much to be desired.
Subban on the other hand is still getting better it seems, and his Preds have already made an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since his arrival in the summer of 2016. Subban’s deal has five more years left on it and expires when he’s 33; Weber’s has nine years left and expires when he’s 40 (!!!).
9 Ottawa Senators Best: Hiring Guy Boucher
May 8, 2016: Pierre Dorion hires Guy Boucher as head coach
Of all seven Canadian teams, the Senators’ Pierre Dorion has had the shortest tenure as general manager, taking the helm in April 2016. He’s made his fair share of moves since then, and I hate to say it Sens fans but more of them have been bad than good. Nonetheless, the Senators made it to within a goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, losing in Game 7 double overtime to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.
When I look at the roster in Ottawa I think to myself “they had no business in a conference final,” which is why I’m calling the Guy Boucher hire Dorion’s best move to date. It happened less than a month after he took control from the ailing Bryan Murray, and the hire was questioned at first. Today Boucher looks to be pretty safe, as he has the Sens playing above their potential yet again.
8 Ottawa Senators Worst: Trading Zibenejad For Brassard
July 18, 2016: Dorion trades Mika Zibanejad and a 2nd round pick to the New York Rangers for Derick Brassard and a 7th round pick
Honestly, I had a few really solid options for this entry. The Alex Burrows trade/signing was certainly questionable from a long-term-health-of-the-club standpoint, but I had to go with the Mika Zibanejad/Derick Brassard trade. Look, Zibanejad for Brassard straight across would be a loss for the Senators IMO—Zibanejad is younger and has a higher ceiling, and the players were offensively comparable at the time of the trade.
Today, Zibanejad is a better hockey player than Brassard. That’s why this trade looks so bad—not only was Ottawa giving up the better player in the deal, but they gave up a 2nd round pick as well? Maybe Dorion thought that Zibanejad didn’t fit the culture (every bad GM’s go-to excuse), but in any case this trade is a brutal mismanagement of assets.
7 Toronto Maple Leafs Best: Unloading Dion Phaneuf
February 9, 2016: Lou Lamoriello trades Dion Phaneuf, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert, and Cody Donaghey to the Ottawa Senators for Jared Cowen, Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Tobias Lindberg, and a 2nd round pick
The big front office shakeup in Toronto was capped off with the hire of Lou Lamoriello in July 2015. Since then, the club hasn’t really made any obviously poor decisions (more on that soon), but they have a plethora of savvy and wise decisions for me to choose from. I went with the February 2016 Dion Phaneuf trade.
Shedding Phaneuf’s contract was imperative to expedite this rebuild, and the fact that Lamoriello was able to do so without retaining any salary AND gaining a 2nd round draft choice (in addition to a handful of useless yet soon-to-expire contracts) in the process is hella-impressive. Lou must have been chuckling to himself when Dorion was apparently shopping Phaneuf this past offseason.
6 Toronto Maple Leafs Worst: Signing Patrick Marleau
July 2, 2017: Lamoriello signs UFA Patrick Marleau to three-year, $18.75M contract
As I mentioned above, Lamoriello really hasn’t done anything egregiously bad since taking control of the Maple Leafs two years ago. Alas, my Leafs entry will likely outrage readers, but I’m pointing to the three-year deal he gave to Patrick Marleau back on July 2 of this year. I realize that the Maple Leafs can use the experience and veteran presence, but three years? At $6.25M per?
This contract is not a huge issue in 2017-18, and it won’t matter much in 2018-19. That third year, though. Oof. Marleau will be playing his 40-year-old season that year, and the Leafs will be paying real money to all three of their young stars as their ELCs will have expired (Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in 2019, and William Nylander in 2018). Will they be able to afford the $6.25M for Marleau, or is a buyout imminent? It’s a fair question.
5 Vancouver Canucks Best: Trading Hunter Shinkaruk
February 22, 2016: Jim Benning trades Hunter Shinkaruk to the Calgary Flames for Markus Granlund
Alright, when I said that Bergevin is the worst GM of a Canadian team, I sort of forgot that Jim Benning exists. Benning has controlled the Canucks since May 2014, and he’s made a LOT of dumb moves since. This entry is to recognize his best move though, and we’re going with the trade he made with the Calgary Flames in February 2016, acquiring prospect Markus Granlund from the Flames for another prospect, Hunter Shinkaruk.
Flash forward a year and a half and Shinkaruk has played in only 14 games for the Flames, registering four points and playing most of his games in Stockton with the Heat (AHL). Granlund was one of the few bright spots on the Canucks in 2016-17, falling just one goal shy of the 20-goal plateau.
4 Vancouver Canucks Worst: Signing Loui Eriksson
July 1, 2016: Benning signs UFA Loui Eriksson to a six-year, $36M contract
I’ll be honest here, Canucks fans: Benning made it really tough for me to pick just one egregious error since taking over. A few candidates for this spot were the Brandon Sutter trade/sign, as well as the Erik Gudbranson deal. I had to go with the UFA signing of Loui Eriksson though. Benning inked the Swede to a six-year deal worth $36M, and it’s already an unmitigated disaster.
To be fair to Benning, my immediate reaction to this signing was much more favorable than to that of, say, the Sutter trade. However, with the benefit of hindsight, this deal will have a long-lasting impact on the Canucks, and not in a good way. In his first year of the deal, Eriksson scored only 24 points. Surely they were expecting somewhere close to 63, which is how many he had in Boston the year before.
3 Winnipeg Jets Best: Extending Mark Scheifele
July 8, 2016: Kevin Cheveldayoff extends Mark Scheifele, signing him to an eight-year, $49M contract
Kevin Cheveldayoff has been calling the shots in Winnipeg since the franchise made the move to Manitoba in 2011, and for some reason he hasn’t been fired yet. As a result he’s the longest-serving GM among all Canadian teams’ GMs. To be fair Winnipeg has a decent top-six forward group, largely built by Cheveldayoff, but the holes in the roster remain and are holding the Jets back.
Among that top-six forward group is superstar Mark Scheifele, who Cheveldayoff extended at a team friendly cap hit, right before Scheifele jumped from star status to superstar status. The Jets have Scheifele’s services for another seven seasons at the relatively low cost of $6.125M per season. Deals like that for point-per-game players go a long way in the salary cap world.
2 Winnipeg Jets Worst: Extending Drew Stafford
June 30, 2015: Cheveldayoff extends Drew Stafford with a two-year. $8.7M contract
Honestly, the real entry here should be Cheveldayoff’s inability to properly address the team’s most glaring weakness over the years, and that’s in the goal crease. Since “not making enough moves” wouldn’t really work for this list, I’m picking out the two-year pact Cheveldayoff signed Drew Stafford to just before free agency opened in 2015.
The best part of this deal from a Jets perspective is that it’s expired already and Stafford is no longer anchoring the Jets financial situation by costing $4.35M against their annual cap. Stafford is pretty much a capable third line player or a solid fourth line player, and there’s absolutely no need to spend that kind of money on that player type. Stafford was able to get a one-year deal worth $800,000 in NJ upon completion of this contract, which gives an accurate idea of just where he was as a player during his tenure in Winnipeg.
1 WORST OF THEM ALL
June 26, 2015: Oilers Peter Chiarelli trades a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick to the New York Islanders for Griffin Reinhart
There were a lot of candidates for this coveted position. The Weber/Subban trade really came close. The Hall/Larsson trade (which didn’t appear at all on the list, edged out by the Eberle/Strome trade) deserves honorable mention. But I ultimately had to go with this trade made by Oilers GM Chiarelli in 2015, shortly after he took the reins. 2015 was the Connor McDavid draft class, the one many were calling the deepest draft since the legendary class of 2003.
The Oilers held a second first round pick (16th overall) that year, and rather than use it on a very useful player (Mathew Barzal was the Islanders pick, and his career is off to a hot start on Long Island), they sent it AND a high 2nd round pick to the Islanders for Griffin Reinhart. Yes, Griffin Reinhart. The guy who was just placed on waivers by an expansion team and cleared. Yes, Griffin Reinhart, the same guy who was far from a proven NHL player at the time of the trade, and likely will never be one. Just brutal.