Ranking the NHL's GMs

  1. Wayne Primeau
    Hey everybody -- inspired by that ESPN article from a few days ago, I decided I'd make my own rankings. Hope you enjoy.

    1. Poile - NSH (The master of re-signings. Jarnkrok, Forsberg, Arvidsson, Ekholm, Turris are all signed to incredible deals. The guy can build a helluva team and has the guts to trade.)
    2. Yzerman - TB (There's a reason that Team Canada always hires Stevie Y. Those Hedman, Kucherov, Stamkos, Vasilevskiy, and Stralman deals are insane and he's amazing at getting depth players who'll be the ideal versions of themselves: see Girardi, Conacher, Kunitz. Great at drafting, and also is not afraid of making deals)
    3. Rutherford - PIT (The back-to-back cups speak for themselves. Terrific at snagging underachieving talent from other teams that can thrive in Pittsburgh, like Schultz, Kessel, Hagelin, Sheahan, etc. He's a whiz with the younger guys, too -- credit his team for developing guys like Guentzel, Sheary, Aston-Reese, Murray, Kuhnhackl...)
    4. Lamoriello - TOR (Lou is a legend for a reason. It's one thing to take over a team just about to draft a fantastic #1 centre... it's another thing to build a good club around it -- just ask Peter Chiarelli. The Marleau signing looks savvy while the Andersen acquisition just rocks. It'll be an interesting test to see how he manages the re-signings of his "Big Three" up front, or if he trades any of them. It'll be a tough, but smart, choice to let Bozak and van Riemsdyk walk.)
    5. Shero - NJ (For the first time in decades, New Jersey has a prospect pool. Not just that, but they're also graduating tons of guys into their day-to-day lineup. Shero has an eye for talent throughout the draft, from first-overall picks (Nico Hischier, plus the acquisition of Taylor Hall) to guys picked late (Jesper Bratt). And man, what a trade that Hall deal was.)
    6. McPhee - VGK (He botched the Shipachyov situation, but that's just about the only blunder in McPhee's history with Vegas. From stealing Alex Tuch and Erik Haula to snagging Malcolm Subban to basically looting all of the Panthers, McPhee has pulled off smart move after smart move since taking over the helm. Re-signing Jonathan Marchessault to a great deal? Done. Extending useful d-men in Brayden McNabb, Deryk Engelland, and Jon Merrill? Yes sir. What a job he's done.)
    7. Armstrong - STL (This guy makes move after move and it's incredible to see basically all of them pan out. The Jaden Schwartz deal looks great, and the Brayden Schenn trade looks like a flat-out steal. The choice to lure back Vladimir Sobotka was smart, as were the tough choices to let David Backes and Brian Elliott go. He's got all his cards sorted nicely.)
    8. Murray - ANA (The fact that the Ducks are still in the playoff hunt notwithstanding all the injuries they've suffered this year is nothing short of incredible. The acquisition of Adam Henrique was gutsy and brave, as he recognized that he could deal from a position of strength with Vatanen and fill a need. The Kesler and Perry contracts look a little risky, but it's made up for by the value of the Rakell, Lindholm, and Silfverberg deals.)
    9. Treliving - CGY (Treliving is very good at most parts of his job. He has significantly improved the team's drafting fortunes since he came aboard, and the fact that he signed Johnny Gaudreau to a contract worth under $7 million still boggles the mind. Indeed, most of his re-signings look just great, with Monahan, Hamilton, Brodie, and now Backlund all coming in at reasonable figures. His trading is mostly good, with the Hamilton and Smith deals in particular impressing, with the Hamonic trade getting there. His UFA signings... hit-and-miss. Frolik and Versteeg have both worked very well; Stone is decidedly average; and Brouwer... forget it.)
    10. Cheveldayoff - WPG (Man, this guy can draft. The Jets' top-nine up front is almost entirely home-grown, and Chevy deserves a ton of credit for that. The Scheifele pick was a reach at the time but it looks incredible now. Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Nik Ehlers... all great players. On defense, he can only take credit for Jacob Trouba, really, although the Kulikov signing has looked fine. He struggled for years with goaltending but finally Connor Hellebuyck has panned out, rendering his big off-season signing splash of Steve Mason unnecessary and overpaid. Cheveldayoff should try to deal him... but he won't, since he hates to trade. Definitely his biggest weakness.)
    11. Nill - DAL (That Hitchcock hire looks fantastic. Led by Seguin, Benn, Radulov, and Spezza, the Stars were always going to score, but Ken Hitchcock has this team finally playing defense. They went from 29th to 4th in goals against almost overnight. Kari Lehtonen looks good again, and Ben Bishop has re-emerged as a true #1. The Hanzal and Methot deals are a little worrisome, but they're both short enough to merit some relief. Oh, and Miro Heiskanen is on the way.)
    12. Wilson - SJ (The Sharks are ALWAYS competitive. They're rather thin, however, and Wilson's depth forward acquisitions of Boedker and Hansen haven't worked. That being said, Hertl, Labanc, and Meier are all solid offensive prospects, and bringing back Thornton was a smart move on Wilson's part. However, one can't help but think things are gonna get stale in San Jose soon.)
    13. Francis - CAR (Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are NEVER competitive -- they haven't made the playoffs since 2009, the longest drought in the NHL. However, without much fanfare, the Hurricanes look set up for the future. The forward core of Aho, Skinner, Staal, Rask, Teravainen, and (soon) Necas looks great, while the defense is bursting with young talent. The big question lies in goal. Francis' big off-season acquisition of Scott Darling has flamed out in an enormous way this season, and Cam Ward has been given the torch back... for now. Darling has three years left on a mammoth deal and might be a buyout candidate by the end of year two.)
    14. Fletcher - MIN (The Wild are... fine. They're decent offensively, although the fact that a 33-year-old Eric Staal is their offensive leader is a little concerning. Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin have potential, and Niederreiter, Granlund, and Coyle look good for the future. Man, those Suter and Parise contracts are worrisome, though.)
    15. Hextall - PHI (The Flyers can actually draft now! Philly fans rave about Hextall's drafting prowess, and for good reason -- this team is full of good prospects. Sanheim, Frost, Rubtsov, Hart, and more populate the Flyers' system, which ranks among the NHL's best. For years, however, the Flyers' biggest issue has been in net, but the Brian Elliott signing was supposed to change that. Elliott has found limited success in Philly, but he hasn't been detrimental and the Flyers are decidedly middle-of-the-pack defensively. And wow, that Sean Couturier deal looks AMAZING given his emergence this year. Not sold on the Schenn-for-Lehtera deal, though.)
    16. Kekalainen - CBJ (The NHL's only European GM is also the NHL's most average GM. While the Panarin deal looks like a fleecing and the Jones acquisition was smart, signing Cam Atkinson, Alex Wennberg, and Brandon Dubinsky to those seemingly-endless deals looks risky at best. The Blue Jackets are riding a horrendous team shooting percentage and it's likely that these guys will bounce back, but still -- that's over $16 million starting next season for 19 goals combined this year -- without Bobrovsky signed past next year. The Dubois pick is starting to look solid, however, and the Josh Anderson contract looks like it might be a steal. There's a lot to wait on in Columbus.)
    17. Gorton - NYR (The first true seller on this list, the Rangers have a shrewd GM in Gorton. A big part of crafting the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning Bruins, Gorton has a vastly different team to work with here. Henrik Lundqvist is 35, and as he goes, the Rangers go too. With an aging core up front that he inherited, Gorton has tons of leverage at this trade deadline -- and a huge part of his ranking afterwards will be based on the returns he manages to snag for Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Nick Holden, David Desharnais, and possibly even Mats Zuccarello or captain Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers have a bright, bright future... but it's a distant future. The move to deal Derek Stepan in the summer seems shrewd now, although the Raanta transfer seems less sure. Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, and J.T. Miller should make up the core of this team up front going forward, and Gorton needs to realize that. He also needs to be better at signing UFA defensemen -- the Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith deals seem very contrasting with the direction this team needs to take, the Smith contract being especially albatross-like.)
    18. Sweeney - BOS (The Bruins are probably listed a little low here, considering their position in the standings, but how much of their success this year can you really attribute to Sweeney? Sure, he replaced the stagnating Claude Julien with Bruce Cassidy, but Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, Krug, Chara, and Rask all pre-date him, with four of those six having been around for the Cup run in 2011. That being said, Charlie McAvoy looks like a sensational draft choice, but if you're talking about Sweeney and drafting, you'd be remiss not to mention his 2015 first round -- Zachary Senyshyn or Jakub Zboril, anyone? That Backes contract also looks scary for the future.)
    19. MacLellan - WSH (The Capitals look good now, but they are poised to fall off hard, and soon. Kuznetsov is a good piece, sure, but he's vastly overpaid and god knows how he'll look without a prime Ovechkin to feed. Ovie is 32, Backstrom is 30, Oshie is 31... these are guys who'll probably start declining quite soon. But Oshie is signed at huge money until forever, which is especially concerning for a guy whose career-high in goals is 33 and who might not even hit 20 this year. Braden Holtby is great, but the defense ahead of him is thin to the MAX and although Orlov and Niskanen are both good, Niskanen is 31 and who will be there to take his reins? MacLellan needs to address his defense, and fast -- because that's one of his few lingering problems that he actually can fix.)
    20. Bowman - CHI (The Blackhawks are what the Capitals could look like soon. Chicago will miss the playoffs this year for the first time since 2008 and it's not like they're especially poised for a resurgence. Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz are good young pieces but they aren't enough to lift this regressing Blackhawks team back into contention. Kane is still fantastic, but Toews and his $10.5 million contract look scary in the opposite way. Brandon Saad has regressed, Ryan Hartman has regressed, Artem Anisimov has regressed, Patrick Sharp has regressed... and Marian Hossa just straight-up can't play anymore. It's even scarier on defense, as Brent Seabrook's monster contract just started this season and Duncan Keith's runs seemingly forever as well. Bowman gets some leeway here because three Stanley Cups, but it's quickly running out. Big changes need to happen in Chicago, and soon.)
    21. Benning - VAN (Once known almost exclusively as "Dim Jim", Benning has started to climb my personal rankings over the past year, for good reason. Sure, passing on Matthew Tkachuk to pick Olli Juolevi was a mistake. Sure, drafting Jake Virtanen over like six top-line forwards was definitely a mistake. Sure, signing Loui Eriksson to a rebuilding Canucks team for six years was probably a mistake -- although Eriksson has looked marginally better this year. Drafting Brock Boeser looks like a phenomenal choice now, though, and the Canucks' development of Bo Horvat has been impressive. Derrick Pouliot and Sven Baertschi are nice complementary pieces. The Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen trades both look like great value deals. The offseason signing of Thomas Vanek has been killer, while the additional adds of Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto, and Anders Nilsson have all worked. Now, the Canucks need at least three of Virtanen, Juolevi, Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, and Thatcher Demko to take the next step. Benning has bought himself time.
    22. Sakic - COL (This wasn't supposed to happen. Fresh off the worst season in modern NHL history, the Avalanche weren't supposed to challenge for a playoff spot this season. They didn't even win a lottery pick! Cale Makar looks like a good piece, but he hasn't improved the Avs' fortunes this year. Sakic was supposed to be the worst GM in the NHL by default this season, but his unfathomably skilled handling of the Duchene situation looks just terrific in retrospect. Samuel Girard has done wonders on the Avs' blueline already, complementing an unexpectedly strong core of Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Nikita Zadorov. Offseason signing Jonathan Bernier and Semyon Varlamov have formed a formidable goaltending tandem. Up front, Nathan MacKinnon has enjoyed a career year, while Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau have rebounded nicely. Sakic's youth acquisitions of Alex Kerfoot, J.T. Compher, Mikko Rantanen, and, hell, even Nail Yakupov look great. Sakic still sits low on the list due to residual bad vibes from 2016-17, but he'll be climbing fast if this keeps up.)
    23. Snow - NYI (The Islanders might just be the most "WTF" team in the whole league. They can score -- by god, they can score -- with Mathew Barzal proving to be a revelation... but they simply cannot defend. The Isles are one of the few teams in the league featuring a roster completely built by one GM, and that GM, Garth Snow, has had a tenure describable as "enigmatic". His job this season is to woo John Tavares, and that he has... done? Kind of? The Barzal acquisition looks so, so savvy -- he has both Sweeney and Chiarelli to thank for that -- as does the Eberle deal. But the Islanders' questions don't linger up front. Trading Hamonic might not have been the greatest idea, as the Isles sit dead last in goals against by a mile and have routinely slotted in late-round picks from this past year's draft on their blueline. Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss can't post 45-plus-save shutouts every single night. Snow needs to upgrade on D and sign Tavares or his days in Long Island will be numbered.)
    24. Chayka - ARI (Oh, John... what happened to you? You were the darling of the offseason, pulling off heists like the Stepan and Raanta, Hjalmarsson, and Demers deals. This was a team that was finally supposed to be able to dig itself out of the basement. And they... definitely haven't. While Stepan, Demers, and Raanta have mostly come as advertised, and Clayton Keller has exceeded expectations, the rest of the team has fallen FLAT. They can't score, and they can't defend -- they're second-worst in the league at both. Dylan Strome's development has been rocky. The Coyotes' forward depth is so, so awful that Zac Rinaldo is consistently playing over 11 minutes a night. Chayka hired a coach in Rick Tocchet whose systems are so indescribably ineffective that they seem to be simultaneously too complex yet too predictable. It's hard to say "blow it up" about something that seems like it's barely been built, but what else can, or should, Chayka do?)
    25. Blake - LA (Blake is a new GM so it's tough to gauge his mindset, but early returns have been less than convincing. The Dion Phaneuf deal just reeks of desperation, even if he didn't really give up too much of value. Trading Mike Cammalleri for Jussi Jokinen was a depth move that still made notably-little sense. It's hard to blame Blake for the Kings' weak farm system, although his pick of Gabe Vilardi in the 2017 draft looks... fine in hindsight, and the team remains in contention for a playoff spot. But the Kings look like a team that should be geared towards rebuilding, and the acquisition of Phaneuf doesn't do a lot to inspire confidence regarding that possible direction.)
    26. Botterill - BUF (Another new GM, Botterill has a clearer objective approaching the trade deadline: sell. Evander Kane needs to be auctioned off at the deadline for an immense haul, and it's possible that guys like Chad Johnson, Benoit Pouliot, and Josh Gorges could get futures in return, too. Botterill is stepping into a really tough spot, here, as Buffalo has been a team seemingly rebuilding forever. With Terry Pegula's "spend spend spend!" era in the rearview mirror for good reason -- Matt Moulson is the only "big name" who remains -- the Sabres need to look to the future. Botterill NEEDS to start hitting on high picks. Previous selections like Alex Nylander and Sam Reinhart look disappointing already. This team will likely have another top-5 pick this year, and it's critical that they make the most of it. Filip Zadina might look really good on Jack Eichel's wing.
    27. Dorion - OTT (Yikes. After a dream season last year, this one has basically been the polar opposite. From relocation talks to dwindling attendance to a lacklustre performance on the ice, Pierre Dorion must be mighty flustered. His move for Matt Duchene has looked better lately, but it still seems like an overpayment, and that first-rounder could be high even if it's deferred to next season. The Sens need Erik Karlsson to rebound to his top form again, and they need to re-sign him. They should probably also avoid dealing Mark Stone and (probably) Mike Hoffman. Johnny Oduya looks like an absolutely brutal consolation prize for Marc Methot, by the way. Dorion has his work cut out for him.)
    28. Tallon - FLA (The Panthers will probably miss the playoffs this season and watch as their former coach and star wingers play into the spring in Vegas. That move seemed bizarre from the start. Given that it was likely a move by Tallon to eradicate all possible influence of his successor/predecessor, Tom Rowe, it's even worse. The Panthers can't score, and Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith have combined for 103 points in 57 games this year. Letting Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, and Jussi Jokinen walk in the summer didn't help things, either. Evgeni Dadonov has been a fine piece up front but Radim Vrbata just hasn't worked at all and Nick Bjugstad seems to be stalling. The Panthers are a team with a good core up front that just seems to need a refresh. Luongo looks like he might be done and are Reimer or Harri Sateri really the answer in net going forward? Let them play out the season, but Tallon needs to make a move to strengthen his somewhat porous back-end.)
    29. Holland - DET (Something has to give in Detroit. Ken Holland loves to reward loyalty, but excessively so. He's truly awful at negotiating extensions. Danny DeKeyser, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, and Justin Abdelkader are all signed for way too long for way too much money, and it's not like they're outliers. Detroit is spending at least $3 million on 13 players this season, which is an awful lot for a team sitting distantly outside the playoff picture. Making matters even worse is the fact that none of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Martin Frk, and Tyler Bertuzzi are included in that 13. Detroit has zero cap space and all five of those players to re-sign this offseason. Mike Green's $6 million coming off the books will help, as will Petr Mrazek's $4 million... but after that, the only other money being freed is David Booth's $700k salary. The Red Wings are in serious, serious trouble, and there's no secret that Holland's failure to manage his cap is to blame.)
    30. Bergevin - MTL (There's not much to say here that hasn't already been said. It's no secret that the Habs would look much better with P.K. Subban, Mikhail Sergachev, Alex Radulov, Sven Andrighetto, and Andrei Markov on this team instead of Shea Weber, Jonathan Drouin, no one, no one, and no one, but that matters not to Marc Bergevin. His lineup is full of grit! Just ask Karl Alzner, whose one goal this season is still enough to beat the total of Marc Bergevin's Plan B after Radulov, Ales Hemsky (zero). Carey Price is signed for an eternity at an enormous cap hit, which is troubling when you see his .904 save percentage. His $84 million contract hasn't even started yet and he's already thirty! Meanwhile, Shea Weber is looking older and more broken than ever, as he's played in just 26 games this season. P.K. Subban has just 11 fewer goals than Weber has games played this year. Jonathan Drouin has 8 goals and 28 points this season, disappointing production for the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Montreal's top centre this year. It's even more disappointing when you consider that Drouin has played mainly on the wing this season and that the rookie defenseman he was traded for has matched or beaten his production in literally every single category this season, while playing 90 seconds fewer per night. The Canadiens' leading scorer has 34 points, which is the lowest figure for any leading scorer in the league. Max Pacioretty would be fifth on the Buffalo Sabres in scoring! Bergevin's complete and utter failure to build anything resembling a successful offensive team is mind-boggling. At least they're only 25th in goals against!)
    31. Chiarelli - EDM (Taylor Hall is on pace for 93 points this season. He doesn't play for the Oilers anymore. Jordan Eberle is on pace for 27 goals and nearly 60 points this season. He doesn't play for the Oilers anymore. Mat Barzal is on pace for 63 assists and 85 points this year. He never played for the Oilers -- they traded his draft pick, along with a second-rounder, for a man who likely never will score an NHL goal. Hell, Nail Yakupov is on pace for 15 goals this year. The Oilers traded him for a guy who can't even crack their last-place AHL team. Connor McDavid is a phenom who deserves better than to be surrounded by such ineptitude. Ryan Strome might not even score more points this season than Jordan Eberle will score goals. The Oilers might not be able to re-sign Connor McDavid's favourite winger, Patrick Maroon, because they're too busy paying Milan Lucic and Kris Russell a cool $10 million to update their no-trade lists. Even the underwhelming Strome, seven goals and all, might still be too expensive for the Oilers to keep. But hey, at least Chiarelli put all his goaltending eggs in Cam Talbot's wicker basket, which was gnawed to shreds by termites by mid-November. The Oilers are frequently rolling McDavid on the ice with waiver claims and sixth-round picks. They'll probably have to trade Jesse Puljujarvi for an Adam Larsson replacement, once they trade him because they have to be able to afford Lucic. It's funny that Elliotte Friedman has been talking about how they're looking to deal Larsson because they need help on the wings... I wonder if they could get Taylor Hall if they added Yamamoto and a couple of firsts? But then who would be their saviour? Rasmus Dahlin? Don't be silly, the Oilers don't draft defensemen. It's a neverending spiral, but it's okay, since Leon Draisaitl is great in the playoffs.)

    Hope you enjoyed! Disagree? Let me know why!

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    About Author

    Wayne Primeau
    Glengarry Glencross (Mike) has been writing about hockey in his spare time on various internet platforms since his early teens. Mike follows the entire NHL very closely, and has rooting interests in the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, and especially the Calgary Flames. He'll be attending a journalism school in Canada full-time beginning in the fall of 2018.
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