Garth Snow and the Top 5 GMs on the Hot Seat
As we sit near the halfway point of the NHL season, it is time to see which general managers are on the hot seat.
Building and maintaining a franchise is a difficult job, regardless of the sport. For every Ken Holland out there are dozens of mediocre and just plain bad GMs. Many GMs are already feeling the pressure as seven of them have fired their coaches already.
That mark is two short of the record for coaches fired in a season.
Here is a list of the top 5 GMs who should be on the hot seat.
Garth Snow—New York Islanders
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Snow’s accession to the job was a head-scratcher. The team had hired Neil Smith to be the GM in 2006, but 41 days later Snow retired from playing in order to take the GM job and Smith was fired.
The team never gave Smith a chance and apparently the karma bug has been biting the Islanders since.
It is surprising that Snow still has this job. In his first season with the team, they had 92 points and were able to make the playoffs as the eighth seed. They were quickly bounced in the first round, but the team was hopeful.
In the four full seasons since then, the team has fallen apart. They have finished last in the Atlantic Division every season. Their best finish in the conference over that time frame is 13th out of 15 teams.
On average, they have finished 19 points out of a playoff spot and have not been closer than ninth in the East. Already halfway through this season, they sit 10 points out of the playoffs, 14th in the conference and yet again take up their last-place standing in the Atlantic.
Snow has made several trades, signed many a free agent and drafted loads of players, but nothing seems to work out right. Perhaps his most head-scratching deal was the 15-year, $67.5 million contract that he gave to goalie Rick DiPietro early in his GM reign.
At that point, DiPietro had only played two full seasons and while he was a promising talent, there was no need to sign him for that much or that long. Since then, DiPietro has battled injuries and even had to fight to be the starting goalie. He has found himself as both the backup and stuck in a tandem starting position.
Snow is on his third coach as well. With all the player and coaching changes, the results are the same. It appears the one constant has been Snow and it is time for him to go.
Scott Howson—Columbus Blue Jackets
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Columbus is the worst team in the league and sadly it’s not even close. Howson has been the team's GM since 2007. The team was able to make the playoffs as the seventh seed in 2008-09 where they were quickly swept by Detroit.
In Howson’s other three years, the Blue Jackets have been a mainstay at the bottom of the conference, finishing 13th or worse. They miss the playoffs by an average of 15 points each season.
This offseason, they were very active as they either re-signed or brought in several players. The hope was Fedor Tytuin, Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski and RJ Umberger would make the team a playoff contender.
Instead, the $141 million in new contracts became a flop. The team lost eight straight to start the season and only had three wins after 18 games. Howson recently fired coach Scott Arniel, but the writing is on the wall: Howson needs to be out as well.
Darcy Regier—Buffalo Sabres
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In the 2006-07 season, the Buffalo Sabres won the Presidents' Trophy for having the league’s top record during the regular season. They followed it up by missing the playoffs the next season—the first team to ever do so.
They would miss the playoffs two more times before earning a return. They were the third seed in 2010, but lost in the first round.
During the 2010-11 season, Terrence Pegula bought the team. At the time, the Sabres looked nothing like a playoff team, but then the team went on a 16-4-4 run after Pugula’s purchase, which pushed them into the seventh seed. They again lost in the first round.
In Pegula’s first offseason, he allowed Regier to be very active both in free agency and trades. Ville Leino, Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff were just a few of the new players who were brought in. Expectations were high that the team would be much improved.
The results have been underwhelming at best.
The team sits 11th in the Eastern Conference. While they are only five points out of a playoff spot, having only two wins over their past 10 games doesn’t instill much confidence that they will make any type of run.
Pegula is a hometown owner who grew up a Sabres fan. He wants to win badly and he wants to do it now. Regier has been with the team since 1996 and coach Lindy Ruff since 1997. If they don’t turn it around quickly, then both should be updating those resumes.
Jim Rutherford—Carolina Hurricanes
There is only so long that a GM can live off of a Stanley Cup Championship and Rutherford has eked out every last ounce. He has been the GM since 1994 and won the cup in 2006.
Since then, the Hurricanes have only made the playoffs one time.
Despite another bad season, they were fairly quiet in the free agent market this offseason. One of the players they did bring in was Tomas Kaberle. However, after 29 games they traded him away. With Jeff Skinner, Eric Stall, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, the team does have some talent—just not enough.
They currently sit in last place in the Eastern Conference with only 14 wins and 35 points. They are the worst defensive team in the league and own the second-worst goal differential.
Steve Tambellini—Edmonton Oilers
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Tambellini is the ultimate salesman; he seems to have everyone sold into a very lengthy rebuilding process. He took over as the Oilers GM in 2008. In his first season, the team missed the playoffs by six points.
In the following two seasons, they finished over 32 and 35 points out of the playoffs while finishing last in the Western Conference both seasons. In fact, in both seasons they weren’t even close to the next-to-last team, finishing six and 17 points out of 14th.
There is a difference between going through a rebuilding process and having people wonder if you are still a legitimate NHL level franchise. The Oilers have fallen so far off the map that they need to improve to even start rebuilding.
Tambellini has repeatedly traded players for draft picks and while they do have some good players on the team, they still find themselves in 13th place in the West.
They have been playing near .500 this season and are only four points out of the eighth spot. They need at least maintain that closeness or it will be time to move on with a new GM.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist for the Detroit Red Wings and a writer of many other sports. You can follow him on twitter.