It only took one full season as NHL commissioner and a total of 20 months after the start of his reign for Gary Bettman to initiate his first work stoppage in 1994. His second season on the job was shriveled to a partial campaign and, a decade later, outdid himself with another lockout that abolished the whole 2004-05 season.
Overseeing the only full-season hiatus in any of the North American professional sports leagues’ history has not dislodged Bettman from his position for seven-plus years. In turn, to his credit, he has been able to oversee some more memorable developments, such as the inception of the Winter Classic.
Still, that does not alter the blemish scar on his transcript that is the 2004-05 season that never was. Furthermore, the current lockout, the NHL’s third in a span of 19 years, throws a sizeable splash of vinegar on any of the sweeter developments on Bettman’s watch.
If that, along with the half-season that was lost a decade prior were to be joined by another half- or full-season stoppage, the case for Bettman’s continued tenure will be weakened all the more.
Even if the 2012-13 campaign begins in early November, which now looks like a real possibility, any time lost on top of the previous lockouts is still not helping Bettman’s appeal. It will take time and some more savory moments to attain any improvement and embolden the justification of his tenure.
A similar assessment can be made of a handful of NHL coaches or general managers who have held their respective positions for well more than a decade.
All are living proof that at least a few gratifying positives can be reaped if you stick with the same personnel long enough. Yet those personnel can become harder to defend if their franchises do not progress quickly enough and do not stave off an imbalance of negatives.
Given the generally brittle nature of a coaching or management job, it is only naturally a wonder that any of the following men have lasted this long. Some have at least, even in relatively momentary spurts, allowed their fanbases to be grateful that their employers have stuck with them, although they would all be advised to attain more of those brighter moments sooner rather than later.
Here is a look at some those surprisingly long-tenured NHL personnel.
Only the first and last of those four managed to get the Capitals out of the first round of the postseason. In the interim were nine seasons (1998-2008) featuring only four playoff passports.
Boudreau’s tenure was easily the most hopeful era in recent memory for the Washington faithful, characterized by four straight Southeast Division titles and three triple-digit point campaigns.
But after only two series wins in six total tries, McPhee dismissed Boudreau early in the 2011-12 season.
Interim successor Dale Hunter stabilized the ride and squeezed the Caps into the playoff picture, ultimately helping them to reach the second round in consecutive years for the first time since 1990-91. What’s more is they rode the surprising play of third-string netminder Braden Holtby to dislodge the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and push the first-place New York Rangers to a seventh game.
Regier’s tenure as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres had a wobbly start in the summer of 1997 when he failed to retain head coach Ted Nolan, the reigning Jack Adams recipient.
As it happened, Nolan’s successor, Ruff, brought Buffalo to the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs―one step further than Nolan’s run in 1997―in his first season. Ruff and his pupils followed up on that with a run to the championship series in 1999 and a return to the second round in 2001.
Since then, though, the Regier-Ruff tandem has delivered sparse success. Apart from back-to-back ventures to the third round in 2006 and 2007, they have not won any playoff series in the last 10 seasons, missing the postseason altogether six times in that span.
When and if the 2012-13 campaign commences, Buffalo’s outlook emits a promise for resurgence, especially with youngsters Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno on the rise. The acquisition of Steve Ott, which adds size and decent production up front, could also shore up the perception about the Sabres.
But with only 10 postseason series victories in their 15-year reign, with half of those coming within the first two years, Ruff and Regier might not have many more mulligans at their disposal.
Rutherford sculpted a surprise Stanley Cup finalist in 2002 and a championship club in 2006 that was bolstered by Eric Staal, Cam Ward and a host of veterans, such as late-season acquisitions Mark Recchi and Doug Weight.
None of that, however, was before Rutherford assumed the GM position with the Hartford Whalers in 1994 and immediately brooked a four-year playoff drought that carried over to the team’s inaugural season as the Carolina Hurricanes.
Between those two runs to the Finals, the Canes missed the 2003 and 2004 playoffs. They missed back-to-back dances yet again immediately after installing their Cup banner and have now missed three straight, with those slices of futility sandwiching another surprise run to the third round in 2009.
That latest playoff appearance was steered by second-term skipper Paul Maurice, whom Rutherford subsequently fired for the second time last autumn. Before that, he had canned Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette.
It seems that in the eyes of the Hurricanes' higher-ups, the magnitude of 2002, 2006 and 2009 make up for a general lack of consistency in Rutherford’s track record. For good measure, though, he should hope that his latest major moves, namely trading for Jordan Staal and importing Alexander Semin via free agency, immediately amount to his club’s next springtime sugar rush.
After all, it is one thing for a team to miss four straight postseasons on the same GM’s watch when that GM has only been in place for four years. It is another for his team to go that long without a playoff berth when he is almost rounding out his second full decade with the franchise.
Entering as an expansion club in an unconventional and never-before-touched NHL market, the Preds put up with humble beginnings—namely no playoff appearances in their first five years of operation.
Not until the past two seasons have they so much as won a series, which they did before snuffing out in the second round in both 2011 and 2012.
With those runs fresh in the fanbase and front office’s collective memory, Poile’s pursuit and Trotz’s work with the likes of Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne are looking favorable. However, Nashville is now at a point where its NHL expectations are all but on a par with Boston, Chicago, Detroit, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Vancouver.
A few more seasons without the proper insertion of additional pieces and/or without the fostering of those additives en route to a third- or fourth-round appearance could finally elevate the temperature of Trotz’s or Poile’s seat.