Ranking the 10 Savviest GMs in NHL History
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, it's time to take a look at the 10 savviest GMs in NHL history.
These are general managers who drafted well, signed big free agents and made shrewd trades that helped build championship teams and in many cases, dynasties.
All but one of these GMs are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the one who isn't there yet probably will be by the time his career is over.
So step back and enjoy this list of the NHL's most savvy GMs. Feel free to comment and mention a GM you feel belongs on this list.
10. Glen Sather
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While Rangers fans may not be thrilled with Sather's selection, he makes this list for helping to create the last great dynasty in NHL history: the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s.
Sather served as GM of the Oilers from 1980 until 2000. During that time, the Oilers won five Stanley Cups, including four in five years in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
The team Sather put together featured such all-time greats as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson and Esa Tikkanen.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, Sather didn't draft as well during the late 1980s while the Oilers were winning championships. The team's budget got smaller and smaller and ownership ordered Sather to trade or sell off some of the franchise's best talent.
In 2000, Sather left Edmonton and became GM of the New York Rangers. After a slow start and some very poor free-agent signings, Sather helped build the Rangers into the top seed in the Eastern Conference last year by building around goalie Henrik Lundqvist and adding players like Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Marc Staal and Ryan Callahan.
He also showed an uncanny ability to make good trades to take poor free-agent signings off his hands. Sather overpaid Scott Gomez but then traded the former Devils center to Montreal to clear up cap space. As part of the deal, Sather acquired defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
Sather was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.
9. Keith Allen
Keith Allen was the groundbreaking GM of the Philadelphia Flyers from 1969 to 1983.
Allen figured out a new way to build a championship team. He molded the Philadelphia Flyers into "The Broad Street Bullies," the most intimidating bunch of players assembled in NHL history until that point.
The results were successful. The Flyers may not have been faster and more skilled than opposing teams, but they could scare them off with their fists and make them hesitate on the ice.
Players like Dave Schultz, Bob Kelly, Don Saleski and Ed Van Impe battled while Bill Barber, Bobby Clarke, Rick MacLeish and Reggie Leach put pucks in the net. Most importantly, Bernie Parent was the best goalie in the NHL for two seasons in the mid-1970s.
Allen made great trades to acquire Parent, Leach and Bill Flett all of whom helped make the Flyers champions.
The Flyers became the first expansion team to win a Stanley Cup and won back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975. They also returned to the Stanley Cup Final in 1976 and 1980 under Allen's leadership.
After retiring as GM, Allen moved into the Flyers front office. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.
8. Art Ross
Art Ross served as GM of the Boston Bruins from the time they entered the NHL in 1924 until he retired in 1954.
Along the way, Ross established the Bruins as a solid Original Six franchise and helped lead them to three Stanley Cup championships.
Ross helped improve the game, introducing innovations such as a new type of net, a synthetic rubber puck and the red line. As coach of the Bruins, he was also the first to remove his goalie for a sixth attacker in the waning minute of a game.
Among the players Ross helped the Bruins acquire were Eddie Shore, Milt Schmidt, Tiny Thompson, Woody Dumart, Bobby Bauer and Frank Brimsek.
Ross was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1949. The Art Ross Trophy is now awarded each year to the NHL's top point producer in his honor.
7. Craig Patrick
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Craig Patrick was an average player in the 1970s, but he lived up to his family's legacy as GM of the New York Rangers and later the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Patrick retired as a player in 1979. One year later, he served as the assistant coach to Herb Brooks for the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" team that beat the Soviets and shocked the world by winning a gold medal at Lake Placid.
Patrick then had a successful run as GM of the New York Rangers. He drafted players like Mike Richter, Tony Granato, James Patrick, John Vanbiesbrouck and Brian Leetch.
In 1989, Patrick took over as GM of the Penguins and built them into a champion. Patrick drafted Jaromir Jagr and pulled off some trades that solidified the Pens as champions when he acquired Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson from Hartford and Joe Mullen from Calgary.
The Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992.
Before leaving the Penguins in 2006, Patrick drafted many of the players who would be a big part of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup win, including Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Today, Patrick works as an adviser to the Blue Jackets organization.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
6. Ken Holland
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Current Red Wings GM Ken Holland only played in four NHL games during his playing career, but he has made himself a very fine reputation in the front office since taking over as GM in Detroit in 1997.
Under Holland's guidance, Detroit has won three Stanley Cups (1998, 2002 and 2008). He was assistant GM for a fourth title in 1997.
In addition, the Red Wings have made the playoffs each and every season Holland has been at the helm and have been one of the most consistent franchises in the NHL.
Among the players Holland has drafted are Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
Holland has been very smart in his signing of free agents. He has signed key pieces to championship teams including Sergei Fedorov, Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski.
5. Lou Lamoriello
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Lamoriello became GM of the Devils in 1987. Until that time, the Devils had been a laughingstock from the time they entered the NHL in 1974 as the Kansas City Scouts. Wayne Gretzky even referred to the Devils as a "Mickey Mouse organization" after a blowout win in 1983-84.
Under Lamoriello's guidance, Mickey Mouse was quickly banished and the Devils quickly became contenders.
The Devils have only missed the playoffs three times since 1988. During that time, they have also won three Stanley Cups and reached the Stanley Cup Final on two other occasions.
The Providence, Rhode Island, native drafted players like Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, Scott Gomez, Sheldon Souray, Bill Guerin, Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur.
Lamoriello also took advantage of the league's compensation rules to bring Scott Stevens to New Jersey after the St. Louis Blues signed Brendan Shanahan.
Lamoriello was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
4. Jimmy Devellano
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Jimmy Devellano has the distinction of playing a major part in the building of two hockey dynasties.
As a scout, he helped build the New York Islanders dynasty of the 1970s and '80s that won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983. Among the players Devellano scouted for the Islanders was future Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, who the Isles chose first overall in the 1973 NHL draft.
In 1982, Devellano moved on to Detroit where he served as GM until 1990 and then again from 1994 to 1997. Among the players Devellano drafted were Steve Yzerman, Bob Probert, Adam Graves, Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov.
He also traded for Brendon Shanahan in a deal with the Hartford Whalers in 1996.
Today, Devellano remains active in the Red Wings front office.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
3. Bill Torrey
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Bill Torrey accomplished the near impossible. He took an expansion team with the worst record in NHL history in 1972 and built it into a Stanley Cup contender in just three short years. By Year 7, the Islanders won their first of four straight Stanley Cups and a record 19 straight playoff series.
The Islanders were hampered in their first season by the formation of the WHA, which took away many of the players they selected in the expansion draft.
But Torrey built the team through the draft, adding future Hall of Famers like Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Clark Gillies.
Torrey was also a shrewd trader, acquiring Jude Drouin and J.P. Parise from the North Stars in 1975 to solidify the team's first playoff appearance and then picking up Butch Goring.
Other players acquired by Torrey included Pat LaFontaine, Billy Smith, Bob Nystrom, John Tonelli and Bob Bourne.
Torrey later worked for the Florida Panthers in their early years and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996.
Torrey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.
2. Frank J. Selke
Frank J. Selke served as GM of the Montreal Canadiens from 1946-1964. Prior to that, he was a big part of the Maple Leafs organization and actually served as acting GM of the Leafs while Conn Smythe was serving during World War II.
In Toronto, he acquired Teeder Kennedy for the Leafs and Kennedy went on to become one of the best players in franchise history.
In 1946, he took over as GM of the Canadiens. During his tenure, the Habs won the Stanley Cup in 1953 and then won a record five straight championships from 1956 to 1960.
Selke helped build the Montreal farm system and helped Montreal acquire players like Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Henri Richard and Tom Johnson.
How savvy was Selke? In order to make sure the Canadiens signed Beliveau, he advised the team's ownership to buy the entire amateur league Beliveau was playing in and turn it pro. Beliveau had already signed a "B-Form" which guaranteed that if he played professionally, it would be for the Canadiens so the future Hall of Famer was obligated to play for Montreal.
Selke retired in 1964 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1960.
1. Sam Pollock
Sam Pollock was the shrewdest GM in NHL history.
Pollock won nine Stanley Cups as GM of the Montreal Canadiens from 1964 until 1978. He put together a team that won four straight titles from 1976 to 1979, although Pollock was no longer the GM during the final Cup-winning season.
Among the players drafted by Pollock were Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey and Rod Langway.
It was the way Pollock acquired Lafleur that showed just how savvy he was.
First, Pollock made a trade with the Oakland Seals to acquire their first round draft choice in 1971 in exchange for forward Ernie Hicke.
There was a problem midway through the season, however. The Seals were not in last place and Lafleur was the consensus first pick in the next draft.
So, Pollock made a trade with the Kings who were in last place behind the Seals, practically giving away Ralph Backstrom. Backstrom scored 27 points in 33 games for the Kings and helped them pass the Seals in the standings. Viola, the Canadiens owned the top pick in the draft and selected Lafleur.
Lafleur went on to have six straight seasons with 50 or more goals and became the most dangerous goal scorer in the league in the late 1970s. He helped the Habs win four straight Stanley Cups at the end of the 1970s.
Pollock was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.