NHL General Managers Whose Jobs Should Be in Danger

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistDecember 20, 2013

NHL General Managers Whose Jobs Should Be in Danger

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    On November 13, the Buffalo Sabres fired general manager Darcy Regier. Regier had spent more than 16 years in the top job in Buffalo and had guided the team ably through some extremely difficult ownership struggles during his tenure. But with Buffalo mired in last place in the NHL, it was time for him to go.

    A month later, the Calgary Flames followed the example of the Sabres and shed Jay Feaster. Unlike Regier, Feaster was a relative newcomer to the job, but the Flames struggled badly during his time at the helm. 

    The dismissals of Regier and Feaster are relatively rare events in the NHL: General managers as a rule have significantly better job security than the coaches they routinely hire and fire. 

    The following list is based on our view of which managers currently employed should be in danger of losing their jobs. Read on to see who landed on it.

8. David Poile, Nashville Predators

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Hired: July 10, 1997

    Why he should be in danger: David Poile is an exceptional hockey man, and the Predators' gradual rise from expansion team to competitive club is a model of how things should be done. 

    The problem is that Nashville seems to have peaked. After seven seasons that saw six trips to the postseason, the team fell off badly last year and is a long shot for the playoffs once again this season.

    That isn't to say Poile should be fired; the Predators have some financial challenges many other teams don't need to deal with. But he shouldn't be comfortable in his position either. 

    Franchise highlight: A second-round loss to Phoenix in 2011-12. 

    Franchise low-light: Finishing 27th in the NHL last season.

7. Dave Nonis, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Hired: January 9, 2013

    Why he should be in danger: This one will be controversial, but here it is. Toronto spent a pile of money to buy out Mikhail Grabovski, a player who would currently rank second on the team in scoring and would easily be the team's best centre. It then spent another big pile of money to bring in David Clarkson, who has six points through 25 games and a contract that runs forever.

    More than that, though, Dave Nonis bought in to a fluke run last year and locked up his core long term, committing Toronto to the current group that seems unlikely to replicate it.  

    Franchise highlight: A first-round loss to Boston last season. 

    Franchise low-light: The team's current 12-15-3 run. 

6. Jim Rutherford, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Hired: June 28, 1994

    Why he should be in danger: The recent history of the Carolina Hurricanes has been perfectly lousy. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, the team has missed the playoffs in six of seven seasons despite playing in hockey's worst division.

    Things aren't looking great this year, either. A Flyers win on Thursday bumped the Hurricanes out of playoff position and the team currently sports a minus-15 goal differential. 

    Franchise highlight: 2006 Stanley Cup win

    Franchise low-light: Current four-season playoff drought 

5. Paul Holmgren, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Hired: November 11, 2006

    Why he should be in danger: It's a little odd to have Paul Holmgren on this list given his team's record the last few seasons. The Philadelphia Flyers went to the conference finals in Holmgren's first full season and have won seven playoff series, only failing to advance out of the first round twice.

    But not only have the Flyers faded over the last season and a bit, but Holmgren's reckless contracts have cost the team ludicrous amounts of money. According to CapGeek.com, there are currently three buyouts on the books, an injured Chris Pronger has more more massive years on his deal, and deals like the one handed to Mark Streit (four years, $5.25 million average annual value) have real albatross potential. 

    Franchise highlight: 2010 Stanley Cup Finals loss 

    Franchise low-light: Missed the playoffs in 2012-13. 

4. Greg Sherman, Colorado Avalanche

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    Hired: June 3, 2009

    Why he should be in danger: This is a bit of an odd case, in that Greg Sherman isn't really perceived as the general manager of the Colorado Avalanche. Back in May, TSN's highly respected Bob McKenzie described Sherman as "GM in name only."

    So how long until Joe Sakic is formally promoted and Sherman gets the same "advisor" tag that another ex-Avs GM, Pierre Lacroix, has? 

    Franchise highlight: A first-round loss to San Jose in 2009-10

    Franchise low-light: Finishing 29th in the NHL last season.

3. Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers

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    Hired: May 17, 2010

    Why he should be in danger: Aside from 2011-12, when the Florida Panthers rode a ton of shootout losses to become the worst goal differential team to make the playoffs since the 2004-05 lockout, Tallon's run as general manager has been an unmitigated disaster.  

    The Panthers GM has made his share of mistakes—a wretched contract to Ed Jovanovski at the top of that list—but his worst problem was that he bought into a fluke run in 2011-12 as the team's true level of ability and acted accordingly. 

    Franchise highlight: A first-round loss to New Jersey in 2011-12 

    Franchise low-light: Last season's 30th-place finish. 

2. Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets

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    Hired: June 8, 2011

    Why he should be in danger: When the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg and became the Jets, it was supposed to mean the beginning of something new. Instead, it's been more and more of the same, as the team seems content to hang on to its core from Atlanta.

    Ondrej Pavelec, the Thrashers' mediocre starter, remains the Jet's mediocre starter after two (and going on three) indifferent seasons. The top three defencemen are identical to the top trio from 2010-11. The four most important forwards (Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler) are identical to the quartet Kevin Cheveldayoff inherited from former general manager Rick Dudley.

    It's not that all those players have to go—the group has a lot of good things—but it certainly needed some help, help Cheveldayoff simply hasn't been able to provide.  

    Franchise highlight: Nearly qualifying for the playoffs in 2012-13

    Franchise low-light: The team's current 15-16-5 overall record

1. Garth Snow, New York Islanders

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    Hired: July 18, 2006

    Why he should be in danger: The Islanders have been a punchline of a franchise since well before Garth Snow quit as the team's backup goalie to take the top job in hockey operations. The infini-build continued under Snow, but finally appeared to be coming to an end last spring when New York took the Pittsburgh Penguins to six games.

    Then Snow failed to address an obvious goaltending issue, and the Islanders slumped to the league cellar this season. He was able to put together a trade for Thomas Vanek but to date has shown no willingness to deal with the unmitigated disaster between the pipes.

    For a team trying desperately to put its failures behind it, Snow's lack of action is indefensible. 

    Franchise highlight: A first-round loss to Pittsburgh last season. 

    Franchise low-light: Missing the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.