10 NHL General Managers on the Hot Seat Right Now

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2014

10 NHL General Managers on the Hot Seat Right Now

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    The job of an NHL general manager comes with considerable pressure. GMs are responsible for hiring the coaching staff and maintaining the roster. They are a team's architect and carry the responsibility for its success or failure.

    As this NHL regular season draws to a close, several general managers face a crucial stage in their tenures. Several manage teams that will miss the playoffs for the first time in years. Others are running clubs that are perennial non-contenders. A few manage playoff contenders and are under pressure to build their teams into Cup contenders. 

    Some have been in their jobs for only a short time, while others have been running their teams for years. Their offseason plans will not only affect their teams but also their job security.

    Here's a list of 10 NHL general managers who will come under scrutiny for various reasons this summer.

10.Glen Sather, New York Rangers

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    The New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis reports Rangers owner James Dolan considers Sather “the best in the business." Some Rangers fans might disagree, considering how the contract talks of Daniel Girardi and now-former captain Ryan Callahan dragged on toward this season's trade deadline.

    Still, Sather has the support of his boss, his club overcame a poor start to vault into playoff contention, Girardi was re-signed, and Callahan was replaced with scoring winger Martin St. Louis. All appears well in his world.

    Time, however, is Sather's biggest enemy. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson speculates the 70-year-old Sather could retire at season's end. Even if he doesn't call it quits this summer, he won't remain the Rangers GM forever.

    It's been 20 years since the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. This offseason could be his last, best chance to build them into a champion.

9. Tim Murray, Buffalo Sabres

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    Murray was hired in January as the Sabres new general manager and wasted little time shaking things up. He traded away Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis for Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart, flipped Halak to Washington for Michal Neuvirth and shipped Matt Moulson to Minnesota in a package deal.

    Ownership will be patient with him, allowing him leeway to do whatever he deems necessary to improve the Sabres. While under no threat of losing his job, he will be under pressure to quickly turn the Sabres from the league's worst team into a playoff contender. 

    As a rookie GM, Murray faces a daunting task but appears keen for the challenge. The Buffalo News' John Vogl reports Murray will continue dealing in the offseason. He has stockpiled a number of draft picks, which could be used this summer as trade bait for established talent.

8. Craig MacTavish, Edmonton Oilers

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    Upon MacTavish's hiring last April, The Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek reported the new Oilers GM promised bold moves. MacTavish quickly discovered how difficult it was to fulfill that pledge. With the Oilers about to miss the playoffs for an eighth straight season, he must come up with a workable plan to address his roster's weaknesses.

    Entering his second offseason as GM, he has considerable work to do. He must find a top-two defenseman and a power forward, improve his club's overall defensive depth and add more skill in the faceoff circle.

    To his credit, MacTavish improved his club's goaltending, shipping out Devan Dubnyk and Ilya Bryzgalov in favor of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth. He also acquired scoring winger David Perron. The jury remains out on his hiring of Dallas Eakins as head coach.

7. Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers

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    Three years ago, Tallon engaged in a spending spree to improve the Panthers and reach the salary-cap minimum. The moves paid off in a playoff berth in 2012, the club's first in 12 years. Unfortunately, the Panthers quickly slid back into mediocrity. They missed the playoffs last year and are poised to do the same this season.

    They lack sufficient scoring and defensive depth to compete for a playoff berth. Tossing money at the problem worked in the short term three years ago, but Tallon must invest more wisely this time. This summer's moves are crucial, not just to the Panthers but to his long-term future as their GM.

    Since becoming the GM in 2010, he has drafted promising young talent (Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Erik Gudbranson) and recently brought back goalie Roberto Luongo. In January, Sun-Sentinel.com's Harvey Fialkov reported the Panthers new ownership gave Tallon permission to spend to next season's cap ceiling if necessary to improve the team.

6. Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets

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    Three years after the former Atlanta Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets, the club has made little progress toward playoff contention. Winnipeg fans were willing to be patient during the first couple of seasons. Earlier this season the National Post's Judy Owen reported that patience was wearing thin.

    Cheveldayoff is catching some flak over the Jets' lack of progress. When he replaced coach Claude Noel with Paul Maurice, The Winnipeg Sun's Paul Friesen reported Cheveldayoff admitted he didn't do enough to help Noel succeed. Friesen also criticized the decision to stand pat at this year's trade deadline.

    The Jets appear unlikely to reach this year's postseason. Ownership's faith in Cheveldayoff could be tested if the Jets fail to reach the playoffs next season.

5. George McPhee, Washington Capitals

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    As Capitals GM since 1997, McPhee is among the league's longest-serving active general managers. During his tenure, the Capitals enjoyed varying degrees of success but have yet to win a Stanley Cup. Four years ago, they were President's Trophy winners and legitimate Cup contenders. Today, they're scrambling for one of the final wild-card berths in the Eastern Conference.

    "GMGM" has gone through three coaches over the last four years, while his trade and free-agent moves over that period failed to improve the team. McPhee was busy at this year's trade deadline, shipping Michal Neuvirth to Buffalo for Jaroslav Halak, dealing away fading winger Martin Erat to Phoenix and acquiring big forward Dustin Penner. He followed that up with signing promising winger Evgeny Kuznetsov.

    The Washington Post's Barry Svrluga reports McPhee believes his moves addressed his club's immediate needs and those for the future. While he seems unconcerned about his future, his contract expires at season's end. If the Capitals miss the playoffs, he could be out of a job.

4. Paul Holmgren, Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Flyers poor start to this season prompted rumors that Holmgren could be fired. While ownership stood by the embattled GM, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi believed Holmgren was "on the clock."

    As the Flyers improved, the speculation over Holmgren's future died down but didn't fully dissipate. Last month, CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio wondered if Holmgren or assistant GM Ron Hextall would be calling the shots this summer. If the Flyers make the playoffs, their performance could determine his fate.

    If Holmgren remains as GM, he'll have to address his team's need for a top-two defenseman. Chris Pronger's career is over, and aging Kimmo Timonen could retire. Recently acquired Andrew MacDonald has good chemistry with Luke Schenn but isn't top-two material. 

3. Jim Rutherford, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Eight years following the Hurricanes' first and only Stanley Cup title and five years after their last playoff appearance, the club remains mired in mediocrity. It has taken a toll upon the attendance this season.

    Rutherford has survived as long as he has in part because of the goodwill and trust he earned from the '06 Cup championship. However, that could be running out for the long-time GM. TSN's Darren Dreger (via Pro Hockey Talk) reports that management changes could be in the offing.

    If Rutherford isn't replaced, he will face some tough choices this summer. Dreger reports longtime Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward could be traded, while forwards Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner could also be in play. Head coach Kirk Muller could also be replaced. 

    Rutherford must find a suitable replacement for pending free-agent defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who missed this season to a career-threatening heel injury. 

2. Garth Snow, New York Islanders

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    The Islanders are poised to miss the playoffs for the sixth time during Snow's eight years as general manager. Few GMs could survive such a woeful record, but Snow has long enjoyed the support of Islanders owner Charles Wang. So far there's no indication Wang intends to replace him.

    Snow's moves this season earned him considerable criticism. He shipped Matt Moulson and two draft picks to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek, failed to re-sign Vanek and was unable to get a decent return for him at the trade deadline. Sportsnet.ca's Mike Johnston noted the angry reaction from Islanders fans.  

    With the Islanders moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn following next season, it's crucial they enter their new home as a playoff contender. If Snow remains GM, he must address his club's weaknesses, which includes goaltending, defensive depth and second-line scoring. His actions this summer could determine his future with New York.

1. Mike Gillis, Vancouver Canucks

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    Three years ago, the Vancouver Canucks won the first of two consecutive President's Trophies and marched to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Today, they're a team in disarray and in danger of missing the playoffs.

    Much of the fault lies with Gillis. He sacrificed the Canucks' prospect depth with quick-fix trades that did nothing to improve the team. Within a year, he traded away goaltenders Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo without getting much back in return. Two-way center Ryan Kesler could be dealt this summer.

    Rumors abound that Gillis and coach John Tortorella could be fired at season's end. The Province columnists Ben Kuzma and Jim Jamieson recently listed potential replacements for the duo.

    Should Gillis survive, he'll have to work fast in the offseason to right the sinking Canucks' ship. Much could depend upon what he gets in return for Kesler. If the Canucks fail to rebound next season, Gillis could be out of work.