George McPhee and the 10 Worst GM's in NHL History
There are two periods during the year which can make or break an NHL general manager.
One of these is the free agency period in July, and the other is the trade deadline in the winter.
Some GM's have made shrewd moves that have put their team over the top and have helped them win Stanley Cups. Others, not so much.
Here are the list of the 10 worst general managers in NHL history. These guys, whether it was because of bad scouting, stubbornness, or just plain idiocy, made some pretty terrible moves throughout their tenures, which helped them get on this list.
Here we go!
10. Russ Farwell
Russ Farwell is an ancient name, and not many people remember him.
However, he was the general manager of the 1992 Flyers that traded away Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, Kerry Huffman, $15 million dollars and draft picks for one player—Eric Lindros.
Lindros was heralded as the next hockey phenom back then. However, concussions sidelined him for most of his career and he never reached his true potential, although, he was still very good throughout his career.
On the other hand, the Nordiques relocated to Denver and Forsberg helped lead the Avalanche to their first of two titles.
This is a valuable lesson for everyone. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Farwell and the Flyers found out the hard way.
9. Craig Button
One action in Craig Button's general managing career puts him on this list.
He released Martin St. Louis when he was a nobody. Then, St. Louis became a somebody and defeated the Flames (the team that released him) in the Stanley Cup Finals.
St. Louis and Jarome Iginla could have been a dynamic force in the NHL for years in Calgary.
8. George McPhee
Let's face it. The only reason why McPhee's teams are successful are because he was lucky enough to have the No. 1 overall pick in 2004. This led to the team drafting Alexander Ovechkin.
The Capitals have been competitive every year, but McPhee has failed to do one important thing: surround Ovechkin with a strong team.
In Ovechkin's early years, the Capitals were known as an offensive juggernaut that couldn't play a lick of defense. Their goaltending has been shoddy, too, ever since Olaf Kolzig retired.
The Capitals have always been that team that's so close, but still so far. In the early 2000s during the Peter Bondra days, they would have a hard time getting past the early rounds after their Stanley Cup run in 1998.
Even now, the Capitals can't advance deep into the playoffs. This means that McPhee hasn't been able to surround the team with solid role players and good shut down defensemen. Sure, the Ovechkins of the world can get a team to the playoffs, but teams need the role players to win it all.
Finally, this summer McPhee signed Tomas Vokoun, and he has retooled the defense in the last few years, but until he finds a way to get out of the second round of the playoffs, he's going to stay on this list.
Let's not forget. This is the same guy that punched Blackhawks' coach Lorne Molleken 13 years ago. Not the most ideal thing for a GM to do.
7. John Ferguson Jr.
The son of an unsuccessful general manager, Junior didn't find much success either.
Despite leading the Maple Leafs to playoff appearances in the early 2000s, bad contracts given to mediocre or aging players during the pre-lockout years crippled the franchise. He had signed Eric Lindros, an aging Ed Belfour, Alex Khavanov, and Jason Allison.
Later on, he gave no trade clauses to a fourth of the team, and the next general manager found it difficult to rebuild. Guys like Mats Sundin, Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, and Darcy Tucker were all aging and locked in with the Leafs.
For this reason, the Leafs have struggled for years.
6. Larry Pleau
The Blues used to be a lock in the playoffs every year.
However, after a Presidents Trophy season in 1999-00, the Blues slowly eroded. They've never really bounced back since then.
Pleau made some terrible moves as general manager during his tenure, and they've never really drafted well in the last decade either.
Attendance declined as well, and the Blues flat out stunk.
In 2007, Hockey News magazine voted him as the worst GM in the league.
5. Doug MacLean
That's the Blue Jackets' record with Don MacLean assuming general manager duties.
The Blue Jackets have never been relevant in the NHL. They've made the playoffs only once in their history and that was a quick exit.
MacLean was never able to draft well and build a solid team despite having great draft picks every year. He never had a first-round pick lower than No. 8. Other than Rick Nash, which was a no brainer since he was No. 1 overall, MacLean's picks have all pretty much been busts.
With unsuccessful or marginal picks like Rostislav Klesla, Nikolai Zherdev, Alex Picard, and Gilbert Brule, it's no wonder that the Jackets are still in the bottom of the barrel.
4. Don Waddell
Don Waddell was the only general manager the Thrashers organization knew during their brief stay in Atlanta before moving to Winnipeg.
In a little over a decade, Waddell was able to lead the Thrashers to the playoffs once. In that playoff appearance, they were quickly swept.
Waddell drafted Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley but was never able to surround them with other solid players to build a winning team. Atlanta's defense and goaltending was always susceptible, and for many years, they were the laughingstock of the NHL.
In recent years, he did a few things right like bringing Dustin Byfuglien to the team and drafting Evander Kane.
With so many high draft picks throughout the Thrashers history, one would expect that eventually the team would have a strong central core of players to build around. This is how the Penguins and Blackhawks have rebuilt. Unfortunately for Thrashers fans, this never materialized, and they lost their team.
3. Bob Pulford
What Bob Pulford did to the Blackhawks is a perfect example of self-destruction.
After the Blackhawks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992, Pulford took over the team. Slowly they started eroding and becoming less significant in the NHL.
By the time Pulford left, the Blackhawks were done. For the first time in 28 years they failed to make the playoffs in 1998. Once a proud franchise, the Blackhawks were now in the doldrums, and they would stay there until the arrivals of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews changed the team's fortunes. They only made the playoffs once until 2009 and that playoff appearance in 2002 was a brief one, as they were disposed of in the first round.
Like New York, Chicago is a city with relatively unlimited resources. It's inexcusable to not be competitive in a non-salary cap league when the team can pretty much spend however much they want to spend.
Pulford was eventually let go in 1997. However, he had two more stints with the Blackhawks later on.
After the lockout, he was gone for good, and the Blackhawks finally ended their Stanley Cup drought in 2010.
2. Glen Sather
Glen Sather reminds New York fans of the really late George Steinbrenner era in the mid 2000s. This was the era when the Yankees would overpay for mediocrity.
Sather would do the same in the pre-lockout era. He brought in an aging Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure, and Bobby Holik. In the post-lockout era, he overpaid for Chris Drury then ended up buying out his contract. Only time will tell if the Brad Richards signing will be another bust for Sather.
The main reason why Sather is on this list, despite his recent successes, is because in the free spending days before the salary cap, the Rangers were one of the worst teams in the NHL. How can a team in New York be consistently bad when they pretty much don't have a spending limit?
New York sports teams pretty much have unlimited resources because of the city they play in. The Yankees, Jets, Giants, Mets, and Knicks are all like that.
It's inexcusable to be unable to get the best players on your team when you can pretty much sign all the big names.
Now with the salary cap, Sather has been forced to make some solid draft picks, which he has. However, his signings—even to this day—have raised eyebrows.
1. Mike Milbury
What do Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Bryan Berard, Eric Brewer, Darius Kasparaitis, Bryan McCabe, Roberto Luongo, Tommy Salo, Olli Jokinen, Todd Bertuzzi, Tim Connolly, and Raffi Torres have in common?
They were all members of the New York Islanders at one point and traded away by general manager Mike Milbury.
Milbury is probably the main reason why the Islanders are in the state they are in today. We've heard relocation rumors about them in the last few years, and they constantly finish in the bottom of the standings.
Most of the aforementioned players have gone off to have great careers. Luongo and Chara are both world class players. Roberto Luongo was traded with Olli Jokinen to Florida for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha, neither of which ever turned out to be impact players.
Zdeno Chara and Jason Spezza were traded for Alexei Yashin during the 2001 NHL Draft. Yashin, who was a star player at the time, quickly declined and now plays in the KHL. Chara, on the other hand, is a Stanley Cup champion and one of the best defenseman in the game today. Spezza is a great forward having a productive career in Ottawa.
Another lopsided Milbury deal was when he traded Bryan McCabe, Todd Bertuzzi, and a draft pick for Trevor Linden. McCabe and Bertuzzi would each become solid players in the NHL. Then, they ended up trading Linden away the year after for a draft pick.
Some of these deals may have been done for financial reasons. But there is no doubt that by having Luongo and Chara throughout the early 2000s, the Islanders would have been able to put out winning teams on the ice, and they wouldn't be in the mess they are in today.
For this, Milbury gets the honor of worst general manager in NHL history.