The NHL’s best GMs for the buck
Some general managers just have a knack for building from scratch.
When David Poile took over the Washington Capitals in 1982, the club had yet to achieve a winning season during its eight-year history. Poile’s first order of business: acquiring talented young defenseman Rod Langway from the Montreal Canadiens. Led by Langway, who captured the first of his two Norris Trophies as the NHL’s top defenseman in 1982-83, the Caps jumped to 94 points from 65 the previous season, launching a run of 14 consecutive playoff berths.
It’s been much the same for Poile as GM of the Nashville Predators. Poile took over the expansion club in 1998 and, after some struggles during the early years, has led them to the playoffs in five of the past six seasons. Since the lockout that erased the NHL’s 2004-05 season, Nashville has averaged 99 points per season, fifth-most in the league. True, the club has yet to advance in the playoffs. But when you’re operating in an NHL outpost that consistently lags the league average in attendance, limiting the Predators to bottom-five payroll status, building a consistent contender is impressive.
|In Pictures: The NHL’s 10 best GMs for the buck|
How to build a winner when it’s tough to lure expensive free agents? You do it from within. The team’s 2009-10 roster included 17 Poile draft picks, according to the team’s website, including starting goalie Pekka Rinne(notes) (eighth round, 2004), defenseman and U.S Olympian Ryan Suter(notes) (first round, 2003) and leading scorer and Swedish Olympian Patric Hornqvist(notes) (seventh round, 2005).
Add it all up, and Poile is the NHL’s best GM for the buck since the 2004-05 work stoppage established a salary cap and a measure of revenue sharing to the league. Poile, who ranks third all-time on the win list for general managers behind Harry Sinden and Glen Sather, edges out San Jose’s Doug Wilson and Detroit’s Ken Holland, architects of the NHL’s two most successful teams on the ice over the past five years (though with higher payrolls).
Our criteria for the list: average regular-season points accumulated during the past five full seasons (2005-06 through 2009-10), plus bonus points for postseason appearances and advancements. Annual postseason points increase in five-point increments based on how far a team advances, from five points for a first round exit to 25 points for a Stanley Cup championship. Total points are then measured against payroll over the five-year period to determine which GMs turned out the best product for the money. Consideration was limited to GMs in their jobs for at least four years of the five-year period and who remained active into this season.
Sticking with active 2010-11 execs meant excluding Minnesota’s Doug Risebrough, who would have easily made the list after leading the Wild to 94 points per season over four years while operating with a bottom-six payroll (about $41 million a season). But owner Craig Leipold, anxious to advance past the first round of the playoffs, fired Risebrough after the 2008-09 season.
Rounding out the top five: Buffalo’s Darcy Regier, who’s turned in five straight winning seasons and two trips to the conference finals since the lockout, and Atlanta’s Don Waddell, who managed to go slightly better than .500 with the league’s second-lowest payroll before being elevated to team president this season.
The top five: