I don't know how I missed this story in December's Forbes Magazine (lazy? stupid? eye not on ball? you pick), but it's right up my alley. Forbes comes up with a ridiculous way to rank GMs, dollars per point, which gives them the following list:
|1||David Poile, Nashville Predators||$397,778|
|2||Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks||$420,037|
|3||Ken Holland, Detroit Red Wings||$428,675|
|4||Darcy Regier, Buffalo Sabres||$438,889|
|5||Don Waddell, Atlanta Thrashers||$444,076|
|6||Ray Shero, Pittsburgh Penguins||$444,963|
|7||George McPhee, Washington Capitals||$448,380|
|8||Jim Rutherford, Carolina Hurricanes||$455,224|
|9||Garth Snow, New York Islanders||$455,627|
|10||Brian Burke, Toronto Maple Leafs||$480,215|
That's just weak. Does anyone honestly believe that Don Waddell is a better GM than Ray Shero? Let's look at Waddell's drafting record:
|2007||No Pick||Traded for Keith Tkachuk|
Here's the thing: if Brian Burke's trade for Phil Kessel is an absolute disaster, what do we call Waddell failing to capitalize on more than double the haul that the Bruins got? Top 5 GM? Really?
Let's rank these GMs by value-added instead:
|Rk||GM||Marg Point/Marg $|
|1||David Poile, Nashville Predators||1.94|
|2||Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks||1.87|
|3||Ken Holland, Detroit Red Wings||1.85|
|4||Darcy Regier, Buffalo Sabres||1.70|
|6||Ray Shero, Pittsburgh Penguins||1.68|
|7||George McPhee, Washington Capitals||1.59|
|8||Jim Rutherford, Carolina Hurricanes||1.56|
|5||Don Waddell, Atlanta Thrashers||1.52|
|10||Brian Burke, Toronto Maple Leafs||1.45|
|9||Garth Snow, New York Islanders||1.37|
That looks a bit more like it. Remember, a team that signed 23 minor-league players wouldn't finish with zero points - they'd be somewhere between 45 and 52. And a team spending exactly to league-average would get roughly 1.45 points per million spent. So the first metric gives a general manager too much credit for what anybody would accomplish.
But I still have problems with the second metric. Forbes starts counting in 2005-06, but Waddell had six years to build his team before that, Ray Shero benefits from someone else's drafting and David Poile had an exceptional run at drafting defensemen. Brian Burke, on the other hand, took over a disaster in Toronto mid-season - not that things have been great since then, but he's still paying for someone else's mistakes.
The unfortunate thing is that it takes something like seven years to evaluate a GM's performance, and we're still only five years into the cap era. There are a lot of holdover benefits from the previous system (want Lidstrom/Zetterberg/Datsyuk at a huge discount, anyone?) It's not clear to me that there's even one GM who understands how to build a consistent winner in a capped system without having to finish at the bottom of the league for a few seasons.