In the past few weeks, I've looked at some prospective General Manager candidates like the Colorado Avalanche's Assistant GM Craig Billington or TSN analyst Pierre McGuire. Today, I'll be taking a look at another Western Conference Assistant GM who is drawing considerable praise around the Interwebs.
For years now, the Nashville Predators organization has been credited for its ability to stay competitive in a strong Western Conference despite being burdened with a self-imposed cap limit that is significantly smaller than the NHL's cap ceiling. They are the hockey equivalent to baseball’s Oakland Athletics - although it should be noted that there's nothing to suggest that the Predators attribute their success to advanced sabermetric hockey statistics.
Much of Nashville’s success is dependent upon a successful draft record and their ability to cultivate, develop and procure inexpensive talent that can produce at the NHL level. But it has been the organization’s innate ability to find legitimate goaltenders like Dan Ellis, Chris Mason, Tomas Vokoun, Pekka Rinne, Chet Pickard and Anders Lindback that really stands out to me. Considering that Sens fans have waited for almost twenty years for a franchise goalie (note: The Robin Lehner era starts tonight in Long Island. Right now I’m knocking on wood.), it’s easy to look at the list of aforementioned names be a little envious.
By pursuing a mind like Fenton or Billington, The Euge would be getting in on the latest trend that has seen organizations like Columbus (Scott Howson) and Minnesota (Chuck Fletcher) try emulate the success that Pittsburgh and Boston have had hiring young assistant GMs like Ray Shero and Peter Chiarelli.
Such a hire would not be without its inherent risks however. There is that fear of the unknown. It’s not Fenton’s fault that he doesn’t have actually have NHL General Manager experience, nor is it his fault that his organization is unwilling to spend anywhere near the salary cap ceiling but it’s this latter point that really makes me question whether or not Fenton is the best choice for the job.
At the most basic level, Ottawa is not Nashville. Unless the Senators start employing a self-imposed salary cap limit, you cannot replicate the circumstances or expectations that Nashville has. Here in Ottawa, we’re fortunate enough to have an owner who has demonstrated a willingness to spend to the salary cap threshold to put a competitive product on the ice. In Nashville, they aren’t afforded this same luxury. Much of the mystique about the Nashville situation is that on an annual basis, the organization spends little but still manages to make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.
Interestingly, one of the criticisms of the Moneyball philosophy has been that it’s a strategy that hasn’t generated much in terms of postseason success. A simple glance at Nashville’s playoff history paints a similar picture – a career record of 6 wins and 16 losses. Although they have faced perennial powerhouses in the Red Wings and Sharks, in their four postseason experiences, Nashville has failed to win more than two games in any quarterfinal series.
So although Nashville’s track record for maximizing the value of their draft picks, if their front office personnel are not accustomed to spending towards the cap limit, there’s also no guarantee that they can maximize the value of this extra money any better than this current Senators brain-trust. (Note: Maximizing the draft value of their picks is generally accepted as one of the few things that the Bryan Murray regime has done well.)
Ultimately, the biggest concern that I have is that once a new variable like money has been introduced to the Nashville equation, there’s no certainty that Fenton wouldn’t frivolously spend that money on players. Getting back to my Oakland Athletics analogy, the Moneyball phenomenon has caught on and many organizations have plucked GMs from the A’s front office. Names like Paul DePodesta (Los Angeles Dodgers) and JP Ricciardi (Toronto Blue Jays) have struggled when given the reins to their own respective franchises.
Done some fine work in Milwaukee, and the Predators website claims "He has been in charge of all player acquisitions since joining the Predators and managed the club’s Entry Draft efforts since 2003 (when the team selected Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Kevin Klein and Alexander Sulzer)."
@Nichols6thSens Yeah but it took Moore 5 seasons to build that system, and Ottawa isn't as bad as Kansas City is (I don't know what the NHL equivalent is to an Alex Gordon-Melky Cabrera-Jeff Francoeur is, and I don't want to know). As you said in your podcast, Ottawa isn't a bad situation to walk into. Thee blueline prospects are there, Ottawa already has a first line centre, and a lottery pick. I'm not saying Tim Murray should be the next GM, but he's at least worth a look.
@CrooklynBanks Dayton Moore has accumulated one of the deepest and best farm systems that scouts have ever seen. That being said... yeah, look at the current product in Kansas City or look at the situation here in Ottawa. There's more to being a good GM than drafting.
@Nichols6thSens Well Tim Murray knows the Ottawa farm system and if everyone wants to call him Bryan Murray 2.0, then no one can say anything about his ability to draft. The only difference between them is experience. Fenton has been working in Nashville for 13 years, so he's the better candidate on paper. But to bring up another baseball reference, Dayton Moore's resume looked great, and look at the Royals.
@CrooklynBanks Exactly. But as you mentioned on Twitter this afternoon, you think Tim Murray has done a fine job with Bingo and should be considered as a candidate for the gig here in Ottawa.
So if both of these guys have done reasonable jobs with their respective organization's, beyond the PR disaster that would happen if Tim Murray got the job, what's the difference between the two candidates?