Expansion talk continues to dominate the NHL headlines with the recent news that the League will not make the protected players list public.
As Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski notes, it isn’t the League that wants to protect the lists, it’s the general managers and players who don’t want the public to see the lists. And as NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman always acts in the best interest of the general managers.
However, the GMs need to toughen up and not worry about public perception.
GM Criticism Comes With Territory
As an NHL GM, subjecting yourself to criticism is part of the job description, and every GM who takes the job has to know that. You’re making the personnel decisions for the best hockey league in the world with the best players. The league is a business, not an after-school activity. Winning is all that matters, and who you trade and draft has been and will be evaluated under a microscope for years, especially in the Twitter age, where everyone with an internet connection can have a voice.
For those who have asked, here's an NHL spokesperson's statement on the public release of teams' protected lists for the expansion draft. pic.twitter.com/TiChf2lsDV
— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) March 8, 2017
If you don’t want to have a microscope on every personnel move, become the general manager of a McDonald’s. The pay isn’t nearly as good, but nobody will know/care what questionable personnel decisions you make.
The fact that general managers are so scared of getting their moves questioned boggles my mind. They make trades and refuse to re-sign players every season, but is there outcry for these decisions to remain private? No, because fans want to know what decisions their GM is making in regards to the team’s makeup.
Being the general manager of an NHL team, or any professional team, is tough, there’s no denying that. It’s easy for us as writers, bloggers or fans to sit behind our keyboards and criticize every poor move or trade made. We don’t have the pressure on us of building a competitive team, and we don’t have to deal with money-hungry players or agents in regards to signing contracts.
It’s like NHL referees: They are openly criticized by fans and writers alike for missed or bad calls, but at the end of the day, everyone knows it’s a tough job. Trying to make split-second decisions with players moving at lightning quick speeds while trying to avoid running into those same players isn’t easy, but it’s a job that comes with a lot of criticism. The GM position is no different.
Criticism of Players
The other point, as an NHL team executive told Puck Daddy’s Josh Cooper, is the arbitration process has hurt relationships between management and players for years, and they’re “afraid of it happening here” if players are announced as unprotected.
Again, the NHL is a business. There will be hurt relationships in a business that generates the amount of revenue the NHL does. It’s part of the game. Obviously, no general manager wants to treat players like they are just a dollar figure, and some are quite good at being open and honest with players, but their relationship with players is a complicated one to begin with. It’s very hard to be friends with a boss who has the ability to send you to a different team or league at a moment’s notice.
Being a professional athlete comes with its fair share of criticism. It’s not an easy job, but athletes are paid exceptionally more than the average profession to do those jobs, and owners, general managers, coaches and fans expect them to produce.
I can only imagine how horrible it would feel to be left on the unprotected list, but don’t you think the fourth-line and depth players know they probably will be unprotected? They realize what their role is on the team, and it’s why they play 10-12 minutes a night and don’t see power-play time.
The NHL has an exciting event happening this summer with the expansion draft, and general managers won’t allow the league to capitalize on capturing the buzz.
General managers need to give everyone what they want.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.