The Crystal Ball: Who Will Be the Next Capitals GM?

With McPhee Out of the Picture, What Does the Crystal Ball Say About Washington’s Future GM?

(Sanjay Acharya/Wikimedia)
(Sanjay Acharya/Wikimedia)

The Washington Capitals are an organization that is currently in a transition period.  General Manager George McPhee, who was behind the GM helm for 17 years, was fired as general manager on April 26.

So what is next?  What direction will Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis take his club?  The possibilities seem endless for the Capitals hockey club.  There is still a relatively young core in place and lots of upside within the organizational ranks.

With the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Marcus Johansson, this team is built from the forwards on back.  The Capitals were only three points out from the 2013-2014 postseason, so they did not miss out by much.

The Caps fanbase has been patient for the past several years, only to see their team get bounced from the playoffs very early.  They are an electric bunch with the “Rock the Red” campaign and they are waiting for their hero Alex Ovechkin to finally hoist the Stanley Cup.

In order for Ovechkin and friends to finally hoist the Stanley Cup, they need to be steered in the right direction.  They need leadership at the top and someone with a fresh set of ideas.  They need an individual who makes winning a top priority, and someone who will try and assemble the best roster possible in an effort to win the Stanley Cup.

This writer has come up with a list of possible general manager candidates for the Capitals.  The list will include a little description about who they are and where they come from.

Possible GM Candidates:

Paul Fenton: Current Nashville Predators Assistant GM
Analysis: Paul has been Nashville’s assistant GM for eight seasons now.  He has been a part of their organization for sixteen seasons.  In his history with Nashville, he has also served as director of player personnel.  He is responsible for Nashville drafting players like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Kevin Klein.  Before he landed in Nashville, he was a scout for the Anaheim Ducks for a few seasons.  He clearly has a background in scouting and developing players in order to help them become full-time NHLers.  He has been groomed in Nashville under the direction of former Capitals GM David Poile.  Is he ready to take the big step in his managerial career and become a full time NHL GM?  If he hopped on board with the Capitals, he could possibly bring the Predators former head coach Barry Trotz along with him.  Fenton could be a very good hire for the Capitals because he does not carry a lot of baggage with him like other GM candidates.

Mike Gillis: Former Vancouver Canucks President and GM
Analysis: Mike was hired by the Canucks in 2008 in hopes that he could reset the Canucks organization.  During his tenure in Vancouver, the Canucks had back to back Presidents’ Trophy seasons in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.  The Canucks also won the Northwest Division in five straight seasons.  He is responsible for bringing in current players like Dan Hamhuis, David Booth, and Jason Garrison.  He is responsible for the Canucks core guys signing long extensions and taking pay cuts to try and keep the team competitive.  Gillis was fired by the Canucks back on April 8 after they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.  It was a toxic end to his tenure in Vancouver.  The fans grew very frustrated while they watched a poor on-ice product for the 2013-2014 season while paying premium ticket prices.  It did not help that he traded fan-favorite goaltenders Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo within the past year for little returns.

Jay Feaster: Former Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames GM
Analysis: Jay won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2004.  He is responsible for drafting Steven Stamkos for the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2008.  After his tenure in Tampa, he took the GM spot with the Calgary Flames back in 2010.  During his short tenure in Calgary, he was responsible for trying to rebuild their club.  He is credited for drafting current young Flames players such as Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Tyler Wotherspoon.  Overall, he has good leadership qualities and is a good guy, but he does not have a brilliant drafting track record.  Feaster was fired by the Flames back in December 2013.

Jim Benning: Current Boston Bruins Assistant GM
Analysis: Jim has been the Assistant GM in Boston for seven seasons.  He has worked under the direction of Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.  Before he became Assistant GM, he was the Director of Player Personnel.  Prior to his Boston arrival in 2006, he was a part of the Buffalo Sabres organization for twelve years.  For eight seasons in Buffalo, he was the team’s Director of Amateur Scouting.  The Boston Bruins have been a model team around the NHL for the past several years.  They have been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice in two seasons and have been near the top of the Eastern Conference for a while.  The consistency is there throughout the Bruins organization.  Jim is a highly targeted candidate around the NHL for some open GM positions.  It will be interesting to see what he decides to do with his future club when he is fully in charge.  He has a good scouting record and has worked his way up the managerial ladder.

Darcy Regier: Former Buffalo Sabres GM
Analysis: Darcy was one of the longest tenured GMs in the NHL in the modern era.  He served as the Sabres GM from 1997-2013 and served the longest tenure in Sabres history.  Under his tenure, the Sabres won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 2006-2007 season.  The Sabres made back to back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.  He is responsible for drafting players like Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, and Ryan Miller.  Darcy always tried to build through the draft.  He could never get the financial support from the Sabres ownership earlier on in his tenure.  Darcy has a good hockey mind, but the Sabres lost their identity in his final seasons as the GM.

Julien Brisebois: Current Tampa Bay Lightning Assistant GM
Analysis: Julien has been Tampa’s Assistant GM for three seasons.  He has been under the direction of Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.  He was the AHL Norfolk Admirals general manager in 2011-2012 when they won the Calder Cup that season.  Before he arrived in Tampa, he was a part of the Montreal Canadiens organization for nine seasons.  He served as general manager of their AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs.  Julien has quickly worked his way up the managerial ladder in the NHL.  He has worked closely with the development of players and has worked with making contracts for Lightning players.  These are important traits to have in the salary-cap world that resides in the NHL.

Is the Crystal Ball Clear or Cloudy?

This writer could see any of the GMs listed above take the helm of the Washington Capitals.  This writer feels that the Capitals should go outside the box and not hire someone who has baggage attached to them.

The Capitals would be best suited to have an individual who can bring a fresh set of ideas to the table.  The Capitals have a good core already in place and do not need to make significant changes to the roster.

What the next Capitals GM needs to do is fill in the missing pieces of the roster so the team can re-enter the playoff picture.  For example, there are a couple of holes to fill on the blueline.  The Capitals have needed a top-four defensive defenseman for some time now.  The next GM should make a defenseman signing (or trade) a high priority on their list.  In addition to signing (or trading) for a defenseman, the next GM has to find a head coach who can bring some fire back into the Capitals organization.  The Capitals lost their identity a bit under former head coaches Dale Hunter and Adam Oates.  It is in the future GM’s best interest to find a coach who can play an up-tempo style of hockey that is exciting to watch.

Whoever takes the job as the next Capitals GM has their work cut out for them.  The Capitals have a very capable roster that can compete as long as Alex Ovechkin is showing no signs of scoring decline.  But the roster needs to be filled in a little bit so it can once again compete for the coveted Stanley Cup.

Thanks for tuning in!