Ranking the GMs: Northeast Division
March, 13, 2012
By Alvin Chang | ESPN Insider
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesMarian Hossa is only one of many finds during the career of Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier.
Last week we looked at the Atlantic GMs and this week we're focusing on the Northeast Division, which is an interesting case study on longtime GMs. Outside of Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, the other four guys have collectively participated in more than 50 drafts -- but they all got here in different ways, and it's reflected in their drafting success. The issue here, though, is sustainability.
Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier has been able to maintain success with one club since 1997 because he can find value without great draft position. Theoretically, it means a team can continue to be good without receding into the lottery to stock up on talent. There's a reason he's been with one team for so long.
In comparison, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke can't, for the life of him, find value in the late rounds. But he sure knows what to do with those early first-rounders -- but those only come with a bad team. And Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray has found All-Stars with the mid-to-late first-rounders, which is harder than it sounds -- and extremely valuable when your team is flirting with the playoffs each year.
However, the guy who has made everyone else look bad is Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier, statistically the best drafting GM of the past two decades. He had a little secret in the '90s that led to a ton of success -- but his peers are catching up, so he might need a new strategy to survive. Just to review, here are the ground rules:
1. We're not judging the GMs based simply on the quality of players they have drafted. Because a guy with four top-five picks will always fare better than someone who consistently drafts late in the first round. So, instead, we're looking at how well they've drafted relative to their draft position.
2. We know some GMs let their scouts make the final calls on draft day, but they still are responsible for the picks.
3. We're looking at drafts from 1990 to 2008. Recent drafts are discounted because the jury is out on the large majority of those picks.
4. Metrics are based on Tom Awad's GVT, which is an advanced stat that encompasses all aspects of the game.
With that in mind, let's dive into the Atlantic. The general managers are ranked in descending order.
5. Peter ChiarelliValue added per pick: -1.03 GVT/season
Drafts: Boston Bruins (2007-present)
Top picks: Joe Colborne (No. 16), Zach Hamill (No. 8)
Chiarelli's low metrics are due to a small sample size, since he drafted only 12 players before 2009. So Colborne and Hamill aren't actually very good picks -- not yet at least -- but they're the only two guys who have done anything in the NHL. However, Chiarelli has two things going for him. First off, he took over a squad with a good amount of talent, thanks to predecessor Mike O'Connell who found great value in David Krejci (No. 63) and Patrice Bergeron (No. 45), so there wasn't a huge amount of pressure in finding quick help. Secondly, unlike other GMs who have strong squads, Chiarelli has actually had high draft picks to work with. He's had three top-10 picks, including the No. 2 overall pick in 2010 (Tyler Seguin), thanks to the Phil Kessel trade. Now, as long as the Bruins are good, that probably won't last and, to maintain success, he'll have to find solid NHLers in places where it's statistically unlikely.
4. Brian BurkeValue added per pick: : -0.03 GVT/season
Drafts: Toronto Maple Leafs (2009-present), Anaheim Ducks (2005-2008), Vancouver Canucks (1998-2003), Hartford Whalers (1992-1993)
Top picks: Manny Legace (No. 188), Ryan Kesler (No. 23), Kevin Bieksa (No. 151), Henrik Sedin (No. 3), Daniel Sedin (No. 2)
Burke has been a mediocre drafter at his four stops, mostly because he can't find good value in the late rounds. He hasn't found an above-average NHLer outside the first round other than Bieksa, Marek Malik (No. 72) and Andrei Nikolishin (No. 47) -- and that's out of 102 picks before 2008. However, what Burke does do is convert his first-round picks. It started with Chris Pronger (No. 2) in 1993, and then he landed both Sedins after some draft-day haggling. Add Bobby Ryan (No. 2) and Kesler to the list, and those are some pretty good players on his résumé. However, maintaining success requires GMs to find good players without good draft position, and Burke has shown he's not very good at that. In any case, the anti-numbers Burke may not care for these metrics-based rankings.
3. Bryan MurrayValue added per pick: 0.25 GVT/season
Drafts: Ottawa Senators (2007-present), Anaheim Ducks (2002-03), Florida Panthers (1995-2000), Detroit Red Wings (1991-93)
Top picks: Ryan Getzlaf (No. 19), Corey Perry (No. 28), Dan McGillis (No. 238), Jaroslav Spacek (No. 117)
He's made 115 picks from 1990 to 2008, and there's good news and bad news. First the bad: Only 24 percent of his picks play 82 NHL games, which is mediocre. But that almost doesn't matter, because of how much value that 24 percent yields. We often overestimate the value of mid-to-late first-round picks, but in reality it's incredibly hard to find above-average players in those slots. However, in Murray's four stops, he drafted Getzlaf, Perry, Erik Karlsson (No. 15), Radek Dvorak (No. 10), Anders Eriksson (No. 22) and Martin Lapointe (No. 10). In addition, he's found some good value in the late rounds, nabbing McGillis, Spacek, Mike Knuble (No. 76), Filip Kuba (No. 192) and Chris Osgood (No. 54). He's statistically one of the better drafting GMs in the past 20 years, and he's been able to find star players with just one top-10 pick (No. 7, 2002, Joffrey Lupul) which is good news for the Senators, who need to find a way to get out of the mid-to-late lottery.
2. Darcy RegierValue added per pick: 0.51 GVT/season
Drafts: Buffalo Sabres (1997-present)
Top picks: Ryan Miller (No. 138), Thomas Vanek (No. 5), Derek Roy (No. 32), Jason Pominville (No. 55), Tyler Myers (No. 12)
You don't stay in charge this long without being a great drafter, and Regier is exactly that. He's one of the five best drafting GMs since 1990, and these Sabres have been the sole beneficiary. In fact, if you look at the current Sabres roster, almost all the key players were drafted by Regier -- and it required just one top-10 pick (Vanek). First there's Miller, who was a great find in the fifth round. But then you have a plethora of skaters, including Roy, Pominville, Myers, Drew Stafford (No. 13), Tyler Ennis (No. 26), Nathan Gerbe (No. 142) and Andrej Sekera (No. 71). Regier seems to have a particularly good eye for underrated defensemen, as he's nabbed Myers, Dennis Wideman (No. 241), Brian Campbell (No. 156), Jan Hejda (No. 106) and Keith Ballard (No. 11). In short, he's been able to add talent without great draft position, which is exactly what it takes to keep your job in one place for a long time.
1. Pierre GauthierValue added per pick: 0.91 GVT/season
Drafts: Montreal Canadiens (2010-present), Anaheim Ducks (1998-2001), Ottawa Senators (1996-98)
Top picks: Top picks: Marian Hossa (No. 12), Ilya Bryzgalov (No. 44), Magnus Arvedson (No. 119), Sami Salo (No. 239)
Gauthier is statistically the best drafting GM of the past 20 years, and there's a reason for it: He knows he needs to find good value in the draft -- and he knows where to look. He gained a reputation as having a fondness for European players, but that's because Europe has been where NHL teams can find great value. He landed guys like Hossa, Bryzgalov, Arvedson, Salo, Karel Rachunek (No. 229), Andreas Dackell (No. 136) and P.A. Parenteau (No. 264) -- all incredible value picks. He comes from a scouting background with the Quebec Nordiques, and he understands the importance of the draft for teams that don't spend boatloads of money.
In his first GM gig with the thrifty Senators -- when there was no salary cap -- he told the Ottawa Citizen, "The draft is the one place where you're even with all the other teams. It's the one scenario where you're allowed to be better without spending money." He's had only two drafts with the Habs, so the jury is out on any recent success. But he hasn't had a second- or third-round pick in either draft and he's drafted only three European players. NHL teams are doing a better job sifting through talent in Europe these days, so Gauthier might need to change his strategy a bit in Montreal.