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Ranking the GM contenders

Dave Molinari 1 year ago

Pierre McGuire

Could NBC's Pierre McGuire, right, be the Penguins' next GM? (Photo credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The next public syllable anyone involved in the Penguins’ search for a new general manager utters – be it on the record, off the record or mumbled under his breath – will be the first, and almost certainly won’t come until the process is complete and Ray Shero’s successor is in place.

That means all of the speculation about who’s going to end up with the job is based, at best, on second-hand information. And, in many cases, probably more like fifth- or sixth-hand.

Nonetheless, there is a diverse field of contenders, with varying qualifications, to take over the job.

Below is one man’s ranking – one man who, obviously, has not been involved in any part of the selection process – of the six candidates known to have discussed the position with the group that will choose the Penguins’ next GM.

(Any resemblance to a similar list team officials might have compiled is purely coincidental. At best.)

1. Jason Botterill – Sometimes, the best answer is the most obvious one, and that might well be the case here. Botterill was Shero’s assistant and has handled every conceivable duty, from negotiating contracts to evaluating free agents, during five seasons in that role. He is regarded as one of the top young front-office talents in the league, and it’s a given that he will be a general manager sometime soon. There appears to be no good reason that it shouldn’t happen now. Here.

2. Julien BriseBois – His credentials are very similar to Botterill’s, with two significant exceptions: He didn’t play at the NHL level, and he doesn’t have Botterill’s familiarity with the Penguins’ personnel, on and off the ice. BriseBois is, by all accounts, an extremely sharp guy who could get up to speed faster than most and he’s a virtual lock to be an NHL GM before much longer. Having worked under Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman can only help BriseBois when he takes charge of his own club and, while some hardcore hockey people seem to be a bit put off by him, there’s every reason to think he’ll do well when given control of a club.

3. Paul Fenton – Pretty much a one-dimensional guy to this point in his management career, but it’s a dimension – player assessment and development – that Penguins ownership apparently wants to emphasize in coming seasons. As David Poile’s assistant in Nashville, Fenton has overseen the Predators’ drafting and development, a critical position for a franchise that traditionally operates on a tight budget. If and when he becomes a GM, Fenton will have to have an assistant well-versed in negotiating contracts and other aspects of the job with which he has little, if any, experience.

4. Pierre McGuire – Easily the most high-risk candidate, if only because he hasn’t been part of a team’s staff for nearly two decades. No one disputes that he is enthusiastic, personable and has a voluminous knowledge of people in the game, but that doesn’t necessarily translate directly to organizing and running a team effectively. Perhaps McGuire could develop into a GM so brilliant he would make people forget about front-office legends like Sam Pollock and Bill Torrey, but the perils of turning an organization over to a relative novice who has not been part of a team for so long can’t be ignored, especially when there are so many other qualified, conventional candidates. Still, it would be no surprise to learn eventually that he has dazzled in discussions with the decision-makers.

5. Jim Rutherford -- An initial omission from this list and probably a distant long shot, at best, to get the job. He put together a Stanley Cup-winning team in Carolina as GM nearly a decade ago, but nothing that organization did in recent years suggests he merits major consideration. Although Rutherford, who recently stepped down as GM recently and was replaced by Ron Francis, might benefit from a change of scenery and a bigger budget, other candidates simply appear to be more compelling.

6. Tom Fitzgerald – He has earned a reputation for solid hands-on work with young players and hasn’t lost the hockey sense that made him an effective role player in the NHL for a lot of seasons. But like Fenton, his experiences are mostly limited to player evaluation and development; he has done little, if anything, with negotiating contracts and other GM-level duties. Fitzgerald might well be an effective GM someday, although giving up the kind of role he fills now probably won’t be easy for him, but he likely will need to flesh out his resume with at least a few years as an assistant GM before that happens.