Ranking the NHL's GMcoach combos


The two most important off-ice positions of any NHL franchise are the general manager and the head coach. GMs will be busy right up to the trade deadline and coaches will be feeling the pressure as the postseason draws closer. Which pair would you want leading your franchise? I rank the 30 NHL GMcoach combinations in the league:
1. Detroit Red Wings (Ken HollandMike Babcock)The Gold Standard. The Wings havent missed the playoffs since Holland took over in 1997. Three Stanley Cups. Holland continues to find hidden gems in the draft. Babcock has made three trips to the Finals since 2003, winning his first and only Cup in 2008.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Finding a captain and a No. 1 defenseman once Niklas Lidstrom retires.

2. Boston Bruins (Peter ChiarelliClaude Julien)Nothing flashy about either guy, but they have simply produced results. They have built their franchise around the NHLs best defenseman, Zdeno Chara, and stuck with an unconventional Tim Thomas, who has won the Vezina Trophy in two of the past three seasons. They received good return in the Phil Kessel trade. Julien has done a fantastic job of tailoring a system around his personnel and the Bs have averaged 100 points over Juliens first four seasons in Boston.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will they have enough gas in the tank to win back-to-back Stanley Cups?
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (Ray SheroDan Bylsma)Inheriting Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin can make any GM look good, but Shero has done a solid job of adding complimentary pieces. he turning point came on Feb. 15, 2009 when Shero fired Michel Terrien with the team five points out of the playoff chase and replaced him with Bylsma, who led the Pens to the Stanley Cup four months later. Last season, Bylsma earned the Jack Adams award as coach of the year. After losing Crosby with a concussion the Penguins tied for the second most points in the Eastern Conference.

Biggest question mark moving forward: The health of Sidney Crosby and his contract that expires next season.

4. Philadelphia Flyers (Paul HolmgrenPeter Laviolette)Holmgren may be the most aggressive and active GM in the league, and it continued with the makeover in 2011 after trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Impressively, there hasnt been a drop-off in production. Holmgren has set up the franchise down the future with Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and 23-year-old Hart Trophy candidate Claude Giroux. Laviolette has improved every team he has coached, including winning a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Can the Flyers live with the nine-year, 51-million contract they gave Ilya Bryzgalov?

5. Vancouver Canucks (Mike GillisAlain Vigneault)Gillis took over in 2008 and immediately changed the direction by parting ways with long-time captain Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison. He was named GM of the year in 2011 following the Canucks' President Trophy-winning season. He re-signed the Sedins just hours prior to free agency in 2009. Vigneault has been a finalist for the Jack Adams award three times, winning the award in 2007.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will last years Cup loss to the Bruins have a psychological impact on goalie Roberto Luongo, who is signed through 2022?

6. San Jose Sharks (Doug WilsonTodd McLellan)Since 2003-04, Wilsons Sharks have been the best regular season team in the NHL. The playoffs are another story. San Jose just cant make it past the Conference Finals. Wilson has done an outstanding job of drafting good, young forwards. He made a major move in dealing away Dany Heatley. Todd McLellan is an extension of the Babcock coaching tree and has won roughly 70 percent of his games since taking over in 2008.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Can Joe Thornton lead this team to a Stanley Cup Championship as the face of the franchise?
7. Nashville Predators (David PoileBarry Trotz)Every year it seems that one of these two guys is a finalist for a postseason award. Theyve been together since the franchises inception back in 1998. The Preds have made the playoffs in six of the previous seven seasons on a shoestring budget. Poile has had a knack of finding discarded talent and late-round draft gems, like Patric Hornqvist. Trotz has done a superb job of maximizing the potential from his players over the years.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will they be able to afford defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter?

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (Brian BurkeRon Wilson)Burke, like Holmgren, is very aggressive. He drafted the Sedins and Ryan Kesler in Vancouver, traded for Chris Pronger in Anaheim and won the Cup. He has an impressive track record, but a Toronto Maple Leafs resurrection may be his most challenging. He paid handsomely for Phil Kessel, who is finally putting up superstar numbers. His blue-line moves have been questionable. Wilson could never get the Sharks over the hump and in his first three seasons in Toronto, he has yet to make the Leafs into an Eastern Conference contender.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Can the Leafs land a No. 1 center theyve desperately needed since the departure of Mats Sundin?

9. Chicago Blackhawks (Stan BowmanJoel Quenneville)While Bowman wasnt the architect of the Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010, he has dug the organization out of salary cap purgatory following the teams championship by dealing away guys like Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien, while solidifying the teams long-term outlook as the core of the team is all locked up through 2016. Quenneville may be one of the leagues more underrated coaches. Quenneville and Ron Wilson are the only two active coaches with 600 wins.

Biggest question mark moving forward: The Hawks won a Stanley Cup with an unknown in Antii Niemi. Can they do it again with Corey Crawford?

10. Washington Capitals (George McPheeDale Hunter)Surprisingly, McPhee is the second-longest tenured GM behind New Jerseys Lou Lamoriello. He has constructed the team around an explosive offense led by Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and offensive-minded defenseman Mike Green. The Caps have finished with the best record in the East the past two seasons, but have flopped in the playoffs, failing to advance past the Conference Semifinals. Hunter started slowly, but his biggest challenge will be reinvigorating Ovechkin, who has seen his production go south after three straight 50-goal seasons.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will the addition of Tomas Vokoun and an improved blue line be enough to go deep into the playoffs?

11. New Jersey Devils (Lou LamorielloPete DeBoer)If I had to compose this list two years ago, the Devils unquestionably would be top-10, perhaps top-five. Until last season, the Devils had made the postseason every year since 1995, a remarkable run of success. Then again, Martin Brodeur can make any GM look brilliant. Still, you cant overlook how Hall-of-Famer Lamoriello has constructed his teams over the years. However, you can dispute the 15-year contract the franchise gave Ilya Kovalchuk and the salary cap stranglehold that saw the Devils dress just three lines for one game this season. The organization needs stability behind the bench. Well see if DeBoer can provide it.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will Lamoriello lock up winger Zach Parise long term?

12. New York Rangers (Glen SatherJohn Tortorella)Finally, after 10 years, Sather has this Rangers team looking like a serious contender in the Eastern conference. His drafts have gradually gotten better. Hes made horrendous free-agent decisions in the past. Signing Wade Redden to a six-year contract comes to mind. Now, the Blueshirts have a solid defensive corps with Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto. I wasnt sure about the Marian Gaborik signing (five years, 37.5 million), but he has stepped up and Brad Richards is the No. 1 center the Rangers have needed. Tortorella has turned around the teams approach and work ethic.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Can the Rangers maintain their current pace over an 82-game season and into the playoffs?

13. St. Louis Blues (Doug ArmstrongKen Hitchcock)Armstrong is one of the more respected GMs in the league after spending the majority of his career in Dallas. He came to St. Louis and his first move was solidifying the net with the acquisition of Jaroslav Halak. Hes also added former captains Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott to give the Blues some much-needed veteran presence. The hiring of Hitchcock was a shot in the arm the team desperately needed. The Former Flyers coach has propelled the Blues into one of the top teams in the Western Conference, but will it last?

Biggest question mark moving forward: Can their youth take the necessary leap to contend with the other top teams in the West?

14. Phoenix Coyotes (Dave MaloneyDave Tippett)Somehow through bankruptcy, NHL ownership takeover and constant relocation rumors, the product on the ice has seen its value rise. Give credit to Maloney, who continues to find bargains and league-wide castoffs, including goalie Mike Smith this season. He also hired Tippett, who has implemented a defensive-minded system, propelling Phoenix to back-to-back playoff seasons and was the Jack Adams winner in 2010. The organization has a great captain in Shane Doan.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Quite simply, the future of the franchise. Will they have steady ownership willing to spend money and will it include a move to Canada?

15. Florida Panthers (Dale TallonKevin Dineen)Considering their inability to reach the postseason, you may think this ranking is considerably high, but Tallon was responsible for assembling the current Chicago Blackhawks and he made a statement when he signed 10 players during the first two days of free agency. Versteeg has been a nice fit. Tallon has also stockpiled youth with 23 picks in his first two drafts. A 19-year NHL vet, Dineen has earned the respect of his players at the AHL level and in his first season in Florida, where hes created a more easy-going atmosphere.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Can they finally break a 10-year playoff drought, the longest for any NHL team in one city?

16. Buffalo Sabres (Darcy ReigerLindy Ruff)The longest-tenured GMcoach combo in the league. The two have been together since 1997. In their second year, the Sabres advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Dallas Stars in six games. Remarkably, Buffalo compiled a 105-46-13 record from 2005-07, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back years. Despite losing Danny Briere, Brian Campbell and Chris Drury to free agency, the organization has remained competitive. However, they overpaid dearly for former Flyer Ville Leino (six years, 27 million).

Biggest question mark moving forward: If the Sabres continue their losing ways, will Reiger or Ruff survive despite their long-term stability?

17. Dallas Stars (Joe NieuwendykGlen Gulutzan)I like the direction Joe Nieuwendyk has the Stars' franchise headed now that the ownership situation has been settled. Under Nieuwendyk, Dallas has transitioned from the Mike Modano-Marty Turco era to a gritty, scrappy team under first-year coach Gulutzan. They just re-signed defenseman Alex Goligoski, acquired in the trade for James Neal, to a four-year extension. Can Kari Lehtonen be the answer in net after an injury-plagued career in Atlanta? Not so sure.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Now with new ownership in place and cap space, will management be allowed to make aggressive moves going forward?

18. Tampa Bay Lightning (Steve YzermanGuy Boucher)Coming off a year when the Bolts advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, much was expected in Year Two of the Yzerman regime and the Lightning have taken a major step back. I believe the decision to reward Dwayne Roloson with one more year instead of pursuing a free-agent goaltender crippled Tampa this season. They rank last in defense and surprisingly with all of their front-line firepower, the Lightnings power play ranks in the bottom five. Dont be surprised if a coaching change takes place prior to next season.
Biggest question mark moving forward: Can Yzerman shed salary prior to next season, where they have just 14 players already locked up at 45 million?

19. Los Angeles Kings (Dean LombardiDarryl Sutter)The Kings were a preseason favorite to win the West after acquiring Richards from Philadelphia and signing free agent Simon Gagne. You look at it on paper and wonder how can this team not win? Depth at the forward position, a solid group on defense and one of the best goaltending tandems in the league. Yet, for some reason they cant score, ranking dead last in offense. Lombardi replaced a laid-back Terry Murray with an intense, feisty Darryl Sutter in mid-season and the Kings have responded.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Can the young core of Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Richards develop the chemistry needed to win at least one playoff round?

20. Ottawa Senators (Bryan MurrayPaul MacLean)This is Murrays fourth different team where he has served as general manager, taking over the team after Ottawas run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007. Since then, the Sens have either lost in the first round or have failed to make the playoffs altogether. Sergei Gonchar hasnt been much of a difference maker since signing in 2010. Murray has had a quick trigger when it comes to coaching changes and MacLean is the fourth different coach under Murray. MacLean, an assistant under Babcock in Detroit, has helped revive Jason Spezzas career.
Biggest question mark moving: Will they make a move to secure a No. 1 goaltender and will it include trading captain Daniel Alfredsson?
21. Colorado Avalanche (Greg ShermanJoe Sacco)Like the Oilers, theres a lot to like about this Colorado franchise with some very good and very young talent: 19-year-old Gabriel Landeskog, 20-year-old Ryan OReilly and 21-year-old Matt Duchene. In his first year at the helm, the Scranton-born Sherman saw the Avs enjoy the second-best turnaround in the league, only to take two steps back the following season. Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been fantastic in net. Head coach Sacco was a Jack Adams finalist in his first year, but a change could be made if Colorado misses the playoffs again.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Is it time for a total youth movement, which would include dealing Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk at the deadline?

22. Calgary Flames (Jay FeasterBrent Sutter)Feaster served as GM of a Lightning team that defeated the Flames to win the Stanley Cup in 2004. Now, he resides in Calgary to improve a team that has finished in the mid-90 point range over the past five years, missing the playoffs the past two seasons. Their long-term contracts are locked up in guys who havent been difference makers, most notably Alex Tanguay and Jay Bouwmeester. Sutter very easily could be on the hot seat if Calgary misses the postseason once again.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will Feaster trade the greatest player in franchise history, Jarome Iginla, looking ahead to 2013 and beyond?

23. Anaheim Ducks (Bob MurrayBruce Boudreau)Murray took over in November of 2008 after Brian Burke parted for Toronto. He traded Pronger to the Flyers the following summer and received the equivalent of four first-round draft picks. Hes been trying to restock his defense since that trade and the retirement of Scott Niedermayer. After a horrible start, Murray fired Randy Carlysle and replaced him with Boudreau, whos finally making an impact. If they cant keep their red-hot pace, Anaheim will fail to reach the playoffs for the second time in past three seasons, unacceptable for this talented team.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Talented Ryan Getzlaf has been highly criticized for his leadership this season. Should he keep the C after this season?

24. Carolina Hurricanes (Jim RutherfordKirk Muller)Since winning the Stanley Cup in the year coming out of the lockout, the Hurricanes have failed to make the postseason in four of the previous five seasons. Rutherford has drafted some good, young talent and has a franchise goaltender in Cam Ward, but their defense is wretched and the GM has done little to solidify that area of weakness. Until they strengthen that area, Ward will continue to see a ton of shots every season. Muller is struggling in his first season as head coach after he was praised as an assistant during his time in Montreal.
Biggest question mark moving forward: How many of his impending UFA defensemen will Rutherford trade before the deadline and what can he get in return?

25. Minnesota Wild (Chuck FletcherMike Yeo)If the Wild cant maintain their current hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, then they will miss the postseason for the fourth straight year. They have wilted since Dec. 10 when they surprisingly held the best record in the league. Fletcher has done very little to turn around a stagnant franchise, despite playing in a passionate fan base. He pulled the trigger on a big trade, landing Dany Heatley, but he doesnt provide the leadership this team desperately needs. Yeo coached the Wilds AHL affiliate and given some more firepower he could succeed.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will ownership stick with Fletcher if the Wild fail to reach the playoffs for a fourth straight season?

26. Winnipeg Jets (Kevin CheveldayoffClaude Noel)Considering Cheveldayoff has been on the job since June of 2011, theres not much of a track record here. Right now, the former Atlanta Thrashers are still in the honeymoon phase in Winnipeg. Evander Kane, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft, is a star on the rise. The Jets have a good captain in former Hurricane Andrew Ladd, but the sample size is too small to make a true evaluation on either guy. Fifty games into the 2011-12 season, theyre still a .500 team, where they roughly finished in their final year in Atlanta.

Biggest question mark moving forward: The Jets are desperately hurting for manpower down the middle. How will they beef up the center position?
27. Edmonton Oilers (Steve TambelliniTom Renney)After back-to-back 62-point nightmarish seasons, it appeared this could have been the turnaround year for the Oilers after a 9-3-2 start, but they have been in a tailspin since. Still, they have stockpiled a lot of good, young talent behind 18-year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 20-year-old Taylor Hall and 21-year-old Jordan Eberle. Despite the presence of Ryan Smyth, the Oilers simply dont have the right mix of youth and veteran leadership. I dont believe Tom Renney is the coach to energize and provide emotion for one of the youngest teams in the league.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will the team be able to part with Shawn Horcoff and infuse some veteran presence theyve been missing since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals?

28. New York Islanders (Garth SnowJack Capuano)Snows tenure on the Island will always be defined for giving Rick DiPietro, who has endured a myriad of injuries, that inexplicable 15-year contract (signed through 2022). He has compiled some talent through the draft. Their top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner can strike at any time. I like the work ethic Capuano has instilled in his players. If Evgeni Nabokov can stay healthy, the Islanders should finish in the top-10 of the Eastern Conference and perhaps challenge for the final playoff spot.

Biggest question mark moving forward: How will they rebuild their defense with five UFA defensemen and two UFA goalies?

29. Montreal Canadiens (Pierre GauthierRandy Cunneyworth)Gauthier has done very little to turn around a once-proud franchise. He traded defenseman Jaroslav Spacek to Carolina for Tomas Kaberle, taking on more money and years for an aging blueliner. He apologized to fans for hiring coach Randy Cunneyworth, who has been criticized heavily for not speaking French in the French-speaking Quebec province. Outside of goaltender Carey Price and perhaps P.K. Subban, there are very few building blocks within the Canadiens' organization.

Biggest question mark moving forward: How will they rid themselves of big contracts, especially Scott Gomez and his 7 million cap hit?

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (Scott HowsonTodd Richards)Simply put, the Blue Jackets have the worst points percentage of any active NHL team over their first nine seasons in the league, and Howson has done little to change that. He acquired Carter in a blockbuster deal with the Flyers, but already Carter has expressed dissension playing in Columbus. The Jackets have made the playoffs only once in their 11-year history. They rewarded R.J. Umberger with a surprising five-year, 23 million extension and overpaid for defenseman James Wisniewski. Head coach Richards replaced Scott Arniel in early January.

Biggest question mark moving forward: Will they trade Rick Nash, the franchise cornerstone, for future assets?

E-mail John Boruk at jboruk@comcastsportsnet.com

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