As the 2011-12 NHL season begins, the managerial ranks around the NHL are relatively steady. But for several of the 30 men who serve as general manager of an NHL club, those jobs can quickly turn on them. Here are four general managers who could quickly find themselves out of jobs if things don't go well this season.
Fletcher begins his third season as the man in charge in Minnesota and unless the Wild turn it around this season, it may be his last. He and his management team added salary in Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen, and Marek Zdlicky and Mikko Koivu's extensions and missed the playoffs again.
This summer he's overhauled the roster through his dealings with San Jose. If the Wild are competitive in 2011-12, they will probably buy Fletcher another season to add to the roster from his pool of drafted prospects (something predecessor Doug Risebrough was never able to build) and use the excess cap space available to him. However, if the Wild spend the season at the bottom of the Western Conference, Fletcher may get the boot.
Fletcher has already presided over the end of the Wild's legendary sellout streak and declining local television ratings -- a third season without playoff hockey should make enough of an impact on the bottom line to get owner Craig Leipold's attention.
Eventually, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider is going to tire of the non-stop excuses and find himself a new General Manager. This might be the year. Holmgren did an amazing job in turning the Flyers around after the 2006-07 season when Philadelphia finished with 56 points. However, part of that turnaround included overpaying Daniel Briere and Kimmo Timonen.
The ascent of Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell and Jeff Carter gave the Flyers exceptional forward depth, but they were light on defense. After losing to the Penguins in the playoffs in 2008-09, Holmgren set about fixing his defense to shut down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He did so by signing Chris Pronger to a 35+ contract (possibly unknowingly) and overpaying Scott Hartnell. Those contracts eventually cost the Flyers Simon Gagne when they couldn't fit him under the salary cap.
Last season's culprit was beer and goaltending. In response, Holmgren traded Richards and Carter away for Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and some hope. He once again overpaid for another free agent, Ilyz Bryzgalov. He's overhauled the roster three times and has no more excuses left. If Philly bombs early in the playoffs, Holmgren is out.
He was hired to clean up an inheirited mess from Doug MacLean, but so far hasn't helped the situation with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has seemingly drafted better than MacLean, but that's damning with faint praise.
Howson tried to make the playoffs via the veteran route, signing Sami Pahlsson to a three-year contract, trading for Chris Clark and claiming Ethan Moreau from waivers. The Pahlsson contract was an overpay and while Clark still had some game, injuries limited his contribution. Like his mentor Kevin Lowe's team, he paid way too much for Steve Mason's services in a buyer's market.
This offseason he added $15.2 million to the his long-term with Jeff Carter's $58 million contract through a trade, re-signing Fedor Tyutin to a $27 million contract and adding James Wisniewski in a $33 million unrestricted free agent deal. His most recent signing of R.J. Umberger adds another $23 million to his long-term commitments. He's added a great deal of contract debt to a team that consistently loses money.
Howson enters his fifth season at the helm and if he doesn't make the playoffs after taking on $141 million in contracts, it's a near-certainty that he's out.
The once crafty and sometimes shady Lamoriello has become just another guy after the NHL slapped him on the wrist for his attempt at circumventing the salary cap with his original Ilya Kovalchuk deal. He's consistently wedged against the salary cap and has made some bold, if not questionable moves this off-season to shed salary and contracts. He's no longer dominating other general managers in the trade market -- that's Doug Wilson's gig now -- and he's giving away useful players for space.
With the New Jersey Devils in some financial difficulty, the playoffs are a must. If the Devils miss the playoffs again, Lamoriello will finally find himself on the hot seat.
And now, three men who aren't necessarily on the hot seat this season, but probably should be.
Each offseason, the New York Rangers general manager is the front-runner for the highest priced unrestricted free agent on the market. His ability to overpay free agents is legendary, demonstarted by his signings since the lockout.
They include Chris Drury: 5 years, $35.250 million ($7.05 million cap hit); Scott Gomez: 7 years, $51.5 million ($7.357 cap hit); Wade Redden: 6 years, $39 million ($6.5 million cap hit); Marian Gaborik: 5 years, $37.5 million ($7.5 million cap hit); Derek Boogaard: 4 years, $6.5 million ($1.625 million cap hit); Brad Richards: 9 years, $60 million ($6.66 million cap hit). He's spent all of that money and the Rangers have won two playoff series.
The Dolans might have an enormous amount of money, but at some point they must recognize how poorly this investment is performing.
He's signed a goalie on his last legs to a 35+ contract for $15 million. He's piloted the Edmonton Oilers to two consecutive last-place finishes (one while spending to the cap) and bungled the hiring and firing of his hockey icon head coach. In any other situation, the general manager would have been fired already. In Edmonton, Tambellini and his predecessor-now-President Kevin Lowe have sold the owner and fans on a six-year rebuild plan.
He tore apart the Florida Panthers in order to remake them in his image, shedding skill to add perceived "toughness" and shedding enormous amounts of salary in the process. Then, rather than add some short-term fixes while he waits on his prospects to develop, he added $112.3 million in long-term commitments to the Panthers' bottom line.
The Panthers are one of the biggest money-losers in the NHL and value should be the key word in Sunrise. Instead, Tallon has enough long-term commitments that he's going to have to sign all of his prospects to their second contract while navigating the cap hits of the $112.3 million players. Overpaying free agents and sending a team into cap hell?
This sounds extremely familiar. It's hard to believe Tallon didn't learn the lessons of his first go-round.
Images via Getty and AP.