NHL’s 5 Most Overrated General Managers

The Hockey Writers

It’s impossible to build a Stanley Cup champion without a great general manager (GM) to lead the front office. They are the architects, the ones with a plan and a vision for how the team should draft well, develop and make superb free agency and trade deadline additions, and everything in between.

Related: Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman Silences Critics with Tarasenko Signing

Some NHL GMs get a lot of credit for what they’ve built. Some have received more credit than they deserve. The term overrated is subjective, but a handful of GMs deserve that tag as they aren’t doing as well as perceived to be in the public eye. So, here’s a look at the five most overrated in the league.

5. Rob Blake

Rob Blake isn’t necessarily considered one of the best GMs in the league, but rather that he’s done a respectable job with the Los Angeles Kings, turning them into a competitive team. But why isn’t he in the hot seat, or why isn’t he under more pressure, considering how he’s operated, especially considering his recent moves?

The Kevin Fiala trade wasn’t bad. It gave the Kings an elite winger to turn a young and promising roster into a contender. But what Blake gave up in the deal stings, including a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, which the Minnesota Wild used on Liam Ohgrem, who could be a key part of their forward unit starting next season. The other piece was Brock Faber, who finished second in the Calder Trophy voting and made his mark as one of the best defensemen in the league this season. Fiala scored 52 goals and 93 assists in two seasons with the Kings, so the deal can be seen as a win-win. The next one, not so much.

One offseason after trading for Fiala, Blake took a big swing and missed, acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets and then signing him to an eight-year contract. That one deal could set the Kings back for years, especially since they gave up Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iaffalo, and Rasmus Kupari to get him. After only one season with the Kings, Blake had to cut his losses and deal Dubois to the Washington Capitals.

Blake doesn’t appear to have a short leash, but if the Kings struggle or are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs again (inevitably by the Edmonton Oilers), he might be replaced next offseason. If he is, it will be easy to look back at his tenure and say what if. The Kings had a great rebuild going, with many prospects making their way onto the NHL roster. Imagine how much better the team would look if they added Faber, Vilardi, and Iafallo to a roster that has Brandt Clarke, Quinton Byfield, and a handful of other skaters 25 years old or younger.

4. Bill Guerin

One of the most respected GMs in the NHL, Bill Guerin was named GM of the USA hockey team for the 4 Nations Face-Off and the 2026 Winter Olympics, showing his standing in the league. Aside from his reputation, Guerin has made some good moves since he was hired in 2019 to help turn the Wild into a competitive team – he was on the other side of that Faber deal.

Bill Guerin Minnesota Wild GM
Bill Guerin, Minnesota Wild GM (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The problem is Guerin’s teams, while good, haven’t done much. The Wild have reached the playoffs in four of the five seasons that he’s been operating the front office but have yet to win a playoff series. He’s had no issue building competitive teams but has struggled to build a team that can get over the hump and make a deep playoff run. After a slow start last season, Guerin decided to make a coaching change and hire John Hynes, a questionable hire considering his track record but one the team needed, and the hope is that he’s the coach that can lead them to the Cup.

Guerin’s established himself as one of the best, but patience might be wearing thin. It’s rare for a GM to last five seasons or longer without playoff success of some sort. Another bad season could have the public and the Wild fanbase turn on him and demand change.

3. Don Waddell

Don Waddell is the only GM in his first year with a team to make this list, and he wouldn’t have made it if not for the terrible start to his tenure with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was hired in the hopes of bringing stability to an organization that needed it. Yet, just one offseason in, things aren’t looking good.

The first issue was the firing of head coach Pascal Vincent. Sure, it had to happen, considering how bad the Blue Jackets looked last season, but it happened way too late. They fired Vincent in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final, by which time every team is preparing for the draft and the offseason with a coach already on their staff. Suddenly, the team is on their third head coaching search since the 2023 offseason.

In Waddell’s defense, Vincent shouldn’t have been fired under his watch. The Blue Jackets had a prime opportunity to clean house as soon as the season ended and instead waited until they hired a new GM before deciding whether the coach was right for the job. It’s a sign of dysfunction on all levels. What makes things worse is that at the time of writing, the Blue Jackets still don’t have a head coach and essentially went through the entire offseason process without one. There’s a cliche about players signing with a specific team to play for a certain coach under their style and system. Well, this team doesn’t have one.

Along with the coaching SNAFU were the offseason moves by Waddell. Most notably, he signed center Sean Monahan to a five-year deal, which puts into question what direction the team is headed in. Ideally, the Blue Jackets use this season to allow their prospects to develop and get their ice time at the NHL level. This move conflicts with that.

Waddell has plenty of time to turn the Blue Jackets around and make them contenders. He was able to do it with the Carolina Hurricanes, making them perennial contenders since he was hired in 2018. However, the Blue Jackets are off to a rocky start with Waddell at the helm.

2. Steve Yzerman

Trust the “Yzerplan” is what fans keep saying. Steve Yzerman was hired in the 2019 offseason in hopes of cleaning up the mess made by the former Detroit Red Wings GM and turning the team into a dynasty. After all, he turned the Tampa Bay Lightning into a model franchise in his previous stop, so why wouldn’t he be able to do that with the Red Wings?

Heading into Yzerman’s fifth season as the Red Wings’ GM, they have yet to make the playoffs. They were close last season but stumbled in the final month and came up short. What makes last season all the more upsetting is that the expectations, especially after acquiring Alex DeBrincat, were to make the playoffs and compete with the best in the Atlantic Division.

His tenure hasn’t been a mess. On the contrary, Yzerman has made some great moves and built up the farm system in a short time to give the Red Wings hope. Yet goaltending seems to be his Achilles heel. He drafted Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first round of the 2012 Draft, but since then, he’s stumbled on every major move involving a goaltender. The Red Wings have started 11 goaltenders since the 2019-20 season, and the Alex Nedeljkovic trade, in particular, was a flop, as it looked like they found their starter of the future, only to see him off the roster in two seasons.

There’s a lot of pressure on the Red Wings to make the playoffs, and there’s still a lot of confidence in Yzerman. However, at some point, the public will turn against him. When he was hired, it was easy to blame the roster and the previous regime for the issues. When the Red Wings were in the middle of a rebuild, it was easy to blame the coaching staff. Now, all the pressure shifts to the front office, and if the team still underachieves, that’s where the heat will be directed.

1. Brad Treliving

It’s hard to knock the Brad Treliving era since it only began in the 2023 offseason. However, Treliving, often regarded as one of the best GMs in the league and one poised to turn a team into a contender, has done anything but in his years operating front offices.

Before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was hired to be the Calgary Flames GM in 2014 and turned them into a good but not great team. Sure, the Flames had some great seasons, finishing in first place in the Pacific Division twice in four seasons, but they never had a deep playoff run, advancing to the second round only twice and never reaching the Western Conference Final.

Brad Treliving Toronto Maple Leafs
Brad Treliving, General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Treliving made some great moves for the Flames. However, his inability to find a reliable starting goaltender didn’t help, with swings on Mike Smith, Cam Talbot, and Jacob Markstrom that backfired, but the Flames were built to win the Cup, and the only issue was that they came up short. Then came the 2022 offseason and the subsequent season. Treliving couldn’t re-sign Johnny Gaudreau and had his hands tied in the Matthew Tkachuk trade, but then signed Nazem Kadri in hopes of keeping the team competitive. They missed the playoffs, and it cost him his job.

Treliving is starting to make his mark on the Maple Leafs. He replaced Sheldon Keefe with Craig Berube as head coach, and he made some big signings this offseason, notably Chris Tanev, adding a key player to the defense. The Maple Leafs have a high bar, and the expectation is that Treliving can build a Cup contender, but if this team continues to come up short, they’ll be searching for another GM sooner rather than later.

NHL GM Honorable Mentions

Tom Fitzgerald stands out, especially with expectations for the New Jersey Devils. They won the lottery multiple times to land elite talent. Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Simon Nemec were all selected with the first or second overall pick in their respective drafts, while Luke Hughes went fourth overall in the 2022 Draft. This gave the Devils a young core to build around, but they’ve struggled to take the team to the next level. The 2023 offseason, in particular, put a bad light on Fitzgerald, as he made the push to acquire Tyler Toffoli in a deal that sent multiple pieces to the Flames, only to trade the veteran for pennies on the dollar at the trade deadline.

The Anaheim Ducks have given Pat Verbeek a long leash, arguably too long. They hired him in the middle of the 2021-22 season to help fast forward the rebuild, and they remain in the same spot they were in when he took over. Verbeek is trying to both keep the rebuild on track and add veteran talent to help this team compete, and it’s gotten them nowhere.

Lou Lamoriello might be considered an overrated GM, regarded as one of the best in the league, notably among his peers. However, he’s constantly in the hot seat, and the fanbase of the New York Islanders won’t be shy to demand his resignation. The constant pressure for his teams to have good seasons and his ability to remain the GM despite minimal change might make him underrated, oddly enough.

Which GM do you think is overrated? Let us know in the comments section below.

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