This blog is specified between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins -- two teams that have felt the cold and unfair hand of management stamp down on decisions, exiling the General Managers. It is a process which can end a GM's tenure quite easily. The management sees an opportunity, exploits it whether or not the GM sees fit, and the repercussions always fall squarely on the GM regardless.
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In JFJ's case, for example, is a man who was pulled down to the muck because of MLSE, despite his flaws in decision making. A few years ago -- when things were becoming amuck for the Blue and White faithful -- JFJ proposed a rebuilding plan to the upper management in hopes to ice a competitive team in the near future. His idea was shot down, thus forcing him to acquire players like Jason Blake, Mark Bell, Eric Lindros, Jason Allison, and Andrew Raycroft just to name a few. As you know, this type of thing does not project a team forward but rather guides them on a linear path, whatever their goal might be. In the Maple Leafs case, that goal was mediocrity, and boy oh boy did they nail it! In the past two seasons, the Leafs have missed the playoffs, landing in 9th place both times. This season appears to hold the same fate for the Buds, but I suppose anything can happen in the NHL.
The point is, JFJ lost his job because MLSE felt that the team was going nowhere and needed a seasoned veteran like current Leafs-GM Cliff Fletcher to blow it up. There is something terribly wrong here. If MLSE would of followed through with JFJ's initial plan, I wonder what the discussion would be involving the Leafs now days? Maybe speaking of the latest prospects that are tearing it up in the minors, or perhaps discussing the potential of a core a youngster on the Leafs. Instead, we have rants from some of Leafs Nation claiming that Mats Sundin has "let this team down" by not waiving his no-trade clause. It's funny how that works, considering Sundin was hailed a hero 6 months ago.
Don't blame JFJ entirely for the abundance of no-trade clauses on this team either. Sure it was partly his fault, but we must remember that he did not plan such a questionable stance for the Leafs to begin with. He worked with what he had, and was forced to propel them to the post-season, or just making 8th place, whichever you prefer. Because of the ignorance of MLSE, JFJ lost his job.
A similar situation could reside with Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero. Coming into the NHL Trade Deadline, Shero had plans to buff up his club heading into the playoffs. What he did not have plans for, however, is unloading a core of youth for superstar winger Marian Hossa. An all or nothing deal if you think about it. I fail to understand how the Pens will be able to lock-up all key players in the summer without going over the Cap. Especially considering Evgeni Malkin is finishing off a monster season. Regardless, Pens manager Mario Lemieux thought it would be a great addition to their club, so he enforced it upon Shero. And you can full well expect the repercussions to land on the GM should the deal be deemed a failure.
So with that in mind, it would appear there is a good chance that Shero's job may be teetering from the result of this trade. This is no ordinary trade either, it's huge. Fans of the Penguins will be calling for blood if the likes of Angelo Esposito, Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong and 1st round pick are all unloaded for nothing. Guess who takes the blame?
When the position of General Manager is awarded to an individual, it should ensure full autonomy. The decisions enforced by management should be changed to suggestions, thus implementing fair game for the GM. This would lay both the praise and blame on the individual, and like life teaches us, we learn from our mistakes and from our accomplishments -- isn't this how every job should be?
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