Big fan of former LAK GM Dave Taylor.
In my mind, to be a successful GM of a rebuilding team you need three strong qualities:
1) The ability to build through the draft
2) The ability to make shrewd trades
3) The ability to pick up bargains in the UFA market
In my mind, Taylor has all three of these qualities, and I'll quickly explain why, providing some examples.
1) The Draft
The ability to nail the top 5 pick: Jokinen 3rd overall in '97, his only top 5 pick
The ability to pick up 1st round bargains: Frolov (20th in '00), Brown (13th in '03), Kopitar (11th in '05), Bernier (11th in '06), Lewis (17th in '06), Tambellini (27th in '03)
The ability to pick up later round bargains:: Cammalleri (2nd), Corvo (4th), Visnovsky (4th), F. Kaberle (4th),
2) The Trade Route
First round picks acquired: 6
First round picks traded away: 1
Has turned the likes of Norstrom, Blake, Conroy, into multiple high end picks.
Stole O'Sullivan + 1st round pick from MIN for Demitra
Stole J. Johnson from CAR for Belanger
3) Bargains in the UFA Market
- Europe: Erik Ersberg (2.48 GAA .927 SV% in 14 GP as a 26 year old this season)
- NCAA: Ted Purcell (one of their top prospects, AHL scoring leader, possible top line potential)
- No major UFA signings
To me, Dave Taylor has the whole package. He is a savvy, old school Ontario boy who was a star NHLer and PPG player throughout his NHL career.
He is well-respected, and comes with a fantastic scouting record. In Jokinen, Kopitar, Brown, Cammalleri, Bernier, and Frolov, I see 6 players who could be all-stars at some point in their careers, taken in 7 drafts, with Jokinen being the only top 10 pick of the bunch. Wow.
Perhaps his best asset is that like Fletcher, he is able to target hidden young gems from other organizations, or talented young players that can be picked up for dirt cheap.
Patrick O'Sullivan is already a 55 point player, and is going to reach the PPG plateau very soon. Jack Johnson is arguably one of the game's premiere young D-man, that was acquired for peanuts.
Team this man up with a solid, experienced staff, and he could do wonders for this organization.
But obviously, one can always point to the standings and say well, the Kings haven't been a good team for a long, long time.
I was dicussing this with another individual who brought up the jobs Gainey did in Montreal and Murray did assembling the Anaheim core. Now there's two teams, who've cores have actually done something, I was told.
I understand that this is indeed a legimitate point to raise, and probably the point that eventually lead to the firing of Taylor in 2007.
But I believe that to be nearsighted, and here's why.
Those Ducks went into the top 10 of the draft, 9 times in 11 years, selecting the likes of Kariya, Chistov, Ryan, Smid.
As for the Canadiens, they went into the top 10 of the draft, 3 times in 10 years, where they had the privilege of selecting Price, Komisarek and A. Kostitsyn.
This is something that Taylor has only had the opportunity to do once, when he selected Jokinen 3rd overall, so he clearly did not miss.
Last but not least, it's a business where people only remember the winners, and only the architects of the winners get the credit.
In Anaheim, Burke was given credit for adding the missing pieces, and Murray was praised for putting together the core that won the cup.
Just like Montreal and Anaheim, Taylor had managed to compile together one of the league's best young cores.
The difference is, Burke comes in, acquires Beauchemin, Niedermayer, Pronger, and Selanne, goes on to win the Cup and Murray is credited with building a championship calibre core.
In Los Angeles, Lombardi inherits this fantastic core, but fails to address the goaltending issue, and acquires the likes of Stuart and overpays for Nagy/Handzus, thus sending the Kings back to the bottom of the standings.
If Taylor's core is holding that cup today because some GM finished his work, then you can be sure that he would be holding a GM position somewhere else around the league.
He's not perfect, but he's an excellent candidate, and some extra digging beyond the surface will tell you that.