Claude Noel, who has kept the Jets in the playoff race as one of the East's surprising postseason contenders, credited his time in the Nashville organization for building the base of what it looks like to run a successful franchise.
"Winning became a result of the foundation of the body of work you provided," he said. Nashville's fingerprints are now all over the league, sometimes in the form of a starting goalie or franchise defenseman or in the form of a general manager like Shero who developed under David Poile in Nashville. Fenton is no different. He's another great talent evaluator who knows how to build a team without lavish spending. He's ready.
3. Laurence Gilman, Canucks
Fans of advanced stats love Gilman because he's shown a willingness to include statistical analysis as a part of decision-making. He's part of a group of smart, analytical thinkers that includes guys like Stars assistant GM Frank Provenzano and Washington assistant GM Don Fishman. It wouldn't be surprising to see all three running teams someday. In explaining his use of advanced stats, Gilman told the CBC's Elliotte Friedman: "Believe me when I tell you there are percentage results that allow you to coach and manage your team to hedge bets in certain events."
It's a provocative statement and one he wasn't willing to expand on for me.
"We don't want to educate our competition," he said, while politely declining to provide more details. Gilman has helped build the Canucks into an annual Stanley Cup contender, deftly keeping Vancouver's group of stars around long-term in a cap system.
4. Ron Hextall, Kings
Kings GM Dean Lombardi is quick to credit Hextall for his part in building the Kings into a Stanley Cup champion. The obvious contribution is the fact Los Angeles has two high-end goaltenders in Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier but Hextall's impact goes well beyond that. After retiring as a player, Hextall put in the work as a scout, the thousands of miles on the road, learning the trade. He remains as competitive as he was as a player but carries a presence and ability to communicate with today's players that is invaluable.
"You're in that job, you've always got to remember that these people are working together for you. You're part of it. He got that from his dad," said Flyers senior vice president Bobby Clarke when we chatted about Hextall last spring. "He's earned the right to be GM in this league."
5. Brad Treliving, Coyotes
Like Maloney, Treliving's contract is up after this season and the uncertain future surrounding the Coyotes could be an opportunity for a rival team. The job Maloney and Treliving have done in keeping that team competitive on a limited payroll is remarkable. Even more impressive is that Treliving has helped the organization restock its young players while the NHL team has won. Their group of young defensemen, led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, is poised to be one of the deepest in the West. Prospect Brandon Gormley may be the next Phoenix star on defense. It's a unique situation in Phoenix but one in which Treliving has thrived.
"In our position, the focus has been how do we get better? Not getting caught up in all the other noise in the background," Treliving said on Tuesday, during an AHL scouting trip. "It's been trying to really break down our team and our organization into little bites and say how do we improve by percentage points in particular areas? That's been our focus."
It'd be fun to see what Maloney or Treliving could do with stability, a real budget and an actual owner.
6. Jeff Gorton, Rangers
Shortly after the Penguins made their trade-deadline splash, I had a conversation with Gorton wondering how the Rangers would respond. He assured that there was a Rangers plan in place and we'd all find out in due time. Then he and GM Glen Sather made the bold step of trading Marian Gaborik, despite scoring issues, to replenish their depth and free up summer cap space. They also added Ryane Clowe, who has been a great fit for New York. The moves could end up sparking a Rangers postseason run and if they face the Bruins, it will be a matchup of two teams that Gorton had a huge hand in building. Gorton left Boston to join the Rangers and his draft record with both teams stacks up with that of anyone in the league.
7. Jason Botterill, Penguins
When the Penguins started adding expensive veterans at the trade deadline, fans wondered how a team with so many high-paid players was able to fit the new pieces in under the cap. Credit Botterill, who is the Penguins' salary-cap point man. It wasn't even an issue. Botterill has the playing background as a former first-round pick of the Stars and went back to the University of Michigan to get his MBA after his playing days were done. His responsibilities with the Penguins are similar to what Chuck Fletcher did during his time in Pittsburgh and what Shero did in Nashville.
"[He's a] good listener and has a good opinion," Shero said.
8. Jim Benning and Don Sweeney, Bruins
Peter Chiarelli deserves a lot of credit for building the Bruins into an annual Cup contender, but he's another GM who is quick to deflect the credit toward the guys working with him in assistant GMs Sweeney and Benning.
"Both outstanding in their own way," Chiarelli said. Benning spent 12 seasons with the Sabres, including eight seasons as the team's director of amateur scouting. Chiarelli leans on him for all player personnel decisions. Sweeney is in charge of the development of the Bruins' prospects, implementing the team's first development camp in 2007.
9. Tim Murray, Senators
He's got the pedigree as the son of Bryan Murray's brother but more importantly he's a big part of the young talent contributing to the Senators' surprising success. He oversees Ottawa's AHL team in Binghamton, a group that won the 2011 Calder Cup, and it's many of those players who have helped the Senators stay in the playoff race while injuries crushed veterans. Ottawa is another team that has managed to develop a large group of impressive young talent without the traditional tear-down rebuild like the one the Oilers are struggling to emerge from.
10. Julien BriseBois, Lightning
He's a rising star in the NHL world of executives and in the past has shown he's in no hurry to rush his development, which started in Montreal and is now in its third season under Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay. He's got the base of a lawyer, with a background working arbitration cases with the law firm Heenan Blaikie before he joined the Canadiens. Tampa's AHL affiliates have thrived under BriseBois, with the Norfolk Admirals winning the organization's first Calder Cap last spring. With Yzerman, BriseBois has restocked a thin prospect pipeline in Tampa. If Quebec ever gets another NHL team, it's hard to imagine a better GM hire than BriseBois, a native of Greenfield Park, Quebec.
I'm a firm believer in rooting for the home team. My dad passed it down to me along with my love for the Red Wings. The first game I ever watched was game 4 of the 1995 and I thought it to be the most boring thing I'd ever seen.
But by the next year I was watching games right along side my Dad, hating the Avalanche and cheering away. It's been what brings us together ever since. He had some health issues and we spent time in Pittsburgh during the 09 season as a result, the playoffs got us through, and we reveled at being the Detroit fans in enemy territory when the Finals started. Fortunately, when we came back to Michigan the Wings were up 2-0, but I'm getting off topic.
We'd watch the Lions but grew tired of the antics of football, and over the past few years we've been much more into baseball; but hockey was what really brought us together.
I had tickets to go to this year's Winter Classic with my Dad, but the lock out ruined that. I'll be living somewhere else when the next one rolls around, and I don't know if I'll ever not hold at least a slight grudge against the NHL for that lost memory.
I myself still hold onto somewhat of a grudge. Obviously, that's personal and because I was deprived of the opportunity to enjoy the Winter Classic with my father; but I've also made it a point not to buy anything and have honestly found myself much less interested in the sport as a whole.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- More than 30 family and friends will help Gordie Howe celebrate his 85th birthday Sunday at a private dinner in Detroit.
They know to cherish times like these. Howe's family revealed just over a year ago that the hockey great has a mild form of dementia.
"His memory loss is getting to the point where it's almost becoming difficult to do a lot of interaction with Dad," son Mark said in a recent interview. "I'm sure this (birthday) will go well, but a year from now, I don't know what life's going to bring.
"So we're going to make the best of it."
Despite his health issues, Howe began celebrating his milestone birthday in early March when he attended a ceremony at a Vancouver Giants game. He's a minority owner of the Western Hockey League team. Before Sunday's birthday dinner, he'll take in a Red Wings-Blackhawks game.
And the events won't end Sunday.
Howe will make another appearance at a Red Wings game against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday and attend charity hockey games in Calgary, Edmonton and possibly Vancouver in the coming weeks.
Fans still can't get enough of Mr. Hockey.
"He's just an easygoing guy," Marty said. "You can talk to him for five minutes and think you've been friends for 30 years. That's always been his secret, I think."
Howe has spent recent months with daughter Cathy at her home in Texas, where he enjoys the warm weather. He stays with sons Marty, Murray and Mark at other times during the year.
Fellow Hall of Famer Bobby Hull is certain aging doesn't sit well with Howe.
"Getting old isn't fun," he said. "I'd like to find the guy or the girl that coined the phrase that these are the golden years. Like hell they are. Give me back my youth. And I'm sure he feels the same way."
Marty says Howe is "slowing down."
"He's starting to feel his age like he never did before," he said.
The public events are good for Howe's health, Marty said, because the interaction stimulates his brain and he always "perks up."
"At first, I was thinking, well, we just won't do as many events and stuff and let him go fishing and down to Florida and relax a little bit," Marty said. "But he can't stand still."
Howe, who Marty says is "strong as a bear," also remains physically active, fishing in the summer with Mark, the Red Wings' head pro scout, and practicing his putting on the golf course.
"Dad's kind of a fixture down there," Mark said. "People look forward to having him down there. But when you have him, you cherish every day. You hope you have more, but you never know, so you take every day and live life to the fullest. That's your only other option."
Mark says Howe is looking forward to seeing family at his birthday celebration.
"It's getting tougher and tougher and tougher on him, but he loves being around his family," Mark said.
Howe's late wife Colleen suffered from Pick's disease, a rare form of dementia. Going through that experience with their mother has helped the Howes deal with their father's condition.
"What's gone on, it's part of life," Mark said. "When you're 85 years old, these things happen to people."
If you already purchased tickets you were given the opportunity to reserve the seats for 2014. In sure they will open it up for new sales too, though, as a number of people - myself included - did not renew their tickets.