Which NHL GMs Are Getting the Least Out of Their Acquisitions?

 

It is always a puzzling situation when a trade or a signing happens in the NHL and the hockey world unanimously chimes in with a “what on earth are they thinking?”. Did the person making that decision consult anyone? How is it that so much of the community sees it as a mistake yet the move was made? Will it be worth the risk?

 

Every once in a while, a unanimous “bad move” ends up turning on a dime and becoming favorable for the general manager who made the call. Most of the time, however, that move ends up exactly how everyone thought it would.

 

Last week, we took a look at general managers who were getting a ton of production and value out of their acquisitions. This included acquisitions through the draft, via trade, via free agency and through waivers. This week, we will take a look at the general managers who didn’t get much out of their acquisitions in the 2015-16 NHL season. Are they unlucky or are they making avoidable mistakes? Let’s get into it.

 

General Managers are given “credit” for an acquisition if they acquired a player and that player was still on that team for the 2015-16 season. Only GMs with a minimum of five remaining acquisitions were included. All statistics at 5-on-5 unless otherwise indicated. Data via corsica.hockey.

 

Production

 

While some GMs look to acquire defense and take a more defensive style, if they plan on being around for any playoff runs they have to land some production along the way. Last week, we looked at some of the GMs who excelled in acquiring talent that added a lot of production in the 2015-16 season. General managers like Jim Nill, Jay Feaster, George McPhee and Dale Tallon have been excellent at landing players who add points to their respective clubs.

 

Taking a look at the other end of the spectrum and we see some names who are longer general managers in the NHL. Mike Gillis, fired by Vancouver in 2014, shows up at the bottom in terms his acquisitions’ combined primary-points-per-60. His acquisitions combined for a .44 primary-points-per-60 which was indeed the lowest out of any GM with at least five active acquisitions remaining the league. Not far ahead of that with a .5 primary-points-per-60 is current Flyers general manager Ron Hextall. With Hextall, you could easily make the case that he hasn’t had a real chance to make his mark yet. He hasn’t really looked to acquire any big-time producers as much of his work has been damage control from the previous regime.

 

Following those two we have a couple of GMs who are no longer employed with Darcy Regier and Don Waddell. And then comes a surprise.

 

Lou Lamoriello.

 

Lamoriello currently has 39 of his acquisitions still playing for their original team, split between New Jersey and Toronto. The second highest total in terms of overall acquisitions is Jim Rutherford with 34. Unfortunately for Lamoriello, it has been quantity over quality.

 
Lou Lamoriello has struggled in adding production to his teams. (Courtesy of GMEV)

Lou Lamoriello has struggled in adding production to his teams. (Courtesy of GMEV)

 

As you can see, his acquisitions’ goals-per-60, assists-per-60 and primary-points-per-60 all fall well below the average for all GMs in the 2015-16 season. The two teams he has had a hand in constructing finished 30th and 28th in total goals scored this past season. While he hasn’t necessarily had the opportunity to make a huge impact in Toronto yet, it is surprising to see him so low with the likes of Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, and Mike Cammalleri. Auston Matthews should help.

 

Another high-acquisition GM who isn’t much better in production for the 2015-16 season is Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks. This past season, he averaged four 5-on-5 goals per acquisition. His acquisitions’ combined .36 goals-per-60 was among the worst in the NHL as his moves just did not lead into much production last season. He was well below average in all of the offensive categories.

 

Possession

 

If a general manager is below-average in production and they use the “I acquire more defensive players” excuse, they better not show up again in this category.

 

Possession proxies such as Corsi and Fenwick seem to have drawn some extra-heavy criticism this summer, particularly after some questionable moves were made. Jim Benning of the Vancouver Canucks traded away Jared McCann and a fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers for Erik Gudbranson and a fifth-round pick a couple of months ago. That move was quickly criticized by the analytics community and Benning responded just as fast:

 

We won a Stanley Cup in Boston and we didn’t use analytics.

 

Marc Bergevin made one of the more heavily criticized moves in the past five years with his trade of P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. Not long after, analytics consultant Matt Pfeffer was not brought back in Montreal. That certainly isn’t to say that Marc Bergevin or the Canadiens are against analytics, but that trade is concerning.

 

Don Sweeney, hired to replace Peter Chiarelli in Boston, has also made some questionable decisions early on in his GM career. Most feel as though he didn’t get full value for Dougie Hamilton at last year’s draft and the trading of a third-round pick for Zac Rinaldo was a head-scratcher.

 

How did they do in terms of their acquisitions’ performances in 2015-16? Well…

 
Relative-Corsi-For-% vs Corsi-For-% 2015-16 season.

Relative-Corsi-For-% vs Corsi-For-% 2015-16 season.

 

Oof. Three of the bottom four in terms of relative Corsi-for-% and counting Jeff Gorton almost feels wrong considering he was hired a year ago and has only acquired four fourth-liners and Eric Staal (or five fourth-liners).

 

Changing the metric doesn’t help, unfortunately. Those three stay in the red in relative Fenwick, shots, and expected-goals-for-%. They are joined most commonly by Jay Feaster and Joe Nieuwendyk, two general managers who no longer hold that position in the league.

 

Maybe it is too early to tell with Sweeney and Benning who haven’t been in their positions for an overly long time. The moves they’ve made have certainly raised eyebrows though and will be interesting to follow moving forward. Bergevin is the one who is tough to make excuses for at this point. These numbers are before the Subban deal has had a chance to make an impact and it seems like an eventuality that will only have a negative impact in the future. The clock is liking ticking for Bergevin in Montreal.

 

Next week, we will take a look at general managers who are coming out on the positive side of their acquisitions versus the players they decide to trade away. Thank you for reading.

 
 
 

Full Ice Surface Installed at T-Mobile Arena

 

The city of Las Vegas got one step closer to that inaugural NHL game as workers finished the installation process for T-Mobile Arena’s ice surface on Saturday.

 
 
 

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Workers started the process early Saturday by freezing the surface encircled by the fresh white boards. The line markings already in place along the boards, they were painted on the ice once it was frozen with the words ‘Las Vegas’ painted overtop of the NHL’s logo at centre ice.

 

The laying of the ice, which took several hours, is one of the final steps in preparing the arena for the first game it will host – an NHL preseason matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars on October 7.

 

This will be the first NHL game at the new arena with the Kings taking on the Avalanche on October 8 as the last game at T-Mobile Arena, which opened on April 6, before the NHL’s latest expansion franchise takes to the ice in the fall of 2017-18.

 

With a general manager finally in place – that being George McPhee – the new franchise is hoping to have a name and logo in place prior to the upcoming season.

 

The arena which can hold up to 20,000 fans for Boxing, MMA and for certain concerts will have a capacity of 17,500 when NHL games take to Las Vegas’ new ice surface.

 
 
 

Coyotes Give Jakob Chychrun Entry-Level Deal

 

The Arizona Coyotes have signed 2016 1st round draft pick Jakob Chychrun to a three-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Saturday. The terms and bonus structure of the deal were not disclosed by the team.

 

“We are very pleased to sign Jakob to an entry-level contract,” said general manager John Chayka. “Jakob is a highly-skilled player with an all-around game. He has a great work ethic and is very determined. We look forward to watching him continue to develop this season.”

 

The 6-foot-2 defenseman put up 49 points (11-38-49) and 51 penalty minutes through 62 games with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting last season. Once thought to potentially be the best defenseman in the draft, he fell to 16th, at which point the Coyotes put together a trade to grab the pick from the Detroit Red Wings and draft Chychrun.

 

“It’s an honor to sign with the Coyotes,” said Chychrun. “I’m the first to understand that there’s still a lot of work ahead of me but this is an absolute dream come true to sign my first NHL contract.”

 

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Mercedes-Benz and Tesla See a Future in Electric Self-Driving Buses

Mercedes-Benz Future BusPeople are moving toward the urban cores of our cities in record numbers. And while cities are pushing inward, it’s becoming harder than ever to have a car-or multiple cars-in a household. Meanwhile, new subways and rail lines require deep pockets and often controversial funding sources. The solution, as some see it, is the automated (or semi-automated) city bus. A bus ticket is hardly an aspirational purchase for middle-class American consumers, yet two aspirational brands-Mercedes-Benz and Tesla-both recently mentioned bus projects intended to address the urban mass-transit dilemma.

It makes sense. Moving people on buses networked with the traffic signals might ease gridlock without making other (far costlier) changes such as building new subways or light-rail lines, or adding politically loaded policies like urban-area tolling for private vehicles. According to the Union Internationale des Transports Publica (UITP), an international organization for transport authorities and operators, a single, large articulated bus could replace 40 personal vehicles and take up just one-eighth of the road space.

The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus, a semi-automated city bus with a technology suite called CityPilot, is a front-runner in this field. It can journey up to 12.4 miles (20 km) without a need for the driver to touch the steering, accelerator, or brake pedal. With a dozen cameras plus long- and short-range radar systems monitoring the route ahead, the Future Bus can spot obstacles and pedestrians, follow lane markings, and function as part of a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, employing networked data about traffic and signals along the route.

Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with driverThat Mercedes-Benz system requires a driver on board (a press of a button puts it in semi-automated mode). It’s also fully functioning today, and being tested on a route in the Netherlands, to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Meanwhile, looking many more years into the future, Tesla recently announced a plan that sounds, in some respects, complementary to solutions like the Future Bus.

Tesla Sees Future for Smaller Semi-Autonomous Buses

Over the long term, Tesla says it intends not only to enter the bus business, but to produce a pilotless bus. As part of the much-discussed Tesla Master Plan Part Deux for the company to expand and “cover the major forms of terrestrial transport,” CEO Elon Musk said: “In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicles needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport.”

Musk suggested that a fleet of smaller semi-autonomous buses could transition the role of the bus driver to that of a fleet manager. In the Tesla scenario, you’d arrange to ride these buses via a cellphone app, although Musk also suggested placing fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops.

Tesla says its bus design would have car-like performance, so as not to impede traffic flow, and would include a flexible seating layout that could accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles.

The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus, as it stands, is diesel-powered, but the company has announced an all-electric propulsion system for its buses on the way for 2018; that should beat Tesla by many years. Would getting the Tesla name, or Mercedes-Benz’s active-safety reputation, into city buses make Americans more likely to ride them? It’s too early to say, but with these two names involved, the future of public transit now looks not only safer but a little more glamorous.