The Red Wings are successful because of men like Jim Nill and Ken Holland. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The concept of specialization has steadily been gaining momentum in the hockey world for a long time.
For example, in the NHL’s olden, golden days, a typical team trainer’s duties included (but weren’t limited to) equipment upkeep, security detail, toothbrush bristle replacement engineer, occasional amputator of appendages and all-around confidante/psychologist.
In fact, I believe the “Hey Mon” skit that originated on In Living Color was created after one of the Wayans brothers watched these guys at work in a dingy arena somewhere.
In the modern era, though, each team’s trainer usually has an assistant, as well as an intern and intern’s assistant, to help them make it through the day. As well, each franchise almost always employs three or four assistant coaches, at least one of whom usually isn’t even on the bench.
The splintering of duties has extended throughout pro organizations, to the point now where a GM’s job can be divvied up amongst three or four men.
The Detroit Red Wings’ management structure is the best and most successful example of that approach to building a championship team. And because they’re so good at it, other teams are beginning to follow their lead.
The Dallas Stars have split their GM job between Brett Hull and Les Jackson; the St. Louis Blues are on the verge of adding Doug Armstrong to a management group that already includes team president John Davidson, GM Larry Pleau and VP of hockey operations Al MacInnis; and now the Toronto Maple Leafs are making noises indicating they’re going to fill their vacant GM post in a similar fashion.
"I think the Detroit model is a very exciting and good one of that concept,” sports lawyer Gord Kirke, one of two men leading the search for John Ferguson’s full-time replacement in Toronto, told the Canadian Press. “They have four or five people, all of whom could be a top-notch GM with another team.”
Naturally, the question is, ‘where will the specialization end?’
My answer: I hope it doesn’t end. I hope NHL bigwigs further compartmentalize GM responsibilities until you need a program, trail of breadcrumbs and DNA evidence to decipher who’s doing what in any one organization.
With that in mind, here are a handful of potential new GM roles.
Pre-Draft Fluff Artist: This is the guy who moseys on up to the podium, thanks the host town for its hospitality – and congratulates the Stanley Cup champion – before a team makes its first pick.
Capologist: This person hands a team’s baseball hat to each of its newly selected draft picks.
Head Injury Checker: I know, I know – this is normally the job of someone called a “doctor.” But I ask you the same question that often gets asked of me – has this person even played the game?
There used to be a longstanding tradition that allowed hockey men who barely graduated from high school to decide when a player was ready to return from serious injury, and I think it’s high time we returned to that tradition.
I think the NHL needs to follow the lead of some public officials and turn its back on “science” and “evidence,” and instead leave the tough decisions to guys who’ve been on the ice before. Even if those guys are slurring their words, forgetting where they are and occasionally blacking out while rendering their verdicts.
Board Of Governors Meetings Attendee: Only golfers with a five handicap and those who can nap quietly in public need apply.
Arbitration Bad Cop: This job requires someone willing to enter a room with a player and coldly make disparaging remarks about that player’s abilities in an effort to save salary cap space.
If rumors become reality and John Tortorella gets jettisoned from his current job as Lightning coach, I see no good reason why he couldn’t serve as an ABC in a roving capacity for all 30 teams.
Gary Bettman Decision Apologist: What, you need further elaboration on this one?
Coach Dismisser: “(Name of just-fired coach) is a real good hockey man and this certainly isn’t all his fault. We’ve just decided to move in a different direction.” Rinse, repeat.
Media Propagandist: The proper candidate for this position will talk loudly and carry a big stick. Okay, maybe more like a big shovel.
Chief Scout Responsible For The Honduras, Uganda, and Equatorial Guinea Regions: Because, hey, you never know.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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