Predators’ Paul Fenton very interested in Sabres GM job

Ken Campbell

Just in case the Buffalo Sabres didn’t already know, Paul Fenton is interested in being their next GM. Very, very interested. In a business where most people tiptoe around their prospects for future employment, the Nashville Predators assistant GM has done everything but hire a sky writer and fly it over the First Niagara Center.

Predators GM David Poile has already been in touch with new Sabres president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine to tell him of Fenton’s interest in the job. Fenton was in Toronto for the Predators game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night, but said there was no side trip to Buffalo planned because LaFontaine has yet to respond to his entreaties.

“(Poile) was talking to them about me being interested in the job,” Fenton said. “And I would love to get an opportunity to talk to them.”

But since Poile made the call to Buffalo on behalf of Fenton, it’s safe to say he fully endorses Fenton for future employment as a GM. Poile mentored Ray Shero before the latter went on to the Pittsburgh Penguins. And if the Sabres are looking for another young executive who is ready for the rebuilding task at hand, there aren’t many out there who would be more qualified than Fenton, who turns 54 next month.

In fact, Fenton has done everything short of actually being a GM already in his career. He has a keen eye for talent, has run the Predators American League team in Milwaukee for years and has had a hand in all the Predators hockey operations. He has been with the team for16 years, the past eight as assistant GM.

“Quite honestly, I would have hoped that an opportunity would have presented itself and I feel like I’ve been prepared,” Fenton said. “Twenty-one years outside of playing, being involved with professional hockey for 30-plus years, running pro sides, running amateur sides, running player personnel things, being general manager of the American League team and probably being the guy who has had the most influence on any player personnel decision that we make in our organization from the beginning.”

Fenton also spent five years with the Anaheim Ducks, helping to facilitate the trade that brought Teemu Selanne to the organization. With the Predators, he has been at the helm for a number of drafts that have produced players for the organization, including the 2003 draft that produced defensemen Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Kevin Klein and Alexander Sulzer. It is recognized as one of the best, if not the best, group of defensemen ever produced in one draft.

Not surprisingly, Fenton is proud of his accomplishments. It’s just a little unique to hear someone be so confident in himself.

“I’m hoping (his experience) leads to somebody else seeing that I’ve been able to help build this team from the bottom,” he said. “I helped build Anaheim from the bottom. I’ve broken down this team when ownership declared that they were going to sell the team and move and then built it back up to hopefully a contender. I believe that I’m ready and I hope that somebody else does.”

But there are only 30 GM jobs available and lots of people who think they’re qualified. Despite his experience, Fenton has only interviewed for one GM job so far, the Minnesota Wild job that went to Chuck Fletcher four years ago.

“There’s nothing that I haven’t done in this business to say that I’m not ready to be a manager,” Fenton said. “I make decisions. I have been put on the spot to make decisions on everything from free agency to drafts to trades to any type of acquisition. I live it every day, so for me I think it’s a natural progression.”

It remains to be seen whether LaFontaine and the Sabres think the same. The three other candidates – Jason Botterill (Pittsburgh), Rick Dudley (Montreal) and Jim Benning (Boston) are also assistant GMs with lots of experience and a keen eye for talent.

• Ken Bodendistel, who passed away on Thursday, is best remembered for being associated with officiating in the Ontario League for almost 40 years. The former director of officiating and senior officiating manager was well liked and respected.

Bodendistel was also the referee for the 1969 pre-season game between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues that produced one of the most violent and infamous incidents in league history. That night, Ted Green of the Bruins and Wayne Maki of the Blues got involved in a stick-swinging duel that almost turned fatal for Green when he suffered a depressed fracture of his skull. The injury kept Green on the sidelines for a year.