The (rumored) top three GM candidates [updated with poll]

With Wednesday night's revelations about the Tampa Bay Lightning seeking (and receiving) permission from the Detroit Red Wings to speak with assistant general manager Steve Yzerman... Well I thought it was high time to take a look at the rumored short-list candidates for the Bolts GM vacancy.

Are there potentially other names out there? Absolutely. I don't pretend to have insider information on who the Lightning are considering. I also take Jeff Vinik at his word that a GM will not be in place before a CEO is hired, and I don't need to touch again on the CEO hiring until there's something new to report.

At any rate, the following are write-ups from other sources regarding three reported candidates for the Lightning GM role: Toronto Maple Leafs Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Dave Nonis, former Minnesota Wild GM and current New York Rangers special consultant/pro scout Doug Risebrough, and Yzerman.

Steve Yzerman

Information from

.... In his current position, Yzerman works closely with Jim Devellano, Ken Holland and Jim Nill evaluating talent at both the professional and amateur levels. He provides extensive input regarding potential trades, free agent signings and at the annual NHL Entry Draft. Yzerman has captured four Stanley Cup championships in his career, three as a player (1997, 1998 and 2002) and one as a member of Detroit’s management team (2008).

Heavily edited, as there are several paragraphs on Yzerman's playing career and his ties to Detroit. Though the above is brief, it gives a general overview of Yzerman's responsibilities with the Wings.

One thing that has made Steve stand out as a candidate is Canada's Gold Medal this winter at the Vancouver Olympics. The following is taken from Hockey Canada's official page for Yzerman and shows that his Team Canada involvement (as an executive) is actually longer than one would think from the hype of the 2010 games.

Information from Hockey

Served as Canada’s general manager at the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Quebec City, QC and Halifax, NS, winning a silver medal … Served as Canada’s general manager at the 2007 IIHF World Championship in Russia, winning a gold medal …

What this does not quite flesh out is Yzerman's responbibilities as GM for Hockey Canada/Team Canada. Oversight of coaching staff selections and the overall roster are givens, but picking a roster of Canadian players to play in the Olympics isn't exactly a challenge when you have no budget constraints.

Both sites stress Yzerman's history as a player. And while achievements as a player deserve praise, they should not be the bar from which to judge an executive's ability.

Dave Nonis

Information From

...Named the Toronto Maple Leafs’ senior vice president of hockey operations on December 6, 2008. Nonis, 42, most recently was the Anaheim Ducks’ senior advisor of hockey operations and held that position since June 20, 2008. For the past four years he was senior vice president and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. He joined the Canucks in 1998 as senior vice president, director of hockey operations after serving four seasons as the National Hockey League’s manager of hockey operations. With the NHL, Nonis helped craft the 1994 Collective Bargaining Agreement and worked with the league’s arbitration team, assisting clubs in preparing for arbitration, researching salaries and interpreting contract language.

People may worry about Nonis because of where he is right now and the quality of play by said franchise, but it does not give an accurate or fair representation of Nonis' career in the front office. As the description shows, he has worked a number of faccets with the league in his time, and in a number of front-office/executive roles specifically.

One drawback is the repeated ties to Brian Burke (in Vancouver, Anaheim and now Toronto). Nonis' service as GM in Vancouver was largely cleaning up after Burke.  And knowing Burke makes the future expendable for the now, one has to wonder if Nonis will end up taking a cue from his mentor while serving as GM of a franchise of his own? To make the future expendable for the now?

[Note by John Fontana, 04/30/10 2:10 PM EDT ] Our old friend Jes Golbez, formerly of Hockey Rants, sent me a link regarding Nonis and something he had written upon Nonis' firing in Vancouver.  It gives more perspective on how Nonis operates, and it may come off as very familiar to long time Bolt fans.

Doug Risebrough

Information from Wikipedia

...Risebrough served two seasons as an assistant coach with the Flames. He helped guide Calgary to two consecutive Presidents' Trophies and the 1989 Stanley Cup championship... He was promoted to assistant general manager for the Flames before the 1989–90 season, and served as Calgary’s head coach for the 1990–91 campaign. On May 16, 1991, Risebrough became only the second general manager in Flames’ history, and served as both general manager and coach for the first 64 games of the 1991–92 season....continue his role as Calgary’s general manager until November 2, 1995.

Prior to joining the Minnesota Wild, Risebrough served as the Edmonton Oilers vice president of hockey operations from 1996 to 1999. With the Oilers, the Guelph, Ontario native was involved in all aspects of the club’s hockey operations department. Edmonton advanced to the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the three seasons Risebrough was with the organization....Risebrough was named executive vice president and general manager of the Minnesota Wild on September 2, 1999. After the Wild's first playoff appearance in 2002–03, he was promoted to president of Minnesota Sports and Entertainment, the corporate parent of the Wild, on July 23, 2003.

What I find most interesting in all this isn't his extensive Western Conference ties but who he worked under in Calgary and who he ultimately replaced as head coach as well. A fellow by the name of Terry Crisp. Perhaps Lightning fans know him?

While the Wikipedia article offers more information about where Doug has worked, it doesn't share the criticisms of him as an executive that have populated the web during the speculation/rumors tying him to the Lightning GM opening.

Hockey Wilderness' take (and word of warning) remains the most critical. Fans here already had reservations regarding Risebrough (despite the best attempts by local media to soothe them), this just further strengthened them.

All three candidates boast a level of experience in the role of a front office executive.  While Yzerman's name brings the most respectability to the Lightning front office, there's debate to be had over the candidates (and potential candidates that aren't on the public record).

Who would you rather have become the next general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Doug Risebrough28
Steve Yzerman222
Dave Nonis25