Seattle 2021 is now a reality and NHL owners are $650 million richer. That’s $21,666,666 million per team, with the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights, who will not receive a cut of this action.
Soon there will be name-the-team contests, and team colours will be presented. And finally, some real construction will get underway. We all know the rules of the expansion draft for Seattle will mirror those for the Golden Knights, but I suspect this time around NHL teams won’t submit to the de facto blackmail Vegas GM George McPhee performed as he all but threatened to take each GM’s first born if the player he truly desired wasn’t available.
And while we know that Tod Leiweke and Victor DeBonis, each of whom have tons of NHL experience, will pilot the Seattle team on the business side, we don’t know yet who will be the guiding light on the hockey operations. Who will be the general manager and coach driving other NHL teams crazy between now and the expansion draft? McPhee didn’t hire his coach, Gerrard Gallant, until well into the expansion process while David Poile, when he took up the Nashville challenge, hired his guy, Barry Trotz, very early in the process to help scout players they thought would best suit the new Predators.
The list candidates to run the new Seattle franchise is an interesting one:
Mike Gillis: The former Canucks’ GM lives in Victoria. He has spent the past few years travelling the world, trying to better understand sports management. He is a smart, thoughtful man who has learned from his triumphs and mistakes in Vancouver. He is also very close to Victor DeBonis, who is the new Seattle COO.
Kelly McCrimmon: The Golden Knights assistant GM was integral to the Vegas expansion draft and their success during their inaugural season. He knows hockey talent and now knows his way around the NHL.
Mark Hunter: Maybe the best hockey evaluator NOT in the NHL, Hunter’s stock is rising every time Mitch Marner, Patrick Kane, Matthew Tkachuk, Bo Horvat and many more contribute to the NHL game.
Dave Nonis: The former Canucks and Maple Leafs general manager now works for the Ducks and can handle the pressures of working for an expansion team having already worked in two high-profile media markets.
Ron Hextall: The former Flyers’ GM has excellent skills for a GM and will certainly have learned from his time in Philadelphia.
Dean Lombardi: The man who won two Stanley Cups in Los Angeles is now part of the Flyers’ management team. His vast knowledge and experience would certainly be an asset.
Laurence Gilman: The former assistant GM in Phoenix and Vancouver is now in Toronto in a similar role. He helped the NHL build the expansion draft rules and would be a great choice. He is also very close to DeBonis.
Ron Francis: The former Carolina GM is getting a lot of credit for the young, fast Hurricanes’ roster. His low-key approach is complimented by his thorough evaluation of talent.
Steve Yzerman: The architect of the Lightning team is on every list of potential GM openings. As it should be.
Mike Futa: The L.A. Kings assistant GM has tremendous ties to junior hockey. His player personnel background should make him a viable candidate.
The list of potential head coaches is also deep and not limited to: Joel Quenneville, Alain Vigneault, Todd McLellan, Dallas Eakins, Todd Nelson, Sheldon Keefe, and Lindy Ruff.
I started writing this blog on a plane, thinking the list would be easy and short. But the more I thought about it, the longer the list grew. The pool of talented, experienced people is deep. And the list doesn’t put every candidate forward. Of course the list will change as more candidates become available through firings and resignations.
And for what its worth… I like the Seattle “Totems.”