10 Must Have Traits for the Next GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Michael ForbesCorrespondent IMay 15, 2008

The GM speculation game being played by the media covering the Leafs is tiring at best and pointless at worse.

Rather than pour over endless media rumours or toss around possible GM names like JFJ handing out bad contracts, let's take a step back and discuss the ideal characteristics the next President/GM of the Leafs needs to succeed (or at the very least survive) in Toronto.

10. Cojones – big ones.

The next GM of the Leafs will have to deal with an allegedly meddlesome ownership structure, an insatiable and often bi-polar media contingent and four decades of pent-up hope.

That’s before he makes a single decision about on-ice talent, or off-ice needs.

9. An unyielding competitive spirit

Greg Maddux used to destroy people at every club house game – be it cards, tiddlywinks or Nintendo.

At the U18 tournament, Sidney Crosby threw fits over losing at Ping-Pong.

The next GM of the Leafs better be made of the same stuff. He must want to win no matter what. I don’t care if it’s a game of Uno or the pursuit of the Stanley Cup, competing and winning has to be embedded in the next GM’s DNA.

8. A proven history at the draft table

Maximizing return on investment is the only way to compete under the CBA and it’s most easily done by gathering a core of young talent who haven’t yet gained salary arbitration rights.

The Leafs must improve their drafting and player development if they have any hopes of becoming an elite organization.

7. The confidence to build a proper brain trust and surround oneself with experts

Ken Holland has Jim Devellano, Jim Nill and Steve Yzerman.

Bob Gainey has Pierre Gauthier.

Ray Shero has Mario Lemieux, Chuck Fletcher and Ed Johnston.

Lou Lamoriello has David Conte, Steve Pellegrini, Pat Burns and Jaques Laperriere.

John Ferguson Junior had Jeff Jackson and Mike Penny.

Can you spot the outlier?

Even the best leaders have blind spots and surrounding oneself with other skilled, insightful individuals is one of the best ways of mitigating risks.

The next President/GM needs to be confident enough to bring in smart, driven, successful people to help build a winner – from the men in the executive suites to the coaches, to scouts, to the medical staff, to the trainers…

6. Vision

Does the GM have an understanding of where the game is headed and the player personnel decisions he’ll need to make in order to transform the Leafs?

The next GM must be able to spot the trends, plan and take advantage accordingly.

5. Openness

It may seem a bit of a paradox to want someone with vision, confidence and cojones that’s also open to new ideas, but I’d love for the Leafs' next GM to be able to appreciate and utilize emerging data.

I'd like the new GM to embrace new ways of understanding the game so that the Leafs can take full advantage in terms of coaching, talent selection, player selection and contract negotiations (there's nothing like exploiting market inefficiencies).

4. The ability to recognize real talent - no more chasing “what-if” solutions

The next GM of the Leafs must do away with the high-risk "maybe if the stars align" pattern of player acquisition that has plagued this club since the lock-out.
The new GM needs to be able to identify and act on the proper indicators for successful team building.

3. Recognize that nothing can change without changing the culture

JFJ may have proposed and actually wanted the Leafs to adopt "a build not buy" strategy, but he didn’t significantly alter the team’s culture enough to make his plan a reality.

Simply put: if a strategy doesn’t fit an organization’s culture, the strategy will fail.

The next GM of the Leafs must change MLSE’s culture of the quick fix if this team is ever to find any success.

2. Can he pull off the big trade?

When was the last time the Leafs pulled off a steal of a deal?

Can anyone remember the last time they said, “Wow, the Leafs sure got the best of that deal!”

I want this GM to be able to swing the big bold deal, pull off the odd steal, and swindle some of his peers.

1. A sense of humour

The next President/GM of the Leafs may need this one most of all.


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