Don ‘Bad Deals’ Waddell strikes again

2009 NHL Entry Draft, First Round

Don Waddell proves again why he is the worst GM in the NHL and the ownerships group, Atlanta Spirit LCC, is thinking about winning in the future they need to axe Waddell.

For the second time in three years Waddell had to deal a superstar at the deadline or risk letting him walk away for nothing, and once again he didn’t get enough in return.

On February 26th, 2008 Waddell dealt Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis to the Penguins for Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, Angelo Esposito and the Pens first pick in 2008 (Daultan Leveille). Christensen is a journeyman, Esposito has played 13 AHL games with no goals, Leveille is in his 2nd year at Michigan State, while Armstrong is the only proven NHLer and he might be traded before the deadline. The Thrashers don’t have much to show for moving Hossa.

Fast forward to tonight and Waddell made basically the same move. He dealt Ilya Kovalchuk, Anssi Salmela and a 2nd rounder in 2010 for Niklas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and the Devils 1st and 2nd round picks this summer. Bergfors, the 23rd pick in 2005, spent four years in the AHL before cracking the Devils this year. He was red hot to start the year, but doesn’t have a goal in his last 13 games. Oduya is a 28-year-old number three D-man at best, while Cormier is suspended for the remainder of the season in the QMJHL.

What’s even worse about this deal is that Hossa was dealt on the actual deadline day, but Kovalchuk was dealt 27 days before Waddell had to pull the trigger. The Thrashers are, I mean were, in the hunt for the playoffs, but this deal means they will miss the postseason for the 9th time in the ten seasons under Waddell.

Waddell shouldn’t have put himself in this position; he must have been desperate by supposedly offering Kovalchuk two options: A 12-year, $101 million contract, and a seven-year, $70 million contract. Clearly Waddell’s desperation was obvious by offering Kovalchuk that much money, because he isn’t worth it. Why did he let it get to this again???

Let’s look at Waddell’s horrendous tenure in Atlanta…

Since 1999, Waddell has had nine first round picks that were 12th or better; tied with Columbus for the most during the past 12 years. Yet, the Thrashers have made the playoffs only once, and they’ve never won a playoff game. Here’s the rest of the league.

Anaheim: Five top-twelve picks, Alexei Smirnov (12), Stanislav Chistov (5), Joffrey Lupul (7), Ladislav Smid (9) and Bobby Ryan (2), five playoff appearance, one Stanley Cup and five different GMs in that span.

Boston: Three top-twelve picks, Lars Jonsson (7), Phil Kessel (5) and Zach Hamill (8), five playoff appearances, but only one series win and three GMs.

Buffalo: Three top-twelve picks, Keith Ballard (11), Thomas Vanek (5) and Tyler Myers (12), four playoff appearances and one GM. The Sabres made the playoffs four times and went to conference finals twice.

Calgary: Three top-twelve picks, Brent Krahn (9), Eric Nystrom (10) and Dion Phaneuf (9), five playoff appearances and three GMs.

Carolina: Three top-twelve picks, Eric Staal (2), Andrew Ladd (4) and Jack Johnson (3), four playoff appearances, one Cup and one GM.

Chicago: Seven top-twelve picks, Mikhail Yakubov (10), Tuomo Ruutu (9), Cam Barker (3), Jack Skille (7), Jonathon Toews (3), Patrick Kane (1) and Kyle Beach (11), two playoff appearances and five GMs.

Colorado: One top-twelve picks, Matt Duchene (3), seven playoff appearances, one Cup and three GMs.

Columbus: They entered the league in 2000 and had nine top-twelve picks, Rostislav Klesla (4), Pascal Leclaire (8), Rick Nash (1), Nikolai Zherdev (4), Alexandre Picard (8), Gilbert Brule (6), Derick Brassard (6), Jakob Voracek (7) and Nikita Filotov (6), one playoff appearance and two GMs.

Dallas: One top-twelve pick, Scott Glennie (8), seven playoff appearances and four GMs. Les Jackson and Brett Hull were co-Gms, but I counted them as one.

Detroit: No top picks, nine playoff appearances, two Cups and one GM.

Edmonton: Two top-twelve picks, Sam Gagner (6) and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (10), four playoff appearances, and three GMs.

Florida: Eight top-twelve picks, Denis Shvidki (12), Stephan Weiss (4), Jay Bouwmeester (3), Petr Taticek (9), Nathan Horton (3), Rostislav Olesz (7), Michael Frolik (10) and Keaton Ellerby (10), one playoff appearance and seven GMs.

LA: Six top-twelve picks, Lauri Tukonen (11), Anze Kopitar (11), Jonathon Bernier (11), Thomas Hickey (4), Drew Doughty (2) and Brayden Schenn (6), three playoff appearances and two GMs.

Minnesota: They entered the league in 2000 and have had six top-twelve picks, Marian Gaborik (3), Mikko Koivu (6), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (8), A.J Thelan (12), Benoit Pouliot (4) and James Sheppard (9), three playoff appearances and two GMs.

Montreal: Four top-twelve picks, Mike Komisarek (7), Andrei Kostitsyn (10), Carey Price (5) and Ryan McDonagh (12), five playoff appearances and three GMs.

Nashville: Seven top-twelve picks, Brian Finley (6), Scott Hartnell (6), Dan Hamhuis (12), Scottie Upshall (6), Ryan Suter (7), Colin Wilson (7) and Ryan Ellis (11), four playoff appearances and one GM.

NJ: No top picks, nine playoff appearances, two Cups and one GM.

NYI: Eight top-twelve picks, Tim Connolly (5), Taylor Pyatt (8), Branislav Mezei (10), Rick Dipietro (1), Raffi Torres (5), Kyle Okposo (7), Joshua Bailey (9) and John Tavares (1), four playoff appearances and two GMs. Neil Smith was the GM for 40 days in the summer of 2006, but I didn’t count him.

NYR: Six top-twelve picks, Pavel Brendl (4), Jamie Lundmark (9), Dan Blackburn (10), Hugh Jessiman (12), Al Montoya (6) and Marc Staal (12), four playoff appearances and two GMs.

Ottawa: Three top-twelve picks, Jason Spezza (2), Brian Lee (9) and Jared Cowan (9), eight playoff appearances and three GMs.

Philly: Three top-twelve picks, Joni Pitkanen (4), Jeff Carter (11) and James vanRiemsdyk (2), eight playoff appearances and two GMs.

Phoenix: Six top-twelve picks, Fredrik Sjostrom (11), Blake Wheeler (5), Peter Mueller (8), Kyle Turris (3), Mikkel Boedker (8) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (6), two playoff appearances and four GMs.

Pittsburgh: Five top-twelve picks, Ryan Whitney (5), Marc-Andre Fleury (1), Evgeni Malkin (2), Sidney Crosby (1) and Jordan Staal (2), five playoff appearances, one Cup and two GMs.

St.Louis: Two top-twelve picks, Erik Johnson (1), Alex Pietrangelo (4), six playoff appearances and one GM.

San Jose: Three top-twelve picks, Milan Michalek (6), Devin Setoguchi (8) and Logan Couture (9), eight playoff appearances and two GMs.

Tampa: Four top-twelve picks, Nikita Alexeev (8), Alexander Svitov (3), Steven Stamkos (1) and Victor Hedman (2), four playoff appearances, one Cup and three GMs.

Toronto: Two top-twelve picks, Luke Schenn (5) and Nazem Kadri (7), five playoff appearances and three GMs. (I didn’t count Cliff Fletcher).

Van: Four top-twelve picks, Daniel Sedin (2), Henrik Sedin (3), Luc Bourdon (10) and Cody Hodgson, six playoff appearances and three GMs.

Wash: Five top-twelve picks, Kris Beech (7), Steve Eminger (12), Alex Ovechkin (1), Nicklas Backstrom (4) and Karl Alzner (5), five playoff appearances and one GM.

The only other franchises to have one GM during Waddell’s tenure are Detroit, New Jersey, Washington, St. Louis, Nashville, Buffalo and Carolina. Three of them have won Cups, the Caps are a top contender, the Blues made the playoffs six times, the Sabres made the Conference finals twice, and the Predators made the playoffs four times. Waddell doesn’t come close to the success of those teams.

Waddell has had some great top-end talent in Atlanta but he has been unable to surround them with any depth, and now that Kovalchuk is gone I don’t see how Waddell can make Atlanta competitive in the future. The fact is, he shouldn’t be given an opportunity to stick around because all he has proven is he’s been the most incompetent GM this past decade. The Thrashers need to fire him if they want to make the playoffs again.

  • Ender

    Jason, just wondering if you had the chance to read Bob McKenzie's article on TSN this morning?

    I'm not suggesting your article is out of sorts, but he makes an interesting argument in defence of Waddell. Did anyone really expect a team to cough up serious talent for what seems to be a short-term addition?

    I still think you're probably right about him being a lousy GM. It's hard to rationalize your team consistently sucking when you keep getting lobbed beauties for selelctions in the draft…but I have some sympathy for anyone stuck in a position that is basically no-win, like he was.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        True, but so what? With no guarantee he'll stay, you'd have to trade for him, and then try to re-sign him. So you give up some nice pieces, like NJ did, and you wind up for a good cup run.

        Lose him in the offseason – no big deal, as the bits you moved for him weren't keystones. You hope to re-sign him, but I would suspect he'll dip his big soon-to-be-gold-plated-toe in the pool and see how much cash he can get. Good on him, but those intentions, I Would suspect, sure turn off GMs who would have to give up some value for him.

    • Bucknuck

      The thing I believe Gregor is saying, is that he should never have been in that position. If Waddell thought there was a chance he couldn't sign Kovi, then he should have traded him in the offseason, not unload him at the deadline.

      It was a gamble not to sign him and it blew up, but it seems he has gambled that way before and you would think he would learn.


      Lowe did the same gamble in 2007 with Smytty and ended up having it blow up in his face too.

      Sooooo…. in 2008 he signs Horcoff in the offseason for long term dollars (with a crazily inflating Salary cap I would add) to avoid another Ryan Smyth Scenario. Horcoff had a Point per game in 07-08 season so the money was big.

      well THAT blew up in his face the other way. the Horcoff signing is largely being called the worst signing of his tenure.

      It seems tobe a gamble either way. Waddell just seems to gamble wrong a LOT. Lowe at least got it right a few times as well. Waddell, not so much.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I'd missed that post, thanks. Still, McKenzie is no fool, and he makes the good point – no matter how bad of a GM Waddell is, if other teams were offering up better deals, one would think he'd have jumped on it. Timing is the fascinating bit to this deal.

      McKenzie doesn't throw out many facts, but he's connected and a respected hockey voice. The other guys weren't exactly quoting from textbooks either were they? That being said, I really like Spector as well. Never heard of the other guy, but I'll have to check him out. The pros are allowed to disagree sometimes though…

      • Ender

        The thing that bugged me in the McKenzie piece was the number of times he threw out opinion disguised as fact and offered no supporting argument. Things like "the truth is the potential offers were never going to be anywhere close to what we all imagined they might be." and "we are left to question whether Waddell could have done things differently to a get a better result. And the answer would appear to be, probably not."

        These are statements that anyone can pull out of their rear, and Bob doesn't back them up with any sound logic as to why they might be true. No better deal was out there for the next month, Bob? Really? You called 29 GM's last night and asked them?

        I think not, Bob, but I can't prove it so I won't write it. Oh wait, I just did. Whoops.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          I see your point. It was pretty strongly worded, considering I doubt he had them all out for brewskis last night to get the real deal. He was definately playing off like he knew things to be fact.

  • NHL is a JOKE!

    I wonder if he avoided trading him to the West, to avoid having an all Russian finale. Like he traded Hossa for nothing to help Sidney a little.

    The owners get money as a collective, and GMs work as a collective. They all got screwed out of their dreams in the Oilers dynasty days. I wonder if they still hold grudges against Lowe and Co.

    Franchises like Atlanta and Florida only exist because…………………..I have no clue.

  • SquidRx

    I think this is a tough trade to "pick a winner" until we know where Kovalchuk ends up next year. I find it hard to believe that NJ, as fiscally minded as they seem to be, will offer up 10 to 11 million a season over 7 to 10 years. If they watch him walk away at the end of the season, then I'm hard pressed to say that they "won" the trade.
    There is nothing that would stop Kovy from accepting Waddell's ridiculous offer of $102 million for 12 years at the end of the season and return to Atlanta which now is better than when he left it due to the additions from NJ.
    It's a bit of a conspiracy theorist point of view, but not out of the realm of possibility. If this were to happen, ATL would clearly be the "winner" of the trade.
    My feelings are flipping back and forth on this one faster than Wanye flips empties of BL over his shoulder.

    • Kovie turning down that money had more to do with him not wanting to stay in Atlanta than anything. He's not getting that kind of coin anywhere (unless he goes to the KHL). If he wins a cup in NJ I'll bet we'll see him signing to a loser squad for big dough or the KHL (maybe even back in Atlanta) but otherwise I think he'll take a fair bit less money to go to a contender.

  • Seems odd… Waddell was reportedly asking for a top 6 forward a top 4 d man and picks/prospects. He didnt get that so appearances are that he "settled", the timing also seems premature if that is the case.

    The contract numbers offered to Kovy are a red herring, the Oilers offered Hossa a boatload and he took way less to go to Detroit and now has taken less long term in Chicago.
    Kovy has that option. His actions say "it doesnt matter what you pay me im done in Atlanta". By extension those numbers arent meaningful going forward, they appear to be an offering to the Atlanta fan base that Waddell tried his hardest to keep the face of the franchise. Clearly, fan base and franchise are loosely used in the above statement.

    So there you go… as bad as the Oilers suck this year.. everyone has problems and many are self inflicted; just like here. ~How heartwarming~

  • Just curious. Is there something within the NHL rules that would prevent Atlanta from resigning Kovalchuk in the summer. If he hits open market and gets nothing offered to him close to the Thrashers offer, decides to go back for the money. Is that even allowed?