by Brandt Corbin
When one sits back and look at it, there are many similarities between the old Winnipeg Jets and the recent Atlanta Thrashers. Unfortunately both teams have one common similarity. They both had bad, ok let’s be honest, horrible general managers in Mike Smith and Don Waddell. Because of those two, both teams struggled horribly with lacking attendance and year after year below average results. These two would be considered two of the worst GM’s in sports history. It’s just amazing those two kept their jobs as long as they did.
Smith was with the Jets for 14 years, first being hired as head coach in Tulsa (farm team) in 1979. Smith was then promoted to director of scouting, assistant general manager, then in 1988 he was hired as GM. A few years after he took over the team started to draft europeans, but mainly Russians and allot of them. Year after year it seemed to get worse and worse. Stupid trades such as the team acquiring Dave Manson for two top prospects and a first rounder. After Phil Housley set a career high in points Smith traded him to St. Louis for Nelson Emerson and Stephane Quintal. But when it was all said and done they had Jason Doig and Darren Turcotte to show for moving Housley. Early into 1994 Winnipeg hockey fans prayers were answered when he got him walking papers, but the damage was done and the team could never recover.
In all fairness to Waddell he had to take over an expansion team, and attempted to build it from scratch. But after five season, there is no excuse to see the lack of depth that they had, some will say to this day the depth is below average. When the team built up assets they did not manage them very well. In 2008 Waddell traded Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a first rounder (Daultan Leveille). Esposito played 55 games in the AHL, scored 3 goals all season.
No legacy from Hossa
When you trade the face of the franchise in Hossa you have to have something to show for it, if you don’t it sets back the team years. From the Hossa trade, you have Eric O’Dell (20 year old center man who was traded for Christensen) and Esposito to show, Armstrong was allowed to walk as an UFA and Leveille was never signed. Some people do not realize how much the Thrashers suffered from that trade, neither Christensen nor Armstrong became top six forwards.
Thrashers worst drafting team ever in the NHL?
When you draft players like Patrick Stefan first overall it will come back to bite you in the ass. But the Thrashers drafting history is shockingly bad, likely the worst in NHL history. Current Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelic in 2005 became the first ever 2nd round pick for the Thrashers ever to play in the NHL. The Thrashers have had (7) third round picks, four of those picks played in the NHL combining for only 62 games ever played all together. They also had (17) fourth round picks, only 4 of those picks ever played in the NHL, combining for 169 games, 151 of those games are from Patrick Dwyer. We should all be thankful director of scouting Dan Marr was fired when the team moved to Winnipeg.
Dudley did some good work
If recently fired general manager Rick Dudley did not acquire both Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd last year, the new Winnipeg would look like the old Winnipeg except even worse. So thank you Rick Dudley for giving this team a chance for years to come.
All we can hope for going forward is that if the new regime is failing, that True North doesn’t wait 10 years to clean house, because that is exactly what the previous owners have done in both teams past.