Let’s chat. The topic? Yesterday and specifically the announcement of one word being taken out of one of Don Waddell’s current job titles… the word “interim” making him our new General Manager. It is true, the removal of that one word sent many of us into a panic yesterday, but with a night to sleep on it and after today’s presser let’s reflect. Was naming Don Waddell the new GM that bad?
First off, who is Don Waddell?
Many of us know Don Waddell for his time with the Atlanta Thrashers as General Manager, and the failure of that franchise (which is now a beast in Winnipeg) makes it easier to dismiss him as someone who could actually be good for Carolina. It is true that success was lacking during his term as the Thrashers GM from the teams founding in 1998 until his departure in 2011 only making it to the playoffs once which resulted in a first round sweep along with some questionable trades and draft picks during his term, but his resume extends much further than Atlanta.
If there is one thing Waddell is not lacking in it is experience which is shown in his extensive resume. He started off as a player-coach on the Toledo Goaldiggers (1985-86) and then the Flint Spirits (1986-88). During his time with the Flint Spirits he would become the GM/Head Coach of the team from 1988 to 1990. He would then go on to work for two International Hockey League teams to help build them. First, from 1990-1995 he worked in the front office of the San Diego Gulls working all three positions of VP of hockey operations, GM, and Head Coach. After his tenure there he would go to the Orlando Solar Bears (1995-97) serving varying roles as VP of Hockey Operations, GM, and Assistant GM. In 1997 he would make his appearance as an NHL Executive as the assistant GM of the Detroit Red Wings, who he would see win the Stanley Cup, and GM of their farm team the Adirondack Red Wings in the 1997-98 season. The following season he would be named GM and VP of Hockey Operations of the Atlanta Thrashers and serve those roles until 2011 when he became President for the franchise. During his time in Atlanta he also served as interim Head Coach twice. After his time in Atlanta, he went to Pittsburgh to be a pro scout from 2011 until 2014 when he found himself in a front office in Raleigh, North Carolina as President of the Carolina Hurricanes.
It is also vital to note Waddell’s work with USA Hockey. He has served as GM for USA Hockey during the 2001, 2002, and 2005 World Championships and the 2006 Winter Olympics; Assistant GM during the 2000 and 2004 World Championship, the 2004 World Cup, and the 2010 Olympic Games; Head Coach in 2012 for the Deutschland Cup; and Team Consultant in the 2013 World Juniors. He has also helped Team USA win gold as a player at the 1983 World Championship.
What does this all mean headed into the future?
I mentioned earlier about how Waddell is known for some questionable trades and draft picks while GM of the Thrashers, but he certainly cannot receive all of the blame though his role in the organization made him an easy target to point to for everything that went wrong. He was not working for one owner but nine which I can imagine made his job even more difficult. On top of that he faced some extremely subpar draft classes which most definitely affected how he drafted. And with nine owners, I believe it is hard to blame him for the ultimate collapse of the Atlanta Thrashers and their relocation to Winnipeg. I’m certainly not saying some of the lack of success can’t be pinned on him, but I do not believe he deserves all of the blame he gets.
With that being said, It is also important to understand that moving forward, the GM of the Carolina Hurricanes is not a one man show (and Don Waddell has one owner to answer to not nine this time). Looking at the comments made after the announcement of Don Waddell being named GM and the comments from today’s presser they have pretty much confirmed that it will be general manager by committee. They discuss and then make decisions together, and Don Waddell’s job appears to be just managing and leading that group and those meetings which, in a way, means his role isn’t drastically changing as much from what it was before. Waddell is just the figurehead and voice of the decisions they make together as a committee and for that reason they gave him the title of General Manager.
Moving forward, I believe a type of cautious optimism is called for. I know many of you (myself included at first) are disappointed that we didn’t find someone from the outside and only used people we already had, but after thinking about it and seeing today’s press conference I am honestly excited for what’s to come.
Finding a good fit is important to find success. You see it all around the league a coach or general manager may be bad for one team but perfect for another. As fans of the Carolina Hurricanes we should know first hand this fact is true (Jim Rutherford is the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins just to name one). My hope is that Don Waddell and Rod Brind’Amour have found their perfect fit here in Carolina. The fact that they have been in the organization for a while may come as a benefit. They are both familiar with the staff, the players, and how things run.
So, let’s allow the cautious optimism to resonate in our minds headed into next season, and let’s start getting even more excited for that second overall pick because if Waddell made one thing clear today, it is the fact that, that pick is ours and he’s going to keep it that way.