Wayne Gretzky – L.A. Kings General Manager. Fancy or Fantasy?

I have been asked several times, including by Surly most recently, who I believe the next L.A. Kings G.M. should be. I haven’t answered the question directly. Instead, I offered my opinion on who I believe Tim Leiweke will want as Dean Lombardi’s successor. The answer is always the same – Wayne Gretzky – and with each passing day, I warm up to the idea.

The name still commands respect. It should. He is the greatest hockey player to play the game. No player of my generation had a more commanding presence on the ice. I hated him as an L.A. Kings fan in the 80’s, envious of that incredible skill-set the likes of which I have not seen since (the closest being Mario Lemieux), was shocked, literally unable to speak when I learned the Kings acquired him and I stood speech and motionless during the press conference when he put on a silver and black L.A. Kings sweater.

Gretzky almost single-handedly brought the L.A. Kings out of hockey obscurity and took them as far as they have ever gone in the 1992-1993 season. To this day, my favorite hockey quote of all time belongs to Gretzky (which he acquired from his father), “a good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown could both take critical note.

But you know all of this. You know about his records, how the entirety of Canada worships him for good reason, that he is this league’s ambassador, that he hates the Anaheim Ducks (okay, I just made that part up) and he is still, to this date, the most recognizable figure in the game. You also know about his minority ownership of the Coyotes (which are now owned by the NHL) as well as his coaching tenure which was not successful.

But have you considered the possibility?

I don’t have another of his quotes handy but one thing Wayne Gretzky said was how winning in Los Angeles was unlike winning in any other place. He said it as a compliment and talked about how much the city embraced the team.

Winning.

That is something about which our hockey team has consistently received an “incomplete” grade. 45 years of incomplete to be exact.

Can you doubt The Great One’s qualifications? Sure, being a hockey icon doesn’t guarantee success in the front office but who said anything about guarantees? Is the greatest hockey player of all time qualified to evaluate hockey talent, draft, make trades and lead a team’s direction? In addition to that skill, if you have been around hockey long enough, you know that Wayne was one of the hardest working players in the game and his obsession with winning was almost second to none. I suspect he brings that to everything he does off the ice.

Does he still care about the L.A. Kings? He lives here. L.A. is home. He attends games and he keeps a close tab on the Kings (and 3 other teams). From a February 9 article on nhl.com:

Since he lives in the Los Angeles area, Gretzky said he watches a lot of Kings’ games.

“They’re very close,” he said. “They have a very good team.”

Gretzky praised the job done by ex-Kings coachTerry Murray, who he said instilled a defensive philosophy that has carried over into the Darryl Sutter regime. He said he believes Sutter has them thinking about scoring more through an aggressive forecheck, but what the Kings lack is a natural goal scorer.

They are, after all, last in the NHL in scoring at 2.11 goals-per-game.

“They need a Luc Robitaille, a Bernie Nichols, a guy that can just score goals when everybody is tired, who can get that lucky, fluky goal through a battle in front of the net and it goes off your butt,” Gretzky said. “Yeah, they need that, and Dean knows that. Obviously it’s no secret, but all in all their team plays with a lot of grit and they play hard every night. Even when they lose, it’s 1-0 or 2-1. They play hard each game, so with that and the past two years of playoff experience, that’s going to help them a lot going into the playoffs this year.”

What’s also going to help — or rather, who is also going to help — is goalie Jonathan Quick. Gretzky said the Kings’ All-Star netminder belongs in the same class as guys like Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne.

“He’s been outstanding,” Gretzky said of Quick, who is third in the League in goals-against average (1.89) and save percentage (.935). “You can’t win a Stanley Cup unless you have a top-flight goaltender and he’s a top-flight guy right now, proving that each and every night. He’s been as good as anybody.”

Gracious comments. So he could never write for Surly & Scribe. That doesn’t make him any less great.

We then get to the “will’ or desire to do it. This is the pivotal question. Is he ready to roll up the sleeves? The Phoenix Coyotes’ venture no doubt left a bad taste in his mouth. He also still has a family and no shortage of kids. From his Wikipedia page.

The couple have five children: Paulina Mary Jean (December 19, 1988), Ty Robert (July 9, 1990), Trevor Douglas (September 14, 1992), Tristan Wayne (August 2, 2000), and Emma Marie (March 28, 2003). Ty played hockey at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s, but quit, and returned home. He now attends Arizona State University. Trevor graduated from Oaks Christian High School, where he played baseball and varsity football, in 2011. He signed a letter of intent to play baseball at San Diego State University, currently coached by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2011 MLB draft. His teammates on the football team included wide receiver Trey Smith, son of Will Smith, and quarterback Nick Montana, son of former NFL quarterback Joe Montana. Gwynn told the Toronto Sun that Trevor had signed with the Cubs, a signing that was not immediately announced by the team, and thus would not play for him at San Diego State

Being a living deity in the hockey world probably keeps him busy. Why would he want the aggravation that goes with playing general manager and getting involved in day-to-day hockey operations? Two words.

Unfinished business.

Wayne started something in Los Angeles he didn’t finish. Dean Lombardi, despite the kind words from Gretzky, isn’t going to do it. The Great One knows the respect he commands will lubricate the wheels that will bring more coveted free agents to Los Angeles and, just as important, he will bring a greater awareness and credibility to L.A. in hockey circles as kids throughout the U.S. and Canada who grow up and dream of playing in the NHL may actually think of L.A. as a hockey town. Why did Mike Richards’ mother put a silver and black Kings’ sweater on him? Why did Drew Doughty grow up loving the Kings? Gretzky did this when he wore the sweater and put the puck in the net. He will do it when he is wearing a suit and tie. Am I dreaming? Maybe a little. But let me ask you this. Could you say no to The Great One? He is one of the very few people in this world that would make me nervous to be around. Ashley Judd is the other one but for different reasons.

I don’t know what the future holds for this franchise. The trade deadline will be somewhere between interesting to anti-climatic. Our daunting March schedule may be our end or the springboard for a ride into the post season. Dean Lombardi may or may not be here for the start of the 2012-2013 season. But if he isn’t, we could do a lot worse than the greatest hockey player to play the sport. Do you fancy Wayne Gretzky as the next L.A. Kings G.M.?



Categories: L.A. Kings News

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51 replies

  1. When you hinted at your secret GM wish in a previous post, my gut went to the same place. He has said recently (it may have been when Murray was coming to an end) that these kind of jobs are 24 hour/365 day a year jobs and he wasn’t interested in that right now—

    — but Christ on a stick we’re men, we lie all the time!

    If you scored 50 goals in 39 games would you went your legacy to end in Phoenix? Fucking Phoenix?

    if ever their was a man who needed to get the fuck out of his house and away from the women in his life, it is him.

  2. Agreed at the very least it would light a fire under the asses of our beloved team. Its so painful to watch the kings trying to score. Its like watching the zit faced fat kid with bad breath trying to score at the prom

  3. …I met Gretzky when I was 7 years old…got his autograph, shook his hand…it was like I was touched by some kind of god.

  4. At the least, the idea is thought provoking. It is hard not to find the idea appealing.

    But the burning question would be whether or not he could get the job done. A lot of tough decisions have to be made. Having an eye for talent and building a team is a totally different endeavor than being a superstar as a player. Can he do it? I honestly don’t know.

    This has been a mediocre season that began with high hopes. Watching the team is depressing. I have been a fan for 4 decades and it is a struggle to have any enthusiasm.

    • Of course he can do it, he said Crosby was going to be a superstar when he was only 14 years old. Plus he was the “GM” of team Canada at the Olympics in 2002 and won a gold medal. So I think he has proven he has the eye for talent. Plus I would love to see what he could do in landing free agents and contract negotiations. How could players say NO or ask for more money to this legend, it wouldn’t be easy.

      • I knew this would come up. A) He wasn’t the sole GM responsible for Team Canada. B) The group of Canadian players he had to choose from was laden w superstars.

        Everyone probably knew about Crosby.

        It’s not the same thing when you have to figure out what to do with Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, etc. Who do we keep. Who do we get rid of? What to do w Lokti as he really isn’t a 3rd line type player and how do I get him wingers who will function well with him?

        Those aren’t exactly the types of dilemmas he was dealing with as GM for Team Canada.

        But I see your point, you make it well and we can agree to disagree is all.

  5. I think he was born to be the greatest hockey player ever. I don’t think he was born to be a good coach (see results) and I don’t trust that he would be an outstanding GM either.

    A good GM isn’t gonna get it done. The Kings already have a ‘good’ GM.
    They need someone. Listen to Steve Yzerman speak. Maybe TB aren’t very good this year, but they have a few key holes to fill. I think he can get it done.
    I’m sorry but in my gut I just don’t feel the same about Gretzky.
    But if it did happen I wouldn’t be surprised.

  6. Unfortunatley as much as I would love for my favorite player to be the next GM, it is too smart of a move for the Kings to pull off. Gretzky would be PERFECT as the next GM, he was the architect of Canadas 2002 GOLD medal winning team and still commands a ton of respect. You can’t tell me a top free agent like Parise would be able to say no to Gretzky. The problem I have with this happening is that Bettman totally screwed Gretzky over in the Coyotes fiasco and owes him Millions of dollars that the Great one will NEVER see, so if Gretzky came back to the NHL it won’t be until Bettman is gone, and that will not be happening anytime soon. It’s a nice thought be a pipedream.

  7. Am in a bit of a rush so my sentences are not complete. The thoughts in my head are, but not the way I’m expressing them.

    Bottom line….. they need someone who has a true ‘feel’ for the chemistry of a team, how to build it etc. I was always astonished that Glen Sather could have been so poor in NY after what he did in Edm. Well guess what. After getting the high price over the hill guys for the owner he clamped down, made very astute moves, built extremely well thru the draft (definitely better job than what Lombardi has done) and one coaching change….. again far better than what Lombardi has done.

    It takes a certain sort of savvy to be a GM, and if you look at 98% of the great GM’s save Yzerman (who is yet to prove himself), they were just average players, or didn’t play at all.

  8. Let’s replace a seasoned GM with someone who has absolutely no experience in the area…yeah, I can see that…after all, we’re talking Kings here, the same organ-eye-zation that just hiked the ticked price for the crap they field every night. But Gre(a)tzky? Seriously? He’d be steamrolled at every deal he’d attempt! He was a great player, decent coach, but he’s not GM material.

    • Maybe you should do some research on the subject first before commenting.

      • Here I agree with you. I think that above comment is a bit harsh. And that isn’t what I was saying. Probably Gretzky could in fact do an adequate job. But adequate is not gonna get it done for the Kings.

        I think that to be a great GM you just have to have that ‘way of thinking’ in your blood, it has to be a passion, not just a situation one walks into because the opening presents itself. If anything I’d lean more towards someone like Luc…and perhaps Hextall. Also, Craig Patrick is a consultant for the Blue Jackets. As awful as they’ve been, Craig Patrick was GM for the cup winning Penquins when Lemieux was playing if I’m not mistaken.

        • ….. and I have to imagine there are others who would do a great job. Just a question of finding the right person.

          • Drew: I agree, today’s GM’s are so much more savy and in tuned to the market. Bringing in a high profile to learn on the spot is probably not the best way to go about it.

      • Kings N Riders: Building a team from a candy shop menu is not exactly the same when the shop is filled with snotty kids wanting the same candy as you. So he assembled (not built) a team for Canada, he had 600+ players at his disposal to pick from. How would that team looked like if he had to compete with 30 other GM’s?

  9. I’m all in! I even now have a picture of Gretzky breaking the point record in Edmonton on my desktop! You know, the goal in the dieing moments of regulation when Gretzky was able to sneak around from behind the net and get a rebound and put it home off the backhand! Something these Kings cannot do…bury 2nd or 3rd scoring chances!

    Go Gretzky! Go Kings Go!

  10. I’m a whole lot more concerned about the coaching. A new GM and new players will still fail without a coach who gets the way the game is played now. If Dean stays, Darryl stays. If Dean goes, it’s still a gamble whether or not the new guy hires a progressive thinking coach. Discouraging.

  11. I do not dislike the idea of Gretzky being a GM. If it is to ever happen, I think he would need to be surrounded by a quality assistant just because he has no GM experience, but I would be more than willing to give the reigns to him if he was interested.

  12. I remember reading years ago that Wayne had too much say about what players were signed by the Kings. I don’t know if that was true or not, but if so I think he had a pretty good idea of who would work for the Kings, and could do that today as GM.

    That being said, I love this idea mainly because what I want, actually, what I have been dieing to see happen for years now is for the Kings to build it’s identity by having past Kings run the show. What better way to instill a passion, and culture for the team? We already have Luc, why not throw in Wayne as the GM? Let’s put a former King behind the bench as well. Maybe we get Granato, or we pry Deadmarsh from Colorado to be in the coaching mix as well, etc. Let’s have the players see former Kings greats taking control of the team, and let those former Kings let these players know what it is like to be a King. I want that so freaking bad, it hurts.

  13. Gretzky would bring a Marquee name to the Kings management, but he has not served as a GM, assistant GM with any NHL team.

    The next GM should have some of the following previous job experience:
    GM for reference
    Assistant GM
    scouting
    drafting
    player evaluation
    player development
    player or personell management

    Also having some of the above for a winning franchise helps.

    Some name for consideration:
    Jim Nill
    Brett Hull
    Craig Button
    Patrick Roy
    Pierre Lacroix lure him with some serious dough as President and GM
    Julien BriseBois:
    Doug Risebrough:
    Claude Loiselle:

    • Neil, very astute my man.

      Every job….. serious job that is, in the world, entails a learning curve. Right now the Kings have Doughty, Kopitar and Mike Richards and Quick.

      If everyone is comfortable with Gretzky coming in, making his mistakes and then sort of figuring it out as he goes along, at the risk that Kopi and who knows else will be gone by the time he does, then it’s an OK idea. Personally, I’ve had enough of the GM’s the Kings have had and would love to see someone like (repeat…. ‘like’, as we’re not gonna get them) a Dale Tallon, Brian Burke, Ray Shero (I wish), won’t even mention Ken Holland…… someone w some sort of experience that would have a handle on things and be able to immediately assess what the Kings have on the + side of the ledger and also on the – side of it. What needs to be changed and what can stay and develop.

      There is a learning curve in life when you try new things w/o the experience. That’s a fact that many people will back up.
      Being a GM is not the same thing as having an uncanny vision of the ice while playing on it.

  14. Gretzky made a GREAT coach didn’t he? [/sarcasm]

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Wayne, but as a coach and trusting him with scouting players and putting in the work Futa and Co have put in, I would run in the other direction.

    Luc and Wayne were great players. Let them be just that. Just Say NO to Wayne as GM.

    • I still haven’t heard your suggestion for GM. I would like a strange scientific procedure done, and to create a three headed man, sort of like on “The Holy Grail” where you, Surly, and Scribe all become GM, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. So who do you got?

  15. Im for it. The biggest impact he’d have would be on free agents. Can you imagine Gretz coming to your agents office? Fuck the tape, he’s here man! Gretzky wants to recruit you for the team he’s building…

    Sold!

    • First…. there is a salary cap so it doesn’t matter what sort of impact he has as there are only so many you can bring in as they’re clearly paid far more than younger players. So we’re talking maybe one key UFA (two max).

      Second…. what’s the difference if you don’t have a real understanding of how to build a team. That is WAY different than playing…. and considerably different than coaching. If you still have doubts, ask some Calgary fans what they think of the job Darryl Sutter did. What did he get for Dion Phaneuf? Don’t answer that.

  16. … It’s hard to say. Of course I’d love for Wayne to be involved with the Kings’ organization in any capacity.

    It’s obviously no guarantee that being one of the greatest players of All Time in a given sport will be terrific at drafting and assessing talent. But, here in L.A., we had the best GM I’ve ever seen in any sport – Jerry West – and he certainly fit the bill of being one of the greatest players in his sport.

    The thing is that West’s competitive fires were still raging for decades after his playing career was over. West was incredibly intense, dangerously intense; he was so nervous that he often couldn’t watch his team play. Does similar fire burn within Gretzky today? I don’t know.

  17. I don’t understand why some people feel that they know Gretzky would fail as a GM. Answers like: he was a great player and great players don’t make good GMs, or he sucked as a coach, so he will suck as a GM are pure shit. Of course, Gretzky doesn’t have the resume in amateur scouting or player development. You know why!? He was fucking owning it in the NHL for 20 years! So, sorry. Gretzky didn’t go from motel to motel and barn to barn watching teenagers play hockey, but if you think that means that he can’t judge talent, then you have as much hockey acumen as Brian Willsie. Why was Gretzky a great player afterall? Sure he had top notch skills, but he had vision like nobody else. He has the ability to see the game and all the players. He knows what the other players are going to do, before they themselves know. That tells me that he can evaluate players and on a very fundamental level. It’s an innate ability for him.

    • This is what has been getting under my skin all day too. Every player who ever played with him says the same thing, “he understands the game better than anyone.” so of course he would have no idea what to look for in a prospect. None what so ever. Four stanley cups so of course he has no idea what parts are necessary to build a strong locker room chemistry.

      Is he a sure thing? Of course not, but this shit that he has no idea what he’s doing is fucking ridiculous.

      Had Bruce McNall not traded his Armani suits and Tai hookers for State Issue orange jumpsuit and 300 lb. tattooed cell mates, it’s arguable that Gretzky would have retired a King. He loved this organization. He has said that his best memory of playing was game seven against Toronto. He embodied Pride. Passion and what ever the other P is. And as stated, he has unfinished business. One thing he absolutely brings is a legacy. One players can feed off of. You guys wanna see Granato and Nichols behind the bench? This is your best shot.

      Mario did it in Pittsburgh. I think Gretzky could do it here.

      • Had Bruce McNall not traded his Armani suits and Tai hookers for State Issue orange jumpsuit and 300 lb. tattooed cell mates, it’s arguable that Gretzky would have retired a King. He loved this organization. He has said that his best memory of playing was game seven against Toronto. He embodied Pride. Passion and what ever the other P is. And as stated, he has unfinished business. One thing he absolutely brings is a legacy. One players can feed off of. You guys wanna see Granato and Nichols behind the bench? This is your best shot.

        … I’m quoting this because this is awesome. Love it. Agree 1000%.

    • Skebo…. do I KNOW he’d fail as a GM? No, I don’t. But at the same time, people who say he’d be amazing… well how do they know?

      When I spoke of the fact that he was a great player… Butch Goring was a great player and a mediocre coach at best. Robbie Ftorek, ditto. Wayne Gretzky too.

      If you study the GM’s that are around, the only one I see who has done a good job in that capacity who was a good player
      was Don Maloney…. and he wasn’t a ‘great’ player. He was a good player. It takes a different way of thinking. There is an exception to everything, and Jerry West most certainly was.

      Ask the NY Knicks fans how much they liked Isaih Thomas as GM. He was a fabulous player.

      http://www.blacksportsonline.com/rbzeke.html

      Let’s leave it at this….. if you break it down to percentages…. much more often than not, it doesn’t work. If you like taking risks, then why not?

  18. Gretzky is definitely intriguing. Lombardi is a very good GM. You can say what you want about the team but this team competes every night is SOLID defensively and is on the verge of greatness. There is a solid core of players on this team. DL could become a great GM and win a cup or two, (in theory) but even with that I don’t know if players would flock to LA.

    Gretzky would give the team instant credibility and clearly from his quotes thinks this is a team on the verge of greatness. I don’t know if the analogy fits but if you look at Detroit, they sucked prior to Scotty Bowman taking over. Now every star lists Detroit as a top place to go. The Kings don’t have that. Free agents don’t want to make LA their home which I don’t get. (You ever been to Detroit in December? It’s not pretty.) Even if the Kings win the Cup I don’t know if DL and the current team have the cache to make free agents want to sign here. Gretzky may bring that.

    • Actually, the Wings sucked until Jim Devellano came in. He drafted a certain Steve Yzerman, which many point to as the beginning of the turnaround for the Red Wings. By the time Bowman came in (a Devellano hire) the Wings were already landing big names like Coffey and Federov.
      Free agents don’t want to come to L.A., because it’s been shown to negatively impact their offensive stats and the number of playoff games they appear in. If the Kings can find a way to finish first or second in their division 4 or 5 years running, make some deep playoff runs and vie for the Cup more than once a Century, then maybe you will see the midset of FAs change.

      • Yes you’re right I was thinking Bowman also was GM when he came to Detroit but that was Buffalo. Paul Coffey came over in a trade from the Kings.

        Bowman though did a great job there. The point though is guys are willing to take pay cuts to play there and they have a winning culture. They win no matter what. Not many organizations are like that.

    • on the verge of greatness

      … Hahahaha no. They’re nowhere near greatness. They have a couple great players, I suppose. But, as a team? No way.

      Even if the Kings win the Cup I don’t know if DL and the current team have the cache to make free agents want to sign here. Gretzky may bring that.

      … If the Kings won a Cup, free agents would definitely look at L.A. as a far more desirable place to play – even if Joe Schmoe Anonymous was the Kings GM.

      • I finally agree with you on something Dutch.
        The Kings get no fucking respect in this league because we haven’t earned any!!
        Wayne Gretzky has the league’s respect coming out of his ass, at least that’s what I’ve heard from Janet.
        Sorry Wayne, the cat’s out of the bag dude!

      • I disagree about the Cup. There are plenty of teams that won the cup one year and were done. I don’t think FAs flocked to Anaheim after the Quacks won. Bertuzzi signed with them that year.

        I think Chicago is struggling to sustain their “greatness” as well. Neither have come close to replicating what Detroit or even Pittsburgh for that matter has done to attract talent.

        I don’t know if Gretzky solves that problem but I don’t think DL ever will.

        • It’s true that Detroit and Pittsburgh have both attracted talent. But the fact is that especially Detroit ‘attracted talent’ because they had a scouting department that unearthed players like Datzyuk, Zetterberg and Lidstrom and were coached by Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock.

          And they always always win…. even if not the SC every year.

          Big difference there.

        • Both the Ducks and Hawks ran into cap issues that required some salary dumping. So signing big name FAs was not an option.

      • We’re a goal a game from “verge of pretty damn goodness”. On paper, if you hold it upside down, and read it backwards in a mirror we might look great. Might.

        And yes, Alfred E, Neuman could be your GM, if you just won a cup and you have cap space, talent will line up to be a part of your team

        • We’re a goal a game from “verge of pretty damn goodness”.

          … Well, they’re a goal a game from converting these losses into ties, so there’s something – but that’s the whole trick, isn’t it? That one extra goal a game. Where does it come from? If the bottom six can’t be counted on to pot a goal every other game, opposing teams are going to recognize that, and basically run a game plan of “hey, we shut down Kopitar and Richards and we shut down the Kings”. That, combined with some bad luck, have hampered this team all season long. When the Kings had the third line of Frolov-Handzus-Simmonds a couple seasons ago, people HAD to worry about that line or they were going to get burned; and in turn, it opened up a little more for the top two lines. A third line of Lewis-Loktionov-Richardson scares no one.

  19. Hell yes! Bring on Wayne. Although he is wrong about that “the Kings only needing a true goal-scorer part.” Other than that, I think he’d be great for LA.

    • So you say he’s wrong about that comment? I don’t agree or disagree, but I’d be concerned to bring in someone who’s primary comment is off base. And truth be told, I agree with you, not with Gretzky.

  20. I think it would be good, it would lure in a lot of Talent just to be around him. I dont think anyone out there would turn down an offer from the great one. Heck he could probably talk a lot of guys down on asking price too.

    But My fav quote from him is:
    You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

    And I too would be nervous around Gretzky and Ashley.

  21. What’s Bruce McNall doing these days?

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