Toronto Maple Leafs: Ranking All 32 NHL General Managers

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: (l-r) Pierre Dorion and Kyle Dubas attend the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: (l-r) Pierre Dorion and Kyle Dubas attend the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Julien BriseBois, General Manager and Alternate Governor of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with the Stanley Cup following the victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Best GM – Julien BriseBois (Tampa Bay Lightning)

When the Lightning promoted Julien BriseBois in September of 2018, there’s no way they could have expected the level of success he’d provide. In his first season as GM, the Lightning were eliminated from the postseason without even winning a single game. BrisBois was sure to make the necessary changes to ensure that wouldn’t happen again. The team went on to capture back-to-back Stanley Cups.

The Good – BriseBois can be celebrated for a number of trades that have worked out for the club and helped them win hockey’s biggest prize. He swung deals to get Pat Maroon, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow who all helped the Lightning in both title runs. As wise as those acquisitions look now, it’s actually the move that BriseBois didn’t make that may be his best.

BriseBois hired Jon Cooper in 2010 to coach the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. In his second year on the job, Cooper won the Calder Cup. He earned a promotion to the NHL a year later and had been coaching the Lightning for five season before BriseBois became the GM. When the Blue Jackets, as an eighth seed, beat the Tampa in four straight games to knock them out of the 2017-18 playoffs, it could have cost Cooper his job. Instead, BriseBois was patient and let his coach know that his job was secure. Keeping Cooper turned out to be an excellent decision.

The Bad – It’s difficult to be overly critical of the moves BriseBois has made but one of them is likely to eventually become a burden on the team even though it has paid off in the short term. In the summer of 2019, BriseBois locked up star goaltender Andrei vasilevskiy to an eight year $76M contract. It comes with a $9.5M cap hit that will remain on the books until the completion of the 2027-28 season. It’s a giant investment that historically doesn’t work out for goaltenders. While there is a chance that down the line the deal will be seen as a good one for the organization, we won’t know for sure for several years.

The Ugly – The Maple Leafs are often accused of salary cap manipulation but it was BriseBois who was investigated this season for it. Though the NHL found no wrongdoing, it seemed very suspicious that the 2018-19 Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov, was on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR) for the entire 2020-21 season only to return for the playoffs. By keeping Kucherov off the payroll, BriseBois was able to use his star’s $9.5M cap hit as added space to make additions to the roster. Then, when the playoffs began, somehow Kucherov was no longer injured, When he took to the ice he looked like the All-Star he is. Perhaps it’s a coincidence or maybe it’s not.

Next. Leafs Top 10 Prospects. dark

2020-21 was a wild ride in the NHL. The GMs now have it in their rear-view mirror and will be looking forward to next season. Hopefully Dubas and the Maple Leafs make all the right moves to allow him to ascend to the top of these rankings this time next year.