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The Opening Faceoff: And the winner is ...

by Shawn P. Roarke

Big boss man
Can you hear me when I call
Big boss man
Can you hear me when I call
Oh, you ain't so big
You're just tall, that's all
You got me working, boss man
Working 'round the clock
I want me a drink of water
You won't let me stop
You big boss man
Can you hear me when I call?
Oh, you ain't so big
You just tall, that's all
Gonna get myself a boss man
One gonna treat me right
Work me hard in the day time
But I'll sure rest easy at night
Big boss man
Can you hear me when I call?
Oh, you ain't so big
You just tall, that's all
Big Boss Man, Elvis Presley

It's all about the Big Boss Man here in Naples, Fla., as CTN enjoys some sun and sand while covering the annual NHL GM meetings at the Ritz-Carlton. All the NHL's Big Boss Men are here and it is hard not to be in awe of the power they wield as they meet to discuss both changes to the game and potential trades leading up to next Tuesday's trade deadline.

The song Big Boss Man was originally done by Blues legend Jimmy Reed in the late-1950s, but it reached a mainstream audience after being covered by Elvis Presley a few years later. Its up-tempo beat and shuffling rhythm remain blues standards to this day. It is a song that has been covered by The Animals, Clapton and The Rolling Stones, among others.

But CTN still remembers hearing it first by Presley when CTN was just a wee lad -- maybe on one of those Elvis TV specials that were always such a staple of the CTN household. CTN loved the simple lyrics and the harmonica and is still surprised that this did not end up being one of Elvis' countless hits.

But that is neither here nor there, CTN guesses. It does explain why I have been humming the song since the plane took off from Newark on Sunday afternoon.

It also sets the stage for this week's Opening Faceoff, which looks at the NHL's Big Boss Men under a microscope. To be specific, CTN wondered who would be best to run an NHL team. Not any old team, but a team that CTN had purchased with his hard-earned, vast -- and, most important, imaginary -- wealth.

So, who would it be? Let's find out! Feel free to drop a note to CTN and let the hockey world know what Big Boss Man – whether he is currently a GM or not – will run your team. Feel free to also tell CTN why. Send all submissions to

The Opening Faceoff

CTN decided to list the final field of 10 candidates, with what makes them desirable to CTN, and then pick the winner at the end. CTN would love to sit down and interview each of these men about their management philosophies and just pick their brains about hockey before making a final decision. That would be a priceless hockey education, in and of itself.

Here are the 10 finalists, in alphabetical order:

Doug Armstrong's tenure bruoght players like Mike Ribeiro, Niklas Hagman, Jussi Jokinen, Matt Niskanen and Mike Smith to Dallas.

Doug Armstrong -- The former GM of the Dallas Stars, Armstrong was let go a few weeks into the 2007-08 season after Dallas got off to a slow start. But Armstrong shouldn't be out of work long. He knows how to build a team. He was the assistant GM on both the 1999 Cup-winning team and the team that returned to the Final the next year. The team was 210-109-35-23 during Armstrong's tenure and he is responsible for bringing players like Mike Ribeiro (trade), Niklas Hagman (trade), Jussi Jokinen (draft), Matt Niskanen (draft) and goalie Mike Smith (draft) to Dallas.

Brian Burke -- Entertainment sells, and Mr. Burke is nothing, if not entertaining. Burke is a natural salesman for the game and, as an owner, CTN would push the organization to be open and engaging with both the media and the community. The quotable Burke is the perfect man to do that. Plus, he is a pretty good talent evaluator. He has run three different teams, reviving the Vancouver Canucks before winning the Cup last season with the Anaheim Ducks. In Vancouver, he orchestrated the deals that netted the team the Sedins, the twins that are the bedrock of the organization today. Burke has never been shy about pulling the trigger – with money or players – for what he believes his team needs to win. See free-agent signing Scott Niedermayer and trade-acquisition Chris Pronger for proof. He is not always right, but he is always confident.

Bob Gainey -- Nobody, it seems, is cooler under pressure than Gainey, who has handled the cauldron of Montreal with amazing aplomb. Those nerves of steel obviously help him when it comes to assessing and acquiring talent, as well. Despite almost no training, Gainey turned the Dallas Stars into a powerhouse. His teams won two Presidents' Trophies and a Stanley Cup, as well as advancing to another Final. He made key franchise-building acquisitions in obtaining the likes of Ed Belfour, Sergei Zubov and Brett Hull. In Montreal, he has the franchise once again enjoying success, while still playing an entertaining brand of hockey.

Ken Holland -- Almost always quietly, Holland has made Detroit one of the most successful franchises during his 11-year tenure. The club drafts exceptionally well, hitting home runs in the late rounds with regularity. Detroit develops its talent base with almost ruthless efficiency thanks to an organization-wide coaching philosophy and stability in the front office. Plus, Holland is not adverse to surrounding himself with talented executives that can only make the organization stronger. He is not the “me-first,” headline-seeking personality that often occupies the lead chair in an organization. All Holland cares about is winning and he and the Detroit Red Wings do it with stunning regularity.

Lou Lamoriello -- The New Jersey Devils' GM is the epitome of success. He took over a foundering Devils organization and led a revival that not only resulted in three Stanley Cup championships, but also the acknowledgement that the Devils are among the most consistent franchises in the League, showcasing an organizational model that has been followed by many other teams. Lamoriello built the Devils through shrewd drafting, but he has also had the moxie to sacrifice assets to properly supplement his home-grown core. He has also shown the willingness to make tough and unpopular decisions – see the end-of-season dismissals of coaches Robbie Ftorek and Claude Julien – to give his team what he believes is the best chance to win. Simply put, he is man of his convictions.

Dean Lombardi -- The architect of San Jose's rise to Western Conference power, Lombardi is now aggressively trying to rebuild the Los Angeles Kings. It's a safe bet that he will succeed if you look at his tenure in San Jose. At the time, he was only the second GM in League history to preside over a team that improved its point total for six straight seasons. Bill Torrey of the New York Islanders is the other. A great drafter – he landed NHL regulars Evgeni Nabokov, Jonathan Cheechoo, Vesa Toskala, Ryane Clowe and Christian Ehrhoff in later rounds during his time with the Sharks – Lombardi is also a sound judge of veteran talent. It is that ability to locate and sign veteran talent while allowing his prospects to develop that has made Lombardi such a success.

Craig Patrick is the architect of the Penguins' glory years.

Craig Patrick -- The architect of the Penguins' glory years, Patrick drafted well (Jaromir Jagr) and traded well (Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson) as the Penguins won two Stanley Cups and were the dominant team of the late 1990s. Patrick's track record during his later tenure before leaving the GM's chair in 2006 was not as stellar, but there is no denying that Patrick knows how to build a team. Plus, he has the mojo of being part of the “Miracle on Ice” back in 1980 and that has to count for something, right? Oh yeah, by the way, five members of his family have won the Stanley Cup. How is that for championship pedigree?

David Poile -- The Nashville Predators' GM is all about consistency. He has had only three coaches during his entire managerial career. His current coach, Barry Trotz, is the only coach Nashville has known in its 10-year history. The club's first-ever draft pick, David Legwand, is still with the club, as well. Last season, after steady building, the team eclipsed the 100-point mark for the first time. This season, after allowing most of their free agents to walk away in anticipation of the team being sold, the Preds are once again in the hunt. Poile may not make many headlines, but he also doesn't make many mistakes.

Darcy Regier -- The Buffalo GM has consistently won, even when he has not been given the monetary resources of other GMs. He is amazingly calm in the face of adversity, giving his organization a stability that not many would expect in such trying circumstances. But Regier is much more than just a calming influence; he is also a brilliant hockey mind. The Sabres have been as good as anybody at identifying and drafting young talent under Regier. They have also made some key free-agent signings and smart moves for veteran players – see the deal for Daniel Briere. Regier doesn't make excuses and he doesn't accept them from others in his organization. A trip to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final and back-to-back Presidents' Trophy wins before last season are testament to Regier's will to win.

Jim Rutherford -- A hockey lifer, Rutherford has turned Carolina into a vibrant hockey market since the team relocated from Hartford. The team has made two trips to the Stanley Cup Final since 2003, winning it all in 2006. Rutherford has managed at all levels of hockey, presiding over junior and minor-league teams before taking over the reigns of the Hurricanes. He has a broad understanding of the junior game, which is important when it comes to drafting. Plus, Rutherford is a former goalie and that weighs heavily in his favor with CTN, another former goalie. And, most importantly, he has the Stanley Cup ring to add legitimacy to his candidacy.

There are the 10 finalists that will sit down and have interviews with CTN about assuming the leadership of the organization when CTN gets around to getting his own franchise.

And, the winner, you ask? Oh yeah. CTN has to go with the current Stanley Cup champion, Brian Burke. He just has too many attributes you would want in a man running your organization. Plus, he would sure be entertaining, as we mentioned, and CTN would value that for the buzz he would bring to the franchise.

Don't agree? Feel free to drop CTN and let the hockey world know what Big Boss Man – whether he is currently a GM or not – to run your team. Feel free to also tell CTN why. Send all submissions to

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