There are 30 NHL General Manager jobs.
One of them was open yesterday, as the Buffalo Sabres fired (very) long-time General Manager Darcy Regier, and replaced on an interim basis by now-Director of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine, who is seeking to hire a General Manager for the Sabres.
If you read this morning's Walk, you'll have seen articles speculating who may be tabbed to be Regier's replacement. Most of the lists comprise of up-and-coming assistant general managers. Not seen on those lists, however, is the Minnesota Wild's Assistant General Manager, Brent Flahr.
Brent Flahr came to the Minnesota Wild very early in Chuck Fletcher's tenure, in July 2009. He had worked with Chuck Fletcher twice, in Anaheim and in Florida. He had served in a variety of roles, from scouting to Assistant General Managing.
Upon his arrival, he was charged with facing the same problems as Chuck Fletcher: A sub-mediocre team losing their only star player, and a non-existent prospect pool. Flahr's main job was the latter problem, as he is charged with running the Minnesota Wild's draft preparations, and the draft itself. Tommy Thompson, the previous Assistant GM, handled the 2009 draft (which yielded Nick Leddy, Matthew Hackett, Darcy Kuemper, and Erik Haula, which was pretty impressive), so Flahr's first draft wasn't until 2010.
And what a draft it was. As you *might* remember, that was the draft that the Wild acquired Mikael Granlund, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson, Jason Zucker, and Johan Gustafsson with their first five picks. And I'm not even taking into account later trades for 2010 first-rounders in Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. This started the Wild's rebounding in their farm system, and boy, it has rebounded. While most of the big-ticket Wild prospects have graduated to the NHL, the Wild have such a glut of talented young forward prospects that they've taken to drafting long-term college projects to try to stagger them.
What's perhaps most impressive is that the Wild have assembled such young talent without completely bottoming out. While many turn-arounds come from assembling Top-3 picks (See: Chicago with Kane, Toews; Pittsburgh with those two guys), the highest the Wild drafted during Flahr's tenure was 6th. Mikael Granlund (9th) and Jonas Brodin (10th) were drafted in positions where picking is much less of a sure thing than a Top-3 pick.
Perhaps more of his picks (such as Brett Bulmer, Zach Phillips, and Mario Lucia) need to develop, or late-round fliers like Tyler Graovac and Daniel Gunnarsson need to turn more heads for his work to really be recognized, but I don't think it's mere homerism to say that Flahr's accomplishments in turning around the Wild should be noticed more.
Of course, there's more to being a General Manager than scouting, and what kind of role that Flahr takes in terms of negotiations, dealing with agents, managing the cap, and the like are pretty unknown to the public. For all we know, these might be things that Flahr is fairly disinterested in. But given his track record and the Wild's success in scouting, I'd think that he showed enough to open more eyes than he seems to have.
At the end of the day, though, what would be a good thing for Flahr might be a huge blow to the Wild. As long as he's running the Minnesota Wild's draft board, I'm not complaining.