Why Canucks fans are concerned about John Weisbrod’s influence

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(Image courtesy www.Flames.NHL.com)

It’s rare that a relatively low-profile assistant general manager finds himself in the crosshairs of fan anger, but John Weisbrod has been a lightning rod for criticism since he assumed the position last off-season

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Weisbrod’s body of work is such that there aren’t many talking points or red flags to draw from in his time as a Canuck. Canucks fans are generally pretty knowledgable and the hardcore among us have done their homework. It’s not so much what Weisbrod’s done, but what his past suggests he’s capable of doing with the Canucks.

Is this line of criticism fair, or is Weisbrod suffering guilt by association? Maybe a bit of both, but I’ll let his record speak for itself.

For The Record

Weisbrod cut his teeth in the hockey world first as a player, then an executive in the now-defunct IHL. When the IHL shutdown in 2000, a new opportunity opened with the owner of the Orlando Solar Bears elevating Weisbrod to an administrative position with the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

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The Magic promoted Weisbrod to chief operating officer of their franchise, granting him oversight of the day-to-day operations of the franchise. Inklings of Weisbrod’s no-nonsense reputation are marked profoundly by his role in relieving Doc Rivers of his duties as head coach of the Magic. Magic general manager, John Gabriel, was next on the chopping block and received his walking papers a few months thereafter. 

At the end of the Magic purge, it was Weisbrod who remained at the top, assuming the role of general manager in advance of the 2004-05 season. Weisbrod’s first and only season in that role can be described as nothing short of an unmitigated disaster, drawing enmity in the form of hand-written and delivered death threats to his residency.

Magic fans were especially irate about the decision to part ways with Tracy McGrady, as part of a seven-player mega trade to the Houston Rockets. If you were guessing that the move was justified by way of a Batman and Robin analogy, come on down…

“[McGrady]was one of the most talented players in the league, very popular, but I came to the conclusion he didn’t have the internal fortitude to win a championship,” Weisbrod said. “I went to the ownership and said, ‘He can be Robin, not Batman.’ The FBI moved me out of my house to a hotel under an alias [because of the public’s anger]”

Weisbrod’s one and only year as general manager of the Magic saw roster turnover bordering on scorched earth. Three players were left standing at the end of the 2004-05 season. 

Ultimately Weisbrod – always a hockey guy first and foremost – resigned from his position within the Magic organization and returned to the world of professional hockey. The Dallas Stars took a flyer on Weissbrod, hiring him first as an amateur scout with jurisdiction over New England in advance of the 2005-06 season. 

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The Stars didn’t renew Weisbrod’s contract at the end of that season, but he was scooped up by the Bruins as a member of their scouting staff. Originally, Weisbrod was based out of Tampa, Florida, but he was elevated to the role of Director of Collegiate Scouting.

His work over this span, particularly with the Bruins, produces mixed results – although, we can’t know how much we can attribute each selection directly to Weisbrod’s influence. Culling the herd to include players selected specifically from college between 2005-11 doesn’t do Weisbrod any favours, though. Zane McIntye (sixth-round), Justin Florek (fifth-round) and Zach Trotman (seventh-round) were all college based draft prospects selected by the Bruins during his tenure.

The sample is small, but it yields 66-games of NHL action between the three. Hardly determinative in either direction, but worth mentioning.

Weisbrod’s six-year tenure with the Bruins spring boarded him onto Jay Feaster’s staff with the Calgary Flames. Feaster lauded Weisbrod’s intellect (Harvard educated man, diverse sets of experience) and outside the box thinking – citing, specifically, his affinity for detailed player tracking outside the realm of analytics.

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Officially Weisbrod was the Flames’ assistant general manager of player personnel. In reality, his role encompassed scouting and personnel decisions alike. And this is where things get interesting. 

A transaction by transaction approach may make intuitive sense, but it likely overstates the impact Weisbrod had on each decision. On the one hand, I could point to the Flames turning Jay Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla into exactly zero NHL players as an example of mismanagement. I mean, they received two first-round selections and both look like long shots at this stage – important context, given Weisbrod’s oversight of the Flames scouting department. 

On the other hand, the Flames did put together a favourable package with Boston, only to have Iginla’s no-trade clause stop that one in its tracks. It was a package that included Alexander Khokhlachev and Matt Bartkowski.

More consistent with Weisbrod’s role is the impact he had on scouting. A contemporary manifestation of this being the Canucks acquisitions of former Flames draft picks, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund. They make the first third of the Flames 2011 draft; a class well on its way to hitting on four of four skaters. Benning has admitted in no uncertain terms that he placed a great deal of trust in Weisbrod’s council when deliberating on these deals.

If anything related to Weisbrod’s time in Calgary is worth doubling down on, that’s it. The two drafts that follow him joining Calgary, however, not so much. Outside of Sean Monahan, who they selected sixth overall in 2013, there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of NHL talent. The selection of Keegan Kanzig, he of three points in his draft season, in the third-round of the 2013 Draft is especially pungent.

No one selection stands out as troubling like the one Calgary used 21st overall on Mark Jankowski in the 2012 draft, though. Jankowski, ranked as the 43rd best North American skater by Central Scouting Services in that draft, represented a reach for the ages – and one the Flames trade down (from the pick used to select Zemgus Girgensons) to make. The Flames, and Weisbrod in particular, felt they’d cheated the system and unearthed a player that projected to be the best of his class.

Assistant GM of player development John Weisbrod is Jankowski’s biggest supporter, arguing that the Flames should hold on to their first-round pick there was sentiment in the organization to deal it so they could land Jankowski.

“He still has to cross those crocodile-infested waters, Weisbrod said Saturday after the NHL needed less than three hours to conclude rounds 2-7. “(During) the time period from getting drafted to being in the NHL, a lot can go wrong. Obviously that’s on his shoulders and our shoulders to develop him.”

Still, Weisbrod said, “from a pure talent standpoint, to get a guy at No. 21 that’s as physically talented as anyone else in the draft, that makes you bullish. He’s capable of being that special kind of player.”

As the story goes, Weisbrod battled a brutal snowstorm to scout Jankowski and was enamored. This was his pick. His reputation on the line. Ultimately, it’s remembered in scouting and draft circles as one of the most puzzling and bizarre picks in recent memory. Though much has been made of his strong senior season in the NCAA, it doesn’t appear as though Jankowski’s long-term prospects are getting appreciably better with time, either.

mark_jankowski_temporal_chart

Squandering a first-round selection is no small matter, especially for a franchise in transition, as the Flames were when they selected Jankowski in the 2012 Draft. At the very least, though, they added to their pool an asset with the potential for development. Jankowski probably isn’t something, but he isn’t nothing.

If nothing else, picking Jankowski represents a better use of assets than the picks they nearly squandered a season later when the Feaster-era Flames attempted to snag restricted free agent centre Ryan O’Reilly from the Colorado Avalanche by way of a two-year, $10-million offer sheet.

O’Reilly, who played 12-games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL, would have been subject to waivers if the Flames were successful in completing their offer sheet. That would have cost the Flames their first and third-round selections in the draft that followed, and without them landing their player.

Although the Flames cited a misinterpretation of Article 13.23 of the collective bargaining agreement as the culprit, that excuse doesn’t necessarily pass the sniff test. Before the Flames submitted their O’Reilly offer sheet, the Red Wings tried to sign Evgeni Nabokov – a player that, like O’Reilly, had played KHL games that league year. Nabokov, having played games in another league, was subject to waivers and claimed by the New York Islanders.

Managerial malpractice of the Flames management group withstanding, Weisbrod was in the room when they filed that offer sheet. Even if he wasn’t personally responsible for doing the due diligence, it isn’t a good look. Lesser mistakes have cost the career of many a promising man.

Weisbrod’s Influence in Vancouver

I can’t speak to the leaguewide involvement assistant general managers have in the makeup of their rosters, but I can’t imagine Weisbrod is far behind, well, anyone. In free agency, the franchise added Adam Cracknell and Bartkowski – Weisbrod’s guys. In consecutive deadlines, the Canucks have surrendered futures for Flames draft picks, selected during Weisbrod’s tenure.

It’s not unfair to ask, given his history in dealing with the cap, what level of influence Weisbrod had on the Frankie Corrado situation earlier this season. The league walked the Canucks through the process of cutting down their training camp roster and they still fumbled the ball. Perhaps less costly, but every bit as embarrassing, was the failed first attempt at signing Nikita Tryamkin to his entry-level contract.

Given the Flames’ inability to secure fair and equitable packages for veterans on expiring contracts, it’s also fair to ask what impact Weisbrod had on the Canucks shortcomings at the trade deadline. Weisbrod, a scout by trade, inherited two selections and turned them into two long-shot NHL prospects, who at best will have a middling impact.

The body of work is incomplete, but concerning at every level. As a scout, there’s no real evidence Weisbrod is value added at the position. And to describe his public facing resume as an executive as ‘concerning’ is, frankly, probably a generous assessment.



  • YouppiKiYay

    Exactly what Benning needs someone who does not understand the cap and all the complexities it entails. Lawrence Guillman who was hired by the NHL sure would be looking good right now. Why was Guillman released, was it because he pointed out mistakes to Benning who did not want to hear of his short comings.

    • andyg

      Basically it all boils down the fact that anyone with 1 gram of intelligence is either leaving this organization or has been handed their walking papers.

      Who knows what direction FA wants to steer the ship but one thing that is painfully obvious is that he wants robots without any brain just to say yes to whatever hair brained idea he has because in the long run, he knows that people are stupid and will still pay outrageous amounts to see a piss poor product.

      TL, JB, JW & WD are all very inept

      • SaneCanucker

        Your name is Braindead_benning….I suspect you are the inept one you tool.

        I agree with last couple posters. This article is more of an attempt to slander management than actually dissect Weisbrods resume. If Linden and Benning respect him and value his opinion I suspect he is a bright guy that provides value to the organization. None of us know where the majority of the blame should fall with the O’reilly offer sheet. Even if he was completely to blame (which he isn’t ) that doesn’t mean he should be out of the game. Mistakes happen

  • Goon

    Brought this to light last week and I am glad that you did the addition research to backup my assertion that Weisbrod needs to be dumped ASAP and a more experienced AGM hired to help GMB.

    • SaneCanucker

      Frankly, the ideal (I recognize this will not happen) move IMO would be to demote Benning to head of Scouting, clean house in that department and let him bring in his own scouting guys (except no Weisbrod), and then bring in someone to be GM who has a grasp of the negotiation/asset management side of the job.

      No offense to Benning.
      I don’t like him as a GM at all, but I’m willing to concede the ‘scouting eye’ as a valuable skill of his, I guess. I think it’s hit/miss, but for argument’s sake, let’s say he’s an ace at this aspect of GMing.

      ‘Scouting eye’ is i) one skill that determines the success of a GM.

      Without ii) vision/strategy, iii) asset management, and iv) negotiation skill, the one positive skill won’t do much good.

      I think it’s abundantly clear at this point that Benning is not sufficiently capable in categories iii) and iv).

      I don’t have much faith in ii) either. But if his big upside is i), lets play to his strengths and not put him in a position to have his weaknesses exposed!?

      This,to me, is much akin to a player whose role (or salary) is incoherent with his skill-set.

      Take Defenseman A:
      He is a great PP quarterback, has a cannon of a shot, is a creative player, but isn’t great defensively.

      To me, this player should be given PP time, heavy OZ starts, and limited minutes in DZ situations against elite competition. If a team saw this player and decided he was going to be a #2 Dman who played in all situations, 25+min per night, he would be badly miscast.

      He would struggle, and though he might still excel at the areas of his game which we expect him to excel at, this would be lost in the fact that he was floundering at all the other aspects.

      Of course, this doesn’t mean the player is worthless. It just means he’s not meant to be playing that role–> it’s not his skillset. If he’s paid and deployed in accordance with skillset, then there is no reason to begrudge the fact that he might not be elite at every aspect of the game.

      Speech over.

  • pheenster

    Ygis is Benning’s third off season and it will really be his make or break. If he signs more Bartkowskis and Webers, wastes more time dithering and somehow overspends on goalies, he won’t see a fourth off season.

  • This Weisbrod guy is brutal and has run every franchise he has ever touched right in to the ground. I dont think he has even been associated with one positive trade.

    Like many have stated Gillman should have been kept on as the cap guy which is even more evident by the cap trouble we had this season even though we have one of the worst 3 teams in the league.

    They need to fire Weisbrod immediately and bring in a cap/contract specialist so that all of these other issues that have happened this year stop.

  • YouppiKiYay

    It appears that since people are tired of reading negative comments about the players this site has decided to go after management. I’m sure long detailed analyses of Desjardins, Benning and Linden will be forthcoming. I don’t mind this as long as they are factual and not an obvious hatchet job.

    When I first read what a horrible job Weisbrod had done as CEO with the Orlando Magic I started to wonder how such an obviously incompetent individual was able to find employment on a regular basis. He not only found employment but got promoted. Strange. So I decided to do some investigation on my own and not rely totally on what was being written about the man.

    I found such sites as Wikipedia to be enlightening.

    Turns out Weisbrod assumed the GM position of the Magic after the former GM had been fired by the team.It would appear this decision was made by the owners and not Weisbrod as you had indicated. The team was obviously in trouble as they had set a franchise record of 19 losses in a row. To no ones surprise Doc Rivers was fired during this time. The team ended up with the worst record in the NBA with 21 wins and 62 losses. This was considered unacceptable considering the fact the team had made the play-offs the previous year. So Weisbrod did what any GM would do. The coach had to go and the team had to be shaken up and Tracy McGrady, who was considered to be a malcontent and later admitted he wasn’t giving the team 100% was traded. Unfortunately he was very popular with the fans and this led to some death threats. You have to give the guy credit because he wasn’t afraid to make some very tough decisions. Despite the teams poor record there was a bit of a silver lining as Weisbrod was able to draft Dwight Howard.

    So I guess it all depends on how you interpret the facts. You seem to be of the opinion that Weisbrod was a take no prisoners type of guy who just traded everyone away with out any thought. The implication is he wasn’t a very good GM. I see it differently. This is a GM with a tough job to do and who wasn’t afraid to make tough decisions. He left the team after 2004 season (the death threats were probably a factor) but the team he had helped create was back in the play-offs in 2006 and was first in their division from 2007 -2010. Doesn’t sound like he was that bad of a GM, but that’s just my opinion. I’ll wait before I start calling for his dismissal.

    • andyg

      Now this is an opinion worth reading. I am getting tired of this Paparazzi approach to covering everything that the Canucks do. Bloggers looking to create a following amongst fellow trolls. Do some proper research before posting your opinion on what the 30 fans amongst the 3m think of the management team.

    • SaneCanucker

      Thanks for schooling JD, who exposes himself here as knowing SFA about the NBA.

      I’d only add that Orlando fans were wrong–Weisbrod’s assessment of McGrady was basically dead on. All that talent, but no rings.

      You know, the problem with fantasy GM stuff only starts if you forget it’s a fantasy. JD’s gotta start taking himself less seriously.

  • andyg

    My gawd, how this guy continually dupes his way onto management teams is a poor reflection on management and a feather in his cap for being able to spin whatever story they want to hear so he can have a job. If Trevor and Benning have any clue, they need to get rid of this guy and bring in an AGM with some serious chops and experience pronto!

  • wojohowitz

    It sounds like a classic case of mis-management that you see in many businesses. The new guy comes in and says all the right things to senior management and all the wrong things to the troops but then gets promoted and over the next couple of years morale drops, productivity drops, turnover goes up and profits suffer and he keeps saying all the right things to senior management who believe him. Finally the owner goes down to the shop floor and asks the troops what the problem is. The owner fires the middle manager, cleans up the mess and starts asking the question. Who hired that guy.

  • Fred-65

    If we consider Weisbrod a bad choice for his position what does it say about the guys that hired him here ? How do you trust these overseers again in future hires. JB is assumed to be a great scout ( and that’s up for debate when you check out some of his 1st round picks in Boston ) but what is apparent is his abilities as a GM is 50-50 at best ….and lets not forget Linden he doesn’t seem to have done his own thorough due diligence on his hires. Weisbrod = a lot of retrospect

  • Cageyvet

    JD taking yet another run at the team’s management. A couple of positive articles was more than he could bear, I guess.

    There’s not enough time with the Canucks to pass judgement IMO, especially with all the vagueness around what influence he really has. Who cares if he sucked at basketball? What were they thinking hiring a hockey guy anyway?

    Too many people ignoring what this management team inherited and the work they’ve done already. Yes, they’ve made some questionable decisions, look around the league, there are few out there who haven’t, and they’re not available for hire for obvious reasons.

    If they didn’t take a chance here and there, the rebuild and whining about us losing would last even longer. Some of what they have done has paid off, and if you think Benning’s taking a demotion and staying to scout for us, you’re crazy.

    Look at the drafting, and the fact that they aren’t afraid to make moves. Once again, I refer to JD’s bold moves of suggesting we pick up every other free agent being cut loose by other teams, while simultaneously crucifying the Canucks when they let a player walk.

    I am glad the Canucks management doesn’t do the zany things that are suggested here, and they’ve yet to trade away a blue chip, proven player who hadn’t demanded a trade. The biggest thing people are crying about are players they acquired, other than Hunter Shinkaruk, and the jury is still out on that one.

    Really, anyone even bothers to cry about Bartkowski? Who cares, we signed him cheaply and for 1 year, it’s not like we gave anything up or committed to him.

    I don’t agree with all the moves or all the contracts, but I don’t demand perfection. If you can’t recognize that we went from empty cupboards where Corrado was our next NHL ready player to the most exciting prospect group I can remember, your cup is more than half empty.

  • SaneCanucker

    I think every successful management team has definitely a good level of “outside the box” thinking, but i dont think it should come at the cost of experience. I think willie, jim, and trevor, are lacking in Nhl executive experience at their specific roles, so they should have instead hired someone with an excess of experience to fill the AGM position, to bring some stability to at least one aspect of this management group. I often get the feeling Jb is over his head with being a full time GM, his amatuer scouting skills obviously cant be ignored, but he is having to learn so much, that i think he is hurting the franchise at least in the short term, probably the long term also.

    I think WD isnt really that effective of a coach at the NHL level, that is probably from experience, maybe the lack of a fully NHL caliber lineup is hurting things, but a good coach would adjust their style to the lineup they have.

    I was a kid when Trevor Linden was a player so I grew up mildly idolizing him. Before these last couple season I would have voted him mayor for life, so I am not yet ready to turn on him, I think with a few more seasons of growing and learning he will do allright. I just hope he doesn’t hamstring the franchise before he figures it out.

  • Goon

    From all the evidence, it doesn’t appear that Wesibrod will ever be a “Robin” (and Benning certainly ain’t no “Batman”!).

    Granlund, Bartkowski, the future of this franchise? Let’s hope not…

    • SaneCanucker

      Oh this guy is definitely part of the Batman series but obviously he is the joker with the joke being on the Canucks. That story on some washed up has been hockey player becoming a G.M. in the N.B.A. is truly classic. How could the Canucks hire a loser like this is beyond any intelligent person’s comprehension. But maybe that is the answer as Benning obviously isn’t a member of Mensa.

  • Cageyvet

    This article starts with a click-baiting headline and goes straight downhill from there. I have zero stake in whether or not Weisbrod stays or goes and just about as much verifiable proof of whether “Canucks fans” are angry at him. I also know that I could cherry pick any number of moves by any number of GMs or assistant GMs and use them to concoct a story about how incompetent someone is. How did Stan Bowman mismanage the Blackhawks situation to lose Leddy and all those other young defensemen so quickly? Why did Jim Nill think it wasn’t necessary to sign a decent goalie to backstop his fantastic offense? What incompetent scouts made the Red Wings pick only 1 out of 6 picks as an eventual NHLer in 2008 or 1 out of 9 in 2011?

    See? That’s easy enough isn’t it?

    If you’re going to do a hit piece, at least be semi-accurate. McGrady demanded a trade out of Orlando. And while he wasn’t nearly as odious as Steve Francis (remember him?) who they got from Houston, McGrady’s actual on-court performance was rarely as good as his off-court popularity — he got voted into the all-star game despite missing tons of time with injuries and he never managed to get the Rockets past the first round. While Weisbrod’s quote is dumb, McGrady really was barely Robin in real life.

    And I love the disbelief about the filing of incorrect paperwork (not the O’Reilly offer, that really did seem dumb, but the Tryamkin contract which even in the story that was filed seemed to be more about the contract the agent insisted on versus that of the team). Is it really that strange that paperwork gets screwed up? Do you all live in a different universe than the one I live in? Where PROFESSIONALS WHO KNOW BETTER constantly screw up despite being PROFESSIONALS WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER?

    Good lord.

  • YouppiKiYay

    Is this parochial blogger going to deconstruct the long term effect that Gilman’s assistant general managing is having on the organization to this very day?

    1. The half baked $20 million offer to Sundin could have cost the Canucks the Sedins had Mats accepted year 2 of the idiotic offer.

    2. The organization under Gilman determined it made sense to pay Bernier $2.5 million way back in 2008-2009 instead of letting the Blues take on the albatross contract.

    3. The organization under Gilman determined that it was better to move a 1st round pick & Grabner to absorb Ballard’s large contract instead of engaging Mitchell and accepting his discount.

    4. The organization under Gilman felt it was a good idea to offer the ghost of Marco Sturm over $2 million.

    5. The organization under Gilman could only rid themselves of Sturm by agreeing to take on a bigger contract in Booth.

    6. The organization under Gilman dedicated $7 million of the cap to Burrows & Higgins before sorting out the Luongo/Schneider situation.

    7. Due to years of cap mismanagement, the organization under Gilman was forced to move Schneider’s bargain $4 million contract for a subpar return.

    Weisbrod’s record of blunders doesn’t look so bad by comparison.

    And let us not forget the greatest act of cowardice: posting on a long weekend when NM00 has better things to do than point out JD’s latest display of grade school logic…

    • pheenster

      Great response NMOO, the great one of posters. What you inadvertently stated although you probably don’t comprehend it is that both the Harvard whiz kid and Gilman are both LOSERS.

  • canook

    Well-researched post. We don’t stand to gain anything from having Weisbrod riding shotgun here, as far as I can tell. If a Benning front office is going to have any chance of being remotely successful, it needs to be balanced out with a cap and clause guy (which they had). I wouldn’t want a front office as diverse as the Leafs’, where there is like 400 people running it, but given the Jankowski pick, it sounds like a scary recipe to have two “outside-the-box” thinkers who “see things the same way” filling the prospect pool.

    It’s just another reason why we shouldn’t want the Canucks to trade out of the top of the draft. Force them into a common-sense pick, less they drop into the range where they can get creative and use their super-advanced drafting skills to waste a first-round pick on a player with upside that no one except Benning and Weisbrod can see.

  • wojohowitz

    The FBI – Wow. Sounds like Orlando has a fanatical fanbase and here I assumed only Canadian hockey fans were rabid – except for hockey cities like Boston, Philly or Chicago.

    I wonder if Trevor or Benning will ever get to the point of being so unpopular. Maybe if Benning trades the first overall pick for Marchand or Shawn Thornton or a bag of hockey pucks.

  • TrueBlue

    Why do we need an assistant gm anyway? Quinn never had an assistant gm, he has help but he called the shots! Maybe Weisbrod is Bennings escape clause?

    I know this is a nuck/hockey forumbut surely anybody who knows a bit about the nba had to understand Doc Rivers and Tmac were winners! And chump Weisbrod did not,enough said

  • YouppiKiYay

    Look on the bright side, everyone. After years of losing talent to NHL teams, Canucks Army has finally settled on a managing editor who won’t likely be poached by anyone, anywhere anytime soon.

  • Tiamat

    Thank you thank you thank you for this article. No assistant GM of a team that whiffed on the 21st overall draft pick should ever work in the NHL again. I mean talk about a gimme!