As we continue to bat around candidates for the vacant Leafs GM role, Elliotte Friedman reported today that he’s hearing the Leafs will try to request permission from Tampa Bay to speak to Julien BriseBois (as well Director of Player Personnel, Pat Verbeek, who oversees pro scouting for the Lighting).
[quote_box_center]No confirmation, but other teams would be surprised if Toronto did not at least try to interview both Julien BriseBois and Pat Verbeek from Tampa. No doubt there will be more. Verbeek played with both Shanahan (in New Jersey) and Hunter (in Hartford). As you can imagine, there were a lot of names tossed around yesterday, including a few suggestions Hunter will eventually take the job himself. But someone’s going to have to do all the interviews, and he probably doesn’t want that fun. Finally, a few Ontario-based scouts say they still hear Dale Hunter’s name for some role. I only include it because Shanahan’s respect for the family is obvious.[/quote_box_center]
Like Kyle Dubas, BriseBois was hired into NHL management before the age of 30 when, in 2003, the Montreal Canadiens promoted him from their legal affairs department into the hockey operations side at age 27 (in the role of Director of Hockey Operations). Promoted to VP of Hockey Ops in 2006 and then later appointed as GM of the Bulldogs in 2007, Briseboise presided over a couple of mediocre seasons in Hamilton before hiring coach Guy Boucher for the 2009-10 season. Boucher won AHL coach of the year honours and the Bulldogs made it to the Conference Finals that year, at which point Steve Yzerman came calling and hired away both BriseBois and Boucher.
BriseBois’ role in Tampa is impressive in that he has been responsible for a lot of areas within the Lightning’s hockey operations. His legal background prepared him to handle arbitration, contract negotiation and the CBA side of things; he’s the GM of the Syracuse Crunch – and Norfolk Admirals before them – and he does analytics work for Steve Yzerman. He also manages the salary cap.
Building on his success with the Bulldogs, the Lightning’s AHL teams have been quite productive under his watch. He hired Jon Cooper, who won the AHL coach of the year honours in 2011-12 after the Norfolk Admirals went on that ludicrous 28-game winning streak during the regular season and eventually won the Calder Cup, defeating the Toronto Marlies in the Finals. The Crunch then returned to the Calder Cup Finals the next season, this time losing to Grand Rapids.
Cooper, of course, now coaches the high-powered Lightning after he, along with a number of players from that 2012-13 team, graduated to Tampa’s big club or elsewhere in the NHL in 2013-14, including Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, JT Brown, Mark Barbeiro, Richard Panik and Cory Conacher.
Now coached by Rob Zettler, the Crunch missed the playoffs in the 2013-14 season after graduating a big group of players, but Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette followed suit after 2013-14 and are now contributing members for the Lightning (Nikita Kucherov, who has been impact player for the Lightning this season, spent some time there as well last season, but only 17 games). The Crunch will be back in the playoffs this season with a 41-23-9 record.
Dubas has the same aim of turning the Marlies into a productive factory of player development, but he’s still brand new to professional hockey. BriseBois has managed a Calder Cup championship team in Norfolk (and overseen a few deep runs with both the Bulldogs and Syracuse), and has been a big part of the management team that has set the Lightning up for sustained success for the foreseeable future. It’s not in the GM’s role, but he has experience in the NHL and a winning track record.
BriseBois has the credentials to take the next step, but, as has been talked about a lot the past few days, the Leafs are not going to be running a traditional configuration wherein he would have carte blanche to mould the front office and team in his image. He would be collaborating with Shanahan, Dubas, Hunter and Pridham. BriseBois already has ample responsibility under Yzerman in Tampa as they’ve worked together to build a franchise that looks well set up to enjoy sustained success in the coming years.
Here is what BriseBois said about taking the next step back in December at the John Molson Sport Marketing Conference in Montreal:
[quote_box_center]According to BriseBois, it’s paramount to put your full effort into what you do if you want to get somewhere that is competitive. For him, there are only 30 General Manager positions in the world, and if he wants one of them, he knows he has to give it everything he has.[/quote_box_center]
Shanahan has said he isn’t concerned about adhering to the traditional meaning of the GM job title; his general idea is to bring in another bright hockey mind who is excited by his vision and wants to be part of what he, Dubas, Hunter and Pridham are building. The Leafs can offer the GM’s title and a healthy raise in salary, but we obviously don’t know how excited BriseBois would be by the position, if he’s really available and if the timing and circumstances in Toronto make it the right fit.
Here’s a look at Mike Futa, who comes from more of a drafting and scouting background than BriseBois having served as director of Amateur Scouting in LA for seven years.