Like many Canadians, I pay pretty much no attention to college basketball in the United States until the month of March when I start taking a much closer look. I don't pretend to know much about the teams or understand the details of strategy, but that jives well with the unpredictability of a single elimination tournament. Plus, there are always some pretty incredible moments, and the emotion displayed by the players is a lot of fun.
That tournament starts today, and with it, so does the second edition of this blog's "Not-So-Sweet Sixteen". Last year, we held a tournament involving the sixteen worst contracts in the NHL, and Rick DiPietro dominated the field. With a repeat virtually guaranteed, I've decided to set my sights on a different group of "Not-So-Sweet" men in the hockey world, namely, the league's worst general managers of the post-lockout period.
With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire, I think it's fair to ask: which general manager was the worst of the worst under the current rules? We'll have one contest each weekday from now until the end of the NCAA tournament with the winner (who's actually the loser) being determined by the votes of our readers. Today's match-up features two men who were so bad that they didn't stick around very long: eighth seed Brian Lawton takes on ninth seed Mike O'Connell. The case for each manager after the jump.
Mike O'Connell (9)
Teams managed: Boston Bruins (Start to March 25, 2006)
Record: 27-32-12 (.465 points percentage)
Mike O'Connell deserves your vote because he did one tremendously stupid thing during his few months in charge once the lockout ended. Normally you can't eviscerate a man for one bad decision, but when that decision is trading Joe Thornton for Wayne Primeau, Brad Stuart, and Marco Sturm, you absolutely can. That trade happened on November 30th of 2005 after the Bruins had jumped out to a tough 8-13-5 start, and came shortly after Thornton had signed a three-year $20M contract. This wasn't a player that needed to be moved. This was a player who was getting off to a slow start that O'Connell decided to move because he thought it made his team better. Thornton went on to win the Art Ross and Hart with San Jose that season and remains an integral part of a strong team. O'Connell was fired, but the Bruins went on to win a Cup under the new manager. That somehow makes O'Connell feel like this trade was a good decision. So bonus points for that.
Brian Lawton (8)
Teams managed: Tampa Bay Lightning (October 22, 2008 to April 12, 2010)
Record: 58-76-30 (.445 points percentage)
Brian Lawton may not have traded Joe Thornton, but that Lightning team was basically the definition of gong-show during Lawton's tenure. He "officially" started on October 22, but he was hired as VP of hockey operations in June of that year, which means that he was one of the men pulling the strings in the ugly Dan Boyle fiasco (Jay Feaster, the GM at the time, resigned shortly thereafter). He was the man in charge of the atrocious Vincent Lecavalier contract (which almost won last year's Not-So-Sweet sixteen) and the Mattias Ohlund deal (which also participated in the tournament), both of which continue to pay dividends today. Mike O'Connell made a really stupid trade involving the San Jose Sharks; Brian Lawton did that and a whole lot more.