July 6 — Not Wright for No. 1 & Meeting Mike Grier

Last Night’s News 📰

ANOTHER BROKEN BARRIER: The San Jose Sharks introduced Mike Grier as the team’s fifth general manager, making history as the first black GM in the National Hockey League. Previously, he served as a hockey operations advisor to Chris Drury of the New York Rangers. Before working with Drury, he was an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils. 

AHL HER-STORY: History was made in the American Hockey League on Tuesday when the Seattle Kraken announced Jessica Campbell as the first full-time assistant coach of their AHL affiliate, Coachella Valley. Campbell will join Coachella’s head coach Dan Bylsma’s staff and will join Seattle’s development camp to work with draft prospects and free agents July 11-14.

CONTRACT FOR CASEY: Casey DeSmith signed a two-year, $3.6 million contract to remain with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. DeSmith underwent core muscle surgery on May 6 after getting injured in the second overtime of Game 1 against the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

RUNNING IT BACK: Andrew Cogliano signed a one-year deal to return to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. The 35-year-old forward tallied 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) during the 2021-22 regular season and six points (three goals, three assists) in the playoffs. He was a crucial part of the penalty kill for the Stanley Cup champs.

DUBAS GETS SOME BACKUP: The Toronto Maple Leafs shuffled their front office on Tuesday, promoting Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser, Ryan Hardy, and Darryl Metcalf to Assistant General Manager positions under GM Kyle Dubas. Toronto also hired Curtis Sanford as its new goaltending coach.

Who Said It

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1) “It’s about evaluating the players. We’re essentially projecting a player’s future, what kind of player he could be at the NHL level. That’s what our evaluations are all about. We aren’t determining who the best 18-year-old player is, we’re looking at who could be the best player at 22, 23, and 24 years old. We want a player who could help us build a winning team year after year.”

A. Tom Fitzgerald
B. Kent Hughes
C. Bill Armstrong

2) “The culture was an issue last year. From all the players’ comments, it’s an issue. X’s and O’s don’t work if the culture isn’t on—if everyone’s not bought in. So, we have to change that. That’s what I’m going to be working on over the summer in my conversations with the players, so when we get to training camp, everyone will know the expectations. The first thing we have to change is some attitudes and the culture around the team.”

A. Rick Bowness
B. Jim Montgomery
C. Peter DeBoer

3) “[T]his group is competitive and has all the pieces that I believe you need to win a Cup. You look through their lineup and they’ve got all the pieces and great character guys, guys that have been in the league that have a lot of experience, mixed in with some young guys, too, and a great coaching staff.”

A. Scott Wedgewood
B. Ryan McDonagh
C. Kevin Fiala

Answers can be found at the bottom of the email.

Meet the NHL’s First Black GM

On Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks named Mike Grier their new general, making him the first black GM in NHL history. The 47-year-old younger brother of Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier replaces Doug Wilson, who stepped down on April 7 following 19 seasons with the team. Grier and assistant GM Joe Will immediately have plenty of work to do, as the NHL Draft starts on Thursday and the Sharks own the 11th overall pick.

In addition, free agency starts a week from today, and the Sharks currently have eight players slated to hold restricted status. To top it all off, San Jose needs a new head coach following the firing of Bob Boughner on July 1. Before thinking about all of that work ahead of him, however, let’s look back at the journey Grier took to get to this historic moment.

Playing Career

St. Louis selected Grier in the ninth round (219th overall) of the 1993 NHL Draft, but he never played for the Blues. The 6-foot-1 forward excelled at Boston University and went straight from college to the NHL, making his debut in 1996 with the Edmonton Oilers after they traded for his rights while in Boston.

Mike Grier is the new GM of the team he played for from 2006-09 (Photo by Don Smith/Getty Images)

When he debuted in the NHL, the Detroit-born Grier became the first black player born and trained in the United States to make it to the league. The hard-nosed winger played six seasons for the Oilers, two seasons for the Washington Capitals, four seasons (split up into two stints) with the Buffalo Sabres, and three seasons with the Sharks. Grier retired in 2011 at 36, totaling 383 points (162 goals, 221 assists) in 1,060 career NHL regular season games and 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 101 career playoff games.

Coaching/Front Office Career

In 2014, Grier joined the Chicago Blackhawks organization as a professional scout. He worked in that capacity until 2018 when he joined the New Jersey Devils as an assistant coach. He served in that role for two seasons, coaching on John Hynes’ staff before staying on after Hynes was fired 26 games into the 2019-20 season and finishing out the year.

Along with playing in the NHL and working in player development, Grier also spent two years behind the bench as an assistant coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Following his stint as an assistant coach, Grier joined the New York Rangers as hockey operations advisor on May 19, 2021. His duties in New York included assisting with hockey-related decisions, off-ice player and prospect development, and on-ice player development for the team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford. These skills have equipped him for his start in San Jose.

Wright, Slafkovský, Cooley & the Case Against No. 1

Barring some shocking turn of events or some epic level of mind games on the part of Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes, we now know that one of Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovský, or Logan Cooley will hear their name called first on Thursday night at the NHL Entry Draft. Wright has been the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 all year, but nothing is assured. Just two weeks ago at the NBA Draft, Paolo Banchero went to Orlando with the top pick despite being widely projected to go third.

Without a clear-cut sure thing at the top of the draft, there’s plenty of room for draft intrigue, not to mention plenty of room for error. Therefore, the pressure is on for Hughes to come away with the right guy. While so many draft pieces tout the virtues of each of these three players, we figured we might as well do our part by examining why they aren’t the fit for No. 1. You’re welcome, GMs!

Shane Wright

Shane Wright, Kingston Frontenacs (Photo by Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images)

For all the boxes Wright checks off as a prospect (early buzz, World Juniors participation, exceptional status in the OHL as a 15-year-old), his season for the Kingston Frontenacs was—underwhelming! Unlike all the decorated first-overall picks in recent years, Wright didn’t win any individual awards and finished nearly 30 points shy of the league’s leading scorer. Is he still improving?

Juraj Slafkovský

2022 top prospect Juraj Slafkovský (center) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Positionally, Slafkovský’s status as a winger probably puts him a half-step behind his fellow No. 1 contenders, both of whom are centers. Beyond that, though, there isn’t a strong enough track record of success for the 18-year-old Slovakian. His 6-foot-4 frame and high-end skill will earn him fans, but his 2021-22 campaign for TPS Turku in the Finnish Liiga produced just five goals and five assists in 31 games. Everyone loves Slafkovský from his seven-goal Olympic breakthrough, although he was held pointless in seven career World Junior Championship games.

Logan Cooley

Logan Cooley, USNTDP (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

A two-way threat, it’s tough to identify weaknesses in Cooley’s game. Therefore, we will harshly look at his 5-foot-10 frame. Yes, I know he’s entering a skill-oriented league with diminutive stars like Brad Marchand, Alex DeBrincat, and Patrick Kane—so size concerns might seem a little outdated. Still, that’s a big (no pun intended) detail to overlook if taking Cooley first.

Who Said It Answers

  1. Kent Hughes
  2. Rick Bowness
  3. Ryan McDonagh