Thursday, May 10, 2007

A finger on the Button

The Columbus Blue Jackets appear to have placed Craig Button, the former Calgary Flames general manager and currently a pro scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs, on their short list for their GM's post.

Mr. Button's name is one of those that continually (and some would say inexplicably) comes up every time an NHL's GM position needs a new warm body to take over, a strange scenario given his only turn as an executive saw the Calgary Flames miss the playoffs four consecutive seasons from 2000 to 2003.

In the interim since his firing, Button surfaced in Toronto, where he was frequently in and around the Maple Leafs press box during the year before the lockout and seemed to get to know the local press corps quite well. He was eventually hired into his current position on the Leafs' staff under GM John Ferguson, but has certainly kept his name 'out there' for jobs like those currently open in Phoenix and Columbus.

I've never met Button, but he seems to be held in high regard among the media — something that I have to believe has more to do with him personally than any skill he's showcased thus far as an NHL executive.

Button's turn with the Flames was an utter disaster, beginning with shuttling out J-S Giguere and continuing with poor player personnel decisions regarding the likes of Filip Kuba (lost in the expansion draft when left unprotected), Marc Savard and Martin St. Louis. He also inked Bob Boughner and Roman Turek to embarrassing contracts, and Turek's four-year, $19-million deal turned out to be a massive boat anchor on the franchise when he flamed out and retired soon after.

It's been said that it often takes more than one try for an NHL executive to get the hang of things, but at some point, a GM's previous history simply has to factor in — especially when we're talking about the likes of the Coyotes and Blue Jackets, franchises that would likely not survive another bumbler in charge.

A life in hockey is in Button's blood, as his father Jack was a long-time director of scouting for the Capitals and one-time GM of the Penguins, and I think we have to be wary of blacklisting him for one poor turn in the executive office.

Even still, it's going to be an uphill climb for him to get back into the GM's seat — and even when he does, the fans wherever Button ends up will have him on an oh-so-short leash.


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