Mike Smith (ice hockey, born 1945)
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Michael A. Smith (born 1945 in Potsdam, New York) is an American hockey executive who was best known for his stints as general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks teams in the National Hockey League (NHL). He was also associate general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Mike Smith is the co-founder of Coleman Analytics, a consulting company for NHL teams. Coleman Analytics is proclaimed to be an innovative tool that analyses a hockey players' talent and performance level in various game time situations.
Beginnings in hockey
Smith earned a bachelor of science degree in social sciences at Clarkson University, where he also played hockey. He then transferred to Syracuse University where he earned a doctorate in sociology. After his graduation, he pursued his first job in hockey after being appointed the head coaching job at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse before his hiring in the Winnipeg Jets front office.
In 1979, Smith had his first job with the Winnipeg Jets, when he was hired as coach of the Tulsa farm team. He would spend fourteen years in the Jets organization. He became director of scouting, then assistant general manager after Michael Doran, the then assistant general manager, was injured in an automobile accident in November 1984. In September 1988, the Jets fired John Ferguson, giving the GM job to Smith on an interim basis before making him the permanent manager in December. Smith was manager of the Jets for over five years. Smith made over 70 trades as GM. Smith was released by the Jets in January 1994.
Smith worked as a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks and assisted the USA Hockey program until August 1997, when Smith was appointed the associate general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though Smith was the acting GM of the Leafs, team president Ken Dryden refused to nominate a titled GM, a move to the bewilderment of many who saw Dryden as a stubborn executive. Anders Hedberg was also made personnel director. A couple of Smith's noteworthy non-player moves during his time with the Leafs were the hiring of Pat Quinn as head coach and managing assistant Mike Kitchen. Despite the 28 point turnaround and franchise record in wins, Smith's contract wasn't renewed. In June 1999, Dryden fired Smith over the phone while Smith was taking his wife to cancer treatments in Boston. Dryden stayed on as GM but eventually gave the title to Quinn who subsequently dismantled many of the essential components Mike Smith had put in place for the Leafs.
Smith was not out of work for long. In December 1999, the Chicago Blackhawks fired their coach and general manager. The Blackhawks hired Smith as 'director of hockey operations' while Bob Pulford was general manager and coach. Smith's job was to rebuild the organization, and he also performed the tasks of a general manager, including trades, free agents and drafting. On September 22, 2000, Smith was given the title he was exercising in practice: general manager of the Blackhawks. He would be the Blackhawks' GM for three years. He was fired by the Hawks in October 2003. He had been criticized publicly by Hawks ownership after a strip club incident involving Theo Fleury. Ownership was unhappy with Smith's drafting of Europeans, his handling of the Fleury controversy, team chemistry and how it should be run. Ownership made comments favouring head coach Brian Sutter and Smith was fired after a slow start to the 2003–04 season.
Smith did draft some very successful NHL players: Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Dustin Byfuglien, Duncan Keith, James Wisniewski, Adam Burish, Tuomo Ruutu and Craig Anderson. Four of those players helped win the Stanley Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. 
- In his first year presiding over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Smith established a franchise record for wins at 45 after years of poor play. Many site the omnibus FA signings he made after he was hired during the summer of 1998 which included Steve Thomas, Curtis Joseph, Glen Healy, Sylvain Cote, and checking forwards Derek King and Kris King who played an integral support role for the team.
- Mike Smith has drafted moderately to highly successful NHL players, most of whom are still playing:
When it comes to the NHL entry draft, Smith has been perceived as favoring Russian players over the physical style types often seen in the North American junior systems. During his stint as the Jets general manager, he drafted players such as Alexei Zhamnov, Igor Korolev, Sergei Bautin and in the 9th, plucked Nikolai Khabibulin, who as of 2014, still plays in the NHL.
Most of the criticism comes as a result of his stint in Chicago from an impatient and old school fan base in which an incompatible atmosphere greeted a new and different approach to seeing and analyzing the game.
Many theories abound for the lack of the Blackhawks turnaround in contrast to his stint in Toronto including assistant manager Dale Tallon's insistence on vetoing daily decisions, the late owner Bill Wirtz's infamous fiscal constraints, and the hiring by ownership of briefly employed Brian Sutter as coach against the preference of Smith. Smith was also criticized by the Chicago media for his acquisitions of ex Toronto Maple Leafs such as Korolev, Garry Valk, Todd Gill and Alexander Karpovtsev, moves which essential dubbed the team "the Chicago Maple Leafs".
However, despite the critical banter on the aforementioned trades, his other acquisitions of solid former Leaf players like Steve Sullivan and Steve Thomas proved valuable Blackhawk assets.
Work with Team USA
Smith has been heavily involved with USA Hockey, having served as the coach and general manager for the team's 1981, 1994 and 1995 appearances at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. In addition, he serves on the advisory board to USA Hockey.
Smith is widowed after his wife Judith succumbed to cancer in the fall of 2000. The couple had one son, Jason. Smith has authored ten books related to coaching in hockey at the grassroots level and is an avid collector of Native American artwork.
|Team||Year||Regular season||Post season|
|Winnipeg Jets||1980–81||23||2||17||4||(32)||6th in Smythe||Missed playoffs|
- Morris, Jim (December 4, 1988). "Atypical hockey man new boss of Jets". Ottawa Citizen. p. C4.
- Gallagher, Tony (October 13, 1991). "Smith's close to jetting out". The Province. Vancouver, B.C. p. A81.
- Hornsby, Lance (August 20, 1997). "Smith to join quartet". Financial Post. p. 47.
- "Winnipeg Jets fire General Manager". Gainesvile Sun. January 20, 1994. p. 10.
- "Dryden's the winner on power play". Toronto Star. June 24, 1999. p. 1.
- "Deja vu for Smith: Big job, little title ; As Blackhawks hire former Leaf associate to right sinking ship". Toronto Star. December 13, 1999. p. 1.
- "Activity". The Globe and Mail. September 23, 2000. p. S4.
- Kelley, Jim (October 25, 2003). "Same Hawks front office, different season". ESPN. Retrieved September 16, 2010.
John Ferguson, Sr.
|General Manager of the original Winnipeg Jets
|Head coach of the original Winnipeg Jets
|General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks