Quebec Nordiques, 1994-1995
Colorado Avalanche, 1995-2006
Northeast Division Title, 1994-1995
Pacific Division Titles, 1995-1998
Northwest Division Titles, 1998-2003
President’s Trophies, 1996-1997, 2000-2001
Playoff Appearances: 1995-2004, 2006
Stanley Cup Finals Appearances: 1996, 2001
Stanley Cup Victories: 1996, 2001
Former Colorado Avalanche Pierre Lacroix is the greatest general manager who came from the former player agent ranks according to my rating system. From 1994 to 2006 Lacroix made the Avalanche one of the most vaunted teams in the NHL: winning two Stanley Cup titles and virtually dominating first the Pacific and, later, the Northwest Divisions in the process. He launched the careers of two head coaches who now rank among the top 50 of all time (according to my rating systems).
I have Lacroix ranked 12th in terms of career value but in terms of his Average Season Rating he ranks even higher. According to my rating system, Lacroix ranks sixth among all GMs with a minimum of five years NHL management experience. Based on my research there are only seven NHL GMs who have an ASR of +10.00 or higher. Lacroix has a 10.18 ASR (an ASR that is better than other legendary NHL GMs like Harry Sinden, Jack Adams, Conn Smythe, and Glen Sather for instance).
Pierre Lacroix was the third greatest GM of the 1990s and the 2000s and he was the second greatest GM of the NHL’s Third Expansion Era (1991-2001).
Lacroix’s origins are obscure. He was born in Montreal but never played or coached hockey. Upon getting his degree he became a founding member of Jandec, one of the most prestigious hockey player agent firms in North America. He worked for 20 years at Jandec before being hired by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994.
When Lacroix took over as GM the Nordiques had suffered a losing season the season before. The team was on its last legs in Quebec and talk was rife of a move elsewhere. Lacroix started off on the right foot by hiring a hitherto unknown coach named Marc Crawford. Lacroix then surrounded Crawford with two brilliant assistants named Jacques Martin and Joel Quenneville; thus creating one of the greatest coaching staffs in NHL history.
This troika turned the team around and made them winners and division champions. Although they lost in the first round and then had to endure the move to Colorado the pieces were definitely in place for an even better run in 1995/96.
The Avalanche lived up to its nickname, sweeping all in its path. Lacroix played his part well by stealing Patrick Roy from the Canadiens.
Colorado won the Stanley Cup and continued to win. Although they failed to repeat as Stanley Cup champions the team remained consistently strong. Even when Marc Crawford left the team as head coach, Lacroix was not overly concerned. He reached down to the minors and tapped another hitherto unknown prospect named Bob Hartley; thus launching another stellar coaching career.
Hartley kept the Avalanche rolling and Pierre Lacroix pulled off another brilliant steal: this time stealing Dave Andreychuk and the immortal Ray Bourque from Boston in March 2000. The trade was the icing on the cake. The Avalanche won the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup in 2001.
Colorado still kept winning but they have yet to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Bob Hartley left in 2002 and the team no longer dominated in the playoffs. After 2004/05 lock-out ended Lacroix brought Joel Quenneville back to Colorado as head coach but even he could not restore Colorado to its championship form.
In 2006 Lacroix decided to step down as team GM and move upstairs to be the team President. Sadly, Colorado has never been the same since. In seven seasons they’ve only reached the playoffs twice and have finished last twice in that time.
In 2013 Lacroix announced that he was stepping down as team president and remaining as an adviser. The Avalanche are a team in need of help. Actually what they need is a GM with the same skills Pierre Lacroix had when he was GM.
(My next column will feature former Philadelphia Flyers GM Bobby Clarke.)