The truth of the matter is Craig Button did not do a great job as General Manager in his three years in Calgary. If he had done a great job, the Flames would be playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now.
Many supporters of Button point to his solid draft record as a reason why he should have been retained as GM. However, Button was only really in charge of the 2001 and 2002 drafts and while the prospects that remain from those drafts look very appealing right now, their success as future NHLers cannot be judged until several years down the road.
When the Al Coates era of the Flames is examined, one of the biggest criticisms is that he drafted poorly but at the time it looked like the team had a bumper crop of young players. The Hockey News even rated the Flames 4th overall one year in its Future Watch issue. It may not be long before names like Eric Nystrom, David Moss and Curtis McElhinney become associated with Daniel Tkaczuk, Travis Brigley and Evan Lindsay.
A quick examination of Button's player moves show two critical areas where he failed miserably. Throughout his tenure he struggled to find a solid goaltender and he had poor asset management with several of the team's younger players.
Within days of accepting the GM posting, Button traded away the previous regime's "goaltender of the future" Jean-Sebastien Giguere. While Button himself proclaimed that a cardinal mistake in player management is dealing away a defenceman under the age of 25, the same can be said for goaltenders and in the end Button paid dearly for this error. Ironically, Button is fired by the Flames a day after Giguere sets an NHL record for most saves in a playoff debut. Despite choosing to protect only one goaltender in the expansion draft, the Flames still lost a top defence prospect in Filip Kuba even though they had the ability to protect five players at that position. Shortly after the draft, Button bought out Martin St. Louis.
For someone with a supposed keen eye for young talent, Button made a lot of mistakes in his first month. Today's Calgary Flames squad is clearly lacking in three areas: Goaltending (Giguere), a solid, puck-moving top-four defenceman (Kuba) and a top-six forward who can score 25 to 30 goals (St. Louis).
Button has spent the remainder of his time as General Manager in Calgary trying to find each of those three pieces. Granted his most recent choice for goaltender, Roman Turek, is an upgrade over his choice of Mike Vernon in 2000.
Certainly Button has made a lot of good moves as well and he will land on his feet in another hockey organization sooner rather than later. Acquiring Conroy, McAmmond, Gelinas, Boughner, Drury and Yelle were all acquisitions that have helped this team get better, at least on paper. However, his handling of the Marc Savard and Val Bure situations as well as his inability to make moves to spark the team last season when it became clear a 13-2-2-2 start was quickly going into the toilet will be his legacy.
That and trading away a certain goaltender that made 62 saves last night.