Calling All Armchair GMs: CapGeek Wants YOU


Aug 8, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders general manager

Garth Snow

speaks at a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Two outdoor regular-season NHL games will be played at Yankee Stadium during the 2013-14 season as part of the 2014 Stadium Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports recently rolled out its new “Armchair GM” feature, which got staff writer Reagan King thinking. He sent me his thoughts on the new functionality and asked me to write down my opinion as well. The following is what we came up with. (Spoiler alert: we’re heading for the hills right after we put together the most ill-conceived lineups possible.)

Reagan King

I love CapGeek. I think it’s safe to say the majority of diehard hockey fans also love CapGeek. Since bursting onto the NHL scene a few years ago, fans have been flocking to the site after every trade, buyout, or waiver pickup. As great as CapGeek is for the casual observer, it has also led to the increase in the number of armchair GMs.

And with the advent of the site’s new “Armchair GM” calculator, I think we’re in for a few more GM applications from NHL fans who aren’t already serving in fictitious front offices.

Before I begin, it must be clarified that none of this would be possible without the multitude of social networks available to the general public…all coming as a free service. These tools have sprung a new type of fandominium. Watching and going to games have taken on a whole new meaning and simply just observing the game is no longer enough.

Tweeting and interacting with other fans watching the same game as you is the new norm.

Being an armchair GM isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. It can spark engaging conversions across different platforms, especially in the warm months in between hockey seasons. However, having the powers afforded a GM works best in the hands of the right person.

Which is to say, not the typical fan.

Before CapGeek, finding just how much salary cap space a team had wasn’t nearly as easy. It was information that was certainly accessible, but more legwork was required. “What’s a player’s cap hit? How long is their deal? When is their contract up?” were all questions you could get answers for, but not nearly in the fashion CapGeek provides.

The numbers have provided faux GMs with a sense of false hope; hope in the sense of “as long as I don’t go over the cap, I’ve got it all figured out.” Illogical trades have become a regular appearance on Twitter. “This team has X amount of cap space, why don’t we sign Player Y?!” is a fairly common question regarding the signing or not signing of a given NHLer.

I’m not the general manager of a professional team. I just sit in the crowd of Tweeters, observing.

-RK (@ReaganKingIsles)

Mike Willhoft

Let me say this: CapGeek is wonderful. The user interface is clean and simple. It allows me to find contracts, bonus information, and soon-to-be unrestricted free agents in no time. It takes almost all the math out of my NHL research, which is definitely a plus. For those reasons, I always have a browser tab open to it.

To be unequivocally clear: I am in love with CapGeek. (And no, that’s not creepy.)

That being said, the new “Armchair GM” feature concerns me. Not ‘concerns’ like “it has something to do with me.” I mean ‘concerns’ as in “I’m worried about it and its effect on the stereotypical barroom GM wannabe.”

I’ll be honest, I haven’t given the functionality more than a cursory look, so anything I say here is based on my reaction after hearing the initial news CapGeek was putting this out. My fear is that the “Armchair GM” capability on the site will amplify a fan’s willingness to over-analyze his team’s front-office moves from his couch.

The result? An inordinate amount of ridiculous trade proposals and illogical roster creations by fans that should never be allowed near an NHL front office, let alone in one.

Call it the NHL equivalent of Monday-morning quarterbacking.

And you know what? Watching and breaking down the games as a fan is all well and good. To a point. There are 30 people in the world with the title of NHL GM. I am not one of those people. You are not one of those people. No one reading this post is one of those people, unless you’re Garth Snow. (Hi Garth!)

Point is, most people on earth are not NHL GMs, and that’s probably for the best. But, that doesn’t prevent us from criticizing NHL general managers on a near daily basis. Because sports are nothing if not a forum for people who “DOMINATE IN ‘NHL 14,’ BRO” to yell at their TVs that they could do the GM’s job better than anyone.

It’s the same behavior we exhibit when we take NHL players to task for “being terrible” even though 99.99 percent of us have never played a single shift in the league and are probably elbow deep in pizza and wings as we watch the game from our living rooms.

(Maybe I’m projecting, but you get it.)

Perhaps the GM is an easier target than a player since it’s an off-ice job: it’s just looking at the salary cap and constructing a roster accordingly. That’s all there is to it. At least, according to the Internet.

Just stay under budget and build the best team possible. We’ve all played NHL 14; we know the general rules. What’s so difficult about that? In reality though, that question translates to the following: what’s so difficult about predicting the future while running a highly competitive business by spending money that isn’t yours as millions of fans with tangential connections to the franchise constantly second-guess your process? (Or worse, your motives?)

In my limited time on the site, I was able to add Sidney Crosby, P.K. Subban and Semyon Varlamov to the Islanders’ roster and I still had cap room to spare. And since I did that in about three minutes, it stands to reason that Snow should be able to do that in his sleep. Right?

Except I didn’t physically have to trade anyone. Or figure out how these new players would fit into my team, chemistry-wise. Or pick up the phone, even. (I’m not sure I even had to think, to be honest.)

Then it hit me: the reason it’s nice to pretend to be the GM of a professional hockey team is because the roster moves I made were fun only because they were completely unrealistic.

The truth is that being an NHL GM isn’t nearly as enjoyable as the Internet makes it out to be. The problem I have with CapGeek’s “Armchair GM” feature is that it might trick the fans into believing that it is. Play around with it. Choose the roster you think would most benefit your team. Go nuts. Just remember: playing Flight Simulator may allow you to feel like a pilot, but it doesn’t license you to fly an airplane.

-MW (@MichaelWillhoft)

Are we way off-base here? Do you think the “Armchair GM” feature will eventually replace, you know, REAL GMs in the future? Have you already constructed 34,089 different NHL rosters on CapGeek and want to share the results? Follow us on Twitter or leave your comments below.