There are several universal qualities that all good general managers should have, according to a former one, Bob Clarke.
The Flyers senior vice president, who served two tours of GM duty with Philadelphia plus stints in Minnesota and Florida, believes it all begins with how players are treated.
In a telephone call Monday night shortly before the official announcement of Chuck Fletcher as new GM of the Flyers came down, Clarke talked about traits an effective administrator should possess.
Perhaps the headliner is the way Fletcher treats people, especially those who work for him, with care and respect.
Then there’s the element of communication, making sure that everyone in a decision-making role is included in the process.
And last, but not least, remembering that the Flyers, like most teams, want to build for the future but they also want to succeed in the present as well.
Ultimately, according to Clarke, it’s all about relationships, namely those between a GM and his entire work staff.
“I think it’s critically important that the people who work for you are part of the team,’’ Clarke said. “You have to ask their opinions because they’re important.
“Treating people properly and including them is how you make a good team.
Clarke is still good friends with Chuck’s dad, Cliff, who is in the Hockey Hall of Fame “builder’s’’ wing.
It was the elder Fletcher who helped Clarke make the transition to general manager after No. 16 retired as a player in 1984.
During his career, Cliff was GM in Toronto, Atlanta/Calgary and Phoenix.
“He and (former Flyer GM) Keith Allen were the first two managers in that era who took care of players, their families – it was a different era but they were the first to do all that,’’ Clarke said.
“When I hired Chuck in Florida, I never talked to Cliff about it. I didn’t need to. I knew what Chuck had seen growing up. . .(he) saw how a general manager treated his players and their families.’’
Like father, like son, so to speak.
“I spoke to (super agent) Don Meehan, who Chuck was working for at the time,’’ Clarke said. “He couldn’t say enough nice things (about Fletcher).
“We met, had breakfast. Chuck’s thinking was, like he’s been his whole hockey life, treating people good, properly. Being part of the off-ice team. All the things that were critical to my thinking.’’
No doubt some of that value system will come into play when Chuck takes over the Flyers.
“Even though he was young when we hired him in Florida, he was really good,’’ Clarke said. “What I’ve learned over the years is he hasn’t changed. It’s the way he treats people, includes everybody.
“He just does it right with people.’’
That’s where inclusion of everyone in a front office comes into play.
“Everybody becomes part of the team,’’ said Clarke, “whether you’re a secretary, a trainer. . .you’re included in being part of the team.
“For me, it was critically important. The decision to hire him was Paul’s (president Paul Holmgren). I think they made an outstanding choice.’’
There was a perceived rift between Holmgren and Hextall, or at least on record, a “philosophical’’ difference of opinion on the direction the team was taking.
There were rumors that Hextall made a lot of his decisions without having a discussion with others in the front office.
“If you just isolate yourself away from those people eventually they’re going to be unhappy,’’ Clarke said. “You have no need to do that. I don’t think it’s any different than running any other business.’’
When Clarke was GM here (from 1984-90, 1994-2006), he tried to go about it the right way.
He believes Fletcher will follow that lead.
“He’s going to do things right,’’ Clarke said. “That, for me, includes the players. If you play on a team that the top level is not doing everything it can to win, to do everything you can to get players to help you win, it’s a pretty hard thing to sell to your players.
“I think the players deserve that ‘we’re here to win and management will do the best it can to help you win, too.’ You can’t just keep treading water year after year. . .you’ve got to help these players get better in order to win.’’