Wayne Gretzky will never be far from the game of hockey. His name will always crop up as a potential executive for this team or that team, like it did when the Washington Capitals made moves within their front office, firing longtime GM George McPhee earlier this offseason.
While the match seemed possible, with Gretzky either as general manager or in a president-type role, it won't be happening. According to Jull Sorenson of Comcast SportsNet Washington, Gretzky is no longer in consideration for a front-office role with the club.
That report was also echoed by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, who wrote:
Whether it's [Gretzky] for president of hockey operations or another high-end executive job, at this hour, it doesn't look like it's going to happen. Which is too bad, because No. 99 in that kind of role would be a great asset. The Maple Leafs talked to Gretzky about a similar role last summer but talks didn't produce a deal.
The league having Gretzky in a visible role would be a good thing under the right circumstances. The Capitals organization probably needs a more experienced architect for its roster, though. That wouldn't be Gretzky, despite the nice bonus of name recognition.
Gretzky was head coach with the Phoenix Coyotes and served as part owner with the club as well. It didn't go particularly well as Gretzky resigned and relinquished his ownership stake. The league's all-time leading scorer was also the general manager for the Canadian Olympic team in 2002, which ended the country's 50-year gold-medal drought.
Those experiences are all valuable, but might not help in the Caps' current situation. They have a rather weird problem in that they have a lot of good players, but need some restructuring around its stars. That means there are quite a few tough decisions and some difficult maneuvering ahead.
The Caps' search sounds like it's being narrowed down further, based on Sorenson's report. Experienced hockey people like recently-fired Penguins GM Ray Shero are probably going to be near the top of the list, as will a number of experience assistant general managers in the league. One of the name that pops up a lot is Paul Fenton, who has been with the Nashville Predators and is highly respected for his hockey ops acumen.
People like that have experience building rosters and rebuilding rosters. That's where the Caps need to head.
Though Gretzky probably deserves another shot as an exec, the Caps are still inside a Stanley Cup window with their star talent, so now isn't exactly the time for a grand experiment. It's probably best for both parties that they go in a different direction.
It will be interesting to see where, if anywhere, Gretzky ends up and in what kind of role. I don't think many teams would be interested in Gretzky as their chief hockey operations person, but his experience in the game seems like it could lend itself well in a high office. Having the game's greatest player on the sidelines while still young enough to contribute to the game in a more meaningful way than as a spokesperson seems an odd fit.
As jobs open up around the league, Gretzky's name will always be one of those mentioned and one of those teams is going to give him a shot.