Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues, David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers are the three finalists for the 2011-12 NHL General Manager of the Year award. They're all very worthy candidates. They're just nominated for a completely misjudged award.
The General Manager of the Year award is the equivalent to the judges on "Chopped" grading a dish before it's plated. Yeah, you're pretty sure that the chef deftly combined fruit leather, smelt and olive tapenade into a suitable appetizer; but until it hits the plate, you're just not sure if it's been cooked to a crisp or if an ingredient is missing.
In other words: How does one judge the work done by a general manager before the end of the postseason?
I'm fine with Jack Adams and player awards being restricted to the regular season, but the job of a general manager needs more than 82 games for assessment. (In theory, GM awards should be given every five years, because all these guys are on five-year plans anyway. It's a handy way to stay employed.) In the playoffs, lineup holes are exposed and the very construction of the team can be evaluated.
To wit: How much have perceptions changed about Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings and Paul Holmgren of the Philadelphia Flyers after the first round of the playoffs?
From Puck Daddy reader "cosandoval412" on Lombardi for GM of the Year:
For being able to save his job with one trade and making all the rival GM's look timid, which is the first time that's ever happened. In all seriousness, though, being able to trade Simmons, Schenn, Johnson and a 1st for Carter and Richards is a steal, especially considering the fact they gave up basically a second pairing defenseman, an unproven rookie, a third-liner and low first for two proven all stars.
On the other side of the Mike Richards trade (and, in a roundabout way, the Jeff Carter trade) was Holmgren. Eric over on Broad Street Hockey has a great collection of the hits and misses for Homer, summarizing it thusly:
Despite my distaste for his overall approach, I have to admit that Holmgren's series of dramatic moves this year was generally successful. Compared to Dale Tallon improving Florida's goal differential from -34 to -24 by adding $8.8M of payroll, I have to think Holmgren was worthy of a nomination.
Why didn't he get one? Ilya Bryzgalov.
I have a hard time believing the panel that put the GM award together — the 30 club general managers and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media — had much love for a nine-year, $51 million deal for Bryzgalov, especially given his inconsistent play this season. (For the fellow GMs, I wonder how many took issue with the contract within the league's cap structure.)
But after Lombardi's Kings ousted the Canucks and Holmgren's Flyers took out the Penguins, their many moves were validated.
Not to say these three finalists aren't worthy.
Why Doug Armstrong Deserves GM of the Year
From the NHL:
Armstrong oversaw a Blues renaissance reflected by their 49-22-11 record and first Central Division title since 1999-2000. Adding to a talented nucleus of Blues draft picks that includes David Backes, T.J. Oshie, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo, Armstrong made the signing of the summer in unheralded free agent goaltender Brian Elliott, who led the NHL with a 1.56 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. He also acquired veteran forwards Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner. After the Blues started the season 6-7-0, Armstrong made a change behind the bench by bringing in 500-game winner and Stanley Cup champion head coach Ken Hitchcock, who led St. Louis to a 43-15-11 record.
Armstrong, incidentally, joined the Blues in May 2008 as director of player personnel. The move to Hitchcock was one of necessity for Armstrong, who saw a team with middling results in a season before new ownership takes over. But there's no question that the veteran additions to the core made a difference in a season that saw them challenge for the Presidents' Trophy.
Why David Poile Deserves GM of the Year
From the NHL:
A season after Nashville won its first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff series, Poile's work helped the Predators (48-26-8) earn a postseason berth for the seventh time in eight seasons and an opportunity for more milestones. As in past years, the Predators' underlying strength was its deep roster of players drafted and developed by the organization, including star goaltender Pekka Rinne, leading scorers Martin Erat and David Legwand, and defensemen Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Kevin Klein. Poile negotiated the late-season return of star forward Alex Radulov and also acquired top-six forward Andrei Kostitsyn, shutdown center Paul Gaustad and veteran defenseman Hal Gill prior to the trade deadline.
The short answer is "because he's David Poile," but specifically the aggressive moves at the deadline and the contract to secure Rinne were impressive — and although it doesn't factor into the voting but completely should, so was the dispatching of the Red Wings in Round 1.
Why Dale Tallon Deserves GM of the Year
From the NHL:
Tallon's comprehensive off-season overhaul was a runaway success as the Panthers (38-26-18) captured the first division title in franchise history and earned a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 12 years. He named Kevin Dineen to his first NHL head coaching assignment last June and followed with a flurry of acquisitions that included forwards Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Kopecky, defensemen Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski and goaltender Jose Theodore. In-season acquisitions of veteran forwards Mikael Samuelsson, John Madden, Marco Sturm, Wojtek Wolski and Jerred Smithson bolstered Florida's playoff drive.
Not mentioned but vital: The fact that Tallon was able to get Campbell to waive his no-trade clause to come to Florida, giving him a veteran around which to build (as well as a cog in a defense that helped get the Panthers back to the postseason).
Who Wins GM of the Year?
Tallon, giving hope to every fantasy hockey GM with a large amount of cap space in a keeper league.
But the bottom line is that this vote should be taken after the Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if that leads to the GM holding the Chalice at the end automatically getting one of the slots.