In full disclosure, we didn't remember this award actually existed until the NHL announced that the General Manager of the Year Award's finalists would be revealed Wednesday. And then we couldn't remember if this was a serious piece of hardware or some ego-stroke dalliance like the Mark Messier Leadership Award.
No, it's a serious one, now in its second season: The league's 30 general managers and an anonymous "panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media" vote for GM of the Year, awarded to the man who didn't make a complete mess of his team through bad trades, poor cap management and general bumbling. So no, Bryan Murray isn't a finalist, why do you ask?
Mike Gillis of the Vancouver Canucks, David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning are the three finalists for the 2010-11 NHL General Manager of the Year Award.
So who wins?
Why Mike Gillis Deserves GM of the Year
From the NHL:
Gillis built the Canucks into the NHL's top team in the 2010-11 regular season as they captured the Presidents' Trophy with a franchise-record 117 points (54-19-9) and claimed the Northwest Division title for the third time in his three years in Vancouver. He strengthened the Canucks defensively over the off-season by adding blueliners Keith Ballard(notes) and Dan Hamhuis(notes) and shutdown center Manny Malhotra(notes). Such was Vancouver's organizational depth that the club allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (185) despite suffering a rash of injuries throughout the season that sidelined each of their top five defensemen. Gillis further bolstered team depth at the trade deadline with the acquisition of forwards Chris Higgins(notes) and Maxim Lapierre(notes).
It's actually been a great two-year run for Gillis, as he retained the Sedins and inked Roberto Luongo long-term in 2009. There's no question that his moves last summer helped elevate this team from very good to Cup contender, and its depth carried it through significant injuries — holding on to Kevin Bieksa(notes) was a smart move, for example.
Why David Poile Deserves GM of the Year
From the NHL:
Under Poile's direction the Predators (44-27-11) brought the Stanley Cup Playoffs to Music City for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, finishing fifth in the West after the most competitive Conference race in League history. Yet again, more than half of the lineup was drafted and developed by the organization, including the top four scoring defensemen, Shea Weber(notes), Ryan Suter(notes), Cody Franson(notes) and Kevin Klein(notes). Goaltenders Pekka Rinne(notes) and Anders Lindback(notes) were selected with the 258th and 207th overall selections in their respective draft years. To this nucleus Poile added their leading scorer in 2010-11, Sergei Kostitsyn(notes), in a trade last June and two-way center Mike Fisher(notes) at the trade deadline.
Poile deserves this award for the same reasons Barry Trotz should be a Jack Adams nominee annually: They seem to create something out of nothing, losing more talent every summer than they're bringing in. Yet Poile expertly manages the talent in the system, retains his assets and makes moves he needs to make at the deadline; and looking back on it, Fisher was a hell of a deadline move.
Not mentioned: Getting Patric Honrqvist inked last summer to a three-year deal.
Why Steve Yzerman Deserves GM of the Year
From the NHL:
Yzerman was hired as Lightning general manager last May and presided over a club that made a 23-point improvement over 2009-10, posted the second-best record in franchise history (46-25-11) and earned a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007. Among the rookie NHL GM's notable moves were hiring head coach Guy Boucher three weeks into his tenure and adding key veterans to his lineup at different stages. Defenseman Pavel Kubina(notes) was signed at the start of the free agency period last July, followed later in the month by forward Simon Gagne(notes); goaltender Dwayne Roloson(notes) arrived via trade midway through the season and defenseman Eric Brewer(notes) was obtained at the trade deadline.
The Rookie of the Year, GM Edition.
The mere presence of Yzerman at the top changed the vibe around this franchise after Koules and Barrie ran it into the ground. The fact that he lured Boucher and added Roloson are moves as impressive as any his peers made this season. He's not been perfect -- Andrej Meszaros(notes) seems less a salary cap albatross than a quality defenseman in Philly -- but he's turned the franchise around.
Who Wins GM of the Year?
It should be Gillis for creating a Presidents' Trophy-winning juggernaut. But Don Maloney won the inaugural edition of the award last season for the Phoenix Coyotes' surprising season, so we'll assume it'll go to Yzerman or Poile, whom we expect to win.
2. Which GM should this award be named after? We'll go with former New York Islanders GM Bill Torrey. No trophy, just a sparkly bow tie with your name on it.