The NHL General Manager of the Year Award will be presented for the first time at the Stanley Cup Final, and it's either long overdue or completely unnecessary.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported that the League's 30 GMs were sent a ballot for the award either before or at the start of the playoffs. In theory, this thing should be voted on after the Conn Smythe.
It's bad enough that the award is basically assessing one season of what are multi-year plans for every team executive; but to have the award celebrate regular-season achievement for a team executive renders it somewhat pointless when the ultimate goal is always a championship or, at the very least, playoff success.
Think of it this way: George McPhee of the Washington Capitals is a finalist for the inaugural award, and there's no question that the architect of a President's Trophy winner should be lauded ... until you see that trophy winner taken out in the first round by a No. 8 seed while the cracks in its foundation (defensive defenseman, second-line center) are exposed. This isn't to say McPhee is unworthy of a nomination, just that the real test of a team's construction comes when the games matter more.
Conversely, and I'm sure this isn't going to go over all that well, how about that Bob Gainey, huh?
Sure, he stepped down in February, citing a lack of long-term vision for the franchise. That still might be true, based on the salary committed on the Montreal Canadiens' cap. But based on the Habs' performance in this postseason, his summer makeover of the roster -- hiring Jacques Martin, letting veterans like Saku Koivu(notes) go and bringing in several high-priced North American players -- worked. (Yeah, he tried to trade Jaroslav Halak(notes) ... but he failed.)
Again, this isn't to say a guy no longer holding the GM title should be up for GM of the year, but rather how playoffs can change perceptions sharply. But it's the first season for it, so maybe they give it a tweak.
This year's nominees are McPhee, David Poile of the Nashville Predators (who might as well have this award named for him) and Don Maloney of the Phoenix Coyotes (who should win this thing with the ease of his coach winning the Jack Adams). Maloney's collection of gritty veterans and diamonds in the rough set a franchise record for points in the season -- all while operating on the NHL's limited dime.
Others that should have garnered consideration: Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings for adding Rob Scuderi(notes) and Ryan Smyth(notes); Doug Wilson of the San Jose Sharks for the Dany Heatley(notes) trade and the grunts he added down the lineup; and Ken Holland of the Detroit Red Wings, for overcoming last summer's cap headaches and keeping the core of his team together.
But this is Maloney's year, reinforced by that effort in the postseason.