The NHL has released the finalists for the Jim Gregory GM of the Year award, named after the legendary hockey executive that passed last year. Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders, Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars, and Julien BriseBois of the Tampa Bay Lightning have been named as the three finalists, with the winner to be announced on Saturday. The award is voted on by a panel of league executives, print and broadcast media at the end of the second round of the playoffs.
It’s easy to point to the hiring of Barry Trotz as Lamoriello’s biggest move as GM of the Islanders, but that’s not all he’s done over the past year to push his team deep into the playoffs. Not only did the legendary executive move to secure more goaltending after letting Robin Lehner walk, but a deadline deal brought over proven playoff performer Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
There’s just something about the postseason that gets Pageau playing his best hockey and he’s proven it once again with a playoff-leading seven even-strength goals already. Pageau is a whopping +11 through 17 postseason games for the Islanders, while also winning more than 56% of his faceoffs. While Lamoriello had to give up a hefty package of draft picks to get him, Pageau won’t be leaving anytime soon; he signed a six-year, $30MM extension with the Islanders.
Nill meanwhile did most of his playoff preparation last summer. The Stars GM brought in Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski to give his club a little more bite and experience. Pavelski especially has been fantastic for Dallas in the postseason, leading the club with eight goals and playing more than any other forward on the team.
While it wasn’t a trade, the patience that has gone into the development of Denis Gurianov is paying huge dividends, with the young forward taking over as a star in this postseason. Gurianov trails only Miro Heiskanen in scoring for the Stars, with 15 points in 18 games.
BriseBois, the youngest and most inexperienced of the three finalists, would be the first to tell you that he inherited an incredible roster. He was part of the team that built it, serving as an assistant GM to Steve Yzerman, but the Lightning were already great when he took over in 2018. Still, BriseBois didn’t sit back and hope that roster would be good enough to make it through the playoffs this season.
Savvy depth adds of Patrick Maroon, Kevin Shattenkirk and Luke Schenn in the offseason are paying off now, while the scrap heap rehab of Zach Bogosian looks like a success. It’s those two deadline deals that have impressed so much though. BriseBois found a way to lengthen out his lineup by adding Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman, anything but household names, and it is paying off. The two have combined for just four goals in the postseason, but Tampa has created a group that seems to be dangerous on every single shift regardless of who is on the ice.