The NHL has announced this year’s finalists for the Jim Gregory Award, otherwise known as the General Manager of the Year award. Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars, Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins, and Bill Zito of the Florida Panthers are the three candidates to take home the 2023 award.
Unlike most other awards, voting is not solely conducted among members of the media. All NHL GMs, as well as a spattering of league executives, are included in the process, and voting is conducted after the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Under Nill’s management, the Stars recorded their highest regular-season point total since 2015-16 and have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the second time in four years, although their stay there appears to be nearing an unceremonious end. Undoubtedly, Nill’s key move last offseason was bringing in head coach Peter DeBoer, who has now brought his NHL-record fourth franchise to the third round of the playoffs in his first year with the team.
Nill also made a number of impactful free-agent signings, including left wing Mason Marchment and defenseman Colin Miller. He also locked in short-term extensions for core pieces Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson and acquired Evgenii Dadonov, Max Domi, and Nils Lundkvist via trade.
His recent drafting has also been crucial to the team’s success, namely 2021 first-round pick Wyatt Johnston, who became the youngest player in NHL history to score a series-clinching goal in a Game 7.
Sweeney oversaw an absolutely record-breaking season for his team. Already with the 2019 edition of the award in his pocket, Sweeney’s moves contributed heavily to Boston’s league-dominating 65-12-5 record, setting an NHL all-time high with 135 points.
Under the leadership of head coach Jim Montgomery, whom Sweeney hired in the offseason, Boston never once slipped out of the Atlantic Division lead, becoming only the fourth team in the post-expansion era to accomplish this feat. The Bruins set multiple records, including a remarkable 14-game home winning streak from the beginning of the campaign.
Sweeney bolstered his roster by re-signing center Patrice Bergeron, bringing back former center David Krejčí from overseas, and making strategic trades to acquire center Pavel Zacha, right wing Garnet Hathaway, and defenseman Dmitry Orlov. The signing of David Pastrnak to a long-term extension further solidified the team’s future.
Sweeney’s moves this season didn’t come without some justified controversy, however. Back in November, Sweeney opted to sign free agent defense prospect Mitchell Miller, whose draft rights were given up by the Arizona Coyotes after a 2016 assault conviction for bullying and abusing a Black, developmentally disabled classmate became public. Miller was sent away from the team within days of the signing.
Lastly, there’s Zito, who has the Panthers on the verge of their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Zito started a pivotal 2022 offseason by securing the services of head coach Paul Maurice, a move that’s panned out well despite some public hesitance at the time. Zito then orchestrated a blockbuster trade to acquire and extend left wing Matthew Tkachuk, who has consistently been the team’s best player and emerged as a Hart Trophy finalist this season.
Other significant offseason moves, including signings of Nick Cousins, Alex Lyon, Eric Staal, Marc Staal, and Colin White, have mostly all contributed at points during Florida’s storybook playoff run. Zito, a finalist for the second time in his three years as a general manager, is hoping to secure his first win after finishing third in voting during his inaugural season at the helm of the Panthers.