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Mike Gillis, David Poile and Steve Yzerman receive GM of the Year nominations; Who should win?

Apr 20, 2011, 12:49 PM EDT

Steve Yzerman, Wayne Fleming. AP

(For a breakdown and poll of the three Calder Trophy finalists for rookie of the year, click here.)

The NHL doesn’t add new trophies to its annual awards very often – how about a defensive defenseman award, eh? – but the league was wise to add a trophy for the league’s best general manager starting last year. Sure, some might say that the Stanley Cup might be the truest sign of a great executive, but the league’s champions aren’t always the best example of savvy personnel decision making.

Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney won the inaugural award for his work before and during the 2009-10 season, but this 11-12 candidates are: Mike Gillis of the Vancouver Canucks, David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s take a quick look at each of their contributions. (The GMs are listed in last name alphabetical order.)

Vancouver’s Mike Gillis

Sure, his predecessors acquired the biggest fish in guys like the Sedin twins, Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler. That being said, the Canucks weren’t the deepest team in the NHL before he arrived. The former agent built a team that withstood a ridiculous amount of injuries to its defensive corps and ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy.

Vancouver won three Northwest Division titles during his three years as the GM, but his moves for this season have been particularly successful. Keith Ballard (pre-season trade) hasn’t been amazing, Dan Hamhuis suffered a career-threatening concussion and the team let Michael Grabner go for nothing, but that didn’t matter. He made a great signing by bringing (currently sidelined) faceoff wiz Manny Malhotra into the fold, while his two subtle trade deadline moves (bringing in Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapiere) are working out nicely too.

Nashville’s David Poile

Much like a probable Jack Adams award nomination for Predators coach Barry Trotz, Poile’s nod almost seems like a career achievement award. Both the GM and the bench boss have been impressively stable in building a hard-working, good bang-for-the-buck team in Nashville. Dealing with a marginal budget forces teams to build through the draft, which has been fine with the Poile as he added pieces like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne that way.

Like Gillis, some moves didn’t work out. Mike Lombardi’s concussion concerns kept him from being the defensive center the team craved, although Mike Fisher (acquired via a trade) is working wonders in that role so far in the playoffs. His best move specifically involved trading for wayward youngster Sergei Kostitsyn, who rode a ridiculous 24.7 shooting percentage to the team scoring lead with 50 points.

Then again, one of Poile’s greatest challenges will come up this summer, as he must find a way to re-sign restricted free agent Weber.

Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman

The Lightning already had some pieces in place in Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and more, but Yzerman brought in excellent rookie coach Guy Boucher and generally re-made the team in the image of the Detroit Red Wings (though that is naturally still a work in progress).

Dan Ellis didn’t really work out, even if signing him was a low-risk, medium-reward proposition. Yzerman made a nice move when he traded for veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, although this summer might determine how well he handles the goalie position as a GM. New addition Pavel Kubina seems fairly comfortable back in Tampa Bay, Simon Gagne rebounded from a slow start to have a solid season and Eric Brewer (trade deadline) provides another helping of veteran leadership.

***

So, which GM do you think deserves this year’s award? Is it the architect for big chunks of the league’s best team (Gillis), a guy who’s done so much with a small budget (Poile) or a former legend who is a breath of fresh air for a wayward franchise (Yzerman)? Let us know your choice in the poll below.

  1. quixotissimo - Apr 20, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Tough choice between Poile and Stevie Y. Gillis isn’t undeserving, but the core was established for him well before he arrived. Poile should win if voters want to consider his achievements over the years with Nashville being on a tight budget. Yzerman has been the face of a big turnaround year for the Southeast Division, but like Gillis, the core of Stamkos, St. Louis and others were already in place.

    Well-established (I believe the term is “traditional”) hockey markets have the budgetary advantage of high attendance revenues regardless of on-ice results (to an extent). For instance in Toronto they can be out of the playoffs for years in a row and still know that attendance will be high. Whereas fledgling markets like Carolina, Tampa, Florida, Nashville and Washington, while still having a solid core of die-hard fans, can’t afford to take a year off to rebuild due to the hit the strategy would have on attendance of the casual fan, and thus, revenues. Therefor these markets need shrewd and savvy GM’s who can plug the gaps after important players leave for more money and wealthier franchises while remaining competitive and slowly building the season ticket holder base. Small market GM’s with money-conscious owners can’t afford to make costly mistakes or overpay for free agents, while other teams can afford to buy out a contract, most small market clubs would take a huge hit to their budget.

    I forgot what my original point was, but I have a lot of respect for successful small-market gms, the salary cap has evened the playing field somewhat (which is in the best interest of the long term health of the league) but it’s still hard to stay at the top when budgets are much smaller than their competitors.

  2. jpelle82 - Apr 20, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    i can see maybe Guy Boucher getting recognition but steve y didnt really do anything spectacular. he took a big chance on roloson, we will see how that really pans out over the next week or so

    • polegojim - Apr 21, 2011 at 9:24 AM

      You’re kidding about Yzerman right? Not doing anything spectacular????

      He brought the Lightening the farthest forward in a very short period of time.

      He’ll win GM of the Year. Success of the octopus tentacles reaches a LONG way South.

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