Prior to Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello was named the winner of the Jim Gregory Award as NHL General Manager of the Year.
Lamoriello’s 86 points topped Tampa Bay GM Julien BrisBois’s 71 and Dallas GM Jim Nill’s 61. All three have teams playing in the conference finals right now, and voting was done at the end of the second round. Ballots were submitted by NHL GMs, executives and select media members.
“This award that I am being recognized for is really a team award… I accept it on behalf of the entire New York Islanders organization.”— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 12, 2020
Colin Campbell and David Gregory present Lou Lamoriello with the Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award. #NHLAwards | #NHLonSN pic.twitter.com/qrzTsJG37m
(Shout out to true Islanders legend Joanne Holewa, the real power behind the scenes)
Two players Lamoriello acquired at this season’s trade deadline - Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Andy Greene - have proven to be huge additions for the Islanders in these playoffs, and helped the team go further than they have in almost three decades. Goalie Semyon Varlamov, signed last summer as Robin Lehner was allowed to leave in free agency, has taken hold of the starting role. The team also managed to finally get KHL star Ilya Sorokin to sign a contract, which will begin next season.
Those moves alone are notable but let’s be real: Lamoriello takes home the award due in large part to the transformation the Islanders have undergone in his two years in charge.
Much of the credit goes to coach Barry Trotz, who won the Jack Adams as NHL Coach of the Year last season. But Trotz probably isn’t the Islanders coach without Lamoriello. The players, many of whom have endured multiple lost seasons and had to worry about tons of off-ice nonsense over the years, have responded to their new leadership with resolve and an adherence to organizational structure that feels both productive and welcome. When Brock Nelson said in a recent media availability that the bosses are “very detail-oriented,” he said it in a way that made it clear that the players appreciate the work that’s being done above them and the guidance they’re being given, which they realize allows them to be more successful on the ice.
That all starts with Lamoriello, who’s known for his “It’s about the logo on the front, not the name on the back,” philosophy that goes back to his days with the New Jersey Devils. That pithy cliche is about holding the players to a certain standard and, more than anything, upholding it so that you’re not letting down the guy next to you. Everything other than winning is secondary and excuses aren’t tolerated. The result is a franchise that operates on a different wavelength than it has at any point in the last quarter century.
His predecessor, Garth Snow - who, it must be said, constructed the majority of the roster that’s currently in the conference final and deserves at least some credit for that - was known for coming into seasons with the goal of, “Just make the playoffs and anything can happen.”
Lou gave up assets around the deadline for Pageau/Greene and gambled letting Lehner go to sign Varlamov. All three paid off, plus the air of confidence and respect he's brought to the org.#Isles aren't where they are without Garth Snow's personnel decisions.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) September 13, 2020
Both can be true.
There’s a wide gulf between those two statements, but it illustrates just how far the Islanders have come under Lamoriello that goes beyond whatever trades he made, or didn’t make, over the last 12 months.
Also, adding new awards to the trophy case is always fun.