On the day of Game 2 of their first conference final appearance in 27 years, the New York Islanders had the pleasure of announcing their own guy, Lou Lamoriello, as one of three finalists for the Jim Gregory Award presented to the general manager of the year.
The other two finalists — Julien BriseBois of their foes, the Lightning, and Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars — also generally manage teams that are in the Stanley Cup semifinals. So this seems to be one of those awards that turns in part on how your team did in some playoff series that often can go either way.
Congrats to Kelly McCrimmon for winning my inaugural "Only Conference Finalist GM Not Named A Finalist for GM of The Year; Man It's Weird How The Nominees Are Always Still In The Playoffs" award #trusttheresults— Alex Novet (@AlexNovet) September 9, 2020
That said, it’s impressive what Lamoriello has done in the past two years by (hiring Barry Trotz) changing the culture (hiring Barry Trotz), improving the team’s commitment to defense (hiring Barry Trotz), and getting the most out of a roster (hiring Barry Trotz) that had some pre-existing limitations.
It’s a fair bet this finalist honor would not have headed his way if the Islanders continued their pre-pandemic slump and burned out in the first round of the Alternate Universe playoffs that would’ve happened last spring.
But in the universe we’ve all been dealt, Adam Pelech was healthy for the Bubble Playoffs, the team was allowed time to regroup in the bubble, and Lamoriello’s deadline acquisitions J-G Pageau and Andy Greene became key pieces of the playoff run that will now go well into September.
That makes this summer the strange and exciting cap on two years of massive change despite a roster that largely predates Lamoriello: The captain Lamoriello inherited walked away, last year’s top goalie was told thanks but nah, and the aforementioned trade deadline targets have fit right into a new culture.
But Trotz has fit right in, too, and the core younger(ish) players Lamoriello inherited from the Garth Snow era like Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Adam Pelech, Scotty Mayfield, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier have all evolved under Trotz to become reliable, consistent contributors as part of a core the franchise can be proud of.
Oh, and there’s a new arena that’s shaping up nicely — not Lamoriello’s doing, but one of the developments that helped ownership convince him to helm the team in 2018.
Given how things looked two summers ago, when the major additions were Matt Martin and Leo Komarov, it’s amazing to think they’ve won three playoff series (and, hopefully, counting...) since then.
The winner will be announced Saturday. No idea of his chances — the award is determined by a vote of all 31 GMs, so maybe this playoff run is their opportunity to give him a lifetime achievement award — but here’s to hoping he picks up more silverware and qualifies for the award again, and again, and...