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Déjà Lou: Lamoriello wins second straight Jim Gregory Award as NHL GM of the Year

Still knockin’ ‘em down.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Announces Start Of New New York Islanders Arena At Belmont Park
You can win this twice?
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Prior to Game 5 of the Vegas-Montreal semifinal series, 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 104 points topped Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s 79 and rookie Florida GM Bill Zito’s 45. Bergevin and Lamoriello have teams playing in the semifinals right now, and voting was done at the end of the second round. Ballots were submitted by NHL GMs, executives and select media mem... hey waitasecond...

This all sounds really familiar. Am I having a psychotic episode? Was my turkey burger secretly laced with hallucinogenic mushrooms?

Nope! It’s the second straight year in which Lamoriello has been named the NHL’s GM of the Year, making him the first two-time winner of the award. That’s an extremely cool thing to do, and it goes to show the amount of respect Lamoriello has among his peers and how they feel about the job he’s done with the Islanders.

Let’s see. What else can I copy and paste from last year?

Two players Lamoriello acquired at this season’s trade deadline - Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Andy Greene Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac - 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 to the semifinals for the second straight season. 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 and KHL star Ilya Sorokin, who Lamoriello got to sign a contract at the end of last season, which will begin next season finished second in the NHL in goals against this season with 125, only three more than the Jennings Trophy winning duo of Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner of Vegas.

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 three years in charge.

In all seriousness, Lamoriello winning this award a second time probably means more for the Islanders than any of the GMs that lost. In his time at the helm, the Islanders have become a competent, consistent, competitive hockey team again, something they haven’t been since before Lamoriello was running the New Jersey Devils. While Barry Trotz and the players certainly have something to do with it, leadership starts at the top and that’s Lou.

“Winning an award such as this is very humbling,” Lamoriello said. “It’s very difficult because it shouldn’t be one person being recognized. It’s an award that really embraces what the organization has accomplished throughout the year.

“I accept humbly on behalf of our owner, Scott Malkin, and his partners, who have given us over the past three years, every tool necessary to have success; our coaching staff, led by Barry Trotz; our players, led by our captain, Anders Lee; our entire hockey operations, led by Chris Lamoriello and Steve Pellegrini, my very capable assistants; and who really is the backbone of all of us, Joanne Holewa (manager, hockey operations).”

(Once again: Shout out to true Islanders legend Joanne Holewa, the real power behind the scenes. Now and forever.)

This season wasn’t perfect by any means. An injury to captain Anders Lee derailed the Islanders after a spectacular first half. The two big deadline pickups didn’t make an immediate impact during the regular season. They stumbled into the playoffs in fourth place, facing an uphill climb - and lots of road games against the Penguins and Bruins - if they wanted to make another long run.

But that’s exactly what they’ve done, heading into Game 6 of the semifinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night. A win would force a Game 7 back in Tampa on Friday.

The timing of the voting is important here. Had the votes been tallied at the end of the regular season, rather than after the second round of the playoffs, maybe Bergevin or Zito or Colorado’s Joe Sakic - who built the President’s Trophy winner featuring defenseman Devon Toews, whom Lamoriello reluctantly had to trade to create cap space - would have won.

But even more important is what Lou Lamoriello has done to revive the Islanders in the eyes of the NHL’s general managers. They recognize the job he’s done and gave him their votes. Even more than they gave him last year, when he beat out Tampa Bay’s Julien Brisbois 86-71.

That means something, too.