The final class of NHL Awards finalists has officially been released.
The NHL announced on Thursday morning that Montreal's Marc Bergevin, New York's Lou Lamoriello, and Florida's Bill Zito have been nominated for the 2021 Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award. The award, which was established in 2009 and re-named to honor Gregory in 2019-20, is voted on by a panel of league executives and media members, with the winner expected to be named on June 21st prior to puck drop for Game Five between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders.
Bergevin has been nominated for GM of the Year honors twice in years past, albeit having never actually emerged victorious.
If voting for the award had taken place following the conclusion of the regular season, frankly, Bergevin may not have even finished in the top-half of potential candidates, as his Canadiens finished the 2021 campaign a disappointing fourth in the North Division standings with 59 points and a dismal .491 points percentage.
Then, the playoffs began. And thus ignited an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals that no one, perhaps even Bergevin himself, saw coming. Since going down three games to one to the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 25th, the Canadiens proceeded to win seven consecutive games en route to back-to-back series victories versus the Leafs and Winnipeg Jets while not surrendering a lead in six straight contests.
At the time of publication, Bergevin's Canadiens sit three wins away from a birth in the Stanley Cup Final.
Like Bergevin, Lamoriello is a mere three wins away from watching his team earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. This is the second consecutive year that Lamoriello, who won the GM of the Year Award last season, finds himself in this position, having taken the Islanders to the NHL's Final Four in 2019-20 before ultimately losing in six games to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lamoriello's bold move at the trade deadline to acquire both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils, the team he previously spent three decades with, is paying dividends at the moment, precisely when it needed to the most. Each player has filled a vital role for the exquisitely structured Islanders during their playoff run thus far, even helping to fill the void up front left by injured captain Anders Lee.
The Hockey Hall of Famer is the first general manager to earn back-to-back nominations since Anaheim's Bob Murray did so for three consecutive seasons between 2012-13 to 2014-15.
And then there's Zito, the freshman of the class who receives his first nomination in his rookie season as an NHL general manager.
The 56-year-old oversaw a strong turnaround in his debut campaign with the Panthers, setting a franchise record in regular-season points percentage en route to a second-place finish in the Central Division standings. Aiding that success was a number of Zito acquisitions from that offseason such as Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair, Alex Wennberg, and Patric Hornqvist. If that weren't enough, Zito also shored up the Panthers' offensive depth by acquiring Sam Bennett at the trade deadline before immediately watching as the former top-five pick racked up 15 points in 10 games to close out the season.
Once adrift in the NHL's middle class, the Panthers are a team on the rise under Zito's stewardship. And he may just take home the hardware to prove it.