Steve Yzerman was first nominated for GM of the year in 2011, a year after taking the role in Tampa. In 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2004, and Yzerman was nominated for and eventually won the award. In 2018, Yzerman’s team is in the Eastern Conference Final for the third time in four years, and he is once again nominated for GM of the Year. This adds another nomination to an already rich slate, with Andrei Vasilevskiy named a finalist for the Vezina, and Victor Hedman nominated a second time for the Norris.
Per Elliotte Friedman:
GM of the Year nominees: Cheveldayoff (WIN), McPhee (LV) & Yzerman (TB). This voting takes place after the second round, by a mixed panel of voters.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 17, 2018
Yzerman’s competition in 2018 is a little tougher, however. Alongside him is Kevin Cheveldayoff of the Winnipeg Jets and George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights. Both of these teams are also in the conference finals. (The only team in the conference final whose GM was snubbed was Washington’s Brian MacLellan.) McPhee’s Golden Knights are arguably the shimmering Cinderella Story of the year, and of the playoffs. It’s important to note that the voting doesn’t occur until after the second round of the playoffs, so voters already knew that the Golden Knights moved on to the Western Conference Finals.
What is it about this year’s team that makes Yzerman worthy of a nomination? In the early part of the year, we discussed how the team was built. Not only did Yzerman identify and lock down the core identity of his team for bargain prices, he filled in the holes with players who he believed in, and brought on regardless of size or draft status. As Justin wrote:
How did Yzerman do it? By identifying and signing to long-term contracts a small core of talented players and then filling in the gaps with free agent signings and trades. This season marks one of the biggest turnovers from year to year since Jon Cooper took over as coach. [T]here are seven players who weren’t on the roster at this time last season. How the team meshes on the ice and in the locker room will go a long way to determining if Mr. Yzerman had a successful offseason.
Long story short, they meshed.
At the trade deadline, Yzerman continued to impress, making hard decisions that sent well-loved player Vladislav Namestnikov to the New York Rangers in return for Ryan McDonagh and a severely underrated and shockingly impactful forward, JT Miller. These moves undoubtedly shored up the holes that kept the Lightning from advancing far the year before, and continue to pay dividends for the team. (We might have already boasted about that, too.) And if you want to read more about how well Yzerman has drafted, we have you covered.
Yzerman might not win this year, given the unexpected performance of the Golden Knights, and in fact most of our staff think that McPhee likely will be the runaway winner and rightfully so. But us Tampa Bay Lightning fans? We’ve totally already won.