- Scott Burnside, NHL
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Here’s a look at where the General Manager of the Year award stands post-trade deadline as we head into the final quarter of the NHL season:
1. Mike Gillis, Vancouver Canucks
Gillis’ Canucks have moved past a rocky start to the season and a potential goaltending controversy to re-emerge as the NHL’s best, deepest club. They had it all and then Gillis made the bold move of sending emerging young center Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for Zack Kassian, a bruising winger with good offensive upside. Samuel Pahlsson, a Cup winner in Anaheim, should also add defensive depth up front as the Canucks look ready to embark on another long playoff run.
2. David Poile, Nashville Predators
Was there a GM that faced more pressure at the deadline than Poile, since he must not only ensure he’s building properly for the future but also do enough to keep two major components of that future, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter? After bolstering the blue line with veteran Hal Gill, he added two important pieces up front on Monday in Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad. The incoming pieces should blend nicely with a speedy, mostly homegrown team that is thinking Stanley Cup.
3. Glen Sather, New York Rangers
We admit it still seems strange to be considering the reclusive Rangers GM in this category, but there is no denying the admirable work Sather has done in building a gritty, defensively stellar Ranger team that remains the cream of the Eastern Conference crop. He did not add the offensive piece he would have liked at the deadline and time will tell whether that ultimately costs the Rangers a shot at a Cup, but we applaud what must have been a significant temptation to tear part of that roster apart to nab Columbus captain Rick Nash. In our view that would have been a colossal mistake and one that Sather might have made in the past but avoided this year.
4. Ken Holland, Detroit Red Wings
Holland would have liked a shot at Gaustad, but he did his pre-deadline shopping early and got a terrific piece in defenseman Kyle Quincey, whom he acquired from Tampa Bay for a first-round draft pick. Quincey has emerged as a talented puck-mover, and the former-Wings prospect should help the team on what they hope will be another significant playoff run. Bigger picture, Quincey is a nice fit moving forward given the expected departure this summer of Brad Stuart and the retirement -- he really will retire one of these years -- of Nicklas Lidstrom. A lot of people are looking forward to what the Wings will be doing on the free agent market this summer given the cap room they’re going to have, but Holland’s shrewd drafting and player acquisition has the Wings in the hunt for the top seed in the Western Conference and the Stanley Cup once again.
5. Bryan Murray, Ottawa Senators
A year ago there was discussion about whether Murray was going to retire or be pushed out of his job with the Senators. Now his team is on a 7-1-1 tear, challenging the defending Stanley Cup champions for first place in the Northeast Division and looking at possibly securing home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, something that would have been unthinkable at the start of the season. Yes, Murray’s drafting of Erik Karlsson was a stroke of genius; the kid is a point machine. And there are lots of young players making important contributions, like Kyle Turris, whom Murray acquired from Phoenix earlier this year. But Murray’s most important move over the past year was hiring head coach Paul MacLean away from Detroit, where he was an assistant to Mike Babcock. The Sens aren’t there just yet, but they’re a heck of a lot closer than anyone had a right to imagine at this point in time.
1dScott Burnside and Craig Custance