June 21 — Executives, Fathers & Fan Favorites

On Tap For Today — Islanders at Lightning 8 pm EDT; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN

Friday’s Forecheck

ALL BARKOV, NO BITE: Florida center Aleksander Barkov was announced as the 2020-21 Frank J. Selke Trophy recipient, honoring the league’s top defensive forward. He joins Pavel Datsyuk, Ron Francis, Anže Kopitar, and Ryan O’Reilly as the only players to win both the Selke and Lady Byng awards.

FLUERY OF DOUBT: The upstart Canadiens continued their magical run, winning Game 3 in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead over the Golden Knights. The win was made possible after a stunning gaffe made by Marc-André Fleury resulted in the game-tying goal — a mistake that cost him the start in Sunday’s Game 4.

Saturday’s Snipes

NICE WIN: Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin was announced as this season’s Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner, which is awarded to the player who exhibits the “best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” He’s the first Carolina player to win since Ron Francis did so following the 2001-02 season.

PU-LOCKED IN: Defenseman Ryan Pulock made what can only be described as the save of the century, stopping a sure-fire Tampa Bay equalizer in the final seconds of Saturday’s Game 4 victory. It helped the Islanders knot the series at two games each — and seriously… What. A. Stop!

Sunday’s Cellys

THANKS, DAD: Check out this clip of Sharks forward Patrick Marleau with his family — truly heartwarming stuff. From the Morning Skate family to yours, we hope all of the dads out there had a wonderful Father’s Day.

ROY-T A FINISH: Amos, Quebec native Nicolas Roy scored in overtime Sunday night as the Golden Knights tied their series with Montreal, 2-2. Game 5 will be Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

Executive Excellence Explained

On one hand, the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award, whose winner will be announced on Monday, seems pretty self explanatory. Named for the late long-time NHL executive, the award recognizes the league’s top decision-maker — typically rewarding GM’s that have overseen significant organizational growth and a move up the standings.

However, it may not be as straightforward as it seems. This year’s nominees include the reigning award winner, Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders, as well as Bill Zito of the Florida Panthers and Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens. Bergevin’s inclusion, particularly at the expense of Colorado’s Joe Sakic, points to a quirky element to the Gregory award — unlike player awards decided after the regular season, the GM award is voted on upon conclusion of the second round of the playoffs.

The odd discrepancy in timing of voting isn’t the only thing that makes the GM award unique. It’s also a fundamentally difficult recognition to frame within a single season. While the evaluation of player (or coach) performance can easily be isolated into a one-season sample, a general manager’s impact on his club’s roster isn’t so simple.

Are voters expected to consider overall team performance, or only the contributions of players acquired that season? Furthermore, would it be fair to anoint Lamoriello for a second consecutive season on, essentially, the same transactions record that got him the award the first time around? Am I thinking too much about this? Probably.

With that said, let’s break down this year’s candidates on the strength of what they’ve done over the course of the 2020-21 season (including the 2020 off-season):

Lou Lamoriello

After a well-deserved honor last season as the architect for the rising Islanders, Lamoriello further strengthened a group that is now two wins away from what would be their first Stanley Cup Final in 37 years. The 78-year-old secured extensions with key players like Matt Barzal and Ryan Pulock, then made his big move at the trade deadline by adding Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils. While Zajac has struggled since joining the Isles, Palmieri shares the team lead with seven playoff goals.

Bill Zito

Yes, the Panthers’ disappointing first round exit at the hands of their in-state rival — the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning — counts against Zito’s record here. Still, the rookie GM made his mark on the organization. In free agency, Zito made several intelligent and analytically-inclined signings, including Carter Verhaeghe and Alexander Wennberg — who have scored a combined 35 goals this season. After a big breakout year, Verhaeghe looks like a steal at $1 million for next season.

Marc Bergevin

Bergevin’s Canadiens are, of course, surging now after a rather underwhelming regular season. While Josh Anderson’s seven-year contract may have seemed burdensome when Montreal was barely squeaking into the playoffs, no one is complaining now that the offseason trade addition has infused a layer of physicality into the Habs roster. Likewise, the additions of free agent goal scorer Tyler Toffoli and the still-effective agitator Corey Perry have made an impact. Even managing to keep the thrice waived Paul Byron has worked out well for Bergevin.

Final Five Fan Favorites

Every October you put on the jersey of your favorite player and root for them to lift the Stanley Cup that coming June. Of course, you want to see your favorite team win the Cup — that’s a given. However, once your team is eliminated — or in some cases, don’t even qualify for the postseason — you look for other players to root for until the Stanley Cup is won.

Whether your choice is based on talent or age, there are always players with an interesting backstory to champion when it comes down to the wire. Here at The Hockey Writers, we give you five players worthy of your attention and support. If you’re wondering why there is no one from the Lightning mentioned, it may have something do with 97% of the team having received their Stanley Cup ring midseason. 

Andy Greene — New York Islanders

Greene started his career with the Devils as an undrafted free agent and left as the eleventh captain in franchise history. He was saved from a sinking ship and found salvation on Long Island with a trade at the deadline. One look at his salt-and-peppered playoff beard, and you can see how much of a toll it takes to captain an underperforming team for half a decade. After surviving a dance with the Devils, it’s time for him to land on an island in the sun — with the Cup in tow.

Max Pacioretty — Vegas Golden Knights

Talk about a man on a postseason mission. In order to successfully finish his quest to win the Stanley Cup, he must first get the ultimate revenge and eliminate his former team. In 2018, Montreal traded their captain to Vegas and now, three years later, Pacioretty has a chance to turn the tables and run the Canadiens out of town. I’m not sure you will find a more motivated player on the ice than Pacioretty.

Shea Weber — Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens: A True Underdog Story. Weber is to the Canadiens as Peter La Fleur is to Average Joe’s Gymnasium. Wearing the “C” on his sweater, Weber is looking to add a Stanley Cup to a resume that includes success at virtually every level of professional hockey. Let’s hope Weber doesn’t need to score a game-winning goal blindfolded to secure a Stanley Cup Final appearance for his team.

Shea Weber, Montreal Can (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Travis Zajac — New York Islanders

Oh, Trav! He’s the loyal husband that stays through the good and bad, only to find out his wife is trading him in for a younger man. He spent his entire career with the Devils before he was traded to the Islanders at the deadline — and honestly, hasn’t he suffered enough? Get this man a Stanley Cup ring.

Carey Price — Montreal Canadiens

If you are not rooting for Price to win a Stanley Cup, do you even have a soul? Price has been in Montreal’s spotlight and centerstage for the Canadiens since the 2007-08 season. He’s won the Vezina Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, Hart Trophy, and the William M. Jennings Trophy but has yet to play for a Cup. Price is the main reason the Canadiens are still in the playoffs and — if there is any justice in this world — he will raise the Stanley Cup before his Hall of Fame career comes to an end.