Lou Lamoriello, whose off-season decision making and leadership helped steer the New York Islanders into the Eastern Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs just two years after the departure of franchise cornerstone John Tavares, has been named the 2020 Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award winner.
Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations, and David Gregory — the son of the late Jim Gregory, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 in the builders category, and after whom the General Manager of the Year Award was renamed in November 2019 — presented the award virtually on Saturday night.
Julien BriseBois of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars were the other two finalists.
“David, it’s a privilege and an honour to have my name associated with your dad,” Lamoriello said. “I had known your dad for a very long time. I admired him — I don’t know of anyone who’s ever had a negative word to say about him. He, in my opinion, has been one of the greatest ambassadors for hockey — in particular, the National Hockey League.
“This award that I’m being recognized for is really a team award, although I’m being recognized. I accept it, on behalf of the entire New York Islanders organization.”
Lamoriello joined the Islanders in May of 2018 after three seasons as the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager, during which the team went 118-95-33, including playoff appearances in each of the last two campaigns — first-round exits to the hands of the Washington Capitals (six games) and Boston Bruins (seven games), respectively.
The Islanders’ 2019 off-season restructuring was shaped by changes in net. Semyon Varlamov, who had played the past eight seasons for the Colorado Avalanche, signed a four-year, $20-million contract on July 1, replacing Robin Lehner — who had been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie the year prior.
In his first season with New York, Varlamov posted a 2.62 goals-against-average en route to 19 regular-season wins in 39 starts.
A week before the goaltending shakeup, New York found stability in its centre spot, re-signing Brock Nelson to a six-year contract before he could become a free agent.
Nelson scored 26 goals and added 28 assists in 68 regular-season games this year, and has been impressive in the post-season, too — where he has notched eight goals and nine assists in 19 appearances as of Saturday night.
Before the trade deadline past in February, Lamoriello also pulled the trigger on a trade to acquire Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators for a trio of draft picks — a conditional 2020 first, a 2020 second and a conditional 2022 third. Pageau has eight goals and three assists in the post-season so far.
Lamoriello went on to offer wide-ranging thanks and praise to members of the organization, including ownership, coaching staff, players, scouting staff, trainers, equipment managers and hockey operations staff. He also noted that it is an “exciting time” for the organization moving forward, as it awaits the completion of its new arena.
“Last and not least, our great fans,” Lamoriello said in his closing remarks. “I’ve had the opportunity over the last two years to cross paths with so many of you. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to you in the arena. There’s no more passionate fans in the National Hockey League than you. Thank you, we appreciate what you do, what you continue to do, we need you, without you we will have no success.”