On July 2nd, 2007, Sather signed the top free agent centermen -- Chris Drury and Scott Gomez -- to monumental deals, grossly overpaying both players for their past performance and creating arguably the two worst contracts in the salary cap era. Since then, Sather has been the butt-end of every (terrible) bloated contract joke as he was generally regarded as a washed-up mastermind. However, his shrewd moves in sending both centermen packing as well as correcting his other blunders like Wade Redden, Ales Kotalik and Michal Rozsival have put him back in the good graces of blue-shirt faithful.
This past offseason, Sather made all the right moves. He re-signed all of his restricted free agents to reasonable deals. He signed the top free agent available in Brad Richards while making minor moves like signing Winter Classic hero Mike Rupp, trading for highly regarded rookie Tim Erixon and adding role players like Steve Eminger, Stu Bickel and Anton Stralman. In short, everything he's done in the past year has worked out, and his team continues to play at an elite level, so let's give Slats the credit for bringing an Original Six team back to respectability.
Ken Holland, Detroit Red WingsStaying at the top we continue with Holland, who, as of last Saturday I argued, is probably the best GM in all of hockey. Holland has done it all -- he's won the Stanley Cup, and multiple division titles, but this silly title of GM of the Year eludes him. Why?
Probably because most of his great work was set in place years ago. His core of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson and Valtteri Filppula are all signed through next season at the very least while Nicklas Lidstrom will re-sign one-year contracts until the day he retires. Of those players, only Kronwall was recently inked this season which indicates just how much of his current success is 20/20 foresight. And while anyone paying attention will regard these decisions as a genius move, the lack of desperation is probably dull enough to take Holland out of contention.
Regardless, voters have to keep Holland in the back of their mind. He likely makes an under-the-radar move at the trade deadline -- like he did trading for Brad Stuart back in 2008 before winning the Cup-- as he readies his Red Wings to take the division for the sixth time in seven years. This example of success has become the norm in Detroit, but if his Wings make another deep run, how can he be left out of the voting?
David Poile, Nashville Predators
While we're discussing the Central, David Poile's Predators deserve all the recognition they get. As the incumbent general manager in Nashville for the team's entire existence, one could argue that most of their success should be attributed out of Poile.
The long-time GM has been responsible for drafting the best defensive pairing in hockey with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. He also drafted 16 of the team's current active roster, taking players like Patric Hornqvist, Martin Erat and Anders Lindback in the seventh round; not to mention grabbing Pekka Rinne with an 8th rounder. Poile consistently finds the bargains, whether that means through the draft or by trading for undervalued players like Mike Fisher or Sergei Kostitsyn.
In short, this guy knows what he's doing and it is about time he received some recognition for his actions. Most impressively, he's done almost all of his work with a nonexistent budget as the Preds' total cap hit ranks 28th in the league. If the Predators go far -- which they seem primed to do -- Poile should be a shoe-in for the award.
Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers
Tallon took over the Panthers with promises of a playoff berth, perhaps more. After creating the blueprint for the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup victory, we expected great things from the silver fox but never thought they would be implemented so quickly.
Luckily for Tallon, a great deal of expiring contracts led to a free agent spending spree which was affectionately known around the league as the 'race to the floor'. Jokes aside, Tallon spent a lot of money in the offseason, and surprisingly, spent his money wisely. He acquired Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Brian Campbell -- both players he knew well in Chicago -- for close to nothing. Tallon also brought in important pieces in starting goalie Jose Theodore, top-line winger Tomas Fleischmann and solid depth players like Sean Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall, Matt Bradley, Marcel Goc and John Madden. Without these moves, the Panthers would be nowhere close to their current standing.
Most importantly, Tallon has found the players that did not work, and sent them packing for usable assets. So far he's shipped off Michael Frolik, David Booth, Keith Ballard, Nathan Horton and Dennis Wideman which on paper seemed foolish but quickly turned into savvy moves. His ability to locate and acquire talent is uncanny which makes him very worthy of such an honor.
Don Maloney, Phoenix Coyotes
This last selection won't get a great deal of credit at the end of the year but make no mistake, Maloney's been stellar. The Coyotes surprisingly have a higher cap hit than the Predators, and six other teams for that matter, but somehow they manage to stay competitive season after season.
Maloney's first solid move involved hiring head coach Dave Tippett, whose defensive system turned the Coyotes into a playoff team for the last three years. His tight-checking game also converted castaways like Radim Vrbata, Kyle Chipchura, Gilbert Brule and Adrian Aucoin into fully capable NHL players. In fact, you could argue that Tippett can win with basically any team comprised of veterans.
Nevertheless, Maloney has filled the Coyotes' roster with capable players, ones that fit his organization perfectly. In addition, he's been able to do so without a legitimate marquee player with Keith Yandle owning the highest cap hit of $5.25 million; by comparison, over 50 players have a higher cap hit. How many other teams would be playoff ready without a single star player? For that reason, Maloney deserves some merit for GM of the Year.
Photo credit: Florida Panthers
Photo credit: Florida Panthers