Yesterday it was announced that Senators general manager Pierre Dorion garnered enough support from his peers to be named as one of the finalists for the ‘GM of the Year’ award.
According to Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch, “voting for the award was done by the league GMs, a panel of executives along with print and broadcast media at the end of the second round of the playoffs.”
Given the timeline and the Senators successfully reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2007, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise to see that the three finalists for the award – David Poile, Peter Chiarelli and Dorion – manage teams that went deeper into the postseason than many forecasted.
Considering the kind of trades that are made each and every year in the NHL, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that recency bias plays such a big role in how general managers vote for their peers.
In all truth and with no disrespect to Dorion, the ‘GM of the Year’ award is a pretty fucking goofy award. I mean, seriously, how bad does an award have to be for Mike Gillis to win it back in 2010-11?
It a profession where you should never look at player transactions or moves exclusively through the prism of a one-year timeframe or ignore the fact that team success is the culmination of a series of events over a long period of time, the ‘GM of the Year’ award essentially falls to the same shortcomings as the Jack Adams Award. It rarely goes to the best GM, but often to the GM whose team exceeds expectations.
Is Peter Chiarelli really a good GM because he walked into a job where Connor McDavid fell into his lap? His biggest splashes within the last year – the Taylor Hall/Adam Larsson deal and the Milan Lucic signing — are indefensible and have essentially been panned.
David Poile’s case is a little different because he’s been the GM of the Nashville Predators since the formation of the expansion franchise in 1998. He has been the only architect of this small-market team and unlike his peers, the product and every player who is on the ice – including last summer’s deft decision to send Shea Weber to Montreal for P.K. Subban – is the result of years’ worth of work. And even if we laud Poile for the Subban deal,
For Pierre Dorion, he’s been one of the league’s most active GMs in terms of transactions since he supplanted Bryan Murray as the Senators’ GM last April.
None of his personnel moves have been particularly splashy – which is why his decision to hire Guy Boucher and let him implement his infamous 1-3-1 system have received a ton of fanfare and praise.
His first big trade allowed him flip a third round pick with the 12th overall selection to move up one spot at the 2016 NHL Draft and select Logan Brown.
He followed that up by trading Mika Zibanejad and a second round pick to acquire an experienced and cost-controlled second line centre in Derick Brassard. Neither player enjoyed the regular season that they were hoping for.
After a torrid start, Zibanejad’s season was derailed after he suffered a broken tibia. Despite some strong underlying possession numbers that probably warranted more production than he was responsible for, Brassard only tallied 14 goals and 39 points in his first full season in Ottawa. (As an aside, the weird thing that is despite some improved point production in the playoffs, Brassard’s five-on-five points/60 rate stat has plummeted from 1.47 during the regular season to 1.06. Hopefully this turns around soon.)
In free agency, Dorion added Tom Pyatt and Chris Kelly to add some depth and experience to the team’s bottom-six.
In terms of his best value deal, Dorion added Mike Condon to the goaltending mix when Andrew Hammond was felled by a lower-body injury early in the season. The depth paid dividends not just in Condon’s performance, but because Hammond had a Pascal Leclaire’esque season in which he couldn’t escape the injured reserve for any prolonged length of time.
Coupled with Craig Anderson’s prolonged absence because of his desire to spend time with his wife Nicholle during her cancer treatments, it’s fair to reason that Senators would have missed the postseason without Condon’s 40 games played. Any below-replacement value from the Senators this season would have sunk their chances.
At the trade deadline, Dorion’s decision to bring in Viktor Stalberg for a third-round pick and Alex Burrows for Jonathan Dahlen have been okay. Neither player has really excelled or taken their game to another level since arriving in Ottawa and yes, there’s definitely, definitely, definitely something to say about the massive overpay for Burrows given his contributions and the cost of relative depth pieces that were moved at the deadline, but their addition to roster has relegated shittier players to the press box.
The contributions of both players may leave something to be desired, but Like Mark Borowiecki’s injury in the postseason opened the door to better alternatives, getting lesser players like Chris Kelly and Chris Neil out of the lineup as regulars is important.
Does this body of work warrant a nomination?
It’s going to take years to assess the impact of Dorion’s moves, but considering that he’s not only in charge of running the league’s smallest hockey operations department, but has to do so while working within the slimmest of margins under an owner who loves the limelight and has a reputation for being meddlesome, the challenges that Dorion has to endure are pretty significant.
I don’t envy the circumstances under which he has to work.
Maybe he does deserve it after all?