Mike Gillis, David Poile and Steve Yzerman receive GM of the Year nominations; Who should win?


(For a breakdown and poll of the three Calder Trophy finalists for rookie of the year, click here.)

The NHL doesn’t add new trophies to its annual awards very often – how about a defensive defenseman award, eh? – but the league was wise to add a trophy for the league’s best general manager starting last year. Sure, some might say that the Stanley Cup might be the truest sign of a great executive, but the league’s champions aren’t always the best example of savvy personnel decision making.

Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney won the inaugural award for his work before and during the 2009-10 season, but this 11-12 candidates are: Mike Gillis of the Vancouver Canucks, David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s take a quick look at each of their contributions. (The GMs are listed in last name alphabetical order.)

Vancouver’s Mike Gillis

Sure, his predecessors acquired the biggest fish in guys like the Sedin twins, Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler. That being said, the Canucks weren’t the deepest team in the NHL before he arrived. The former agent built a team that withstood a ridiculous amount of injuries to its defensive corps and ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy.

Vancouver won three Northwest Division titles during his three years as the GM, but his moves for this season have been particularly successful. Keith Ballard (pre-season trade) hasn’t been amazing, Dan Hamhuis suffered a career-threatening concussion and the team let Michael Grabner go for nothing, but that didn’t matter. He made a great signing by bringing (currently sidelined) faceoff wiz Manny Malhotra into the fold, while his two subtle trade deadline moves (bringing in Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapiere) are working out nicely too.

Nashville’s David Poile

Much like a probable Jack Adams award nomination for Predators coach Barry Trotz, Poile’s nod almost seems like a career achievement award. Both the GM and the bench boss have been impressively stable in building a hard-working, good bang-for-the-buck team in Nashville. Dealing with a marginal budget forces teams to build through the draft, which has been fine with the Poile as he added pieces like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne that way.

Like Gillis, some moves didn’t work out. Mike Lombardi’s concussion concerns kept him from being the defensive center the team craved, although Mike Fisher (acquired via a trade) is working wonders in that role so far in the playoffs. His best move specifically involved trading for wayward youngster Sergei Kostitsyn, who rode a ridiculous 24.7 shooting percentage to the team scoring lead with 50 points.

Then again, one of Poile’s greatest challenges will come up this summer, as he must find a way to re-sign restricted free agent Weber.

Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman

The Lightning already had some pieces in place in Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and more, but Yzerman brought in excellent rookie coach Guy Boucher and generally re-made the team in the image of the Detroit Red Wings (though that is naturally still a work in progress).

Dan Ellis didn’t really work out, even if signing him was a low-risk, medium-reward proposition. Yzerman made a nice move when he traded for veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, although this summer might determine how well he handles the goalie position as a GM. New addition Pavel Kubina seems fairly comfortable back in Tampa Bay, Simon Gagne rebounded from a slow start to have a solid season and Eric Brewer (trade deadline) provides another helping of veteran leadership.


So, which GM do you think deserves this year’s award? Is it the architect for big chunks of the league’s best team (Gillis), a guy who’s done so much with a small budget (Poile) or a former legend who is a breath of fresh air for a wayward franchise (Yzerman)? Let us know your choice in the poll below.

Races heat up between Penguins, Flyers, Blue Jackets

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The Philadelphia Flyers could have sulked after a poor performance from Petr Mrazek – again – halfway through Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Instead, they just wouldn’t roll over, putting forth the sort of gutsy effort you’d expect from a team playing in front of Alex Lyon. (Yes, there were bad puns.)

The Flyers rallied from deficits of 3-1 and 4-3 to grab a standings point in this one, with a memorable 4-4 tally coming when Travis Konecny notched his 20th of 2017-18 in an odd way. The Flyers ended up falling in the shootout as the Red Wings’ 5-4 SO win ended a lengthy skid, but that single point ended up being huge on a busy night in the Metropolitan Division.

Consider some of the other developments around a division that’s felt up for grabs for a while:

  • In slipping by the Dallas Stars 4-3 in regulation, the Capitals might make the division title a little bit less than “up for grabs.” They now lead the Metro by four points with 91 in 73 games played. Alex Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season in this one, moving all alone to 19th all-time in goals, as that was the 602nd of his career.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins squandered an opportunity to stay within striking distance of the Capitals for first place, and also a chance to create separation between themselves and the hard-charging Blue Jackets and tenacious Flyers. The Islanders handed the Penguins a 4-1 loss.
  • Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets must be considered a serious threat to the Penguins’ second seed, and at least a dark horse candidate to win the Metro.

In defeating the Rangers 5-3, the Blue Jackets are now on a ridiculous nine-game winning streak. Artemi Panarin‘s quietly impressive 2017-18 season was a little tougher to ignore tonight, as he combined a hat trick with an assist.

This win and the Penguins’ loss locks the two teams at 87 points. Pittsburgh has a game in hand (73 GP) on Columbus (74) and some other edges, but that race is now very close.

  • Columbus pushed Philadelphia down into the first wild-card spot thanks to Tuesday’s proceedings, but again, getting a point was still huge for Philly. They now have 86 points in 74 games played. That could be crucial in holding off the Devils and Panthers to at least secure a playoff spot. They’re also conceivably a hot streak away from pushing back into the Metro top three, and possibly grabbing a round of home-ice advantage if things go really well.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Patrik Laine suffers injury blocking shot

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Tuesday wasn’t kind to Patrik Laine. The Winnipeg Jets have to hope that it was bad merely from a short-term perspective.

One factor that’s probably important to Laine but not as much to the Jets: Alex Ovechkin pulled ahead in the Maurice Richard race, scoring his 44th goal of 2017-18. Laine remains stuck at 43, in part because the stupendous scorer couldn’t play much against the Los Angeles Kings.

Laine struggled to get off the ice after blocking a shot, as you can see from the video above this post’s headline. The 19-year-old won’t return. To little surprise, there’s no real update beyond that, as the Jets are merely leaving it as a “lower-body injury.”

The Jets’ next game is against the Ducks on Friday. That gives Winnipeg some time to assess Laine’s injury. The Finnish finisher probably wants to play in as many of the Jets’ remaining nine regular-season games (after tonight) as he can, but the team has to value an elusive playoff run more than anything else.

This means that Laine’s 15-game point streak comes to an end. That would be noteworthy even out of context, but it’s especially relevant since it concludes the longest run for a teenager.

Here’s hoping that Laine can return swiftly and keep a great Richard going against Ovechkin and others.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Unhappy reunion: Red Wings chase Flyers’ Mrazek

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For a while, it looked like Petr Mrazek would enjoy a strong showing in his return to Detroit against his former teammates in the Red Wings.

Things went sideways pretty fast, which sadly has been a growing trend for the struggling Philadelphia Flyers goalie. Mrazek was given the hook halfway through Tuesday’s game against the Red Wings after allowing three goals in about four minutes.

It’s the second time in three games that Mrazek’s been pulled in favor of Alex Lyon. The Flyers now face a 3-1 deficit in the third period; you can see if they manage to rally on NBCSN or via this live stream.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Evgeny Svechnikov’s first NHL goal made it 3-1, and that was the last straw. Mrazek actually made a nice stop earlier in the sequence, yet even then, he looked a bit scrambly before Svechnikov ended up scoring.

Luke Glendening‘s shorthanded goal had to sting quite a bit, too:

Dylan Larkin scored the other Detroit goal during that burst, breaking a lengthy scoring slump.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Mrazek was already struggling, sporting an unsightly .867 save percentage in March. Flyers GM Ron Hextall made a logical move in acquiring Mrazek from the Red Wings, but it just doesn’t seem to be working out in Philly, at least at the moment.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ovechkin passes Kurri for 19th on all-time goal list


It’s unclear if Alex Ovechkin will best the next great Finnish sniper for the Maurice Richard Trophy, but he passed one of the best Finnish scorers ever in the all-time goal rankings on Tuesday.

With the 602nd goal of his already-impressive career, Ovechkin now sits alone at 19th place in NHL history, breaking a tie with Wayne Gretzky’s former partner-in-crime Jari Kurri. It says a lot about Ovechkin’s sniping that he reached 602 in game 994 of his career, while Kurri finished with 601 goals in 1,251 regular-season games.

Ovechkin also broke a tie with Patrik Laine for the goals lead in 2017-18, at least for now (both Ovechkin and Laine can beef up their stats as tonight goes along).

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Ovechkin’s 602nd goal is also his 44th of the season, and it’s very much from “his office.”

Keeping up with the Finnish theme, take a look at how many goals Ovechkin needs to score to catch Teemu Selanne at 11th place:

11. Selanne: 684 goals.
12. Luc Robitaille: 668
13. Brendan Shanahan: 656
14. Dave Andreychuk: 640
15 (tied). Jarome Iginla, Joe Sakic: 625
17. Bobby Hull: 610
18. Dino Ciccarelli: 608
19. Ovechkin: 602

If he closes out 2017-18 with a burst, Ovechkin could conceivably push Ciccarelli or even Hull. It would be tough to imagine Ovechkin reaching Robitaille through 2018-19, but either way, the Capitals superstar has a chance to rocket up the ranks in little time.

[Can Ovechkin catch Gretzky’s 894 goals?]

After their respective games tonight, both the Capitals and Jets have nine more games remaining before the playoffs begin. It should be an entertaining race to the Richard, and maybe another 50-goal season if Ovechkin really heats up.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.