A rookie has never been named the GM of the Year in NHL and that run continued Tuesday. Despite a rousing first season, Bill Zito of the Florida Panthers finished third in the voting for the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year.
Lou Lamoriello, GM of the New York Islanders, won the award for the second consecutive year.
Zito, hired by the Panthers in September after seven years working in the front office of the Columbus Blue Jackets, hit the ground running and helped put together one of the best teams in franchise history.
Yet, in voting for the GM of the Year, he only garnered four first-place votes. Lamoriello got 12, second-place finisher Marc Bergevin of Montreal got 13.
Lamoriello is the first two-time winner of an award that was first handed out in 2010 and is voted on by the NHL’s 31 general managers, five NHL executives and five media members.
Aside from Zito, the only other first-year GM to be a finalist for the award was Ottawa’s Pierre Dorion who also placed third in 2017.
The Panthers, thanks in part to Zito’s roster maneuverings, finished a point behind Carolina in the Central Division this season and ended the season 37-14-5 with 79 points.
Four of Florida’s top seven scorers this season (Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, Anthony Duclair and Alex Wennberg) were brought in by Zito either by trade or by free agency.
Zito also added defensemen Radko Gudas, Gus Forsling and Markus Nutivaara as well as Sam Bennett and Brandon Montour at the trade deadline.
Florida made the playoffs for the sixth time in franchise history but were eliminated in six games by the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Zito being a finalist for the award was the latest honor for the Panthers this season.
On Friday, captain Sasha Barkov was named the team’s first recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy which goes to the top defensive forward in the NHL.
Joel Quenneville was a finalist for the league’s Coach of the Year award.
Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau could also be named to the All-NHL team later this month.