The players play and the coaches coach, but someone has to put all those pieces into place.
That person is the general manager, and three stood out from the rest of their peers this season. Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues, David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers have been named the finalists for the 2012 General Manager of the Year Award.
The winner will be announced at the 2012 NHL Awards Show, June 20 at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.
NHL Awards Finalists / Schedule
Calder Trophy (top rookie)
Henrique, Landeskog, Nugent-Hopkins
Monday, April 23
Selke Trophy (top defensive forward)
Backes, Bergeron, Datsyuk
Lady Byng Trophy (skill/sportsmanship)
Campbell, Eberle, Moulson
Tuesday, April 24
Masterton Trophy (perseverance, dedication)
Alfredsson, Lupul, Pacioretty
General Manager of the Year
Armstrong, Poile, Tallon
Wednesday, April 25
Vezina Trophy (top goaltender)
Thursday, April 26
Norris Trophy (top defenseman)
Friday, April 27
Hart Trophy (most valuable player to his team)
Monday, April 30
Jack Adams Award (top head coach)
NHL Foundation Award (community service)
Armstrong added to his young core group over the summer by signing veteran forwards Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, along with defenseman Kent Huskins, all of whom arrived with Stanley Cup rings.
He also signed goalie Brian Elliott when no other teams were interested and watched him turn in a record-setting performance.
Knowing how good a team he had, Armstrong found one final ingredient behind the bench, as he fired Davis Payne 13 games into the season and hired Stanley Cup-winning veteran Ken Hitchcock. That moved turned into a master-stroke, as the Blues went 43-15-11 under Hitchcock, won the Central Division for the first time since 1999-2000, finished second in the Western Conference and became the League's best defensive team.
"I think the manager of the year is really the ultimate team award, from the work that the players and the scouts and coaches do," Armstrong told the Blues' website. "It's verification almost of an organizational award."
Poile was able to help the Predators build off last year's first-ever playoff series win. He locked in goaltender Pekka Rinne with a seven-year contract, and continued to make headway on doing the same with franchise defenseman Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
At the trade deadline, Poile added to his group by acquiring size on the back end in Hal Gill and adding skill and depth up front in Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad. He also smoothly brought Alexander Radulov back to the franchise after he left three seasons ago for Russia.
It all added up to the franchise winning 48 games and starting the playoffs at home for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
"It's a tremendous honor to be nominated for the General Manager of the Year, because the voting is done by the other 29 general managers," Poile said. "For the third year in a row, that's fantastic. It is a true reflection on our whole organization and everything that's been taking place in the last two or three years, starting at the highest level with ownership. Anybody would say that whatever business that you're in, when you have solid, stable consistent ownership, that's the foundation that you need to make your company work and go in the right direction. That's what's taken place in the last two or three years, and that's helped myself, the coaches and the players to get to a consistent, higher level."
Poile has been a finalist all three years the award has been given out.
While Armstrong and Poile made the usual number of offseason moves, Tallon pulled an extreme roster makeover this past summer. He traded for or signed 10 new players, among them Lady Byng finalist Brian Campbell, who was third in scoring among defensemen and played more minutes than any other player in the League; left wing Tomas Fleischmann, who led the team with 61 points and set career-bests in goals, assists and points; and goalie Jose Theodore, who had a resurgent season while backstopping the Panthers to the top of the Southeast Division.
To lead his new-look team, Tallon hired a first-time coach in Kevin Dineen, and watched him guide the Panthers to the first division title in franchise history and the first playoff berth since 2000.
"Good players make good organizations and he's done an excellent job of identifying guys that can come in here and fit into what we're trying to accomplish," Dineen said of Tallon. "It's a great nomination."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK