SUNRISE, FL. – The National Hockey League announced today that Florida Panthers General Manager Bill Zito has been named a finalist for the 2022-23 Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award presented annually ‘to the general manager who best excelled in his role during the regular season.
Following a record-breaking campaign in 2021-22 that featured the franchise’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophy and first playoff series victory since 1996, Zito immediately set to work on further improving the Panthers.
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He recruited veteran head coach Paul Maurice along with assistants Jamie Kompon, Stanley Cup champion Sylvain Lefebvre, and Myles Fee to lead the Panthers to a competitive style of play designed for success in the playoffs. Zito also formed the Performance Department led by Chris McLellan, adding strength coaches Mike Joyce and Mark Gaydos, ensuring a deeper commitment to player health and wellness.
Zito enhanced the Cats roster during the offseason, highlighted by the first sign-and-trade in NHL history, acquiring All-Star forward Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk would go on to post a career-high 109 points (40-69-109), becoming the first skater since Sidney Crosby in 2005-06 to produce over 100 points and 100 penalty minutes in the same season. Named a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy, Florida’s first finalist since Pavel Bure in 1999-00, Tkachuk paced the Panthers in plus-minus rating (+29), even-strength points (72), power-play points (36), game-winning goals (6-tied) and shots on goal (322). Veterans Nick Cousins, Eric and Marc Staal and Colin White were brought into the fold along with waiver wire claim Josh Mahura and Calder Cup champion goaltender Alex Lyon.
During the 2022-23 campaign, several players flourished who had been brought in by Zito in prior seasons: Carter Verhaeghe led Florida with a career-high 42 goals, the third-most single-season goals in club history; Brandon Montour set single-season records for goals (16-tied), assists (57) and points (73) by a Panthers defenseman; Sam Reinhart led Florida with 16 power-play goals for the second consecutive season; Gustav Forsling logged career highs in goals (13), assists (28) and points (41) while pacing Cats blueliners with a plus-19 rating; and Radko Gudas became the all-time franchise leader for hits (917), ending the season with 312 to rank second among NHL skaters.
Since taking over in South Florida prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, Zito’s Panthers have earned a 137-64-19 record for a .667 points percentage which ranks third all-time among GMs with more than 100 games. The Panthers have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in all three seasons, the longest playoff streak in franchise history. With the Cats currently competing in the club’s first Eastern Conference Final since 1996, Zito’s Panthers have also advanced further into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each year.
Zito is a finalist for the Jim Gregory Award for the second time in his tenure after being nominated for the award following his first season in 2020-21. Since the creation of the award in 2009-10, Zito and Marc Bergevin (2012-13 & 2013-14) are the only two general managers to be a finalist in two of their first three seasons as GM.