The trade market is already heating up and everyone is getting ready for another exciting NHL Draft, but before we get to those big moments we have the NHL Awards. This year the NHL Awards will be at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas (an actual NHL town!) and will be hosted by Will Arnett. They will be televised live on Wednesday June 22 on NBCSN and Sportsnet, starting 6PM St Louis time. The only musical act that has been announced so far is X Ambassadors, who I've never heard of (not that it means much, I'm tragically unhip). Considering the show has hosted hockey-music legends such as Chaka Khan, Nickleback, and Daughtry, I'm sure the X Ambassadors are really excited for this performance to launch their career.
Every year about this time, people who like to argue online (in other words, people online) get riled up about who should or should not win various awards. People champion one player or another, try to lessen the other players nominated, and draw all sorts of meaning into what are really unimportant issues. You really haven't lived until you read two people arguing over who deserves an award for perseverance and sportsmanship.
Those arguments will never end. However, these are more fun options instead of debating which stats are more impressive. For your consideration:
Frank J Selke Trophy: "for the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game"
Finalists: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, Anze Kopitar
Who should win? Jay McClement
OK, this hasn't been a typical Selke-trophy year for ol' Silent Jay, but this award tends to become more about reputation and body-of-work than individual seasons anyway. The League and the PHWA must have really exerted themselves to not pick the same 3 people as they do every year - Jonathan Toews, Pavel Datsyuk, and St. Patrice. The fact that Bergeron still made the cut is just a demonstration of how good he is. Nonetheless, I still haven't given up on #JSelke. As far as I'm concerned, there is still some Unfinished Business for GameTime and the hockey community. C'mon guys, let's finally get it done!
Hart Memorial Trophy: "for the player judged to be most valuable to his team"
Finalists: Jamie Benn, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane
Who should win? Carey Price
Sid, be content that you have a Cup and Conn Smythe already. Patty, be happy with your Art Ross. Jamie ... well, I hate to say it, but you're going down. I know, I know, I know - Carey won it last year. But here's the thing - this is about being the most valuable player to your team. And like a lot of things in life, you never truly realize the value of something until it is gone. Montreal began the year 10-2 with Carey Price as the starter. They had built themselves up such a lead in their division that even when he fell to injury nobody saw them missing the postseason. Without Price, the Habs finished the season 28-36-6, and 11 points out of a playoff spot. They like to say that no single player is bigger than the team, but this might be the exception.
Vezina Trophy: "for the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position"
Finalists: Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, Jonathan Quick
Who should win? Brian Elliott
Look, I'm fully aware that this is a homer pick, so don't bother pointing it out. I know that already. However, it's not like he didn't have a fantastic year. This past season, Moose finished with the league's best Save Percentage (.930) and tied with John Gibson for the 2nd best Goals Against Average of 2.07 (Ben Bishop led with 2.06). The only reason that he didn't get nominated in "real life" is that he only had 38 starts this year, much fewer than the rest of the field. However, if playing in only 45 games doesn't hold back Connor McDavid from Calder Trophy consideration, then the same argument can be made for Brian Elliott. Apologists for McDavid point to his "per game" stats as an excuse to promote his eligibility - well guess what, goalies have those already! And Moose has that shit on lockdown too.
James Norris Memorial Trophy: "for the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position"
Finalists: Drew Doughty, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson
Who should win? Jake Muzzin
If you've dabbled at all into the realm of #FancyStats, then you've heard the name Jake Muzzin. He is the poster boy for all things Corsi and Fenwick. However, it is his teammate Drew Doughty that has the Norris consideration this year. This award has seen some of the fiercest flame wars online, with some writers and broadcasters (especially "old school" types) that think of Karlsson as offense-only. They feel that Drew is playing true to the position and should therefore win the award for "actually playing defense". As people get more passionate, some things get overlooked. For instance, that Jake Muzzin is a really fantastic player. I could lay out a bunch of stats to argue the case, but really this article does it better than I could anyway. Much like the Selke, in recent years the Norris has become a lot more about the "body of work" and reputation than about an individual season. I particularly love this image from the article:
Over the last 3 years, Muzzin has managed a Corsi% of 63.4%(!!!) and a GF% of 62.8%(!!!) in 738 5v5 minutes AWAY from Drew Doughty.— Domenic Galamini (@MimicoHero) February 17, 2015
Muzzin is seriously deserving of consideration, but also there is this: How delicious is it that Drew Doughty isn't only NOT the best defenseman in the league .... he might not even be the best defenseman on his team?
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: "for the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey"
Finalists: Pascal Dupuis, Jaromir Jagr, Mats Zuccarello
Who should win? John Scott
Usually, this is the award for "who came back from the bigger injury/illness" or who overcame the biggest obstacle to continue playing in the NHL. We all know the history of John Scott's unusual path that led to his appearance to the All Star Game, and eventually wining the MVP there. It's a great story of - what's that? - dedication to the game and perseverance. We've had past winners who overcame cancer, partial blindness, head trauma, and still made it back to the game. Not to diminish those at all, but those were with everyone pulling for them to make it back to the lineup. How much more difficult is it, then, to persevere and make it to a league event when The League itself doesn't want you there? It's one thing to battle for a promotion, but it's another thing entirely when the person you have to fight is your own boss. The great victory for John Scott is that he battled through a trade that not only took him away from his teammates, but also took him into another conference (affecting the ASG alignment) and actually out of the league altogether! Talk about having the odds stacked against you! Yet, he fought through the front office BS and made it to the game. Not only did he get to play, he was THE story of the weekend. His story became our story, and it actually made the ASG worth watching. Even Hologram Bill Masterton is impressed.
Jack Adams Award: "for the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success"
Finalists: Gerard Gallant, Lindy Ruff, Barry Trotz
Who should win? Bruce Boudreau
Everyone except the Anaheim front office seems to acknowledge that Bruce Boudreau is an exceptional coach. This year the Ducks stumbled out of the gate, going 15-15-6 to begin the season. However, the coach didn't panic. They brought in some help and they turned things around. From New Year's to the end of the season, the Ducks poured it on with a 31-10-5 record. This was enough to pull ahead of rival LA and finish the season with the top spot in the Pacific Division. They won the Pacific for 4 years in a row under Bruce, but were eliminated this year in the first round by upstart Nashville in Game 7. Despite the success of past seasons, losing that single game was the death knell for his tenure in Anaheim. He deserved better than that, frankly, and this would be a fine reward. More importantly, giving the Coach of the Year award to a guy that just got shit-canned would highlight what a tire-fire the Ducks front office has become. And will be, considering recent events.
Well, there you have it. With tongue firmly planted in my cheek, the NHL Awards as they should be. What say you? Got a better idea? Let
us me have it in the comments.