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The Puck Stops Here

If I Had An Award Ballot

The NHL regular season has just ended.  As I have done for the last several years, it is time to make my picks for the NHL awards if i had a ballot to vote.

Calder Trophy - 1. John Carlson Washington Capitals 2. Jeff Skinner Carolina Hurricanes 3. Logan Couture San Jose Sharks  Here is why I select Carlson.  He is not likely the popular pick because he doesn’t have big offensive numbers.  He has been the top shutdown defenceman on the first place team in the East Conference and that is more impressive than the offensive rookie’s accomplishments.

Selke Trophy - 1. Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks 2. David Backes St Louis Blues 3. Manny Malhotra Vancouver Canucks  Here is why I select Toews.  He has been a tremendous defensive talent who plays successfully against the best players that Chicago’s opposition has.  His offensive prowess does not affect this pick at all, but it is impressive that Toews is the 11th highest scorer in the NHL while playing that defensive role.

Adams Trophy - 1. Mike Babcock Detroit Red Wings 2. Barry Trotz Nashville Predators 3. Peter Laviolette Philadelphia Flyers  Here is why I pick Babcock.  I reject the common NHL method of picking the coach of the most improved coach as coach of the year.  Team improvement happens for many reasons and coaching is not often the main one.  The best coaches have often been in place for several years and any improvement from their coaching is unlikely, since they coached the same team last year as well.  It is time that the best coaches got more credit in the coach of the year voting.

Masterton Trophy - 1. Kurtis Foster Edmonton Oilers 2. Fernando Pisani Chicago Blackhawks 3. Ray Emery Anaheim Ducks  Every one of these players is somebody who looked like his career might be over because of injury or illness, but they have been back and made an impact with their team this year.  Here is why I support Foster.  He overcame a serious leg injury and the loss of his infant daughter.

Lady Byng Trophy - 1. Martin St Louis Tampa Bay Lightning 2. Loui Eriksson Dallas Stars 3. Patrick Marleau San Jose Sharks  Here is why I select St Louis.  He was second highest scorer in the league with only 12 penalty minutes and that should allow him to defend his Lady Byng from last year.

Norris Trophy - 1. Lubomir Visnovsky Anaheim Ducks 2. Zdeno Chara Boston Bruins 3. Nicklas Lidstrom Detroit Red Wings   Here is why I select Visnovsky.  He isn’t the biggest name defenceman, but he had the biggest impact.  He led defencemen in scoring and was tremendously important to the Anaheim Ducks success this year.

Vezina Trophy - 1. Tim Thomas Boston Bruins 2. Pekka Rinne Nashville Predators 3. Roberto Luongo Vancouver Canucks I picked Thomas very early in the season.  He dominated all the NHL goalies this year with a year that is statistically unmatched in history.  The question is how much of his statistics are due to the defence in front of him?  It is impressive that this would be his second Vezina in three years.

Hart Trophy - 1. Tim Thomas Boston Bruins 2. Daniel Sedin Vancouver Canucks 3. Corey Perry Anaheim Ducks   Here is why I select Tim Thomas.  The question is that he only appeared in 57 games this season and is that enough?  I argue that he earned more wins for his team than any other player in the league this season and it isn’t even close.  There was no huge offensive performance in the league this year.

First All Star Team - Daniel Sedin Vancouver Canucks Steve Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning Corey Perry Anaheim Ducks Lubomir Visnovsky Anaheim Ducks Zdeno Chara Boston Bruins Tim Thomas Boston Bruins

Second Team All Star - Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals Henrik Sedin Vancouver Canucks Martin St Louis Tampa Bay Lightning Nicklas Lidstrom Detroit Red Wings Kris Letang Pittsburgh Penguins Pekka Rinne Nashville Predators

Third Team All Star - Henrik Zetterberg Detroit Red Wings Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks Jarome Iginla Calgary Flames Shea Weber Nashville Predators Keith Yandle Phoenix Coyotes Roberto Luongo Vancouver Canucks

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Comments

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no mention of carey price, don’t know where the habs would be without him

Posted by jay from newfoundland on 04/10/11 at 11:37 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Price played well this year.  Three goalies played better and there are only room for three goalies in these picks.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/10/11 at 11:42 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

Dan Byslma not even on your ballot for Jack Adams?  Wow.

The Pens won 49 games with Crosby playing only 41, Staal playing only 42 and Malkin playing only 43.  Martin (5), Michalek (9), Cooke (15), Kunitz (16), Letestu (18) and Orpik (19) all missed significant time also - and that’s leaving out Comrie and Asham who missed a bunch of games, too.

All of that…and they STILL won 49 games.  FORTY-NINE!!!

Come on, gotta give Danny B. some love.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 04/10/11 at 11:52 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Is the Adams Trophy the award for the team that wins despite significant injury?

I notice you make no argument that Dan Bylsma is a good coach in your comment.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/10/11 at 11:55 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

I’m sorry, I forgot that if I didn’t make my point perfectly clear on this blog that I would be dealt with in an arrogant and snarkish manner.

Dan Bylsma has put a system into place in PIttsburgh that has allowed the Penguins to win 49 games this year while missing all of their key pieces (except for Letang and Fleury) for significant amounts of time due to injury - especially in the cases of their leading scorer/captain/former scoring champ/Rocket Richard winner, a Conn Smyth winner/former scoring champ and a Selke who all missed about 1/2 of the season.

He, also, has put into place an aggressive penalty kill which led the league in PK %.

And, the Penguins went from being a team that could score 5, 6, 7 goals to win a game at any given time, to a team that struggled to score 1 or 2…and they still won.  49 times.

So, what I was saying, was that Bylsma’s coaching has allowed the Penguins to be successful despite the injuries.  You’d be hard pressed to find a team that faced the kind of injuries and austerity that the Pens did this year…and they won.  Flat out.  Plain and simple.

Any of these reasons will do as to why Dan Bylsma is a good coach.  Being able to implement a system, adjusting to be able to win with the talent on the ice, etc. 

Hopefully your reply to this won’t be completely @sshole-ish this time.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 04/11/11 at 12:50 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Time for my assholish responce.

Basically you wrote several paragraphs saying that Pittsburgh had key injuries and still won, but with a few more details.  And you said the word system - that is always a good word to sound technical about a coach.  And you said the Bylsma system allowed the Penguins to be successful despite the injuries (or is that the first two points?)

Can you back up that point?  I know Pittsburgh had injuries and they did pretty well.  Convince me Bylsma is the reason and not people like Letang and Fleury.  I argue that Pittsburgh is a pretty good team even when Malkin and Crosby are out (hard to argue otherwise they seemed to win…).

Lets take the case of Sidney Crosby.  He played 41 games and missed 41.  That leaves two equal halves to the season.  26-15 with Crosby in the lineup.  23-18 without him. I left off regulation ties for simplicity.  Over the course of the season (if we assume those numbers have no randomness in them) Crosby is worth 6 wins a year to the Penguins (3 in half a season).  That number matches up quite well with the kind of things sabermetricians have been predicting.  They don’t include any Dan Bylsma coaching effect in that calculation.

More importantly, the argument here is not show Bylsma is a good coach (which apparently can be shown by saying the word system and quantifying Pittsburgh injuries), but to show he is a better coach than the players I nominated.  Ideally what we want to show is Bylsma’s coaching was worth more wins than any of the three coaches I nominated.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/11/11 at 01:13 AM ET

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Visnovsky doesn’t even kill penalties, so I don’t see how he can be judged the top DEFENSEMAN.

And while I respect the Carlson vote, I’d note that Couture carried the Sharks on hisback during the first half of the season while their bigger names slumped.  Couture plays excellent defense and is on the ice in all situations.  Vote Couture.

Posted by Pat from Sam Carlos, CA on 04/11/11 at 01:36 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Pat

If you follow the link, the best defenceman is the defenceman who is worth the most wins to his team (is there any more meaningful way to define it?)  It doesn’t matter if he does it on the penalty kill or not.

I notice you live pretty close to San Jose.  I think that may color your feelings about the Calder trophy.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/11/11 at 01:47 AM ET

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While Skinner is younger, and may be a better player down the road, Couture plays in all situations and is a better player now.  Couture plays over a minute a game on the PK, an indication the coaching staff trusts him, while Skinner has played 2 mins on the PK all season.  Plus, Skinner has gotten about a minute more on the PP per game and has done the majority of his scoring at home, whereas Couture has scored more on the road than at home.  I understand the feeling that what Skinner has done given his age is more impressive, but I don’t think there’s as much of a case to be made that he’s actually the better player between the two right now.  I honestly haven’t seen as much of Carlson, and I think comparing the value of forwards and defensemen is always tricky, so I’ll stay away from that comparison except to say Cam Fowler has been damned impressive.  If you think Carlson is more valuable than Skinner or Couture I’m not sure why you don’t have Fowler in your top 3.  I wouldn’t mind seeing the rookie of the year split into forwards and defensemen/goalies just because I think it’s so hard to compare the different positions.  We have an award for best defenseman, why not an award for best rookie defenseman as well?

I also take some issue with your Adams choice.  While I do think there is something to be said for taking a talented team and making them better, I’m not sure what Babcock has done this year that would really justify him winning the award.  You might think Babcock is the best coach, and you might even be right, I’m just not sure what he’s done that’s meant more than what Vigneault or McLellan or Boudreau have done this year.

Posted by RoneFace on 04/11/11 at 03:49 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Rone

You touch on a lot of things.  The one I want to comment on is Cam Fowler vs. John Carlson.

Fowler plays against less than average quality of competition and his puck possession numbers (+/- and Corsi) are negative.  He shows a lot of potential, but he must learn the defensive game to be a true leader on his team’s defence and become anything other than a liability when he isn’t protected from defensive situations.

Carlson plays the toughest defensive situations and his puck possession numbers look very good.  Offensively they are essentially equivalent.  Defensively they are miles apart.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/11/11 at 03:59 AM ET

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Right, which is why I didn’t say you should put Fowler ahead of Carlson.  What I took from your analysis is that you think a top flight defenseman is more valuable and more impressive than a top flight forward, and if that’s the case shouldn’t Fowler be ahead of either Skinner or Couture?  That’s all I was trying to get at, and like I said, I’d be fine if the NHL split up defensemen and forwards for the purposes of the Calder because it’s so hard to compare the two positions and the Calder generally seems to go to whoever put up the most points.

Posted by RoneFace on 04/11/11 at 04:11 AM ET

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Eh, I don’t agree with all your picks (and we’ve argued about them all hundreds of times before), but honestly nothing here seems too out of left field. I love the choice of Carlson, even though we both know it would never happen in a million, billion years.

I do think Babcock is a great coach and probably has deserved the Adams a few times already ... but with the Red Wings playing pretty listlessly for big chunks of the season, I’m not sure this is the year he really, truly deserves it. And that’s coming from a Red Wings fan.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/11/11 at 04:28 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I like a lot of your picks. 

Of course, we disagree on the concept of “most valuable defenseman” versus “best defenseman”, but I think we’ve said enough to each other over the course of the season in regards to that.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/11/11 at 04:54 AM ET

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I do think Babcock is a great coach and probably has deserved the Adams a few times already ... but with the Red Wings playing pretty listlessly for big chunks of the season, I’m not sure this is the year he really, truly deserves it. And that’s coming from a Red Wings fan.

Babcock’s probably been passed over for coach of the year in years he should have won it, but, yeah, there’s not really any good argument for giving it to him based on anything that’s happened this year.

Detroit’s 5 on 5 performance is tied for 16th in the league and they have the weakest defensive numbers of any team in the playoffs. As seen in Minny and NJ with and without Jacques Lemaire, defensive stats have a crapload to do with the coach’s systems, how well he gets the players to execute them, who he uses when, etc.

Detroit scores a lot to compensate, but their overall differential is pretty pedestrian for a playoff team as well. Can’t blame that all on the goalies either. While Howard and Osgood’s svp aren’t sparkling, they’re roughly comparable to the Jersey tandem which won so many games in 2011.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/11/11 at 04:56 AM ET

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There’s no way Babcock should even be nominated, let alone win it.  And Laviollette too?  His GM just called out the team b/c the coach’s msg isn’t getting across.  He’s a first-round ouster away from being fired.  Did you stop watching on January 1?  Trotz deserves it every year, with Bylsma a close second. 

Your Calder and Norris arguments need work too.  You say being a shut-down d-man is more important in one then say a guy’s point-total is the most important in the other.  Why not just take the best of both worlds: Couture and Lidstrom.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/11/11 at 02:49 PM ET

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‘If you follow the link, the best defenceman is the defenceman who is worth the most wins to his team (is there any more meaningful way to define it?)  It doesn’t matter if he does it on the penalty kill or not.’

But that is the thing now is it not. LV is clearly protected from key defensive situations and from the best opponents (QOC) - NL is not. LV adds only a tiny marginal point total to his team but does not play a shut down role. Given your preference for overly complex statistics it would be nice to see you break down the roles of a defensemen and than rate your 3 choice in each to see how you mange overall value.

Posted by paulklos on 04/11/11 at 04:32 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Lubomir Visnovsky is not protected.  He plays a lot of shifts against whomever the other team throws out against him.  “Protecting” a player means that the coach attempts not to play the player against (for example) a team’s top line.

Visnovsky rarely penalty kills and so what?  Daniel Sedin rarely penalty kills and I call him the best forward (that is implicit in the fact that he is the highest rated forward in the Hart Trophy race - and you don’t complain about that).  Why does it matter?  The best forward is the forward who earns the most wins for his team.  The best defenceman is the defenceman who earns the most wins for his team.  The best defensive forward is the forward who’s defence earns the most wins for his team.  The best defensive defenceman is the defenceman who’s defence earns the most wins for his team.  This think you have the mistaken belief that the defensive defenceman = defenceman (It doesnt) and understanding that will make all of your arguments go away.

Visnovsky had more ice time than your boy Lidstrom.  That is one argument in his favor.  I suppose Nicklas Lidstrom can no longer manage being a league leader in ice time so he is a bit further back.  If you want to stretch things, Lidstrom was protected from playing as many minutes as Visnovsky - that really isn’t a very meaningful statement though.

Given your preference for overly complex statistics it would be nice to see you break down the roles of a defensemen and than rate your 3 choice in each to see how you mange overall value

This is a strawman argument.  Given that you like something that I chose for you, go off and do that something.  Then I can ignore the results and deride it later.

Its really quite simple.  I think Visnovsky was worth more wins to his team than any other defenceman.  Can I show that?  Not with 100% certainty - but then nobody can.  We don’t have a 100% reliable way to convert a player’s contribution into wins.  That is why there is debate.

That said, it is 100% clear that playing on the penalty kill or not playing on the penalty kill is not relevant.  If a player plays more minutes without being on the penalty kill, he could produce more wins than the player who plays fewer minutes but some penalty kill.  There is no reason penalty kill minutes are important at all - except to find defensive value (which is not our question).  We could just as easily focus on minutes played on the left side of the ice versus right side.  Its an artificial distinction that is in the end not meaningful to the question.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/11/11 at 05:03 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

There is no reason penalty kill minutes are important at all - except to find defensive value (which is not our question).

Unfortunately, that is our question as far as the selection criteria for the Norris is considered.

Under your definition of how the Norris should be awarded, I’ll grant that Lubomir Visnovsky deserves to finish high in the voting.  Unfortunately, you are creating a false set of criteria which you’re using to count this.  What you’ve done is taken the Hart’s definition criteria and assigned it to the Norris, making that trophy the “Most Valuable Defenseman Award”, which is not the case.

From NHL.Com

The Hart Trophy:

The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team.

The Norris Trophy (emphasis mine):

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.

I don’t feel that under those criteria, you can completely dismiss the fact that Visnovsky has not shown that he has a great deal of “all-around ability”.

At least I don’t feel like you can do this while still holding onto the idea that the Selke trophy has to be awarded to a forward who kills penalties.

I understand that there’s some high concept that you can take Visnovsky’s offensive abilities and combine them with his defensive abilities and then come up with something of a pretend mathemetical “Win-share” concept that would be the guidance for “All-around ability” and that’s likely what you’re basing your pick on, but I simply have a differing viewpoint on that, especially since Visnovsky didn’t do much demonstrating of his all-around defensive ability.

It’s obvious that I think Lidstrom deserves the Norris. but I honestly would not have Visnovsky in my top three.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/11/11 at 05:28 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

JJ

I think you got stuck on the words “all around” which to me don’t add any value to the Norris Trophy description.

The best defenceman is player X.  That means he is worth the most wins to his team.  If you wish you can add the words all around withput changing anything.  He added the most all around wins to his team.  What did the words all around add?  Nothing.  Or are you arguing that the words all around mean using a lesser subset of things when we decided who the best overall defenceman was - since we used everything to decide who the best defenceman was?  What must we leave out to get “all around” value?

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/11/11 at 05:32 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

My argument is that the words “demonstrate” and the inclusion of “ability” after all-around add a pretty clear meaning to the criteria for which people should be considering when picking their Norris candidates.

My argument continues that, in order to come to the ultimate conclusion that “demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability” means “worth the most wins”, you’ve had to take a pretty supreme twist on the official wording.

There is nowhere in that criteria that says the best defenseman is the most valuable defenseman.  I feel in considering the Hart criteria for the Norris Trophy, you are confusing the intent of the award.  You may argue that it SHOULD be the Norris criteria, but you’ll have to take that up with the league. 

I believe that a straight reading of the criteria disqualifies Visnovsky because he simply did not demonstrate any PK ability.  We could argue about the importance of the facets or even what the facets of what make up an “all-around able” defenseman are, but you’ll find few people who would agree that the ability to play defense is not an important criteria to consider.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/11/11 at 05:46 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

So your argument is that Nicklas Lidstrom was not the best defenceman last year, but he should get the Norris anyway since you also argue the Norris Trophy is not the trophy for the best defenceman, it is for some (not clearly defined) subset of what a defenceman does.  We have to throw out some of what defencemen do for some reason to rank Norris contenders.

We agree about one thing then.  Nicklas Lidstrom was not the best defenceman this season.  We just disagree on what the Norris Trophy is for - and frankly I don’t understand what subset of being a defenceman is included and not included in your world.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/11/11 at 05:53 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

So your argument is that Nicklas Lidstrom was not the best defenceman last year

That is not my argument.  To have made that conclusion, you have gravely misread what I said.

It is to be expected, I would suppose, since you have also gravely misread the criteria for the Norris Trophy.  I don’t feel it can be more clearly explained.

We are not in agreement that Lidstrom was not the best defenseman.  We are in polar disagreement about that.  To interpret anything from my previous statements to the end you’ve done is either purposely irresponsible or hopelessly lost.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/11/11 at 06:00 PM ET

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Lidstrom’s Quality of Teammates is pretty low and his Qualcomp leads the league. I don’t see how that alone doesn’t add up to a 2 goal, 4 assist deficit vs Visnovski in “Winshares.” His quality of competition adjusted Corsi is double Visnovski’s as well.

I personally pick Chara for reasons I’m not going into at the moment, however.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/11/11 at 06:29 PM ET

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“Win shares,” if they could even be meaningfully calculated, is only indirectly an indicator of a given player’s “ability.” It is more properly an indicator of a given player’s value to the team for which he plays.

You may be able to construct a subjective argument in which you can claim that Visnovsky has been more crucial to the Ducks’ success this season than Lidstrom has been to Detroit’s, or Letang to Pittsburgh’s, or Chara to Boston’s. But that doesn’t mean that Visnovsky has demonstrated superior ability to any of them.

Visnovsky has demonstrated excellent ability on the powerplay and as a defenseman who can flourish playing a primarily offensive-minded game alongside talented teammates. That is his game. He has not to this point demonstrated any ability to play effectively in any other capacity. His relative lack of use in defensive situations allows him to specialize and play a greater share of his minutes in offensive situations than Lidstrom, hence superior scoring and “puck possession” numbers.

Lidstrom has demonstrated excellent ability offensively, defensively, and on the powerplay, at even strength, and on the penalty kill. In my opinion, there is no area in which Visnovky greatly exceeds Lidstrom in ability, and Lidstrom excels in more areas than Visnovsky,

However, because Lidstrom cannot play extensive minutes in all the areas in which he excels, his specific role from year to year is dictated more by team needs than by his own strengths and weaknesses. This season, Lidstrom has been used primarily (though not exclusively) in a shutdown role at even strength (limiting his total point output, as well as plus-minus and Corsi statistics), while continuing to play extensively on the powerplay (which he has dominated, to a much greater degree than even Visnovsky) and penalty kill. He has, in my own subjective opinion, demonstrated excellence in all these area, and has played in each of them more than enough this season to prove it.

The Norris Trophy, by its very critera, is about demonstrating ability, not team value. And in most cases, that means the defenseman who wins the Norris should be able to demonstrate a high level of skill in a wide variety of roles and situations.

There may be situations where a one-dimensional defenseman displays such extraordinary dominance in one or two areas that he will deserve the award. However, I do not think Visnovsky leading defense scoring by six points constitutes extraordinary offensive dominance.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/11/11 at 07:36 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com