by PuckStopsHere on 05/18/13 at 12:44 PM ET
Over the last couple of weeks the NHL has announced the nominees for the year end awards. Earlier I posted the people that I would vote for if I had an award ballot. That is not my predictions about who will get nominated, but rather who I think is deserving. Now that we have seen the nominees, I want to comment upon who I think should win the award and what the nominations mean. Given our shortened season, there has been less time for players to distinguish themselves as likely award winners, so I think some of these award races are more uncertain than they usually are.
Calder Trophy - Brendan Gallagher Montreal Canadiens, Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers, Brandon Saad Chicago Blackhawks. The only nominee of this bunch I would have voted for was Huberdeau and I think he will win it. While there are narratives that lead to all three winning, I don't buy into the cases for Gallagher and Saad. Gallagher is a very hard working player in a big market in Montreal. This makes him a popular player but he cannot do the things that Nail Yakupov does easily and makes look effortless (and sometimes makes it look like he isn't trying even when he succeeds). Yakupov also outscored Gallagher in a lower scoring conference (which was effectively a different league given no cross-over games). I think he would have been a better nominee. Saad is given a lot of credit for cracking a tough Chicago Blackhawk lineup and getting some first line minutes. What is rarely mentioned is how Chicago was in need of a first line left winger and he got auditioned along with some other players and given Chicago's talent none looked out of place. This shows he is an NHL player, but also one who is benefiting from the circumstances in which he plays. I think Jonas Brodin was a better nominee as he played a much bigger role in Minnesota with much more icetime than Saad. He was a far more important player to Minnesota than Saad has been in Chicago.
Selke Trophy - Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins, Pavel Datsyuk Detroit Red Wings, Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks. I had Derek Stepan in place of Bergeron in my nominees but it is a close race between the two. I think Bergeron wins in terms of reputation (after all he is the defending Selke winner) but his late season injury knocked him out of the top three. I think Toews is the clear winner here and should win by a sizeable amount, although this award is often hard to judge and I would not be surprised if he doesn't gather a majority of first place votes.
Adams Trophy - Bruce Boudreau Anaheim Ducks, Paul MacLean Ottawa Senators, Joel Quenneville Chicago Blackhawks. I often think differently than the voters on this award. The voters often give it to the coach of the most improved team (or the team that most exceeds expectations) even when coaching is not the reason for the improvement. Of the nominees, Boudreau is the only one I would have nominated, so I hope he wins. I doubt that he will. The common narrative in the media is that Paul MacLean did a wonderful job in Ottawa with all his injuries and still made the playoffs, so I think he will win. I am not sold that that was primarily a coaching result and not due in a large part to the emergence of a significant group of rookies who carried a lot of the load in Ottawa. Quenneville got nominated for Chicago's first place season. I think Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett are better coaches and I would have nominated them in place of MacLean and Quenneville but their teams did not have as big improvements, so they were not what the voters looked for.
Masterton Trophy - Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins, Josh Harding Minnesota Wild, Adam McQuaid Boston Bruins. I bet Harding wins given his multiple sclerosis diagnosis but I am not sure that he should. He only played five NHL games this season and I think the most coherent definition for this award (historically it isn't perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship) is the player who overcomes the biggest hardship to have the best season in the NHL. Harding didn't play much in the regular season. Thus I supported Andrei Markov. Injuries had almost destroyed his career and he fought back and had an all star calibre season. He wasn't nominated. Crosby is a poor nominee. Yes he had concussion problems, but several other players have more serious and more career threatening injuries and come back each season. Crosby got his nomination for being the face of the NHL and getting hurt. Adam McQuaid is a solid pick. He had surgery in September to remove career threatening blood clots and came back to play this year. I didn't nominate him myself but I see him as a good candidate.
Lady Byng Trophy - Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks, Matt Moulson New York Islanders, Martin St Louis Tampa Bay Lightning. These were the three nominees I would have picked if I could vote. Based on this season only I think it is clear that Kane should win. Whenever that is mentioned, people immediately bring up a fight with a cab driver a couple years ago and ask how that is sportsmanlike (it isn't but the award shouldn't take into account cab rides in previous summers). That will hurt him in terms of the number of votes he receives, but I bet he still wins. I think St Louis should be second and Moulson third because St Louis is a far better player. I think Moulson benefits significantly from having John Tavares as a linemate. Given Moulson's insanely low four penalty minutes, that may be reversed in the final results.
Norris Trophy - Kris Letang Pittsburgh Penguins, PK Subban Montreal Canadiens, Ryan Suter Minnesota Wild. I picked Letang as the winner. In a year with no defenceman truly worthy, I think he provided the most win shares to his team despite missing time to injury. I think the injury will keep him from actually winning the award. I guess that Ryan Suter will win. He played a lot of tough minutes in Minnesota and still was among the top scorers on defence. Further he is the only nominee to play a full season and I think the voters will reward him for that. I had Zdeno Chara as my third nominee. Nothing in his offensive statistics support that, but his dominant play in his own zone does. You cannot regularly watch him play and make a strong argument that he isn't a Norris nominee. That leaves PK Subban out of my group of nominees (I had him fourth). He is more undisciplined and not trusted with as many minutes per game as the players I nominated but there is no questioning his offensive skill.
Vezina Trophy - Sergei Bobrovsky Columbus Blue Jackets, Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers, Antti Niemi San Jose Sharks. This award will likely be won by Bobrovsky but I think it will be closer than many expect with Lundqvist close behind. The general managers who vote for this award are the most likely group to ignore the popular opinion and support the proven star in Lundqvist. Niemi will likely be a distant third. I picked Craig Anderson of Ottawa with my second place vote. He only appeared in 24 games (half the season) but his saves percentage and goals against average puts all others to shame. Bobrovsky is the story of the season in goal, though I doubt he could have kept it up in an 82 games year. I think he will win Vezina. I think we may look back in the future and wonder how he ever pulled that off.
Hart Trophy - Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins, Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals, John Tavares New York Islanders. This group of nominees screams eastern bias. I think Crosby will win. He had the most dominant season with the most win shares produced even with injury. Ovechkin may not have been injured but he had more games where he wasn't dominant than Crosby (counting his injured games as non-dominant ones). He needs a strong full season (not only a strong second half) to be nominated in my book. Nevertheless, I am afraid he might win given the Corey Perry win a couple years ago. Tavares is a distant third. He was very valuable to the Islanders but lacked the value of the top handful of players in the league this year. I think the Chicago twosome of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane deserved the nominees alongside Crosby. They may have canceled each other out in some voter's minds as they are teammates but each produced more win shares than the non-Crosby nominees as I saw it.
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