The regular season is officially in the books and that mean’s one thing: its award season!
Here are my picks for some of the most coveted NHL awards:
Hart: Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers: To me there is one stat that separates him from Leon Draisaitl : +/-. I’m not taking the award away from Draisaitl for being a -7, rather giving it to Panarin for being a +36. A +36 on the Rangers is more impressive than a +36 on a team like say, Boston, which is built on solid goaltending and suffocating defense. He did it on a team that was a bottom six team a season ago. While they were on the outside of the playoffs looking in before the craziness happened, Panarin & Co. completely changed the outlook of the team going forward. He also led the league in points per 60 minutes at even strength with 3.66. Draisaitl and Nathan MacKinnon trailed him by almost ½ a point. It’s hard to call the second highest paid player in the league by cap hit the most valuable, but when you have 95 points and are on the ice for 36 more goals than the opponents get, you can get that distinction.
My Hart Ballot:
Norris: John Carlson, Washington Capitals: Carlson is clearly the best offensive defenseman in the league and while some hockey purists might blow smoke about how defensemen need to be stronger in their own end than the attacking one, trying to make the argument that Carlson was not the best and most valuable D-man this year is a losing one. Carlson had 75 points in 69 games, which is the highest point per game percentage among defensemen since Ray Bourque in 94-95 who, by the way, won five Norris’. The only competition for Carlson is Nashville’s Roman Josi who was a stud in his own right this year. But the Preds underachieved, and while that’s obviously not all on Josi, the Capitals won the Metropolitan Division AGAIN and Ovechkin won the Rocket AGAIN. You know some of the credit for Ovi’s 9th Rocket has to go to the stud D-man giving him those feeds.
My Norris Ballot:
Calder: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche: This was the most fun award race of the year and I love how it is between two defensemen poised to be elite for at least the next decade. It seems since scoring his first goal in his first career game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Cale Makar has been one-upping himself every time he’s stepped up on the ice. In his first twenty games in the league, he had twenty points. It took Nicklas Lidstrom 22 games to achieve that feat, and Bobby Orr 33. Ever heard of those guys? Makar missed time on two separate occasions this year for injury which surely cost him the scoring title for rookies allowing Quinn Hughes to enter the race, doing so with a bang. Hughes looks like a stud in his own right, quarterbacking a Canucks power play with 22 assists and 3 goals with the man advantage finishing with a rookie-best 53 points. I give this one to Makar, but the margin is razor thin and both guys deserve to win.
My Calder Ballot:
Vezna: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: Rask’s numbers this year were stupid. The Jennings Trophy winner alongside teammate Jaroslav Halak awarded annually to the goalie (or goalies) that allow the least amount of goals of anyone in the league, Rask finished second in winning percentage with a 28-8-6 record and first in save percentage and goals against among starters. Since 1950, Rask is fourth all-time in goals against, trailing only Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, and Ken Dryden, and this year he was beneath his career average by almost .15 of a goal. You could argue that Connor Hellebuyck should get it simply because his team lost a lot defensively in the offseason leading into this year and he did a good job keeping them afloat. But Rask’s numbers are higher in every statistic, sometimes a lot higher. He was the best goalie all year, backstopping the best team all year and having a great backup behind him should not take the award away from him.
My Vezna Ballot:
Selke: Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers: Couturier delivered another great season for a Flyers team that exceeded many people’s expectations. Couturier is making a strong case for being the NHL’s second best two-way forward after the greatest in league history, Patrice Bergeron. He excels in all three zones and has been close to a point-per-game throughout the past three years. But this year there are two stats in his favor which I believe are crucial for winning this award: face-off percentage and +/-. Couturier won a nudge under 60% of his draws and was a +23 meaning most of the time he was on the ice, his team had the puck and it was going into his opponents net far more than his own. He averaged more time on ice than any other Flyer forward which includes captain and future hall-of-famer Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes who was signed in the offseason for north of $7,000,000. The Flyers were deadly in the second half of the season and Couturier was a big reason why.
My Selke Ballot:
My Jack Adams Ballot:
John Torterella, Columbus Blue Jackets
Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers
Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche
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