Here's one voter's ballot for the NHL's Hart, Norris, Calder, Selke and Lady Byng trophies.
A lot of thought goes into this, but nothing brings out the hate like awards voting.
Ah, it could be worse. I'm eating unleavened bread
for a week.Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player)
In the conversation: Jamie Benn, Ben Bishop, Claude Giroux, Carey Price, Jonathan Toews.
On the ballot: 5) Anze Kopitar, 4) Patrice Bergeron, 3) Semyon Varlamov.
It came down to: Sidney Crosby
and Ryan Getzlaf
Crosby had a marvelous year. He absolutely carried the Penguins to the second seed in the Eastern Conference despite 500 man-games lost to injury. People question everything about Pittsburgh going into the playoffs -- their depth, their goaltending, their commitment to defence -- but no one questions him. He is the overwhelming favourite for this award, and deservedly so. At the Olympics, I said he was the best player in the world, and I believe that despite one Blackhawks fan who tweets me whenever Toews has a great game.
The Western Conference was a bludgeon-fest. Look at the opening round: Los Angeles vs. San Jose
, Chicago vs. St. Louis
. There's nothing like that in the East. On March 20, a 3-2 loss to San Jose cost Anaheim its division lead. It was their sixth loss in eight games.
Getzlaf finished with 11 points in 11 games to close the season as Anaheim reclaimed the Pacific. Dallas will give the Ducks a rough ride, but if your choice is the Stars or the Kings, you'll take your chances with Texas.
Getzlaf had 26 points in 24 games against West playoff teams (the one blemish is two points in five games against the Kings). Yes, he has Corey Perry next to him. But he also had tougher competition and, because everyone else in the Metro blew a tire out of the gate, Pittsburgh was home-free by the time your credit card info was stolen at Target. That's not Crosby's fault, but it helps Getzlaf's resume.
There are smart voters who think Crosby gets close to a unanimous verdict. I almost chose him because I didn't want to be the one guy who didn't pick him. (This happened in the NBA a few years ago and looked attention-whorish.)
But that's the wrong reason to not vote for Getzlaf. Norris Trophy (top defenceman)
In the conversation: Toughest ballot, several deserving blue-liners left off the final list: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mark Giordano, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Ryan McDonagh, Alex Pietrangelo and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
It came down to: Zdeno Chara
, Drew Doughty
, Duncan Keith
, Ryan Suter
and Shea Weber
Seriously, how do you pick between these guys? You can't go wrong with any of them.
The choice here is Suter, who was 37:26 away from breaking Brian Leetch's NHL record of 2,449:19 minutes played in a season, set in 1998-99. That's less than a 30-second-per-night difference. Suter also averaged 23:27 at the Olympics, three more minutes than any other American skater. That puts him at almost 2,600 from October to April, before playoffs.
Think of how the game's changed since Leetch played. Trapezoid, less interference, speed of the forecheck. That's Norris-worthy.
Bad news for Suter: I voted for him last year. He lost.Calder Trophy (top rookie)
In the conversation: Seth Jones, Tyler Johnson, Torey Krug, Hampus Lindholm, Sean Monahan, Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba.
It came down to: Olli Maatta
, Nathan MacKinnon
and Ondrej Palat
Still figuring out the 4-5 spots between Johnson, Krug and Trouba. Trouba played in tougher situations than Krug, but can you really leave a 40-point defenceman off the ballot?
Palat's going to win a Selke some day. Plus/minus is a flawed stat, but it is illuminating when you're a plus-32 playing tough competition on a team where only one other guy is above 12 (Johnson). Only Crosby, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Chris Kunitz played more than the 19-year-old Maatta on a decimated roster. He didn't look out of place.
MacKinnon is the guy, though. He led all rookies in goals, assists and points -- and it always seemed like he was drawing penalties. He wasn't really shielded by Colorado, either. MacKinnon didn't get the easiest competition.
When you're the top pick, you're supposed to be a star. He sure looks like one. Three 18-year-olds have 60-point seasons since 2000 -- MacKinnon, Jeff Skinner and Crosby.Selke Trophy (top defensive forward)
In the conversation: Jeff Carter, Sean Couturier, Johnson, Marian Hossa, Patrick Marleau, Paul Stastny, Toews, Antoine Vermette.
On the ballot: 5) Ondrej Palat, 4) David Backes.
It came down to: Patrice Bergeron
, Anze Kopitar
and Ryan O'Reilly
O'Reilly will look weird. He was 34th among all NHL forwards in playing 19:49 per game, which was 1:09 higher than any Colorado forward. He played against tough competition and took just one minor penalty -- for not realizing he was playing with a broken stick.
O'Reilly is the obvious Lady Byng winner (no separate section for that trophy, it's a lock) but that stat is more than just gentlemanly. It is excellent defence. He doesn't need to foul, because he always knows where to be and how to use his stick properly.
At the end of the day, though, Bergeron and Kopitar are the best defensive forwards on the NHL's best defensive teams. There's not much to differentiate them. Bergeron was on the ice for 56 five-on-five goals for, 29 against. Kopitar was 56-25. Bergeron takes more defensive-zone draws and has a better face-off percentage. Kopitar plays three more minutes per game.
It's a tough call. The Kings did beat out the Bruins for the Jennings. And, in the three Anaheim/Los Angeles games where Getzlaf failed to record a point, guess who his primary cover man was? 30 Thoughts
1. I also have a vote for the Masterton (perseverance and dedication to hockey). There's the Rangers' Dominic Moore, who lost his wife Katie to cancer
in January 2013. I have a ton of empathy for this, because my own family has a similar story. But Florida's Ed Jovanovski
should be in the conversation.
2. One year ago, Jovanovski tried a procedure called hip resurfacing to ease pain in the area. A total replacement would end his career. "The average age for people getting this surgery is 51," the 37-year-old said Monday. "But doctors wanted to try it with me. They thought it could work." There wasn't a lot of supporting evidence. Jovanovski knew of only two others able to come back after hip resurfacing. Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis made his return Monday night. The other? The Undertaker. And he just lost at Wrestlemania for the first time.
3. "There's a 12-inch incision on your gluteus muscle," Jovanovski explained. "They open your hips, shave off the arthritic part of the bone, remove it and put in the device." He sent a photo, but one newspaper has already refused to run it. [Editor's note: Consider yourself warned, but if you still want to see it, here it is
.] The device includes a metal cap on the femur and "spike" through the socket. "It was pretty much my only option if I still wanted to play," Jovanovski said. "And, as you get older, you realize you want to play as long as you can... Not a lot of people can get back from this. I'm proud I could do it."
4. Don't have a vote for the Jack Adams or the Vezina, but if I did, both would go to Denver -- Patrick Roy and Semyon Varlamov
5. Pending free agent Paul Stastny
says he wants to stay in Colorado, and the Avalanche keeping him past the trade deadline shows a sense it can be done. But he will be watched very closely in the playoffs, just in case. Scouts like his two-way game, his intelligence, his positioning and his ability to make others better. If there's one concern, and he's heard it plenty, it's his skating. If you get him on the market, you're going to have to give up term. Will there be a point where he slows enough that it changes his game? Teams will risk it if they think he can help them win soon.
6. Another who will be watched closely is Mike Richards
. Just 41 points this year, his lowest since he was 21 years old in 2006-07. His points-per-game goes up from 0.71 to 0.79 in the playoffs, so there is an expectation he will be a difference-maker. He seemed slower this season, not as energetic.
7. "If you look at their history," said one exec, "If you're going to get Boston, you might as well get them in the first round." The last three seasons, they've gone to a Game 7 overtime in the opening stage, winning two and losing one.
8. Pittsburgh laid waste to Columbus this season with five regulation wins and zero defeats. It's so different in the playoffs, though. There is more attention to detail, only one team on your schedule to worry about. One scout called the Blue Jackets "St. Louis East. Very physical." It will be interesting to see how Brandon Dubinsky
is refereed. He loves to annoy Crosby and you know the Penguins will be lobbying in advance to keep him under wraps.
9. So many good players are coming back now -- Jonathan Toews
, Patrick Kane
, Ryan McDonagh
-- but the first thing opponents really look for is "Are they really healthy?" Toews's shoulder will definitely be tested. So will McDonagh's. But St. Louis is definitely a team being wondered about. "Can they play physically like they normally do?" asked a scout. "It affects your ability to give hits as much as take them."
10. When New York traded Ryan Callahan
, the opposition wondered how the Rangers would be without "their engine." McDonagh's answered that. He's filled the role. Biggest difference without him? "He covers so much ice -- transition game, puck retrieval, shutdown minutes -- there's a lot more room for the opponent to move around in the offensive zone," said an executive.
11. The same exec noticed "a little bit of a resurgence" in Brad Richards
. "He's not a 200-foot player anymore, but he's dangerous in offensive situations." New York brought back J.T. Miller from a trip to the doghouse, but the observer liked Jesper Fast with Richards and Carl Hagelin. "He gives Richards some speed on the wall, and goes and gets the puck."
12. The Flyers had Frozen Four MVP Shayne Gostisbehere on their reserve list, so he could have played in the playoffs. They've had plenty of presence at his games and badly wanted him in orange next season. They did the smart thing, signing Gostisbehere but not rushing him into the playoffs. It's a huge step up. He can get a taste in the AHL and start fresh in September.
13. Quietly good year for Canadiens captain Brian Gionta
, who will be an unrestricted free agent. Asked about his future, Gionta said he has told the team he wants to stay, but agreed with GM Marc Bergevin to wait until after the season before worrying about it. (More Canadiens/Lightning next week; waiting for three features to air.
14. At the Olympics, goalie Jonas Hiller
had a really good line about playing all those 1-0 games for Switzerland. "Whether your team scores one goal or 10 goals, you have to keep the same mentality." You'd think an attitude like that would be successful, but he's really struggling in Anaheim. If you doubt John Gibson
's ability to handle this, remember he beat Russia and Finland en route to a bronze medal for Team USA at last year's world championships.
15. With all of the discussion about Vancouver needing 21- to 25-year-old impact players, I think they seriously considered an offer sheet for Jamie Benn
in the summer of 2012. Obviously, the owners don't have much use for one another, but bringing home a local boy (and a very good one) would've been a major coup. I can't confirm it, but I believe a one-year, $7.5-million US offer was the ballpark, which meant Dallas would've had to qualify him at that number for three more years, similar to what Calgary did to Colorado with Ryan O'Reilly
16. Why didn't it happen? Probably two reasons. First, Shea Weber's sheet
was matched. And if that one didn't work, what would? Second, the Canucks were in a tight cap situation going into the lockout. It was hard to predict the outcome, and if they were over the cap, that would've created even more trouble. Anyway, fun to think about.
17. Here's betting Trevor Linden
tells Ryan Kesler
to go home and think for a little while before making a decision on his future. Which means another face-to-face meeting between the two in a few weeks.
18. During a webcast, Linden said it's possible the Canucks' next GM is someone he played with early in his career. A cursory check of his playing history indicates Boston's Jim Benning was a teammate for the first two years of the new president's NHL existence. Canuck ownership is not unaware that one-time assistant GMs are on a pretty good run of winning Stanley Cups lately.
19. Linden's first hire was the team's former vice president of communications, T.C. Carling, to a newly created director of hockey administration position. The two are close and you always look for these types of patterns and relationships. If Brendan Shanahan wants something similar in Toronto, the likely choice is John Rosasco, the Rangers' senior vice resident of public relations. Damian Echevarrieta, who worked with Shanahan in the Department of Player Safety, is another name you will hear.
20. Another name that came up quite a bit was Kris Draper. Four years ago, the line behind Ken Holland included Jim Nill and Steve Yzerman. One's now in Dallas and the other is in Tampa. Now there's Ryan Martin, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer and Draper. What does Draper see in his future?
21. The thing Linden and Shanahan need is institutional knowledge. They're coming in cold, and Linden already reached out the olive branch to several important members of the organization. Shanahan's ability to do that was made a little tougher by his introductory media conference
in Toronto. MLSE President Tim Leiweke was brutally honest about the Maple Leafs' lack of an identity. GM Dave Nonis is easygoing, but it couldn't have been easy for him to hear his team ripped while he sat five feet away.
22. When the Shanahan news got out, a few sources wondered if Brian Burke would turn his attention to Dave Nonis for Calgary. They work well together, but it doesn't sound like it's going to happen.
23. One of the most intriguing things about this new front-office setup is how other teams will feel about losing qualified people for a position that may not really be a promotion. Not everyone shares that philosophy, but what complicates matters is there is no compensation allowed right now for losing a front-office employee. So there will be some teams who say, "Why should I let my good scout become your GM, when he really doesn't have the power of a GM? How is that a step up?"
24. Dale Tallon said the Panthers have $30 million to spend this summer, but the GM was vague on the future of Peter Horachek. Former assistant GM Mike Santos, who was fired in March, brought Horachek into the organization last summer. Without Santos, does Tallon feel as strongly about the current coach?
25. Wonder if Ron Wilson re-surfaces in the mix for any openings.
26. One theory on the Adam Oates/Jaroslav Halak
blowup last week: that Oates was frustrated with the amount of control players seem to have in Washington. Halak was an odd choice to get the brunt of it since he's been there only six weeks, but it was probably a case of the coach hitting his boiling point and not really caring about seniority.
27. If the Capitals make organizational changes, it's going to be interesting to see who they target. The roster looks good, but there's something making that situation much harder than it should be. If they go for a new GM or a new coach, the best candidates, the ones they will want, will be asking one question: "Will players be allowed to go over my head without my permission?"
28. Alexander Ovechkin
had a really interesting media scrum
on Monday. One former teammate said Ovechkin is frustrated because he didn't cause any problems when they won while Dale Hunter benched him, then moved to the right wing as Adam Oates asked -- and still gets ripped. After reading and watching this exchange, I believe that's what he thinks 100 per cent.
29. As the NHL searches to replace Shanahan
as Discipline Czar, they'd love to have Joe Nieuwendyk, who was approached to join the Department of Player Safety last summer, but declined. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch touted John Ferguson, who worked in the league office under Brian Burke. The Windsor Star's Bob Duff reported speculation about Adam Graves.
30. Earlier in the season, we looked at a stat about Nov. 1. From 2005-06 to 2011-12, just three out of 32 teams who were four points or more out of the playoffs on that date recovered to get in. This year, two of eight beat those odds -- Dallas and Philadelphia, both of whom were five back. It's the first time more than one club did it in the same season. Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Florida, Buffalo and Edmonton were unable to make the climb.
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