2010, 2011, Hockey, Sports

2010-11 NHL Awards

Part 1: Automatic Awards

  • Rocket Richard: Corey Perry
  • Adam Oates (my award for most assists): Henrik Sundin
  • Art Ross: Daniel Sedin
  • Plus-Minus: Zdeno Chara
  • Paul Coffey (my award for most goals by a defenseman): Byfuglien
  • Bobby Orr (my award for most points by a defenseman): Visnovsky
  • Jennings: Tim Thomas
  • Crozier: Tim Thomas

Part 2: Voted on Awards

The Hart:

There are a number of ways to interpret the Hart and the voters seems to change which they prefer from decade to decade, year to year. Personally, I think the Hart should not be for the best player. I think that, just like the NBA, the NHL needs separate MVP and “best player” awards (see below). So we will ignore the argument that, because Daniel scored the most points, he should win the Hart.

There are two legitimate interpretations as far as I can tell: the best player on the best (or one of the best) team(s) or, the most valuable player. The latter sounds more correct (I wonder why?) but we will discuss both.

A) The best player on the best team(s)

By this criteria I don’t think Daniel even qualifies. Though he was clearly the best offensive player this year on the best offensive team, he was not the best all-around player, and he wasn’t the most valuable to the Nucks. That distinction goes to Ryan Kesler, who played well over 160 more minutes than Daniel, often in harder circumstances. Still Kesler managed a career high in goals and nearly met his career high in points. He has become an elite defensive forward (see below) and he was clearly the most important forward on the team. I don’t think Ehrhoff’s offensive contributions were quite high enough to start talking about him as a legitimate Hart candidate.

Of course the Hart doesn’t have to go to the best player on the President’s Trophy winner. We can also look at the best players from the other conference leader, and the division leaders.

The Capitols:

Ovechkin had a relatively off year but still managed to lead the second best team in points and ice-time among forwards. When he is scoring less than 50 goals a season I have to think his game isn’t multi-dimensional enough to warrant a nomination.

However the Caps were the second best defensive team in the East (4th best overall) this year, and they played too many goalies to look for it there.

This will shock most people but I would argue that the player who should be the nominee from the Caps it John Carlson. I haven’t seen him play so I can’t actually argue this, but I think that taking the most important defenseman off a good defensive team makes more sense than taking the best forward from a poor offensive team. But Carlson’s numbers are nothing like Ehrhoff’s even, so clearly he’s out.

The Penguins:

Despite winning their division the Pens were neither a particularly great defensive team nor an offensive one (merely good on both counts, though they were better defensively than offensively). Crosby still led the team in points, despite playing exactly half the season.

Consideration must then go to Norris-candidate Kris Letang or Fleury. I have a hard time saying the Hart should go to a goalie who is 6th in the league in wins so if there is a Hart candidate here it is Letang.

The Flyers:

Despite not winning their division, the Flyers were still the 4th best team in the league this year. They were a nearly average defensive team, while being one of the best offensive teams in the league.

The choice for me is obvious: leading the team in points and forwards in minutes, it’s Claude Giroux.

The Sharks:

The second best team in the West were, like the Pens, good at both offense and defense rather than being great at either. Unlike the Pens they were better at offense.

It’s tempting to pick Boyle, despite his offensive numbers, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t vote for him for the Norris.

We’re left with Marleau, who boasts an ugly minus among his stats.

The Red Wings:

The second best offensive team in the league was nearly as bad as the Leafs defensively. Right there we can throw the campaign of Lidstrom for the Hart out the window (and I love Lidstrom). I just can’t support the Hart candidacy of a defenseman who’s team is 23rd overall in Goals Against. Yuck.

So if anyone is a candidate, it’s Zetterberg. Or maybe Howard for keeping them in it despite their shockingly bad defense (for the Wings).

Since the Wings sort of scored by committee this year, it’s fairer to support Howard. And it is utterly absurd to give the Hart to a goalie on the second best offensive team in the league. So nothing here.

The Bruins:

The Bruins were an elite defensive team. Thomas played under 60 games this year, so it’s hard to advocate for him. I think there is a case for Chara. But if he’s my second choice for the Norris (see below) I don’t know how he can be my first choice for the Hart.

Still, I think there is far more to be said for Chara for the Hart than Lidstrom for the Hart.

The Lightning:

Hopefully all talk of ‘Stamkos for the Hart’ has flown out the window. The guy got off to a rip-roaring start, but he’s scored 6 goals since January (6!!!). Also, he is clearly not the most important player on the team.

That would be St. Louis. And though I hate him (for no good reason) there’s no reason to ignore his numbers. He has nearly as much claim to the award as Daniel. Unlike Stamkos – and Perry – he has been consistent throughout the year.

So the shortlist is Kesler, Daniel, Letang, Giroux, Chara and St. Louis. I must say that my vote out of those six would be for Kesler. But this is possibly not the best approach.

B) We can instead just think of the award by what it is: the most valuable player award.

In this case it should be the player most important to his team. What team would be most hurt by the Hart winner’s injury? We have to have some kind of standard for team success, so we can limit it to playoff teams.

This immediately invalidates all candidates from the Canucks, as they are clearly the best overall team in the league. Maybe their record wouldn’t have been great if Daniel had been hurt (which makes little sense given last year) or Kesler (which makes more sense) but they’d hardly be a disaster.

St. Louis still looks like a legitimate candidate for the Bolts, as if they had been relying on Stamkos alone they would be in major trouble. Maybe more of a case can be made based on this for Zetterberg or Lidstrom, both of whom were necessary to keep the Wings afloat. A case might also be made for Giroux or even Toews. But I think these teams are all sort of too deep to have a player qualify. As for Perry, who is now a favourite, I think voting for him because of an unbelievable March is a little ridiculous.

When we look at good defensive teams it’s a little easier. The Predators were the second best defensive team in the league. This is a very good argument for Rinne, who was basically the second best goalie this year. Thomas has slightly better numbers, but Thomas played for a much better offensive team (yes, that’s right, the Preds were that terrible offensively, imagine that). On that note, Price and Bryzgalov have to be given due consideration as well, as the Habs were even more pathetic offensively than the Preds, and the Yotes weren’t as good defensively. Using this second criterion, we can then make the case for Weber, for similar reasons to Rinne, and for Letang and Fleury, and for Chara (had he not deserved a suspension).

Conclusion:

  • Definition A) Kesler
  • Definition B) Price followed by a close second by Rinne / Weber and close third by Fleury / Letang, with an honourable mention to Chara, if he hadn’t deserved a suspension.

Basically what I am saying is I would accept any of the above (excepting Chara) this year. It’s a tough year.

The Gretzky:

(My award for the best player, basically the Ted Lindsay but with me voting for it instead of the players)

Crosby.

“What?!?!” you scream. Yes, Crosby. Before he was hurt he was hands down the best player in the league.

  • Perry scored .61 goals per game this year. Crosby scored .78.
  • Daniel scored 1.27 points per game this year, while Crosby scored a whopping 1.61 (at one point he was over 2PPG).
  • And despite becoming more of a goal-scorer in his old age, Crosby still managed to be third overall in assists per game, at .83.

He was clearly the best player in the league and shouldn’t be punished by the league (or voters if such an award existed) by getting hurt.

The Norris:

I added the Coffey and Orr awards for a reason: I strongly believe the NHL needs to recognize scoring defensemen so we can once and for all end the ridiculous habit of nominating primarily offensive defensemen, who are often pretty blah in their own end, for the award for best defenseman. I think that giving these scoring trophies would alleviate the urge that some of the sports writers feel to nominate these people each year.

So since I have already awarded the Coffey to Byfuglien and the Orr to Visnovsky, I will omit them from the following conversation. I am omitting Yandle as well because I don’t know him as a player and I assume he is an offensive defenseman.

Bouwmeester:

  • 4G, 20A for 24P playing 26 minutes per in 82 games, -2

Though the minus is forgivable on a non-playoff team, Bouwemester’s offense isn’t quite that of the other candidates.

Boyle:

  • 9G, 41A for 50P playing 26:14 minutes per in 76 games, +2

Boyle’s +2 is a little more alarming given the strong offensive team he plays for. There are games where Boyle does everything, there are other games when he is a giveaway machine. I don’t see him enough to judge but I normally wouldn’t vote for the guy so I don’t think this year is any different.

Chara:

  • 14G, 30A for 44P playing 25:26 minutes per in 81 games, +33

Chara obviously merits seriously consideration, not just because of his league leading +, but because he plays for a defensive team and he is their best skater. Chara doesn’t quite dominate the game quite like some other players (to my eyes) but I think his numbers this year merit good consideration.

Doughty:

  • 11G, 29A for 40P playing 25:38 minutes in 76 games, +13

I haven’t quite jumped on the Doughty band wagon just yet. During the Olympics, when the media was losing their collective shit over him (and Niedermayer to a lesser extent, for the opposite reason) I thought Boyle, Keith and Weber were all better. I get that he was super young so it was impressive. But claiming Doughty was the best Canadian defenseman at the Olympics last year because he was so young is like saying Nate Robinson deserved to win the Dunk Competition year after year because he is so short. Both happened and both are absurd.

Doughty is a little too much of a risk taker for me.

Ehrhoff:

  • 14G, 36A for 50P playing 24 minutes per in 79 games, +19

Ehrhoff seems to be getting absolutely no attention for his fine season. I guess that means that the guys who watch him every night aren’t all that impressed.

Keith:

  • 7G, 38A for 45P playing a league high 26:53 minutes per in 82 games, -2

To say Keith took a step back is not entirely true. Yes, he isn’t the obvious Norris winner he was last year, but his team is also clearly not the same. His minus is as much from his team being way weaker as it is his weaker play. He isn’t the offensive force he was last year but one hopes he isn’t regressing defensively either. I haven’t seen him play enough to make that call, but it’s nearly as obvious this year that he isn’t deserving of a second trophy.

Letang:

  • 8G, 42A for 50P playing 24 minutes per in 82 games, +15

Letang, along with Fleury, may be the main reason the Pens won their division. He is second on the team in scoring and he anchors one of the best defenses in the league. It’s hard to ignore.

Lidstrom:

  • 16G, 46A for 62P playing 23:28 minutes per in 82 games, -2

Yes, Lidstrom’s longevity is remarkable. And I am big fan. But I think he has had better seasons when he hasn’t won the Norris and to give it to him just because he is really old is like giving Doughty the Norris because he’s really young. That -2 is glaring. Detroit is a great offensive team, and Lidstrom is a big part of that this year, but they’re not a very good defensive team.

Hard to give the Norris to a minus player on a team that scores a lot. Yes it is.

Staal:

  • 7G, 22A for 29P playing 25:44 minutes per in 77 games, +8

Another player who is getting completely ignored in the discussions because he doesn’t score enough. The main candidate for the Harvey / Langway trophy.

Weber:

  • 16G, 32A for 48P playing 25:19 per in 82, +7

I have to say I’m biased: I think Weber is the best defenseman under 30 in the league, possibly the best in the league. I don’t see him much but when I do I’m always wowed. I thought Keith had the leg up last year because of his ridiculous offense which came without being a liability but this year it’s hard for me to ignore Weber. He scores (tied for 5th in goals with Lidstrom) but he is also horrible to play against. Whenever I see him play he is everywhere. He is no doubt able to do this partially because of Suter (who possibly should be an outside candidate himself) but he is probably the most dynamic defensive player in the game. His low plus comes from playing for a team that never ever scores.

I would say:

  • Weber with second place going to Chara and third going to Letang

The Harvey / Langway:

(My award for best stay at home defenseman)

  • Mark Staal

The Selke:

The Selke is tough, as always. I saw a metric a while ago (which I cannot find at the moment) which indicate which forwards were indeed the strongest defensively in the league, through a whole bunch of calculations. The main problem with it is that it seemed to completely ignore ice time. As with defensemen, ice-time is a pretty good indicator of how important a defensive forward is to his team. The blocked shot count is not altogether helpful as the league still doesn’t keep track of missed blocked shots (i.e. goalie screens), which would be nice to know (it would be especially nice to know which ones led to goals, then we would have something).

Bergeron:

  • 17:53 mpg, +20, +25 t/g, 57% fo, 56 bs

Impressive +/- and faceoff percentage and an all around strong defensive year but not the highest ice-time.

Datsyuk:

  • 19:19 mpg, +11, +31 t/g, 55% fo, 20 bs

Always Pavel’s award to lose, it looks as this year he won’t win. He has not been his usual puck thief self this year (partly due to injuries). But he should go to the Hall as the elite defensive forward of his generation.

Kesler:

  • 20:29 mpg, +24, +44 t/g, 57% fo, 80 bs

Kesler was my second choice for the Selke last year and he continues his fine work. He does both the painful and smart parts of defense. Though he is a candidate of mine for the Hart, I think he isn’t quite the Selke winner this year. Still a perennial candidate now, especially since he scored possibly the greatest empty net goal in hockey history and got us all paying attention.

Laich:

  • 18:25 mpg, +14, +6 t/g, 51% fo, gave up looking for blocked shots

Laich doesn’t block shots, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a bad defensive player. But his rather pedestrian faceoff percentage and his poor takeaway / giveaway differential make me differ to someone else.

Malhotra:

  • 16:09 mpg, +9, +22 t/g, 62% fo, 74 bs

Malhotra’s biggest claim to this award was his league leading faceoff percentage. His minutes are not high enough.

Mike Richards:

  • 18:52 mperg, +11, -50 t/g, negligible fo %tage, 73 bs

Richards has the reputation among some, that Datsyuk and Kesler have among many. But Richards is not a smart defender as evidenced by his atrocious takeaway giveaway ratio and by his high number of blocked shots.

Jordan Staal:

  • 21:21 mpg, +7, +10 t/g, negligible fo %tage, 13 bs

Staal appears to rarely take away the puck and rarely block it. He doesn’t score much either. Yet somehow his team relies on him and he keeps the puck out of the net. I have no idea how. And since I can’t quantify it I can’t really appraise it (since I don’t see the Pens much).

Toews:

  • 20:35 mpg, +25, +63 t/g, 57% fo, 28 bs

Toews just owned the takeaway/giveaway ratio this year and, as we know, that is my favourite Selke stat. But look at his numbers: aside from the low blocked shots he compares very favourably to the rest.

So I pick Toews, with Kesler a close second, Bergeron or Datsyuk third

The Calder:

I’m going to go against the grain and say Carlson. He is the best defenseman on one of the best defensive teams in the league. I think that says a lot more than stats. Skinner and Grabner are close seconds.

The Vezina:

Everyone’s talking up Price and Rinne, and with good reason, as they have had fantastic seasons and they have taken both their teams to the playoffs. But they are more deserving of the Hart than the Vezina. This isn’t the most valuable goalie award. (Maybe there should be one, then we can ignore goalies for the Hart, and we can give the Vezina to the best goalie.)

Thomas, despite his fewer starts, has had a ridiculous season, actually setting a new record for save percentage. To not give him the Vezina this year would be insulting.

Most Valuable Goalie:

(The Hasek?)

  • Price followed by Rinne

The Jack Adams:

Bylsma.

It’s obvious. It boggles my mind that in a year when the Penguins lost their two best offensive players (and the best overall player in the league), but still won the division, people are still insisting there are other coach of the year candidates. There aren’t. What he has done is flat out remarkable. It’s fairly unparalleled. (Can we honestly say we know of another circumstance where a team was this successful despite major injuries? It’s like the late ’90s Avalanche winning their division without Forsberg and Sakic.) If he doesn’t win the award, those who care about these things should riot.

The Messier:

I don’t care. Somebody on the Pens. Maybe somebody on the Caps. Maybe Corey Perry as consolation for not winning the Hart. Whatever.

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