Here is my annual wrap-up of the NHL awards. As usual, it includes both real awards and made-up awards that should exist to save the voters from themselves.
In addition to handing out the actual awards, I believe the NHL should hand out awards for certain other numeric feats, to keep the voters from giving the award for best defenseman to the highest scoring defenseman, for example.
The Rocket Richard Trophy
Alex Ovechkin (his third): 32G, 24A for 56P in 48 games, +2
The Adam Oates Trophy
(We could also call it the Ron Francis Trophy, I guess)
Martin St. Louis (his second): 17G, 43A for 60P in 48 games, 0
The Art Ross Trophy
Martin St. Louis (his second): 17G, 43A for 60P in 48 games, 0
Incidentally, I think this means St. Louis is now close to a lock for the HOF.
The King Clancy Trophy or The Bobby Orr Trophy
Mike Green: 12G, 14A for 26P in 35, -3
The Ray Bourque Trophy
Kris Letang: 5G, 33A for 38P in 35 games, +16
The Paul Coffey Trophy
- Kris Letang: 5G, 33A for 38P in 35 games, +16 and
- P.K. Subban: 11G, 27A for 38P in 42 games, +12
The +/- Award
Pascal Dupuis: 20G, 18A for 38P in 48 games, +31
The Jennings Trophy
- Corey Crawford: 19-5-5, .926 sv %, 1.94 GAA
- Ray Emery: 17-1, .922 sv %, 1.94 GAA
The Roger Crozier Trophy
- Craig Anderson: 12-9-2, .941 sv %, 1.21 GAA
So now we get to the controversial part, the awards that people vote for. Again I have included my made-up awards. I have written ad nauseum about why leagues need an MVP and a best player award so I won’t repeat myself. So let’s get straight to the awards for the season.
The Wayne Gretzky Trophy (Best Skater)
Sidney Crosby: 15G, 41A for 56P in 36 games, +26.
Just because he was hurt doesn’t diminish that he’s the best player in the league.
The Hart Trophy
If we got just by Points Shares, we would likely have to give to Ovechkin (8 PS). Without Ovechkin, the Caps would have missed the playoffs. The same can’t be said for Kunitz (7.8 PS) on the Penguins, or Kane or Toews (7.6 PS each) on the Hawks, or Subban (7.2 PS) on the Habs.
But you can see that point shares don’t get it right: Kunitz is second among skaters in terms of point shares, but nobody – well at least nobody aside from a Pens homer – would argue that Kunitz is an MVP candidate.
The best or most valuable player on the best team?
If we are trying to award the Hart to the best player on the best team, we obviously need to pick someone from the Blackhawks, the league’s best offensive team and best defensive team. That would seem to put it between Kane, Toews and Keith:
- Kane: 23G, 32A for 55P in 47 games, +11. Kane gets the vote for the points and ice-time among forwards. Keith gets it for the ice-time.
- Keith: 24:07; 3G, 24A for 27P in 47 games, +16 I like Keith a lot but I’m not sure his offense is enough to warrant consideration.
- Toews: 23G, 25A for 48P in 47 games, +28 Toews gets it for the plus / minus and the face-offs.
Toews plays a harder position than Kane, but Kane scored a fair amount more than Toews. So the question is, which is more important: offense or all-around play?
My vote would be for Toews but I would accept Kane as a legitimate choice.
The most valuable player on a playoff team that wouldn’t have otherwise made the playoffs?
The only crude metric we have to measure this is the Point Share one mentioned above. So Ovechkin appears to be the clear candidate. I’m not sure I like this method of deciding the MVP for hockey – it is much more appropriate to basketball – but I understand that voters go this way fairly frequently (Theodore, Perry, etc.).
I feel like awarding it in this way rewards a player who might not have had the most consistent season. But I still get it and I would not be outraged if Ovechkin won, as I would be if St. Louis won, just because he won the Art Ross.
Frankly, I think Toews deserves it, but I would accept Kane and Ovechkin as at least somewhat fair choices.
The Selke Trophy
As usual with the Selke, I will draw my candidates from those forwards with the highest takeaway-giveaway differential. I know there are inherent problems with this: takeaways and giveaways are counted by team statisticians, not league statisticians, so they are inherently biased and inaccurate. But until the league actually properly tracks this, or until they adopt a system like the NBA does, where every play can be broken down into its constituent parts, I don’t know where else to begin.
- +/- is inherently flawed to a far greater extent
- and Corsi, despite its recent popularity with the media, is flawed in exactly the same way: it’s a team stat. Sure, it takes the quality of the goalie out of the equation but it doesn’t remove the other 4 skaters. (Incidentally, if Corsi numbers are to be taken seriously, then they make Phaneuf look terrible. Just saying.)
So I will stick with my flawed method until the NHL joins this century.
- Pavel Datsyuk: 20:10 ATOI, +21, +18 giveaway-takeaway, 55% faceoffs, 30 blocked shots, 31 hits
- Matt Duchene: 20:55 ATOI, -12, +20 giveaway-takeaway, 54.6% faceoffs, 47 blocked shots, 48 hits
- Michael Frolik: 12:31 ATOI, +5, +36 giveaway-takeaway, 23 blocked shots, 32 hits
- Chris Higgins: 16:24 ATOI, -4, +22 giveaway-takeaway, 22 blocked shots, 46 hits
- Marian Hossa: 18:02 ATOI, +20, +34 giveaway-takeaway, 13 blocked shots, 12 hits
- Jason Pominville: 20:10 ATOI, +1, +25 giveaway-takeaway, 35 blocked shots, 21 hits
- Jeff Skinner: 18:27 ATOI, +30 giveaway-takeaway, 11 blocked shots, 21 hits
- Eric Staal: 20:59 ATOI, +5, +24 giveaway-takeaway, 52% faceoffs, 24 blocked shots, 35 hits
- Jonathan Toews: 19:20 ATOI, +28, +40 giveaway-takeaway, 59.9% faceoffs, 16 blocked shots, 24 hits
First, we notice that the Chicago folks all have pretty great numbers. So as much as we might want to give it to Toews for the giveaway-takeaway differential, the plus/minus and the face-off percentage, I can’t help but notice that Frolik is apparently the takeaway god. I don’t buy that. I think that’s bias, and that throws Toews number into question. He would otherwise likely be the clear front-runner.
We can eliminate the wingers, as far as I’m concerned, as face-off wins are an important part of defense in my mind.
So that leaves us with Datsyuk, as always, Duchene, with his ugly minus, Staal, with his less impressive face-off numbers, and Toews, with his perhaps-inflated +40 differential. As I have said previously, I do not believe we should worry about +/- when it comes to this award, as sometimes good defensive players play on bad teams. (Okay, more often than sometimes.)
If I weren’t concerned about Toews’ takeaway/giveaway differential, I would say he deserves it. But since I can’t be sure it’s accurate, I feel like Duchene deserves it. He plays second most of all of our candidates, he is third in face-offs, first in blocked shots and first in hits. But I would be okay with the other three as well.
The Norris Trophy
According to my semi-crude method – which I maintain is better than whatever criteria the Professional Hockey Writers Association thinks they are using – picks either Beauchemin or Chara as the appropriate Norris winner.
Now obviously Beauchemin needs more than a little defending to any us who don’t watch Anaheim whereas Chara does not, so the easy pick would be Chara. And I think it’s the right one but not because it’s easy. My method would have picked Chara across the board had Chara played all 48 games – provided he didn’t somehow suck playing in the 13 he missed this season – and Beauchemin only came out on top in the total numbers because he was healthy all year. So my (fake) vote for the Norris this year is for Chara.
If you would like a complete defense, comment and I will spell it out.
The Vezina Trophy
Of the goalies who played at least 1200 minutes this year – basically the top 30 goalies in time on ice – here are the standouts:
- Craig Anderson: 12 – 9 – 2 in 24 games, .941 (1st), 1.69 (1st)
- Niklas Backstrom: 24 (1st) – 15 – 3 in 42 games, .909, 2.48
- Sergei Bobrovsky: 21 – 11 – 6 in 38 games, .932, 2.00
- Corey Crawford: 19 – 5 – 5 in 30 games, .926, 1.94
- Devan Dubnyk: 14 – 16 -6 in 38 games, .921, 2.57
- Viktor Fasth: 15 – 6 – 2 in 25 games, .921, 2.18
- Jimmy Howard: 21 – 13 – 7 in 42 games, .923, 2.13
- Henrik Lundqvist: 24 (1st) – 16 – 3 in 43 games, .924, 2.16
- Ryan Miller: 17 – 17 – 5 in 40 games, .915, 2.81
- Antti Niemi: 24 (1st) – 12 – 6 in 43 games, .926, 2.05
- Tuukka Rask: 19 – 10 – 5 in 36 games, .929, 2.00
- James Reimer: 19 – 8 – 5 in 33 games, .924, 2.46
- Cory Schneider: 17 – 9 – 4 in 30 games, .927, 2.11
First off, let’s seriously throw record out the window (for this award). Goalies can’t score themselves (most of the time) and shouldn’t be faulted if they play for Buffalo or Edmonton. Second, GAA doesn’t really tell us much at all. All we have left, without delving into advanced metrics I am not aware of, is save percentage and shots against.
But I think to be fair to the goalies who showed they were clearly the best goalie on the team – or the healthiest – we should not even consider goalies who didn’t make it to 35 games. It is a short season, after all. That eliminates the most obvious Vezina candidate if you go by save percentage alone – Craig Anderson.
We are left with Backstrom, Bobrovsky, Dubnyk, Howard, Lundqvist, Miller, Niemi and Rask.
- Backstrom can be eliminated because of his save percentage.
- Rask can be eliminated because he is the only remaining goalie on the list to face less than 1000 shots this season. Rask obviously benefited from playing for a good defensive team.
- But we’re still left with too many names, so let’s eliminate those who faced less than 1100 shots. That means Bobrovsky, probably the most likely candidate remaining, is eliminated.
This leaves us with Howard, Lundqvist, Miller and Niemi.
Miller faced far and away the most shots – two more games worth than Niemi – but Niemi’s numbers are significantly better. Niemi faced 30 more shots than Lundqvist and nearly 100 more than Howard. My vote is for him.
The Hasek Trophy (The MVG)
If, in our ideal world, we have both a best skater and most valuable skater award, we should also have both a best goalie and a most valuable goalie award. The two are very clearly not the same. (Please note, due in part to the shortened season, the candidates are the same for both awards this year. That is not normally the case.)
I would say that it absolutely between Lundqvist and Niemi for this one. Lundqvist has .1 more goalie point shares, but Niemi played (six) more minutes.
So we have to go to that unfortunate tie breaker: whose team would have missed the playoffs without them? The answer to that question is: both. But the Rangers would have been slightly worse off than the Sharks, so let’s give it to Henrik.
The Calder Trophy
There are a number of good candidates for the Calder this year, again likely the result of the shortened season (more in tune with amateur season-lengths). Let’s consider them in groups:
- Cory Conacher:11G, 18A for 29P in 47 games, +10
- Alex Galchenyuk: 9G, 18A for 27P in 48 games, +14
- Brendan Gallagher: 15G, 13A for 28P in 44 games, +10
- Jonathan Huberdeau: 14G, 17A for 31P in 48 games, -15
- Nail Yakupov: 17G, 14A for 31P in 48 games, -4
This is a pretty tight group and it’s hard to pick. But if one person stands out it’s probably Gallagher, who was extremely productive in a fairly minor role. Remember this isn’t an award for who will be the best player later, it’s an award for who was the best this year. And though I think some of these other players will likely be better than Gallagher later on, his per game numbers are best.
- Jonas Brodin: 23:13 ATOI; 2G, 9A for 11P in 45 games, +3; 3 DPS
- Dougie Hamilton: 17:08 ATOI; 5G, 11A for 16P in 42 games, +4; 3.3 PS
- Justin Schultz: 21:27 ATOI; 8G, 19A for 27P in 48 games, -17
Hamilton impressed but in limited minutes. Schultz led all rookies in assists but he has that ugly minus which is only partially accountable by his playing for the Oilers. Brodin looks the most impressive, but we have to remember he was protected, playing with Suter.
Viktor Fasth would have been a legit Vezina candidate this season if he had only played a dozen more games. As it stands, he still had one hell of a season.
Can we give it to a goalie who only played half the season (the equivalent of about 43 games in a normal season) or should we give it to a skater who actually played most of the year? I’m going to go with the latter and say that I think it is a legit toss-up between Brodin and Gallagher.
The Jack Adams Trophy
There are no doubt a lot of people who want to give this to Joel Quenneville, and I guess that’s fine. But I am not one to believe that this award should always go to the coach of the team with the best record. I think it should go to the coach of the team with the most surprising record. And to my mind, that team is the Blue Jackets.
But the thing is, a lot of credit has to go to Bobrovsky. But there are no other teams that really shocked me this year. Maybe the Ducks, maybe the Habs. But the Blue Jackets almost made the playoffs! Look at that roster! Their stars are Mark “Who the fuck am I?” Letestu and Vinny “I’m 37 Years Old” Prospal, which is to say they don’t have any. Really, their star is their goaltender. And you can’t really credit a coach for having a good goalie. But I honestly don’t know who else to give this to aside from Richards. So Richards it is.
And that’s that, for another year. I will likely have an angry update of this post when the NHL announces the winners and completely fucks the dog on at least half of them for yet another season. Until then…