2015, Hockey, Sports

2014-15 NHL Awards

I watched as little hockey this season as I have since I was 16 (i.e. half a lifetime ago) in part because Nonis was still in charge of the Maple Leafs until very recently and in part because basketball is slowly winning the battle of allegiances in my heart.

So I’m not making any post-season predictions this year, though I always get those wrong, anyway.

But that isn’t going to stop me from handing out some awards, even though I barely watched any games this year! Doesn’t that make you furious?

Automatic Awards

These awards both exist in reality and in my mind, they are handed out automatically and don’t require much explanation.

The Rocket Richard

Alex Ovechkin: 53G, 28A for 81P, +10

The Oates

Nicklas Backstrom: 18G, 60A for 78P, +5

The Art Ross

Jamie Benn: 35G, 52A for 87P, +1

The Orr

Oliver Ekman-Larsson: 23G, 20A for 43P, -18

The Bourque

Keith Yandle: 6G, 46A for 52P, -26

The Coffey

Erik Karlsson: 21G, 45A for 66P, +7

The Plus Minus

  • Nikita Kucherov: 29G, 36A for 65P, +38
  • Max Pacioretty: 37G, 30A for 67P, +38

The Jennings

  • Corey Crawford: 32-20-5,  2 SO, .924 SV%, 2.27 GAA
  • Carey Price: 44-16-6, 9 SO, .933 SV%, 1.96 GAA

(This award remains very stupid.)

The Crozier (Best Save Percentage!)

Price

Voted On Awards

These awards exist both in reality and in my imagination.  I always try to think them out. Because I reject the deliberate ambiguity and controvsery created by the pro sports MVP award concept, I have imagined alternatives to the MVP award.

The Gretzky (Best Skater)

Crosby vs. Ovechkin!

  • Sidney Crosby: 28G (tied 20th), 56A (tied 3rd), for 84P (3rd), +5 in 77 games, 19:58 ATOI
  • Alex Ovechkin: 53G (1st), 28A for 81P (tied 4th), +10 in 81 games, 20:20 ATOI

Crosby was:

  • 7th in Goals Created
  • 10th in PP Goals
  • Tied for 1st in APG
  • 1st in PPG
  • 7th in Goals Created Per Game
  • 8th in OPS

Ovechkin was:

  • 1st in Goals Created
  • 5th in Even Strength Goals
  • 1st in PP Goals
  • 1st in Game Winning Goals
  • 1st in Shots
  • 1st in GPG
  • 8th in PPG
  • 1st in Goals Created Per Game
  • 1st in OPS
  • 5th in PS
  • 5th in TOI among forwards

I am usually inclined to give this “award” to the player who led the league in PPG. However, I am tempted to give it to Ovechkin given his important to his team, even though that’s a bit of a Hart type of interpretation. But that’s not the true intent of the award, so Crosby wins it this year, as he does most years. (If the award actually existed, this would be Crosby’s fifth, and his third in a row.)

Hart (Best Player on Best Team interpretation)

By this interpretation, I mean literally “the best player on the best team” (i.e., Steph Curry in the NBA).

So, by points, points percentage, and Hockey Reference’s Simple Rating System, this year’s best team was the New York Rangers. And that means Rick Nash is your MVP, a sentence I never ever thought I would ever type, ever.

Rick Nash: 42G, 27A for 69P, +29 in 79 games, 17:27 ATOI, 11.4 PS

And, just for fun:

The best offensive team this year was the Tampa Bay Lightning, so if we only cared about offense, the MVP would be

Steven Stamkos: 43G, 29A for 72P, +2 in 82 games, 19:22 ATOI, 8.6 OPS

The best defensive team this year was the Montreal Canadiens, so if we only cared about offense, the MVP (actually the MVS) would be

PK Subban: 15G, 45A for 60P, +21 in 82 games, 26:12 ATOI, 6.6 DPS

Hart (Literal interpretation)

By this interpretation I mean the “Most Valuable Skater” and yes, that means I exclude goalies – they have their own award and, were it up to me, they’d have multiple awards of their own – which means no Carey Price, shock, horror. (See below.)

  • Ovechkin led all skaters in Point Shares with 12.6 (or 13, for our purposes) and if we subtracted 13 points from the Capitals’ total that would leave them with 88 points, meaning they would miss the playoffs.

Well that was easy. I was expecting that to take a lot longer than that (it usually does). Alex Ovechkin deserves the Hart (under this interpretation).

Usually I then award my fake Hart to the player who gets some consideration in the former interpretation and the latter. However in this case both are pretty clear cut. I have always preferred the MVS interpretation, so Ovechkin gets it.

Norris

Doughty’s ice time this year was insane – he is now one of only nine NHL skaters to play more than 2300 minutes in a season. And this alone probably warrants a strong case for the Norris. My semi-scientific, completely blind, not very good “method” picks P.K. Subban this season, by both metrics, Point Share “rating” and Weighted Point Shares Per Game. So I’m glad it picked someone reasonable, unlike last year.

Selke

I really need to read up on possession stats so I can actually authoritatively say something about this award. In the past I relied on a not very good method so for the second year in a row I will be bailing on this and saying “Hey, I’m totally okay if Bergeron, Datsyuk or Toews wins this.” One for the book?

The Vezina

I like the 2100 minute cut off mark – every year that usually gives us around 30 or so goalies to choose from in terms of these awards. This year, 31 goalies played 2100 minutes (last year it was 29 goalies). We all know where this is going so let’s get to it. Among those goalies, Carey Price was

  • 5th in games played
  • 4th in games started
  • 1st in wins
  • 21st in losses
  • 16th in others
  • 14th in total goals against
  • 5th in shots against
  • 4th in made saves
  • 1st in save percentage as you know
  • 1st in GAA
  • 1st in goals against percentage (that’s goals saved relative to the league average)
  • 2nd in shut outs
  • 4th in minutes played
  • 4th in quality starts (what is this, baseball?)
  • 6th in quality start percentage (seriously!)
  • 19th in “really bad starts” (yes, that’s now a thing)
  • and 1st in GPS (by over 2 points)

Also, of the goalies to face at least 1900 shots this season, Price has far and away the best save percentage. Of the goalies to play at least 3500 minutes, Price has far and away the best save percentage.

It’s no contest this year. It’s why so many people want to give him the Hart. (But they shouldn’t!)

The Hasek (Most Valuable Goalie)

I invented this because some years it really isn’t that clear cut that the best goalie is also the most valuable. This is not one of those years. Take Price off the Habs and they drop out of the playoffs. Take Holtby off the Caps and the same thing happens, but the Caps weren’t the best defensive team this year, nor did they tally 110 points. Carey Price.

The Calder

I always feel like if a defenseman shines as a rookie, that’s more worth honouring than rookie forwards. The learning curve is sharper for D. Also, age plays a factor for me.

So, let me just say this: Here is a list of players by point shares in their age 18 season, in the history of the NHL.

  1. is Crosby – which makes me think I was wrong to argue Ovechkin deserved the Calder that year.
  2. is Aaron Ekblad. By Point Shares – a flawed metric if there ever was one – Ekblad has had the second greatest age 18 season of any skater in NHL history. So there’s that. But if you don’t like that, there’s this:

Aaron Ekblad: 12G, 27A for 39P, +12 in 81 games, 21:49 ATOI (#2 D on his team)

The guy just turned 19 years old. That’s very impressive. Scoring 60-something points in your age-20 (Forsberg) or age-21 season (Gaudreau) is not as impressive. That happens all the time, see: age 20, age 21. Shouldn’t we commemorate the historically great rookie season instead of the not particularly notable rookie season?

The Jack Adams

Peter Laviolette, as far as I’m concerned. I did not expect Nashville to be decent.

Team MVPs

This year I decided to do team MVPs as well because I’ve stopped watching games so that means I should say more! In reality, this is actually just a way for me to keep track who is decent, so I can do well on sporcle quizzes.

So let’s look at all the teams in the league and state their MVPs, staring from the worst, according to the Simple Rating System.

The Buffalo Sabres (30th in GF, 29th in GA)

How could they possibly have an MVP? Well players don’t tank, management does.

Despite playing in only 27 games, Michal Neuvirth led the team in Point Shares – he was that good for them. However, he was traded away to help with the tank so we cannot give the award to him.

Jonas Enroth came in second, but was also traded away.

That leaves team’s leading scorer as their MVP:

  • Tyler Ennis: 20G, 26A for 46P, -19 in 78 games, 19:07 ATOI

Ennis actually had a better year than last year, so that’s something and he’s looking like a pretty decent late first round pick at this point.

The Arizona Coyotes (29th in GF, 28th in GA)

Mike Smith has the dubious honour of leading this team in Point Shares despite posting his worst save percentage since 2011.

Ekman-Larson probably had a pretty good year, despite his situation. I should look up his possession stats.

So we have two candidates:

  • Oliver Ekman-Larson: 23G, 20A for 43P, -18 in 82 games, 25:13 ATOI; 8.8 PS
  • Mike Smith: 14-42-5, 0 SO, .904 SV%, 3.16 GAA; 9.3 PS

Now, I’m inclined to go with Smith because, relative to the rest of the league, the Yotes were slightly better defensively than offensively, and obviously that has a lot to do with goaltending. But the lack of shutouts kind of wants me to give it to OEL.

OEL played the sixth most minutes in the league of any skater, on a terrible team – everyone above him on that list is a potential Norris candidate – and the team around him is not his fault.  I’m really torn.

But I’ll give it to Smith because the goalie is always the most valuable defender.

The Edmonton Oilers (26th in GF, 30th in GA)

This is an easy one. The Oilers were significantly better offensively than defensively (relative to the league).

  • Jordan Eberle: 24G, 39A for 63P, -16 in 82 games, 19:03 ATOI

Your Toronto Maple Leafs (24th in GF, 27th in GA)

Ugh. Nonis’ version of this team has killed hockey for me even more than Burke’s – far more than Burke’s if I’m being fair. I may have a report card later this week even though I didn’t watch the games!

Jonathan Bernier led the team in Point Shares by a lot (okay, 4.1 to be precise, which is a lot).

But the team was better, relative to the league, offensively than it was defensively and so I think we have to go with a forward here:

  • Phil Kessel: 25G, 36A for 61P, -34 in 82 games, 18:48 ATOI

The Carolina Hurricanes (27th in GF, 19th in GA)

An almost average defensive team despite mediocre goaltending. That means a defenseman wins it!

  • Justin Faulk: 15G, 34A for 49P, -19 in 82 games, 24:26 ATOI

I think I have to take notice of this guy. Maybe he’S A Top 4 or even a Top 2 on a good team??

The New Jersey Devils (28th in GF, 14th in GA)

Well this is a no brainer:

  • Cory Schneider: 26-31-9, 5 SO, .925 SV%, 2.26 GAA

He was, like, the whole team.

The Philadelphia Flyers (22nd in GF, 24th in GA)

This one’s a bit of a pickle:

  • Steve Mason: 18-18-11, 3 SO, .928 SV%, 2.25 GAA; 11.3 PS
  • Jakub Voracek: 22G, 59A for 81P, +1 in 82 games, 18:36 ATOI; 8.8 PS

Mason’s line is rather amazing but the team was better offensively than defensively and Voracek finished on the leader boards in assists (2nd), points (tied 4th), goals created (14th), PP goals (11th), APG (3rd), PPG (9th), GCPG (20th). Mason was third in save percentage, 7th in GAA, 19th in Shut Outs, and 16th in overall PS. But, as I noted, the team was better offensively than defensively, and Mason didn’t face anywhere near as many shots as his competition.

Voracek.

The Florida Panthers (25th in GF, 18th in GA)

No question:

  • Roberto Luongo: 28-19-12, 2 SO, .921 SV%, 2.35 GAA

The Columbus Blue Jackets (10th in GF, 25th in GA)

Bobrovsky somehow led this team in Point Shares but I can’t pick a goalie on a team that’s Top 10 in the league in offense.

  • Nick Foligno: 31G, 42A for 73P, +16 in 79 games, 18:50 ATOI

The San Jose Sharks (17th in GF, 23rd in GA)

Another team where their goalie (Niemi) leads the team in Point Shares despite boasting a far better offense than defense – in this case an average offense. But it’s tight here:

  • Brent Burns: 17G, 43A for 60P, -9 in 82 games, 23:57 ATOI; 9.5 PS
  • Joe Pavelski: 37G, 33A for 70P, +12 in 82 games, 20:08 ATOI; 9.7 PS

Point Shares are way too biased towards Plus/Minus. For me, the more valuable thing is ice time.

Burns.

The Colorado Avalanche (21st in GF, 21st in GA)

Equally deficient offense and defense tells me to give it to the PS leader, which is the goalie:

  • Semyon Varlamov: 28-20-8, 5 SO, .921 SV%, 2.56 GAA

Let’s pause for a moment to once again mourn how Iginla came within 1 goal of being the 10th NHL player ever to score 30 goals thirteen times.

You’ve reached the halfway mark!

The Boston Bruins (23rd in GF, 11 in GA)

No question:

  • Tukka Rask: 34-21-13, 3 SO, .922 SV%, 2.30 GAA

Remember, this was a down year for Rask.

The Dallas Stars (2nd in GF, 26th in GA)

Well, this might be the easiest one. The Art Ross winner is the MVP of this team:

  • Jamie Benn: 35G, 52A for 87P, +1 in 82 games, 19:57 ATOI

The Anaheim Ducks (10th in GF, 19th in GA)

Somehow the Ducks tallied 109 points despite boasting an offense on the fringe of the Top 10 and a defense almost in the Bottom 10. This makes zero sense. And now they have won their first playoff game.

Anyway, Frederick Anderson is tied for the team lead in Point Shares but I think the forward he’s tied with should get it:

  • Ryan Getzlaf: 25G, 45A for 70P, +16 in 77 games, 20:06 ATOI

The Pittsburgh Penguins (18th in GF, 9th in GA)

The reverse case of the Ducks. For once Fleury has been better than average:

  • Marc-Andre Fleury: 34-20-9, 10 SO, .920 SV%, 2.32 GAA

Seriously, it’s been a career regular season for him: second most shots he’s ever faced in a single season and his best save percentage in which he’s played in more than 35 games.

The Detroit Red Wings (12th in GF, 16th in GA)

He hasn’t played enough, but he’s been better than everyone else on the team:

  • Pavel Datsyuk: 26G, 39A for 65P, +12 in 63 games, 19:03 ATOI

The Los Angeles Kings (20th in GF, 7th in GA)

So because of puck luck (or what have you), the Kings find themselves on the outside looking in despite being better (in theory) than at least three other playoff teams. Here’s the dilemma:

  • Drew Doughty: 7G, 39A for 46P, +3 in 82 games, 28:00 (!!!) ATOI; 8.6 PS
  • Jonathan Quick: 36-22-13, 6 SO, .918 SV%, 2.24 GAA; 12.1 PS

The Kings were nearly an elite defensive team while being shockingly weak offensively (given their talent). Doughtly was played at practically Prongerian levels this season but Quick had 6 shutouts (that’s a lot).

On the other hand, Quick’s save percentage was rather pedestrian and doesn’t he have to shoulder at least some of the blame for those 13 OT and Shoot Out losses?

Doughty.

The Vancouver Canucks (6th in GF, 17th in GA)

Here’s the dilemma:

  • Daniel Sedin: 20G, 56A for 76P, +5 in 82 games played, 18:21 ATOI; 8.5 PS
  • Radim Vrbata: 31G, 32A for 63P, +6 in 79 games played, 16:37 ATOI; 8.6 PS

I was kidding about it being a dilemma.

Sedin (Daniel).

The Ottawa Senators (9th in GF, 13th in GA)

So here is a dilemma of another sort:

  • Andrew Hammond: 20-1-2, 3 SO, .941 SV%, 1.79 GAA; 6.5 PS
  • Erik Karlsson: 21G, 45A for 66P, +7 in 82 games; 27:15 ATOI; 11.9 PS

That should be easy, right? Hammond didn’t play enough and Karlsson played a ton. But, Hammond is the only reason the Sens are in the playoffs, really. Hammond doesn’t qualify for the leader boards but can we really omit him because of something as silly as that?

I think it has to be Hammond due to the particular nature of his success and his team’s.

The Calgary Flames (8th in GF, 14th in GA)

We all know the fancy stats say the Flames shouldn’t have made the playoffs, but apparently the less fancy stats say otherwise!

This was Giordano’s award to lose (as was the Norris) as he put up 9 PS in only 60 games, but obviously, he got hurt and the Flames still made it:

  • Jiri Hudler: 31G, 45A for 76P, +17 in 78 games, 18:01 ATOI; 10.2 PS
  • Dennis Wideman: 15G, 41A for 56P, +6 in 80 games, 24:39 ATOI; 10.1 PS

Hudler wins on PSPG (well, Giordano would then) but Wideman played a lot more than he did, so I give to Wideman.

Can’t give an MVP to a player who missed as much time as Giordano did.

The New York Islanders (3rd in GF, 22nd in GA)

A ridiculously easy one:

  • John Tavares: 38G, 48A for 86P, +5 in 82 games, 20:40 ATOI

The Winnipeg Jets (15th in GF, 9th in GA)

This is a little harder:

  • Dustin Byfuglien: 18G, 27A for 45P, +5 in 69 games, 22:41 ATOI; 8.8 PS
  • Ondrej Pavelec: 22-16-8, 5 SO, .920 SV%, 2.28 GAA; 9 PS
  • Blake Wheeler: 26G, 35A for 61P, +26 in 79 games, 19:40 ATOI; 8.4 PS

Byfuglien didn’t really play enough – only twelve total minutes more than Wheeler – though he was pretty close to the team’s most valuable player when he did play. Pavelec also didn’t quite play enough. But those shutouts are huge. Wheeler was the best offensive player on an average offensive team.

Pavelec, barely.

The Nashville Predators (13th in GF, 8th in GA)

Another somewhat difficult choice:

  • Roman Josi: 15G, 40A for 55P, +15 in 81 games, 26:28 ATOI; 10.8 PS
  • Pekka Rinne: 41-17-6, 4 SO, .923 SV%, 2.18 GAA; 12.6 PS

Despite the reputation of this being an off year for Rinne – at least since January – it was among his best. Josi had a career year and would deserve this any other year.  But it’s hard for me not to give it to Rinne, despite his injury problems and his regression over the course of the year, because of his overall numbers.

Virtual tie, I grudgingly give it to Rinne.

The Montreal Canadiens (18th in GF, 1 in GA)

Well obviously it’s Price.

The Minnesota Wild (14th in GF, 4th in GA)

So, this is an interesting question (though it’s the same as the Ottawa question):

  • Devan Dubnyk: 27-9-2, 5 SO, .936 SV%, 1.78 GAA; 9.4 PS
  • Zach Parise: 33G, 29A for 62P, +21 in 74 games, 19:11 ATOI; 9.1 PS

Do we give it to the guy who was only there half the season, but saved the season? Or do we give it to the guy who was there the whole time? It’s easier than the Senators problem because the Wild’s MVS was a forward.

So Dubnyk.

The Washington Capitals (6th in GF, 6th in GA)

If the Hart winner doesn’t deserve his own team MVP, then we’ve got problems, in theory. But…

  • Braden Holtby: 41-20-10, 9 SO, .923 SV%, 2.22 GAA; 14.4 PS
  • Ovechkin: 12.6 PS

Remember I restrict the Hart to skaters, not so much team MVPs. By PS alone Holtby wins it (and look at those 9 shutouts!) but give that the team was equally good at both ends (relative to the league), I’d say it’s a toss up.

The PS would say Holtby, the Hart says Ovechkin.

 The Chicago Blackhawks (16th in GF, 1st in GA)

Well, this is easy:

  • Corey Crawford: 32-20-5, 2 SO, .924 SV%, 2.27 GAA

The Tampa Bay Lightning (1st in GF, 11th in GA)

Between two forwards as they were clearly a better offensive team than defensive:

  • Tyler Johnson: 29G, 43A for 72P, +33 in 77 games, 17:14 ATOI; 10.3 PS
  • Steven Stamkos: 43G, 29A for 72P, +2 in 82 games, 19:22 ATOI; 10.1 PS

So PS, PSPG and PPG give it to Johnson. There are two problems with this: I think there are very few people in the league who would argue Johnson doesn’t benefit from playing with Stamkos. There is a more objective objection though: Stamkos played more – over 250 minutes more over the course of the season – and PS is way too biased towards plus/minus, which is mostly luck.

So Stamkos.

The St. Louis Blues (5th in GF, 4th in GA)

Surprisingly clear cut:

  • Vladimir Tarasenko: 37G, 36A for 73P, +27 in 77 games, 17:37 ATOI

The New York Rangers (3rd in GF, 3rd in GA)

Rick Nash as we discovered earlier.

There you have it, all the awards that should exist and don’t and the awards I will never be allowed to vote for. Now let’s see how the NHL manages to screw this up in a few months!

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