What do Sidney Crosby, Shea Weber, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly have in common? They would be accepting National Hockey League hardware on June 25 in Las Vegas if this member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association had his way.
April 16 marks the voting deadline for PHWA members, and though the Association—full disclosure: I am a vice president—does not mandate that each of its members disclose their votes, I am happy to do so. If you sense a Western bias, well, the fact is, the West is a better conference these days, so it probably should furnish more award winners.
The NHL entrusts members of the PHWA to vote for the Hart Trophy (MVP), the Calder Trophy (top rookie), the Norris Trophy (best defenceman), the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) and the Lady Byng (most sportsmanlike), ranking our choices one through five. The Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) is voted on by the 30 NHL general managers, while the Jack Adams Award (best coach) is entrusted to the NHL Broadcasters Association. I would give those awards to Semyon Varlamov and Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche if I were voting.
PHWA members also vote on the year end All-Star teams. There were 154 members of the PHWA entrusted with voting privileges this spring.
Here’s what my ballot looked like:
“To the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”
That Sid Crosby has won just one Hart Trophy while being the consensus “Best Player in the Game” for how many years now is perplexing. Well, it will be less so when he wins his second Hart in June.
Crosby returned to 80-game status after injury-shortened seasons of 36 and 22 games, and has been the wire-to-wire scoring leader this season. And what about that tricky wording of the award—“the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team?” He satisfies that as well. In a season that saw massive injuries throughout Pittsburgh’s lineup, the Penguins still walked away with the Metropolitan Division thanks to Crosby’s leadership and production.
Out on the West Coast, Ryan Getzlaf was refining his game to perhaps the highest it has been outside of the Olympic Games. Anaheim set numerous team records with 54 wins and 116 points, and their captain Getzlaf had a career-high 31 goals plus 87 points in 77 games played.
Honorable mention: Goaltender Varlamov, who worked behind a no-name defence in Colorado and gave the Avalanche goaltending that helped them move from 29th place last year to 3rd overall and a Central Division title this season.
My Hart ballot: 1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh 2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim 3. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado 4. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia 5. Jonathan Toews, Chicago
“To the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”
Shea Weber had a career high in points with 23-33-56, but also led the Norris candidates in hits and blocked shots—two categories I believe should be weighed heavily in voting for this trophy. A two-time runner-up for the Norris, it’s strange to think that a guy annually in the conversation for best defenceman in the game has not yet been validated with a Norris Trophy. This season, with a league-high (for D-men) 23 goals for Nashville, plus his super solid, physical defensive presence, Weber’s time has come.
My runner up is Chicago’s Duncan Keith, who Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville recently said had his best season—ever. Keith is the perfect mix of a power play quarterback/30-shifts per night defenceman whose foot speed allows him to defend positionally the way Scott Niedermayer used to. His 55 assists led all blueliners.
My Norris ballot: 1. Shea Weber, Nashville 2. Duncan Keith, Chicago 3. Ryan Suter, Minnesota 4. Zdeno Chara, Boston 5. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles
“To the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.”
This award has been a tougher decision in recent years, like two years ago when eventual winner Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had 52-point seasons, yet RNH had played 20 less games. Landeskog prevailed on intangibles that year. This time, Colorado teammate Nathan MacKinnon wins hands down in what may turn out to be a unanimous vote.
MacKinnon’s ice time increased when Matt Duchene went down at the end of March, and he has played even better with the added responsibility at both right wing and centre. This kid will lead the league in scoring one day, but for now, he will have to settle for the Calder Trophy, not the Art Ross.
Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba gets my nod for runner up, leading all rookies in ice time per game with 22:26. He’s 20 and playing a more difficult position as a rookie than Tampa’s 23-year-old Ondrej Palat (I know, age isn’t a factor), who was clearly the best rookie forward behind MacKinnon. Honourable mention to defenceman Hampus Lindholm in Anaheim, who had a 30-point season and was plus-29. Lindholm would go higher than sixth overall if the 2012 draft were held again today.
My Calder ballot: 1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado 2. Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg 3. Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay 4. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim 5. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay
Frank. J. Selke Trophy
“To the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”
Anze Kopitar’s time has come. The big Slovenian has even won over one of the toughest graders in the game—his own head coach in Los Angeles, Darryl Sutter. The Kings are the stingiest defensive team in the NHL, and rank second in shots allowed and faceoff percentage. Plenty of that owes to Kopitar, a guy who didn’t miss a game all year, had 70 points, was a plus-34 and won 53.3 percent of his draws.
Patrice Bergeron will be in the Selke conversation as long as he is in the league, and is a close second place on my ballot. Ditto for Jonathan Toews, whose all-around game is simply magnificent.
My Selke ballot: 1. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles 2. Patrice Bergeron 3. Jonathan Toews, Chicago 4. David Backes, St. Louis 5. Andrew Cogliano, Anaheim
Lady Byng Trophy
“To the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
This one is always tough, and has in recent seasons been the shared property of Martin St. Louis and Pavel Datsyuk, who together have won seven of the past eight Lady Byngs. This year, however, I’m going with Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly, who put together a career-high 28 goals and 64 points, while registering just a single minor penalty.
The call? Playing with a broken stick.
My Lady Byng ballot: 1. Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado 2. Patrick Marleau, San Jose 3. Matt Duchene, Colorado 4. David Krejci, Boston 5. Tyler Seguin, Dallas
My All-Star Teams
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh 2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim 3. Tyler Seguin, Dallas
1. Corey Perry, Anaheim 2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington 3. Phil Kessel, Toronto
1. Joe Pavelski, San Jose 2. Jamie Benn, Dallas 3. Taylor Hall, Edmonton
1. Shea Weber, Nashville 2. Duncan Keith, Chicago 3. Ryan Suter, Minnesota 4. Zdeno Chara, Boston. 5. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles
6. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa.
1. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado 2. Tuukka Rask, Boston 3. Carey Price, Montreal
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado 2. Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay 3. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay
1. Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg 2. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim