2015 NHL Awards Primer: Finalists, snubs, polls

The Hockey Central at Noon crew discusses the finalists for the Hart, Calder and Norris and while they feel the Hart is Price's to lose, the Calder and the Norris proves to be a more difficult trophy to award.

Vegas, baby.

Once again, the NHL is hosting its season-ending salute to its best players, coaches and GMs in the blinking desert oasis of illusionists, hustlers and perhaps a new professional hockey club. (Where else can you parachute and blast a bazooka by day and catch glitzy hockey player by night?)

Hosted by actor and comedian Rob Riggle and featuring a musical performance by Daughtry, the 2015 NHL Awards will be broadcast live on Sportsnet on June 24 at 7 p.m. ET from the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino.

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Without further ado, here is your cheat sheet — finalists, winners, snubs — for all the hardware to be handed out at Wednesday’s gala.


Awarded to: Player most valuable to his team

Who decides: Professional Hockey Writers’ Association

Finalists: Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens), John Tavares (New York Islanders)

Who will win: Carey Price

Who should win: Carey Price

Outside looking in: Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Kane

Explain yourself: Perhaps if Kane had not broken his clavicle and missed the last month of the season, he would be a serious contender here. And in spite of Ovechkin’s preternatural ability to score 50 goals when no one else can, think of where Montreal would have finished without Price in net. The Canadiens’ offence ranked 18th, yet they won their division on the back of the most valuable player to his team. [MORE: Making the case for each Hart finalist]


Awarded to: Top goaltender

Who decides: NHL general managers

Finalists: Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild), Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens), Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators)

Who will win: Carey Price

Who should win: Carey Price

Outside looking in: Braden Holtby

Explain yourself: The Vezina is this year’s double-down on 11–a no-brainer. Price led the league in wins (44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933). The last goalie to hit that trifecta? Chicago’s Ed Belfour back in 1990-91. When you’re the only goalie nominated for the Hart, consider the Vezina a given.


Awarded to: Best defenceman

Who decides: Professional Hockey Writers’ Association

Finalists: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators), P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens)

Who will win: P.K. Subban

Who should win: Drew Doughty

Outside looking in: Duncan Keith, Roman Josi, Mark Giordano

Explain yourself: Tough call this season. Drew Doughty was the most dominant two-way defenceman in the league this season, but the trophy seldom goes to a blueliner who didn’t finish in the top five in scoring at his position. Karlsson has the greatest offensive talent of the bunch, but our money is on Subban–who strikes the best balance between production and name recognition and could lure voters into giving him his second Norris. Had Giordano not missed a quarter season to injury, he would’ve been a finalist. [MORE: Making the case for each Norris finalist]


Awarded to: Most proficient rookie

Who decides: Professional Hockey Writers’ Association

Finalists: Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), Mark Stone (Ottawa Senators)

Who will win: Mark Stone

Who should win: Aaron Ekblad

Outside looking in: Filip Forsberg

Explain yourself: Having written extensively on why Ekblad should become that rare Rookie of the Year defenceman, we won’t belabor the point here. Forsberg, a centre, led the Predators in scoring in both the regular season and playoffs and has a right to feel snubbed here. If ever there were a case for four finalists, this was it. Stone’s late-season push and edge in goals (26) over Gaudreau (24) should give him a slight advantage in a tight three-way race; Ottawa doesn’t make the playoffs without him. That former Senator Daniel Alfredsson is presenting this award makes us think he’ll be handing it to the guy he campaigned for. [MORE: Making the case for each Calder finalist]


Awarded to: Most outstanding player

Who decides? Fellow members of the NHL Players’ Association

Finalists: Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)

Who will win: Carey Price

Who should win: Carey Price

Outside looking in: John Tavares, defencemen!

Explain yourself: Formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award, the Ted Lindsay’s nominees frequently mirror those of the Hart. What we’ve learned, then: Writers prefer Tavares and players prefer Benn. No matter. This is Price’s hardware to lose. Consider all of the voters who failed to solve Price this season. Ovechkin has already captured this trophy thrice. Book Price as the first goalie since Dominik Hasek (1998) to be voted best amongst his peers. Note: In 45 years, only once (Bobby Orr, 1975) has a defencman won this thing.


Awarded to: Player who exhibits the best sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability

Who decides: Professional Hockey Writers’ Association

Finalists: Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings), Jiri Hudler (Calgary Flames), Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings)

Who will win: Pavel Datsyuk

Who should win: Jiri Hudler

Outside looking in: Sean Monahan, Radim Vrbata, Vladimir Tarasenko

Explain yourself: Hampered with injuries, Datsyuk had a less-than-stellar season by Datsyuk standards, but we’re giving the four-time winner odds based on recognition and reputation. With the Kings falling from champion to regular-season causality, Kopitar could suffer from a similar fate here as Doughty in the Norris. We believe the low-key Hudler should be rewarded for throwing up career highs in goals (31), assists (45), points (76) and plus/minus (+17) while reining in his PIMs to a career-low 14. Heck of an example for the kids in Calgary. [MORE: Making the case for each Lady Byng finalist]


Awarded to: Forward who best excels in defensive aspects of the game

Who decides: Professional Hockey Writers’ Association

Finalists: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)

Who will win: Jonathan Toews

Who should win: Jonathan Toews

Outside looking in: Nicklas Backstrom, Marian Hossa

Explain yourself: Can’t complain too much if any of these great two-way centres win, but it would’ve been nice to see Backstrom get recognition for his incredible campaign this year. Only one of these finalists qualified for the playoffs, and Captain Everything deserves his second Selke–even if he’s taking back-checking notes from Hossa. Arguably the best 200-foot player in the world, Toews led the NHL’s best team in points (66) and plus/minus (+30). He wins face-offs, plays both special teams and speaks fluent French. [MORE: Making the case for each Selke finalist]


Awarded to: Coach who contributes most to his team’s success

Who decides: NHL Broadcasters’ Association

Finalists: Bob Hartley (Calgary Flames), Peter Laviolette (Nashville Predators), Alain Vigneault (New York Rangers)

Who will win: Bob Hartley

Who should win: Alain Vigneault

Outside looking in: Paul Maurice, Joel Quenneville, Jon Cooper, Barry Trotz

Explain yourself: Typically an award that goes to the coach that does the most with a mediocre roster–and not the Quennevilles and Mike Babcocks of the world, who consistently coach into the post-season–Hartley’s against-all-odds run with the young Flames will be enough to win. Laviolette’s re-branding of Nashville as an offensive threat was impressive, but Vigneault’s guidance over his third Presidents’ Trophy winner in five seasons deserves more credit. That AV already won in 2007 may work against him on awards night.


Awarded to: Player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey

Who decides: Professional Hockey Writers’ Association

Finalists: Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild), Andrew Hammond (Ottawa Senators), Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Who will win: Devan Dubnyk

Who should win: Kris Letang

Outside looking in: Scott Darling, Shane Doan, Kimmo Timonen

Explain yourself: Dubnyk–traded, waived and left for done–had the best performance on the ice of the three finalists here, and thus is our bet to be rewarded with the Masterton as his Vezina consolation prize. But the perseverance of Letang (overcoming a stoke and multiple concussions), Darling (recovered alcoholic on his 12th team in five seasons) and Timonen (blood clots almost killed him yet he came back to win a Cup) is even more impressive in these eyes.


Awarded to: Player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season

Who decides: Mark Messier, based on suggestions by fans, clubs and NHL personnel

Finalists: Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg Jets), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)

Who will win: Jonathan Toews

Who should win: Jonathan Toews

Outside looking in: Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin

Explain yourself: Unlike the rest of the voters, the Moose has the luxury of casting his ballot after the playoffs are over. This means Toews–the youngest entrant into the Triple Gold Club and now a three-time Cup hoister–is a no-brainer for his first Leadership Award.


Awarded to: The best-performing general manager

Who decides: The GMs and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media

Finalists: Bob Murray (Anaheim Ducks), Glen Sather (New York Rangers), Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Who will win: Glen Sather

Who should win: Steve Yzerman

Outside looking in: David Poile, Garth Snow

Explain yourself: Unless 71-year-old Sather gets the sentimental vote (and he could), Murray has a shot at becoming the first repeat winner of this relatively young award, which was introduced in 2010. Since his 2014 victory, Murray acquired Ryan Kesler from Vancouver, Jiri Sekac from Montreal, Simon Depres from Pittsburgh and rightly held onto pending UFA Matt Beleskey at the trade deadline. Yzerman’s roster, however, shone brightest this season. Consider the free-agent additions of Ryan Callahan, Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman, then factor in the patient development of draft picks Ondrej Palat, Cedric Paquette and Nikita Kucherov. Stevie Y deserves his first trophy as a non-player.


Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy: Washington Capitals wing Alex Ovechkin, the league’s only 50-goal man, easily captured his third consecutive and fifth overall trophy as the NHL’s most prolific scorer. Not only did he put up 53 on the season, Ovie also surpassed Peter Bondra to become Washingotn’s all-time goal-scoring leader (472).

Art Ross Trophy: A first-time winner, Jamie Benn snatched the award for most points scored (87) in dramatic fashion, passing Crosby and Tavares with his four-point show on the last night of the regular season. The Stars’ first Art Ross champion then promptly underwent hip surgery.

William M. Jennings Trophy: The award for fewest goals against often goes to two goaltenders, but this is the second time those goalies play for different teams. The first was in 2003, when Martin Brodeur shared it with Philadelphia’s Robert Esche and Roman Cechmanek. Corey Crawford (2.27 GAA, .924 SVP) and Carey Price (1.96 GAA, .933 SVP) each played a minimum 25 games for the stingiest defensive teams in the league. Chicago and Montreal each allowed exactly 189 total goals on the season.

Conn Smythe Trophy: The first defenceman to be crowned MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since Scott Niedermayer in 2007, Duncan Keith logged more minutes than a weak micowave defrosting a 22-pound frozen turkey. A unanimous choice by the writers, Keith finished the post-season with 21 points in 23 games–including the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6.


King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Presented to the player who is both a leader on the ice and has made the greatest humanitarian contribution to hockey. No player has ever won it more than once, so count out Andrew Ference, Patrice Bergeron, Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla. If your awards pool goes this deep, bet on a veteran. Alex Ovechkin or Ryan Getzlaf, maybe?

NHL Foundation Player Award: Given to the player “who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community,” this slab of hardware is decided by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and executives Pat Flatley, Bernadette Mansur and Kenneth Martin, Jr. Eerily similar to the King Clancy, the Foundation Award is about doing good. Traditionally, the recipient gets to donate $25,000 — or the value of a Joel Quenneville obscene gesture — to a charity of his choice. Active winners include Patrice Bergeron, Henrik Zetterberg, Mike Fisher, Dustin Brown, Jarome Iginla and Ryan Miller.

(No polls necessary; everyone considered for these is a winner!)

**The William Jennings Trophy info was updated to reflect the second time the award was shared by goalies on separate teams.

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