The grand reveal of the Golden Knights’ roster and a flurry of player movement pushed the actual awards portion of the NHL Awards to the sidebar Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
But some fantastic, historic, heart-tugging and surprising moments took place outside of Steve Yzerman finding a way to not buy out Jason Garrison.
Auston Matthews turned the Calder Trophy race into a Roadrunner cartoon, Erik Karlsson had a night to forget, and the Canucks were the butt of the night’s best joke.
Here are 10 things we learned from the NHL Awards, which we picked up between crowd shots of Sofia Vergara, who sparkled like Marc-Andre Fleury’s smile.
Mike Babcock just cannot win a Jack Adams Trophy
Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach led 2015-16’s last-place team—a roster half full of rookies—into the playoffs and gave the Presidents’ Trophy–winning Capitals all they could handle in Round 1 of the playoffs, the Jack Adams still eludes the coach who’s won pretty much everything else.
Not-so-fun fact: Five of the past seven Jack Adams winners have already been fired by the team with which they won the honour.
Columbus’s John Tortorella, who had 39 first-place votes to Babcock’s 24, captured his second Coach of the Year trophy for the remarkable job he did rallying the Blue Jackets.
“Not so sure I’d be up here if it was the media. So, the broadcasters, thank you very much,” said Tortorella, who acknowledged that good goaltenders make good coaches.
“I had a pretty good goalie, the guy who’s going to win the Vezina. I’m not sure it’s been announced, but he’s gonna win it.” Spoiler alert?
We’re not so sure two-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Sullivan was the eighth-best coach this season, but that’s where he fell in the voting.
Also interesting: Peter Laviolette, who led the Predators to the Cup Final, did not receive a single Jack Adams vote. Claude Julien did, and the man was fired mid-season.
Connor McDavid took home everything except the podium itself
The Edmonton Oilers captain won the Ted Lindsay (presented by Mr. Lindsay), the Hart Trophy (presented by Mr. Gretzky), the Art Ross Trophy, and was named EA Sports’ NHL 18 cover boy.
“I’m so proud to be in Edmonton. I’m so proud to be an Oiler,” McDavid said.
What’s more, McDavid also charted in Selke voting (16th) and Lady Byng voting (14th)
and Vezina voting (fifth).
It wasn’t just that he won the Hart, the voting wasn’t even close. McDavid registered 147 first-place votes for the league MVP, while Sidney Crosby only had 14.
“This isn’t going to be his only awards,” said Crosby. “He’s going to win a lot more.”
Sergei Bobrovsky (four), Brent Burns (one) and Brad Marchand (one) were the only other players to receive first-place Hart votes.
Auston Matthews is king of the jungle
The first Maple Leaf to capture the Calder Trophy since 1966, Auston Matthews’ ferocious 40-goal rookie campaign turned the Rookie of the Year debate into a laugher.
Matthews took 164 first-place votes and three second-place votes. No writer put him any lower on the ballot. (The Leafs newbie also finished sixth in Lady Byng voting.)
Calder runner-up Patrik Laine took just three first-place votes and 134 second-place tallies.
Mitch Marner finished fifth and William Nylander sixth, giving the Leafs half of the top six Calder nominees.
“Leafs Nation — you guys are the best fans in the league,” said Matthews, who brought Mom as his date. “I took a very special lady with me.”
Matt Murray finished fourth in Calder voting, begging the question: How many Stanley Cups does a goalie gotta win before he can be considered a Calder finalist? Three?!
The night’s best joke came at the expense of a Canadian team
Jacob Tremblay (the B.C. kid actor who was brilliant in 2015’s Room) delivered the gala’s best line during the announcement of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
“Speaking of perseverance… I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan,” Tremblay said. “For me, it’s been a long 10 years.”
Cut to: Crosby, Babcock and Gary Bettman laughing their faces off.
Tough night for Karlsson
In the most dramatic reveal of the evening, Brent Burns squeaked by Erik Karlsson to claim his first Norris Trophy. A whopping 23 different D-men received Norris votes.
Burns also became the first defenceman in 17 years to be voted as a Ted Lindsay finalist, showing the respect he commands from his peers.
.@Burnzie88 signed some autographs at Disney World – not because he's a hockey player, but because kids thought he was a pirate. pic.twitter.com/eNp30Xi82t
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) June 21, 2017
Burns registered 1,437 voting points to Karlsson’s 1,292 (honestly, that’s tight) and was the only defenceman receiving votes on all 167 ballots.
That means some professional hockey writers (not this one) actually believe Karlsson does not rank among the top five defencemen in the world.
Not only did Karlsson miss out in another close Norris vote (last year he lost to Drew Doughty), but he was hobbling around with his foot in a cast, and his defence partner, Marc Methot, got drafted by Vegas.
Karlsson could be seen recording Methot’s selection on his phone, presumably so he could watch it back when he needs a good cry.
— Sensfeld (@Sensfeld) June 22, 2017
Bergeron is the new Gainey
Very cool scene as Canadiens legend Bob Gainey presented future Bruins Hall of Famer Patrice Bergeron with his fourth Frank J. Selke Trophy.
The only four-time winners in NHL history, Gainey and Bergy are now locked in a two-way tie for the two-way forward award. Bergeron has finished first or second in Selke voting in each of the past six seasons. Remarkable.
(P.S. Maple Leafs centre Nazem Kadri appeared on five Selkes ballots — not mine — and finished 20th overall. He wanted to be in the conversation, and now he is.)
“David Poile, looking lit!”
Ever hear a sentence and think, “That’s probably the first time that sequence of words has ever been uttered”?
“David Poile, looking lit!” is something celebrity host Joe Manganiello said Wednesday night of the GM of the Year.
Poile, who traded for P.K. Subban and Ryan Johansen, ran away with the honour, earning 18 first-place votes.
Interesting to note that Ottawa finalist Pierre Dorion actually had fewer first-place votes than Toronto’s Lou Lamoriello and Anaheim’s Bob Murray — a low-key winner by getting Vegas to take Clayton Stoner instead of Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson.
What about Bob?
As Tortorella predicted, Sergei Bobrovsky became the first multiple Vezina Trophy champ since Boston’s Tim Thomas, securing 25 of a possible 29 first-place votes.
Runner-up Braden Holtby got four, and fourth-place finisher Cam Talbot grabbed the other. Finalist Carey Price received zero first-place votes and just two second-place votes.
Gaudreau’s Lady Byng victory makes complete sense
“I was with him last night!” exclaimed NHL legend Marcel Dionne as he opened the envelope to reveal Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau as the most sportsmanlike player in the league.
Not only does Johnny Hockey put up with your hand-slashes, he parties in Vegas with a 65-year-old leg man.
The Andersons and Bickells: Heart Trophy winners
Canucks chirps notwithstanding, the NHL has always struggled to do comedy justice (the less said about Iceburgh’s strip tease or the Penn & Teller sketch, the better).
But what hockey got so right on this night was its honouring of Sens goaltender Craig Anderson with the Masterton and Bryan Bickell with an emotional video tribute.
The shot of a teary-eyed Nicolle Anderson as her award-winning husband advised the room to “Live for the now” put all the sparkle and pomp in perspective.
The Bickell tribute was a touching surprise, one that drew a standing ovation from his peers.
So cool to see Carolina coach Bill Peters choose Bickell for the shootout in his final game, and then hear from Bickell’s wife Amanda, who described watching Bryan score on his final NHL shot.
“I threw my daughter in the air and hoisted her like a Stanley Cup,” said Amanda, tears in her eyes.
Bryan Bickell you are one tough dude your journey is inspirational
— Rick Tocchet (@RealRocket22) June 22, 2017