Down Goes Brown: What my NHL Awards ballot looked like

Patrick Kane accepts the Hart trophy as the league’s most valuable player from his favourite Batman actor, Michael Keaton.

The NHL handed out its awards Wednesday night, an event that was just slightly overshadowed by the league also handing out a brand new team. Still, awards night is one of the highlights of the off-season; hockey players in suits making awkward speeches and trying to be funny is always can’t-miss entertainment.

And now, fans can move on to the second half of the festivities: Yelling at the stupid writers for their stupid ballots full of stupid votes. As a voting member of the PHWA, I had a ballot for this year’s awards. I’ll post it here, then head down to the comment section where I swear I will fight every one of you.

(A reminder that all ballots were cast between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. The PHWA does not vote on the Vezina, which is picked by the general managers; the Jack Adams, which is picked by the broadcasters; or the GM of the Year, which is just weird.)

Hart Trophy (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”)

The winner: Patrick Kane, who ran away from the field for an easy win.

My ballot:
1. Patrick Kane, CHI
2. Sidney Crosby, PIT
3. Joe Thornton, SJS
4. Jamie Benn, DAL
5. Anze Kopitar, LAK

Kane wasn’t an especially tough choice here after pulling away with the Art Ross. I don’t factor any off-ice stories, good or bad, into my voting for awards that are meant to recognize on-ice accomplishments only, and Kane’s numbers made this a relatively easy call. I had Thornton a little higher than most, but otherwise this probably isn’t an especially controversial list.

Norris Trophy (“to the defence player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position”)

The winner: Drew Doughty, in a not-all-that-close vote over Erik Karlsson that people are still fighting over on the internet.

My ballot:
1. Erik Karlsson, OTT
2. Drew Doughty, LAK
3. Brent Burns, SJS
4. Kris Letang, PIT
5. Victor Hedman, TBL

The Norris was probably the toughest call on this year’s ballot. The Karlsson/Doughty debate raged for weeks at the end of the season, and started to feel like a Rorschach test for what you think a defenceman should be. I flipped back and forth between Karlsson and Doughty a few times; I think either would have been a deserving winner.

In my case, I didn’t worry about whether anyone was due (since that was largely a myth anyway), so it came down to Doughty’s always-solid two-way game vs. Karlsson’s admittedly less-balanced contributions. Living in Ottawa, I see more of Karlsson than most, and I’ve long believed that his reputation as a one-way player who hurts his team in his own zone is largely unfair. It may have been true when he won his first Norris in 2012, but it’s not anymore, and hasn’t been for some time. That said, Doughty gets the edge in the defensive zone, while Karlsson is the better offensive force.

So does offence trump an all-around game? Not always, and maybe not even most years. But when that offense results in near-historic numbers, then yes, I think that tips the scales to Karlsson. But it was close, and the voters disagreed.

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”)

The winner: Anze Kopitar, winning his first career Lady Byng.

My ballot:
1. Anze Kopitar, LAK
2. Aleksander Barkov, FLA
3. Johnny Gaudreau, CGY
4. Ryan O’Reilly, BUF
5. Pavel Datsyuk, DET

This one is always a tough vote, which is why you see so many names sprinkled across the overall ballot. My choices are admittedly weighted towards star players, which bothers some fans. But I’ve always felt that it’s much harder to play the sort of game that the Byng is meant to recognize when you’re the focus of the other team’s efforts night in and night out.

Selke Trophy (“to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game”)

The winner: Anze Kopitar, ending Patrice Bergeron‘s two-year winning streak.

My ballot:
1. Patrice Bergeron, BOS
2. Anze Kopitar, LAK
3. Joe Thornton, SJS
4. Sean Couturier, PHI
5. Jordan Staal, CAR

I thought this one came down to Bergeron and Kopitar, and the voters agreed — although most had it the other way around. If anything, the surprise on my list is the absence of Jonathan Toews, who’s been part of a Big Three with Bergeron and Kopitar over the last few years. He was good again this year, but I thought some other players were slightly more deserving. (Toews finished fourth in the voting.)

Masterton Trophy (“to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey”)

The winner: Jaromir Jagr, beating out Mats Zuccarello and Pascal Dupuis. (The NHL doesn’t release the specific Masterton voting numbers).

My ballot:
1. Jaromir Jagr, FLA
2. Mats Zuccarello, NYR
3. Pascal Dupuis, PIT

This is always a tough one. The award’s criteria are fairly clear, and on that basis Jagr is an easy enough choice to defend. But over the years, the Masterton morphed into an award that recognized the player who’d overcome personal tragedy, usually through some sort of health crisis. The PHWA has pushed back on this in recent seasons, reminding voters that Masterton consideration doesn’t require a visit to a hospital bed.

Recovering from injury or illness is certainly one form of dedication to be sure, which is why Zuccarello and Dupuis were deserving of consideration. But it’s not the only one, which is why Jagr was my pick.

Calder Trophy (“to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition”)

The winner: Artemi Panarin, who took home 88 of the 150 first place votes.

My ballot:
1. Artemi Panarin, CHI
2. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI
3. Connor McDavid, EDM
4. Jack Eichel, BUF
5. John Gibson, ANA

This one came down to how you interpret the award’s intent. If it’s meant for the best rookie, then that’s McDavid, no questions asked. But that’s not what the award says – it’s mean for the “most proficient” rookie, which is to say the one who had the best season. That sounds like it should clarify things, but then you get into the “what makes for a ‘proficient’ season?” debate.

Clearly, that would have been McDavid if he hadn’t been hurt. But he was hurt, and that has to factor in because playing well for 45 games is not the same as 70 or 80. McDavid was dominant when he did play, and there’s a case to be made for him winning anyway. In a typical year where the other rookies weren’t especially impressive, I’d have no issue voting for an elite player who only turned in half a season. But Panarin’s output meant this wasn’t a typical year.

(For the record, I don’t consider factors like a player’s age or previous professional experience. The NHL gets to define what it considers a rookie, and my job is to use that definition.)

NHL All-Rookie Team

The winners:
Forward: Connor McDavid, EDM; Jack Eichel, BUF; Artemi Panarin, CHI
Defence: Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI; Colton Parayko, STL
Goal: John Gibson, ANA

My ballot:
The same as the actual winners. (All-rookie ballots are not cast in any particular order.)
Once you’ve got your Calder ballot done, the All-Rookie team is a relatively easy vote. In my case, I just needed another defenceman, and Parayko was the choice.

NHL All-Star Team
The winners:
Centre: 1. Sidney Crosby, PIT; 2. Joe Thornton, SJS
Right Wing: 1. Patrick Kane, CHI; 2. Vladimir Tarasenko, STL
Left Wing: 1. Jamie Benn, DAL; 2. Alex Ovechkin
Defence 1. Drew Doughty, LAK and Erik Karlsson, OTT; 2. Brent Burns, SJS + Kris Letang, PIT
Goaltender 1. Braden Holtby, WSH; 2. Ben Bishop, TBL

My ballot:
Centre: 1. Sidney Crosby, PIT; 2. Joe Thornton, SJS; 3. Anze Kopitar, LAK
Right Wing: 1. Patrick Kane, CHI; 2. Vladimir Tarasenko, STL; 3. Blake Wheeler, WPG
Left Wing: 1. Jamie Benn, DAL; 2. Alex Ovechkin, WSH; 3. Johnny Gaudreau, CGY
Defence: 1. Erik Karlsson, OTT; 2. Drew Doughty, LAK; 3. Brent Burns, SJS; 4. Kris Letang, PIT; 5. Victor Hedman, TBL; 6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI
Goaltender: 1. Braden Holtby, WSH; 2. Ben Bishop, TBL; 3. Corey Crawford, CHI

Man, I probably should have bet on this one.

The all-star ballot usually reflects some of the other awards, and mine doesn’t contain too many surprises. The goalies always stand out here somewhat, since it’s the only chance for the PHWA to weigh in on the position. I had Holtby and Bishop very close, and considered a few names for the third spot before settling on Crawford.

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