I saw something that caught my interest today.
Justin Bourne posted a fun PHWA fan ballot, allowing fans to vote on their award-winners for the first half of the NHL season. Since I’m some bum blogger and I’m not in the PHWA, I decided to make a fan ballot myself.
- Nathan MacKinnon
- Nikita Kucherov
- John Tavares
Once upon a time, Nikita Kucherov looked unstoppable. Now he’s still great, but he’s not quite the unstoppable monster he was at the beginning of the season. He also loses points, just a little bit, because of his Batman & Robin relationship with Steven Stamkos.
John Tavares gets the bronze because he has dazzled and he’s helped make Josh Bailey into a star, all while being his team’s best player.
Nathan MacKinnon got my first place vote because he’s willing the Colorado Avalanche back into the playoffs. The Avs were awful last season and some luck was bound to come back to them, but MacKinnon is second in NHL scoring and has 13 more points than any other teammate of his. That’s the league’s most valuable player right there.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Phil Kessel. Why? Because it’s funny. Also because he’s leading the Penguins in scoring by a wide margin for some reason.
- Alex Pietrangelo
- Victor Hedman
- John Klingberg
This one was hard. I find the Norris votes often draw the most criticisms and arguments.
Only seven of Alex Pietrangelo’s 33 points have come on the power play, which means he’s doing offensive damage at 5-on-5 while playing over 25 minutes per night. Hedman has almost the same amount of points and ice time but loses the tie-break because he’s on the (slightly) better team. John Klingberg plays over 23 minutes per night and is leading all defenders in scoring by eight points, which is nuts.
You might scream “What about so and so?!” Guys – it’s the Norris.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Whoever your favourite defender is.
- Mathew Barzal
- Brock Boeser
- Charlie McAvoy
Barzal is starting to pull away in the Barzal vs. Boeser debate. They’re both crazy good. You might argue that Barzal has a better supporting cast but two five-point games? Holy cow.
The Bruins have been unreal this season and having a rookie defender play nearly 23 quality minutes-per-game is a big part of it. McAvoy deserves to be on the ballot.
Crazy news as I’m writing this, by the way:
HONOURABLE MENTION: Clayton Keller. He has to play on the Coyotes.
LADY BYNG TROPHY
- Mark Stone
- William Karlsson
- Johnny Gaudreau
This award gets dismissed by a lot of people but it’s actually really difficult to win. You’ve got to play well against the toughest competition in the league without taking many penalties. Johnny Gaudreau won it with just four penalty minutes last season. On Saturday, Ryan Dzingel got four penalties minutes in one shift!
Mark Stone’s scoring is up, he’s a stick-lifting wizard, plays over 20 minutes per night, and only has six PIMs. He’s the leader right now, for sure. Vegas’s William Karlsson has 25 goals already and just eight PIM. Gaudreau has been a Top 10 scorer most of the season and still only has 10 PIM.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Auston Matthews. Just four PIM in 38 games but he has missed some time. He’ll deserve a look by season’s end.
- Patrice Bergeron
- Aleksander Barkov
- Sean Couturier
I’m pretty sure Patrice Bergeron has to win the Selke or the world explodes. Best two-way forward in the league and centre for one of the best lines in hockey. Barkov is an underrated two-way beast and is a treat to watch if you ever have free time to view an out-of-town game. Barkov’s five short-handed goals leads the NHL right now. Sean Couturier plays over 21 minutes per night against tough competition and sits fourth in NHL goal-scoring.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Leo Komarov. Mike Babcock is sitting next to me and I’m scared.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy
- Mike Smith
- Connor Hellebuyck
You might scoff that being the goalie for one of the league’s best teams is easy but Vasilevskiy has stolen more games for Tampa than you would realize, leads the league in wins, and his numbers are great. Mike Smith has been a fortress for Calgary and helped their resurgence. Winnipeg’s offence is ridiculous but you could argue Connor Hellebuyck’s success is their biggest reason for being a playoff team right now.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, and Corey Crawford had he not been knocked out of the Blackhawks’ lineup.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
- Gerard Gallant
- Bruce Cassidy
- John Hynes
The Jack Adams Award is essentially the “Hey, we thought your team would suck and they don’t” award. How do you beat being in first place with an expansion team? You can’t. Gerard Gallant wins hands down.
Bruce Cassidy gets a nod because while Boston wasn’t expected to be bad, I don’t think many pegged them to be the juggernaut they’ve turned into. Not to mention how well they weathered an early injury storm.
John Hynes could be leading the Devils to the playoffs. Can you imagine? This would mean that the team who won the draft lottery would end up making the playoffs the following season for the second time in a row.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche. What a turnaround.
GM OF THE YEAR AWARD
- George McPhee
- David Poile
- Joe Sakic
George McPhee built the best expansion team in pro sports history, so close the book on that. He wins.
Nashville was a great team last year but injuries made them weak up the middle. David Poile added Kyle Turris in a trade and Nick Bonino through free agency.
I hammered Joe Sakic last year but wow has he made off like an absolute bandit. He helped manufacture a three-way deal that saw him trade away Matt Duchene for seven pieces, and the Avalanche have been one of the best teams in the league ever since. It’s incredible.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Doug Armstrong. He moved up to the first round by trading Ryan Reaves, dumped Jori Lehtera’s contract, and added Brayden Schenn. On the same day.
ROD LANGWAY AWARD
- Alex Pietrangelo
- Drew Doughty
- Victor Hedman
Not gonna lie – I didn’t know this existed. It’s supposed to go to defenders who are the best at defence, which I find annoying. That’s what the Norris is for but people complain that the Norris is too much about offence. I added Drew Doughty to my Norris bunch and took out John Klingberg.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Zdeno Chara? Ron Hainsey? I feel like that’s who they want me to say.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
- Kris Letang
- Claude Giroux
- Mike Smith
This is supposed to go to a player who is doing great after suffering a bad injury, illness, or just poor play. I would nominate the entire Colorado Avalanche roster but I don’t think that’s allowed.
Kris Letang missed the back half of last season, all of the playoffs, and he hasn’t missed a beat. Claude Giroux went from Top 10 forward in the league, to a potentially disastrous contract, right back to where he was near the top. Mike Smith has been great but his biggest thing was getting traded out of Arizona.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Morgan Rielly for a breakout season. Ryan Johansen isn’t his usual self but that was a scary injury in last year’s playoffs.
Want to vote yourself? Here’s the link.