What if the NHL awards were handed out for the playoffs?

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar considers a question during media day before Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Denver. (AP)

The annual NHL awards, which will be handed out in a ceremony on Tuesday that can be seen on Sportsnet (7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT), are earned for stellar performances during the regular season. But what if they instead were handed out strictly for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, like the Conn Smythe?

Who would the odds-on favourites be to get the hardware for top goalie, top defenceman, top defensive forward, top coach, top rookie, etc., for this year’s post-season? Luckily, we have a list.

Vezina Trophy

2021-22 finalists: Jacob Markstrom, Flames; Juuse Saros, Predators; Igor Shesterkin, Rangers

2022 playoffs winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Hard to ignore Games 1 and 2 of the Cup Final, sure, but there’s no ignoring what the best goalie in the game has done for the Lightning in these playoffs. Frankly, a week ago Vasilevskiy was the runaway candidate, far ahead of No. 2 Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers, but that distance has narrowed since. Nonetheless, outside the thin air of Denver, there’s no other goalie you’d want with games on the line. His stats are good, but the best part is: the dude knows how to win. All he did in the second round against the most potent offence in the league was allow three goals in four games, expediting a surprising sweep and reasserting his presence with authority. If the Lightning rally to beat the Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup, you’ve got to think Vasilevskiy would become the first goalie to win consecutive Conn Smythes since the Flyers’ Bernie Parent won his second straight in 1975.

James Norris Memorial Trophy

2021-22 finalists: Victor Hedman, Lightning; Cale Makar, Avalanche; Roman Josi, Predators

2022 playoffs winner: Cale Makar, Avalanche

As Sportsnet’s Justin Bourne expertly broke it down, Makar is having a Conn Smythe-level post-season. His puck control, his game control, his vision of the ice are unmatched by anyone in the playoffs, let alone by any other defenceman. And the guy is only 23. You could certainly make the argument that Tampa’s Hedman should be considered here as well, as the former Norris winner has continued his stellar and solid play on the blueline for the defending champs. But he’s not setting the tempo in the playoffs like Makar is, who can dish the killer cross-ice pass from his own end to create a great scoring chance or rush all the way up the ice to create a great scoring chance for himself. His breakout performance in Game 2 of the Cup Final was something to behold.

Frank J. Selke Trophy

2021-22 finalists: Aleksander Barkov, Panthers; Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (winner); Elias Lindholm, Flames

2022 playoffs winner: Anthony Cirelli, Lightning

Defensive blanket Cirelli played a large part in limiting the damage by Toronto’s Auston Matthews in the first round, completely shut down Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau in the second round and, after an initial hiccup, contained New York’s Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider in the third round. Against the Maple Leafs and the Rangers especially, Cirelli and linemates Brandon Hagel and Alex Killorn figured out how to adjust on the fly, repeatedly battling back to restrict the potent offence of their opponents. Zibanejad and Kreider had zero points in the last two games of the Eastern Conference Final because of the Cirelli line’s prowess. The Lightning relied more on shutdown than the Avalanche did to advance, and Cirelli’s trio has done relatively well against Nathan MacKinnon and Co., believe it or not.

Jack Adams Award

2021-22 finalists: Andrew Brunette, Panthers; Gerard Gallant, Rangers; Darryl Sutter, Calgary Flames (winner)

2022 playoffs winner: Jon Cooper, Lightning

Seriously, it’s a crime this guy hasn’t won the Jack Adams. We’re here to change that. No coach has consistently been able to get the most out of his team through three trying seasons and post-seasons than Cooper. He’s sharp, he’s tactical, he’s decent with the media, he has no problem pulling a guy from an intermission interview. He’s a perfect blend of new school and old school, with schooling-the-opposition results. One of the main reasons you can’t count out the Lightning in the finals is because Cooper is behind the bench.

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

2021-22 finalists: Zdeno Chara, Islanders; Kevin Hayes, Flyers; Carey Price, Canadiens (winner)

2022 playoffs winner: Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche

This award is typically given out to the player who fights through big, off-ice issues during the regular season. We’re not here to discount the struggles the real finalists had this year, and this won’t be a popular pick, but when it comes to the playoffs, fewer players pushed through off-ice challenges and turmoil better than Kadri, who scored a hat trick against the Blues after receiving death threats for crashing into and sidelining St. Louis No. 1 goalie Jordan Binnington in the third round.

Calder Memorial Trophy

2021-22 finalists: Michael Bunting, Maple Leafs; Moritz Seider, Red Wings; Trevor Zegras, Ducks

2022 playoffs winner: Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche

Byram could qualify for the Masterton as well, after struggling with post-concussion system for most of the season. But he appears to have his game back, playing around 18 minutes a game, averaging a point every other game and staying on the healthy side of the plus/minus ledger. Because of the superstar pairing of Cale Makar and Devon Toews, the Avs depth on D doesn’t get enough props, but you can’t win without solid defensive corps, and Byram has proved he’s got the chops in his baptism by ice.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

2021-22 finalists: Kyle Connor, Jets (winner); Jaccob Salvin, Hurricanes; Jared Spurgeon, Wild

2022 playoffs winner: Just kidding. Who wants to win the Lady Byng of the playoffs?

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