Editor’s note: NHL Awards picks were made in April.
The NHL’s regular season is over, and while we wait for 16 teams to begin their journey toward hockey’s ultimate prize, it’s time to look at the top contenders for individual awards.
While several of the award races won’t ignite much debate, a few of them, such as the Selke and Norris trophies, lack a front-runner and will require careful research by voters to determine which player is most deserving.
Check out the top candidates for the end-of-the-season awards below.
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player)
1) Sidney Crosby, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
2) Ryan Getzlaf, Center, Anaheim Ducks
3) Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing, Detroit Red Wings
There’s no need to even invite three Hart Trophy finalists to Las Vegas because Sidney Crosby likely will be the unanimous choice. Crosby led the league with 104 points, 17 more than Ryan Getzlaf in second place. Crosby scored or assisted on nearly 40 percent of his team’s even-strength goals, and when teammates such as Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang missed a lot of games because of injuries (Pittsburgh led the league with over 500 man-games lost to injuries), the Penguins captain helped his team remain atop the Metropolitan Division with amazing consistency. Crosby tallied a point in 62 of the Penguins’ 82 games, and never went more than two games without scoring or earning an assist.
Crosby’s 38 power-play points rank third and powered the league’s No. 1 unit. He also won 52.5 percent of his faceoffs, led Pittsburgh with 41 takeaways and averaged 0:30 of short-handed ice time per game, all of which illustrate the defensive improvement he’s made in recent seasons.
Crosby was the league’s most outstanding player on a team that was decimated by injuries all season. He made a profound impact on every facet of the game and didn’t miss a single matchup because of injury.
James Norris Trophy (Best All-Around Defenseman)
1) Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
2) Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
3) Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Chara doesn’t have gaudy scoring statistics — although he enjoyed one of his best offensive seasons — that have given defensemen an edge in Norris Trophy voting over the last few years. The Bruins captain scored 17 goals with 23 assists in 77 games, including 10 power-play goals (second-most among defensemen).
Boston finished second in goals against and eighth in penalty killing, with Chara’s stellar defense among the primary reasons for that success. He tallied 104 blocked shots, 20 takeaways and 3:10 of short-handed ice time per game while also facing the second-toughest competition of any defensemen with a 27.4 QoC rating.
Chara finished the season as the only defenseman with an offensive-zone start percentage below 50, a QoC rating of at least 29.5 and a 5v5 corsi-for percentage over 54. Simply put, Chara helps the Bruins retain possession of the puck, turn defense into offense and defend the opposing team’s top players. He did this during a team-leading 24:39 of ice time per game.
The 37-year-old veteran is the league’s best all-around defenseman, and his ability to dominate games defensively and play several different roles in the attacking zone (playmaker, point man, setting a screen in the crease, etc.) makes him extremely valuable.
Calder Trophy (Best Rookie)
1) Nathan MacKinnon, Center, Colorado Avalanche
2) Ondrej Palat, Left Wing, Tampa Bay Lightning
3) Jacob Trouba, Defenseman, Winnipeg Jets
MacKinnon is a no-brainer for the Calder. The No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft exceeded expectations by leading all rookies in points (63), goals (24), assists (39), shots (241), power-play goals (eight) and game-winning goals (five) in 17:20 of ice time per game. He also ranked second in power-play points (17).
MacKinnon also broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for the longest point streak by an 18-year-old when he got on the scoresheet in all 13 games from Jan. 25 through March 6. Not only does MacKinnon have the stats needed to win this award, he also played an important role for a Colorado team that finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference.
The last Avalanche player to win the Calder Trophy was Gabriel Landeskog in 2011-12.
Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)
1) Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
2) Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
3) Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Rask was the best goaltender throughout the season, but he really cemented his status as the front-runner for the Vezina during an amazing month of March in which he went 9-1-1 with a .943 save percentage and just 19 goals against. He finished the season fifth in wins with 36 and led all goalies with seven shutouts.
Rask ranked first in save percentage (.930) and even-strength save percentage (.942) while also helping Boston finish second in goals against and eighth in penalty killing. His 2.04 goals against average ranked second among goaltenders who played in 40 or more games.
Rask anchored the NHL’s best team with stellar play on a consistent basis (never lost more than two games in a row) and deserves to win the Vezina Trophy for the first time.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)
1) Patrice Bergeron, Center, Boston Bruins
2) Anze Kopitar, Center, Los Angeles Kings
3) Jonathan Toews, Center, Chicago Blackhawks
Bergeron has been the standard of defensive excellence for forwards over the last three seasons. He finished fourth in faceoffs taken (1,732), first in draws won (1,015) and sixth in faceoff win percentage (58.4) among players who’ve taken 500-plus draws.
The Bruins center finished the season as the best puck-possession player in the NHL with a corsi-for percentage of 61.2, which helps illustrate that Boston out-shoots and enjoys more possession than its opponent when Bergeron is on the ice. In fact, the Bruins averaged 9.7 percent more shots when Bergeron was on the ice compared to when he sat on the bench.
Bergeron’s stellar defense (57 blocked shots, 49 takeaways, etc.) is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he played against elite competition, evidenced by his 29.5 QoC rating. He also started 34.7 percent of his even-strength shifts in the defensive zone and took almost every important faceoff in that area of the ice during 5-on-5 and the penalty kill. The 28-year-old forward led Bruins forwards with 1:58 of short-handed ice time per game, and his four short-handed points were the third-highest total in the league.
As the chart below shows, Bergeron has the toughest zone starts compared to other Selke candidates.
Bergeron is the most dependable player in the league, and his ability to shut down elite forwards and help the Bruins maintain consistent puck possession are among the reasons why Boston finished the season with the NHL’s best record. He also combined his consistently strong defense with the second 30-goal season of his career.
Jack Adams Award (Best Head Coach)
1) Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
2) Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
3) Claude Julien, Boston Bruins
Patrick Roy led the Avalanche to a Central Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs in his first year as an NHL head coach, and just one season after Colorado finished with the second-worst record in hockey. In fact, the Avalanche are the first team in 30 years to win a division after selecting No. 1 overall in the previous draft.
Roy instilled a hard-working attitude in his team, which was evident in its play. The Avalanche played a physical brand of hockey, blocked shots and battled hard in front of the net, all of which made them difficult to play against.
Roy also made a tremendous impact on starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who likely will be a Vezina Trophy finalist. As a former netminder, Roy was able to fine tune Varlamov’s game and improve his fundamentals, which resulted in the Russian goalie setting career highs in wins (41) and save percentage (.927). The Avalanche finished fourth in goals scored, an improvement from 26th in 2012-13. They also finished 14th in GAA, an improvement from 27th in 2012-13.
The Jack Adams usually goes to a coach on a team that improved the most rather than a coach on an elite club. Not only did Roy guide the league’s most improved team, his Avalanche were among the league’s best all season. He’s easily the best choice for this year’s award.
Advanced stats, such as CF percentage, GF percentage and TotTM percent QoC, courtesy of Extraskater.com. Here’s another helpful advanced stats link.
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