Beyond Crosby for Hart Trophy, tough decisions for NHL awards

The Canadian Press
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Picking NHL award-winners during an 82-game season with interconference play beats 48 without it.

Still, the big question this time of year winds up being: What makes a team tick? Did the Colorado Avalanche win the Central Division more because of coach Patrick Roy or goaltender Semyon Varlamov? Where would the Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers have been without Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux?

Piecing together those things went a long way to picking this ballot.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote for the Hart, Norris, Calder, Lady Byng and Selke, along with all-star and all-rookie teams. Broadcasters vote on the Jack Adams and general managers on the Vezina, but for the purposes of debate, let’s consider Roy and Varlamov tops in each of those categories.

HART TROPHY — Most valuable player

Winner: Sidney Crosby

On the ballot (in order): Claude Giroux, Ryan Getzlaf, Semyon Varlamov, Patrice Bergeron

With 104 points, Crosby ran away with the scoring race by finishing 17 ahead of Getzlaf. Whether by the the Hart’s strict interpretation as most valuable player to his team, or the award’s largely accepted definition as the best player in the league, it’s Crosby in a landslide and everyone else should be playing for second place.

Crosby had a part in 43 per cent of the Penguins’ goals, by far the most in the NHL.

Giroux struggled early, but when he started producing, he led the Flyers from the dregs of the Eastern Conference to a playoff spot. Getzlaf’s contributions, especially late, helped the Ducks hold off the Sharks to win the Pacific Division.

And though Roy should get plenty of credit, Varlamov is far and away the No. 1 reason the Avalanche made the playoffs. No goaltender in the league faced more shots than he did, and when he stopped 92.7 per cent of them Colorado won more games than it should have.

Bergeron was (again) Mr. Everything for the Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Trophy. When he was at his best, so was Boston during an absurd 15-1-1 March.

NORRIS TROPHY — Best defenceman

Winner: Shea Weber

On the ballot: Zdeno Chara, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan Suter

It’s incredible to think that Weber hasn’t won a Norris Trophy yet, and this could be his season even though you could make a legitimate case for six or seven players. Weber finished third among defencemen in points and played against some of the toughest competition while with the Nashville Predators.

Chara has also played some very difficult minutes, but the Bruins captain was also not as much of an offensive force as Weber and was actually 23rd among defencemen in scoring. Advanced stats such as quality of competition faced and zone starts make a favourable case for Chara to at least be in the discussion.

Keith garnered serious consideration because he was second in points and one of the huge reasons the Blackhawks are one of the league’s best, while Pietrangelo has quietly become elite in St. Louis. Suter led all players in minutes and played in all situations, so it’d be hard to argue against him, either.

CALDER TROPHY — Best rookie

Winner Nathan MacKinnon

On the ballot: Ondrej Palat, Olli Maatta, Tyler Johnson, Seth Jones

With 63 points and his role in the Avalanche’s impressive season, MacKinnon should win the Calder but it’s not as much running away as it might’ve looked a couple of months ago.

That’s because Palat was so instrumental in the Lightning staying afloat in the absence of Steven Stamkos and finishing second in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper relies on Palat and Johnson to kill penalties, too, and the rookies haven’t looked like rookies in that role.

Defencemen typically take longer to develop, which is why Maatta and Jones’s seasons were so impressive. Maatta surprised to make the Penguins out of training camp, and even though he hit a rookie wall at one point has been playing big and important minutes.

Jones, who could be fifth or just off the ballot if a player like Boston’s Torrey Krug gets some attention, showed glimpses of why he’s a future star in this league. He’ll need to improve, but the ingredients are there.

LADY BYNG TROPHY — “Sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”

Winner: Ryan O’Reilly

On the ballot: Rob Scuderi, Dan Girardi, Patrice Bergeron, Teemu Selanne

It took until O’Reilly’s 72nd game of the season before he picked up his first penalty, and it was for playing with a broken stick. In the meantime, he recorded 65 points, finishing behind only Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog in Colorado.

Scuderi, who missed time with a broken ankle, was a steadying presence when he was in the Penguins’ lineup and kept up as a strong defensive defenceman without taking too many dumb penalties. The same can be said for Rangers shutdown ace Girardi.

Bergeron had the most penalty minutes of his career, but being 211th in the league with all the situations he plays in should be worth something. And while Selanne’s production has fallen off at age 43, it’s hard to think of gentlemanly conduct without him.

SELKE TROPHY — Best defensive forward

Winner: Patrice Bergeron

On the ballot: Marian Hossa, Anze Kopitar Sean Couturier, Paul Stastny

Even though Jonathan Toews won this by a slim margin last year, watching Bergeron in the defensive end it’s impossible to not marvel at the little things he does. It’s not just about killing penalties but how he’s always in passing and shooting lanes and rarely makes mistakes, let alone ones that lead to goals against.

Hossa is the best defensive winger in the game and shouldn’t be ignored because this award has gone to a centre in each of the past nine years. Toews overshadows Hossa in Chicago, which in most years makes it hard to put him in the discussion.

Kopitar is one of the most responsible two-way centres in the game, while Couturier has found a niche as a shutdown player. Stastny has made the most of his defensive play even though things are crowded down the middle in Colorado.

ALL-STAR TEAMS

First-team forwards: LW Patrick Sharp — C Sidney Crosby — RW Corey Perry

Second-team forwards: LW Jamie Benn — C Ryan Getzlaf — RW Alex Ovechkin

Third-team forwards: LW Alexander Steen — C Claude Giroux — RW Phil Kessel

First-team defencemen: Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara

Second-team defencemen: Duncan Keith and Alex Pietrangelo

Third-team defencemen: Ryan Suter and Drew Doughty

First-team goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Second-team goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Third-team goaltender: Ben Bishop

ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

Forwards: Nathan MacKinnon, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson

Defencemen: Olli Maatta and Seth Jones

Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

 

 

Organizations: Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, NHL Philadelphia Flyers Professional Hockey Writers Association Bruins Blackhawks

Geographic location: Boston, Colorado, St. Louis Tampa Bay Chicago

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