NHL: Awards Bring Questions On How To Value Players

Sidney Crosby
Stephen R Sylvanie USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s player awards were handed out in Las Vegas, and as individual awards can be, it was nothing if not predictable.

In all, 16 awards were given with the 17th award being the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player of the playoffs. That was given the night the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup to Kings forward Justin Williams.

Here is a quick run-down of the “lesser” awards.

  • General Manager Of The Year: Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks.
  • William M. Jennings Trophy: Handed to the goaltender(s) with 25 games played for their team and the lowest goals against. Jonathan Quick received the trophy for Los Angeles, as no other goalie played more than 19 games for the Kings. Oddly enough, Quick had the worst goals against average of any Los Angeles goalie this year.
  • King Clancy Trophy: Given to the player exemplifying leadership both on and off the ice. Won by Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andrew Ference.
  • Bill Masterton Trophy: Awarded to the player for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Won by New York Rangers forward Dominic Moore. For those unaware, Moore’s wife Katie passed away in January of 2013 to cancer and he did not return to the NHL until this season.
  • Lady Byng Trophy: This is given to a player who exhibits outstanding sportsmanship and conduct while maintaining a high level of play. Won by Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly.
  • Jack Adams Award: Given to the NHL’s top head coach. Won by Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy.
  • Art Ross Trophy: Awarded by the player who tallies the most regular season points. Won by Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby.
  • Maurice Richard Trophy: Given to the player who tallies the most regular season goals. Won by Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.
  • Ted Lindsay Award: Given to the MVP of the league as voted by the players themselves. Won by Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby.
  • Mark Messier Leadership Award: Given to the player who best exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, in the regular season. Won by Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown.
  • NHL Foundation Player Award: Given to the player who applies good hockey values to enrich his community. Won by Boston forward Patrice Bergeron

The rest of the awards are somewhat more notable and deserve a bit more than a blurb.

Selke Trophy

This is given to the forward who also excels at the defensive aspects of the game.

Winner: Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins

I wrote a piece at the end of the regular season about the three nominees for this trophy (Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews). To read my thoughts on why Kopitar probably should have won, I recommend that article.

Make no mistake, as far as a two-way forward goes, Bergeron is one of the best in the game. He also had a fantastic season both offensively and defensively. I have a feeling that if the Bruins hadn’t won the President’s Trophy as the league’s top regular season team, we might be looking at a different winner. That said, Bergeron didn’t start in the offensive zone very often and was relied upon heavily in key areas and situations by one of the best teams in the league. Not a whole lot of argument, really, just nitpicking.

Vezina Trophy

Awarded to the top goalie of the regular season, as voted by all 30 general managers of the NHL.

Winner: Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins

It was pretty foreseeable that Rask was going to win the Vezina trophy. As I mentioned earlier, these awards rarely bring forward surprises and Rask led all goalies in save percentage at .930 (Josh Harding’s 26 games should not count. That’s not even one-third of a season).

Along with the Selke article, I did write one on why I thought Rask would win the award but why Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche deserved the award more. To read why – and it goes deeper than the fact that he led the NHL in wins – just take a read here.

Again, like Bergeron, when a goalie is at the top in save percentage for the President’s Trophy-winning team, it’s a fairly predictable selection.

Calder Trophy

Awarded to the rookie of the year as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Winner: Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche

This wasn’t much of a surprise, either, and I wrote about why MacKinnon was a slam dunk. It really was the easiest one to predict, as he had one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory (keep this in mind: at time of writing, he’s still just 18-years-old).

What was laughable about this voting was where some of the first place votes went. This was honestly one of the easiest votes to cast for rookie of the year since maybe Steve Mason in 2009. Despite this, Boston’s Torey Krug and Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba both received a first place vote. In that article, I write about how Trouba should have probably been in the top-3. There was no rookie that was close to MacKinnon’s class this year.

Norris Trophy

Awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the regular season.

Winner: Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks

I won’t get into the details of why Keith should not have won this award – that’s what this article I wrote back in May is for – but I will say two things:

  1. It’s easy to flourish offensively when you play against second and third liners, as Keith did this year, unlike the other nominees.
  2. Duncan Keith averaged fewer first assists per 60 minutes of five-on-five ice time than teammate Sheldon Brookbank. Yes, THAT Sheldon Brookbank, he of 27 points in 215 career NHL games. Things probably would have averaged out eventually as Brookbank only played 48 games, but Keith also had fewer first assists per 60 minutes than defense partner Brent Seabrook. There is literature on why second assists are pretty much luck of the draw and a non-repeatable skill. Only 12 of 32 assists at five-on-five this year for Keith were primary assists.

The voting breakdown wasn’t egregious, though I’d like to meet the writer who voted New York’s Ryan McDonagh second among all defensemen.

Hart Trophy

Handed out to the NHL’s most valuable player.

Winner: Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It was a landslide. It wasn’t even close. Crosby tallied more voter points than second place Ryan Getzlaf and third place Claude Giroux combined. I wrote about how it was really one of the best regular seasons from a player in the last 20 years. There are, again, some interesting notes about how the voting broke down:

  • Semyon Varlamov, who did not win the Vezina as the top goalie, finished fourth in MVP voting with a little under eight times as many voter points as the Vezina-winning Rask. I know one is voted by GMs and one by writers, but that shows the huge disconnect in how to value hockey players that exists across the industry as a whole.
  • Someone voted Sidney Crosby third. Third! It would be nice to know which writer looked at the candidates and said “Crosby wasn’t one of the top two most valuable players this year.”

Those are how the awards fell this year. This might be outrage for no reason, but a year after the PHWA voted Alex Ovechkin as an all-star to both left wing and right wing, there are more than a few questions about the quality of the voting process.

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