Some people may not realize this, but this is the time of year when all the NHL awards are decided. In fact, most of them will have been picked already. The NHL awards, except for the Conn Smythe (playoff MVP), are picked after the regular season, and are not meant to take playoff performance into consideration.
For each award, I’ve listed my pick to win it as well as two other nominees. I’ve also selected a Canuck candidate for each award, which required a bit of creativity here and there.
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player)
Winner: Patrick Kane
Nominees: Braden Holtby, Erik Karlsson
After a controversy-filled off-season, many would not have been surprised if Kane’s play took a step back this season. Instead, Kane put up a career year, leading the league in scoring by a long shot. His dominant 106 points were 17 more than his runner-up, Jamie Benn. Kane is a no-brainer for the Hart.
His advantages over the other nominees include the fact that his team made the playoffs, unlike Karlsson, and that he had no other obvious MVP candidates on his team, unlike Holtby.
Canucks Candidate: Daniel Sedin- Almost gave this to Bo Horvat, but Sedin put his very best effort into this season and helped the young roster gain a little pride.
Calder Trophy (Best Rookie)
Winner: Connor McDavid
Nominees: Artemi Panarin, Shayne Gostisbehere
This Calder race is particularly interesting, because it will show what voters truly value. As with any “best of” award, it’s ultimately subjective what categories one weights most heavily. The rookie who produced the most was Panarin by a long shot, but he played with Kane all year and is much older and more experienced than other rookies, which may be held against him. Gostisbehere plays a more difficult position to enter into, and helped lead Philadelphia to the playoffs. However, if the voters are truly looking for the best rookie, and the one who performed with the greatest level of skill, it has to be McDavid. His point-per-game rate is the highest of all rookies, and he is doing that in his teen years with a relatively untalented team.
Canucks Candidate: Ben Hutton- A slam dunk pick. Despite the large number of rookies the Canucks iced, Hutton out-classed them all.
Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie)
Winner: Braden Holtby
Nominees: Ben Bishop, Martin Jones
This is a fairly easy one to pick, perhaps the easiest. Holtby was dominant from start to finish, and tied Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record fairly easily. Holtby continuously found a way to win, and helped the Capitals have their best regular season ever.
Bishop quietly had a great season, as well, with personal stats even better than Holtby’s. Jones gets in as the third nominee for his MVP-qualities, as he played a massive role in San Jose’s quick turnaround this year.
Canucks Candidate: Thatcher Demko- Getting a little creative here and considering goaltending performances at any level. Demko ruled the NCAA and earned a Hobey Baker nomination.
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Winner: Erik Karlsson
Nominees: Drew Doughty, Brent Burns
If the Vezina was the easiest pick, this is definitely the second easiest. Karlsson had a historic season, with a point-per-game and the league lead in assists, the first d-man to do so since Bobby Orr. Karlsson was simply unstoppable.
Doughty continues to be snubbed for the Norris, and may end up playing through his prime without ever winning one, as other players keep overshadowing him. Burns is a controversial pick, due to his questionable status as a full-time D, but he was only 7 points behind Karlsson this year and brings more bite to his game.
Canucks Candidate: Chris Tanev- Tempted to pick Hutton here, but Tanev is still the glue that holds the blueline together. Criminally underrated, but nice to see Tanev get some attention from Team Canada this summer.
Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)
Winner: Anze Kopitar
Nominees: Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton
The Selke is always a tough trophy to pick, as it is usually more of a “best defensive forward who is also great offensively” award than anything. With that in mind, it is hard to ignore Kopitar’s season, as he and the Kings dominated in almost every trackable statistic. Kopitar cracked the top-10 in scoring, and also had huge performances in things like faceoffs and possession numbers.
Bergeron is a perennial candidate, and it would be nice to see Thornton rewarded in some way for his resurgent season. All three candidates were in the top-16 in scoring.
Canucks Candidate: Jannik Hansen- Hansen fits the Selke profile perfectly; a forward who was always good defensively who is rewarded for a sudden offensive breakout.
Jack Adams (Best Coach)
Winner: Mike Sullivan (Penguins)
Nominees: Dave Hakstol (Flyers), Barry Trotz (Capitals)
The Jack Adams always seems to reward the coach that played the largest role in a team’s turnaround, and Sullivan was definitely able to visibly demonstrate that quality. The Penguins were absolutely floundering under Mike Johnston, and scoring stars Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel were mired in brutal slumps. After Johnston was replaced by Sullivan, the whole team caught fire, and they were paced by their best players, including Crosby who played himself back into MVP-contention.
Hakstol came out of nowhere to basically will the Flyers into the playoffs, and Trotz is rewarded for having such a dominant season in his first year with the Caps.
Canucks Candidate: Travis Green- Also getting creative on this one. There can be no real doubt that Green had a more successful season than Willie Desjardins, and managed to pull a lot from a depleted Comets roster. Unfortunately, Green’s performance may have been too good, and the team may lose him to an NHL opportunity.
GM of the Year (GM of the Year)
Winner: Brian MacLellan (Capitals)
Nominees: Jim Nill (Stars), Dale Tallon (Panthers)
MacLellan may be riding on the coattails of his teams’ dominant performance here, but he did play a large role in the Caps’ success. While the main pieces of the team, like Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Holtby, were not MacLellan’s acquisitions, he was able to supplement his team with smart pickups like TJ Oshie and Justin Williams, leading to Washington’s best season ever.
In Dallas, Nill made some important moves to supplement the burgeoning talent on his roster, including grabbing Johnny Oduya and Patrick Sharp. Tallon continues to make it work with limited resources in Florida, and has the fanbase excited once again.
Canucks Candidate: Jim Benning- I tried to pick out a lesser known executive, but it is hard to tell who does what, as Benning really is the creative force behind everything, for better or for worse. Many of his 2015-16 moves paid off better than fans were expecting, and it will be interesting to see how some long-term gambles develop.
NOTE: I’m going to leave out the Lady Byng, the King Clancy, the Masterton, and the (ugh) Mark Messier Leadership Award, as they’re all entirely subjective, and best picked by the people that actually interact with NHL players regularly