In the past I’m sure I’ve vented about how results went in the NHL Awards. Now I get to stop wagging my finger at others and get it wagged in my face instead.
Yes, yours truly is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association now and that means I get to vote.
Which ones? Only some of the most interesting ones. This year I had to fill out ballots for the Hart Trophy, Norris Trophy, Calder Trophy, Selke Trophy, Masterton Trophy, and Lady Byng Trophy. I also picked out what my NHL All-Star and All-Rookie teams would be.
In an effort to give full disclosure on my ballot and my thoughts, here goes nothing.
1. Alexander Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
2. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
3. John Tavares – New York Islanders
4. Sergei Bobrovsky – Columbus Blue Jackets
5. Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
For everyone who thought the Ovi vs. Sidney war was over, it secretly got re-fired up this year. Only downside was that there weren’t many head-to-head match-ups and each star had bouts where they either didn’t play well or didn’t play at all. I give the nod to Ovechkin because as he went, the team went with him. Coach (and blog favorite) Adam Oates figured out how to make it work for him and the team is thriving because of it.
That’s not to say Crosby was less than that. Far from it. He was easily the most dominant player in the league, but for me it’s about the importance to the team and Pittsburgh rolled on without him.
John Tavares’ candidacy is one I made enough of a stink about on Twitter and I believe the Islanders would’ve again been a lottery team floundering on Long Island without him. I certainly hope Brad Boyes bought him many a dinner for helping him have another bounce-back season.
Bobrovsky’s case is simple to make: He put the Blue Jackets in contention for the playoffs for the first time in five years solely based on his play in goal. The team was one of the lowest scoring in the league and that meant he had to be nails every night. Unfortunately the Jackets didn’t figure out Bob was their guy soon enough to lift them into the postseason.
Toews gets my fifth and final vote based on his leadership and fantastic all-around play. Doing that on the league’s best team says a lot. No, this wasn’t a throwaway vote.
1. Ryan Suter – Minnesota Wild
2. P.K. Subban – Montreal Canadiens
3. Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins
4. Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings
5. Dion Phaneuf – Toronto Maple Leafs
Suter’s play this season was impossible to not watch. Seeing how he would do after leaving Shea Weber’s side in Nashville was worth checking out anyhow. Seeing him thrive and become the go-to guy for the Wild and help groom rookie Jonas Brodin proved he was worth the money. Sure he struggled to start the season but you could see he was trying too hard to carry the team. Once he settled in he became the guy who earned my top vote for best defenseman.
Subban, meanwhile, showed the Habs why he was so important to them and why messing around with his contract was so foolish in the first place. He’s easily their best player and plays equally as strong both offensively and defensively.
Do I really need to explain Chara’s spot on my ballot? If I do, you haven’t been watching him play. Get it together.
Doughty, like Suter, did his part to carry the load for a team that needed the stability. Injuries nearly derailed the start of the year for the Kings but Doughty’s play settled things down. Also like Suter, he helped bring a rookie along into the fold (Jake Muzzin in this case) and helped him become a fixture in the lineup.
Sure Leafs players get lots of press and attention. I get that, but Phaneuf’s play this season was quietly awesome. His physical play and offensive skills have shone through all while being paired up with a host of different partners.
1. Nail Yakupov – Edmonton Oilers
2. Jonas Brodin – Minnesota Wild
3. Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida Panthers
4. Brendan Gallagher – Montreal Canadiens
5. Cory Conacher – Tampa Bay Lightning/Ottawa Senators
Rookie of the year makes for a vote that I’m fascinated to see how it turns out. Yakupov ruffled feathers with his exuberant play and celebrations but he just kept getting better as the season went along. Finishing with a hat trick in the final game and 17 goals in a short season earns the nod from me.
Brodin was nothing short of awesome in becoming Minnesota’s other top defenseman. Playing next to Suter helps out a lot, no doubt, but the kid is real good. Maybe we’ll see some of that against Chicago.
Huberdeau, like Yakupov, was also really good all season long and his play helped make this vote really difficult for me. I love his game and I love the future he’s set to have in the league.
Gallagher’s play with the Habs was consistently solid all year. He’s also good as a major pain in the ass type of player. Hard to not like that kind of player (unless you’re a fan of a team he’s playing). He and fellow rookie Alex Galchenyuk were equally good this season, but Galchenyuk’s play was only just starting to ramp up. Look out, Ottawa.
Speaking of Ottawa, Conacher got off to a flying start with Tampa Bay before being dealt for Ben Bishop (a pair of guys I’ve interviewed during their AHL stints during the lockout). He cooled off a bit at the end but it was a toss-up between him and Justin Schultz for my final vote. I went for Conacher.
Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with more words for the last few awards.
1. Jay McClement – Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Frans Nielsen – New York Islanders
3. Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins
4. Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles Kings
5. Ryan Callahan – New York Rangers
McClement was the very definition of a defensive forward. Nielsen has been sorely underrated as one in the past and showed how good he is again this season. I’ll likely take heat from you guys for having Bergeron third and that might be fair. Kopitar’s defensive skills fly so far under the radar I don’t know how many folks remember he’s one of the best there.
Lady Byng Trophy
1. Matt Carle – Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Logan Couture – San Jose Sharks
3. Henrik Lundqvist – New York Rangers
4. Martin St. Louis – Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Matt Moulson – New York Islanders
Go ahead, cry “East Coast bias!” if you want. Go ahead and figure out what criteria you think applies to this award.
1. Josh Harding – Minnesota Wild
2. Adam McQuaid – Boston Bruins
3. James Sheppard – San Jose Sharks
Listen, no one is beating Harding’s case for perseverance this year. Playing after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis is almost as slam-dunk as it gets. McQuaid’s story of overcoming a serious blood clotting problem that threatened his career might’ve done it for him any other season.
My All-Star and All-Rookie teams I’ll just list for you with no comment. Just know that the All-Star team required choices made at each position while the All-Rookie team asked for three forwards regardless of position.
NHL All-Star Team
Center: Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews
Right Wing: Alex Ovechkin, Martin St. Louis, Patrick Kane
Left Wing: Taylor Hall, Henrik Zetterberg, Rick Nash
Defense: Ryan Suter, Zdeno Chara, Drew Doughty, Dion Phaneuf, P.K. Subban. Francois Beauchemin
Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist, Sergei Bobrovsky, James Reimer
NHL All-Rookie Team
Forward: Nail Yakupov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Brendan Gallagher
Defense: Jonas Brodin, Justin Schultz
Goal: Robin Lehner