Every year, the National Hockey League hands out its official awards, typically based on balloting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association or the league’s general managers. Last year, for the first time, we at The Hockey Writers leaped into the field and conducted our own awards balloting.
Despite a lockout-shortened hockey season, we’ve decided to make the balloting an annual traditional and have conducted our second straight year of awards. Voting was conducted by e-mail between April 29 and May 31 and voters were instructed to provide up to three choices (a first, second and third-place vote) for each category, focusing on regular season accomplishments. All active THW contributors were eligible to vote, regardless of if they were brand-new or a seasoned veteran.
The only significant change from last year’s voting was in weighting points – first place votes were worth 5 points (up from 3 points in 2012), second place votes were worth 3 points (up from 2 in 2012) and third place votes remained worth 1 point apiece. Overall, 27 ballots were cast for the awards.
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER
Modeled after the NHL’s Hart Trophy, this award seeks to acknowledge the player who had the best year and whose contributions most helped their team succeed.
WINNER: Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (receiving 12 of the 27 first-place votes and appearing on 18 of 27 ballots)
For the second year in a row, a Penguin was voted the league’s best player. Crosby rebounded from missing a lot of time in 2011-12 by (a) missing significantly less time and (b) posting great numbers for Pittsburgh when he was in the line-up. “Sid The Kid” was among the league leaders in assists (second), points (tied for third), plus/minus (fourth) and even-strength points (fourth). Imagine how good his stats could’ve been if he hadn’t missed 12 games.
RUNNERS-UP: Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and John Tavares of the New York Islanders
2012 WINNER: Evgeni Malkin
DETAILS: Eight different players (seven forwards, one goalie) received votes and seven players were first-choice selections. Crosby had nearly double the points as Ovechkin, the first-runner-up, who rebounded from being THW’s 2012 Biggest Disappointment. Oddly, Malkin received no votes after winning this award last year.
MOST OUTSTANDING ROOKIE
Modeled after the NHL’s Calder Trophy, this award showcases the first-year NHL player who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers (receiving 10 of the 27 first-place votes and appearing on 18 of 27 ballots)
The third player selected in the 2011 NHL Draft, Huberdeau’s NHL debut was delayed by the lockout, which saw him ply his trade with his junior team in the QMJHL and take a trip to Russia for the World Juniors. He played well, but didn’t have a lot of team success in either venue. The pattern continued in Florida, where Huberdeau finished the year second in NHL rookie scoring and second in team scoring. He was arguably given the least back-up of any of the league’s rookies, but Huberdeau made the most of it.
RUNNERS-UP: Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens and Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks
2012 WINNER: Gabriel Landeskog
DETAILS: Eleven different first-year players (seven forwards, four defenders) received votes and eight of them were first-choice selections. Huberdeau won by 21 points over Gallagher. Rookie scoring leader Nail Yakupov finished fifth in the voting (behind Huberdeau, Gallagher, Saad and Jonas Brodin).
MOST OUTSTANDING GOALTENDER
Modeled after the NHL’s Vezina Trophy, this category celebrates the goaltender who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets (receiving 20 of the 27 first-place votes and appearing on 25 of 27 ballots)
A crowded crease in Philadelphia a year ago saw the Flyers cast off a young netminder to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. That goalkeeper was a major part of the Jackets’ turn-around in 2012-13. Bobrovsky had an excellent stint with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL during the lockout, then carried that momentum into the NHL season. He was seventh in wins, fourth in goals against average among regular goalies, second in save percentage among regular goalies and tied for second in shutouts. More importantly, his consistently stellar goaltending gave the Blue Jackets confidence, which in turn led to them stealing quite a few games down the stretch – including a string of 12 games without a regulation loss.
RUNNERS-UP: Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks
2012 WINNER: Jonathan Quick
DETAILS: Ten different goalies received votes and five of them were first-choice selections. Bobrovsky won in a walk, amassing more than double Lundqvist’s points. King Henrik was the first runner-up for the second consecutive year. Niemi edged out Craig Anderson and Tuukka Rask for third place. Much like last year’s Most Outstanding Player winner Evgeni Malkin, Quick garnered no votes for this award this year.
MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENSEMAN
Our version of the Norris Trophy, this award is given to the defenseman who had the most outstanding season, focusing on all aspects of the position.
WINNER: P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens (receiving 10 of the 27 first-place votes and appearing on 21 of 27 ballots)
Previously considered a good young defender with a lot of promise, Subban made a big leap forward into the upper echelon this season with Montreal. Subban was among the NHL’s top blueliners in goals (second), assists (third), points (first), power-play goals (second), and shots on goal (third). His emergence as an offensive threat really helped out Montreal’s power-play and was a key factor in the Habs making the playoffs.
RUNNERS-UP: Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins
2012 WINNER: Erik Karlsson
DETAILS: Nine players received votes and only four of them garnered first-place votes. This was the tightest race, with Subban winning by eight points over Suter and 10 over Letang. Francois Beauchemin received the other first place votes.
MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE DEFENSEMAN
In a bit of a divergence, stemming from a bit of a perception that the Norris Trophy focuses more on a defender’s scoring prowess than their ability to stop the other team’s best players. So here we have a category that celebrates the shutdown defender, awarding this to the defenseman who had the most outstanding season, focusing primarily on the defensive aspects of the position.
WINNER: Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins (receiving 7 of the 27 first-place votes and appearing on 15 of 27 ballots)
For the second straight season, Boston’s beloved blueline behemoth was voted top defensive rear-guard. Chara continues to be a fixture on the Bruins back-end, particularly going up against the other team’s top lines. If it’s a key situation – like over-time or when the Bruins are nursing a tight lead, Chara is relied upon heavily to keep things under wraps. While his offensive numbers took a bit of a dip, he remains focused on the important things – like keeping pucks out of his net.
RUNNERS-UP: Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks and Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers
2012 WINNER: Zdeno Chara
DETAILS: Like last year, this was a bit of a horse-race. 25 players received votes and 16 of them got at least one first-place vote. Chara won by 17 points over Beauchemin. Girardi narrowly edged out Ryan Suter and Dennis Seidenberg for third place.
MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE FORWARD
Our version of the Selke Trophy, this honours the forward who had the most outstanding season, focusing primarily on the defensive aspects of the position.
WINNER: Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins (receiving 11 of 27 first-place votes and appearing on 20 of 27 ballots)
To the shock of very few, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron was voted the top defensive forward in the league. While not a slouch offensive, Bergeron continues to do the valuable little things for the Bruins; he takes key face-offs (winning 62% of them), he doesn’t take a lot of penalties and he makes life difficult for the opposing team. Add in some key scoring here and there, and Bergeron is quite obviously a valuable player for the Bruins.
RUNNERS-UP: Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks
2012 WINNER: Patrice Bergeron
DETAILS: 15 players received votes and 5 of them received first-place votes. Bergeron won by 12 points over Datsyuk. The first and second-place finishers repeated from last year. Pascal Dupuis was a distant fourth.
MOST OUTSTANDING COACH
Our version of the Jack Adams Award, this goes to the coach who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators (receiving 16 of 27 first-place votes and appearing on 21 of 27 ballots)
The runner-up for this award last year, Paul MacLean is notable for his excellent facial hair and his great skill at taking a raw young hockey team and turning them into a playoff threat. Despite losing virtually every key player on his team at some point, MacLean’s Senators never went off the rails. That’s good coaching.
RUNNERS-UP: Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens and Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks
2012 WINNER: Ken Hitchcock
DETAILS: 11 coaches received at least one vote, with seven of them being a first-place choice on a ballot. MacLean won in a landslide, with more than double the second-place Therrien’s point total.
MOST OUTSTANDING GENERAL MANAGER
Awarded to the general manager who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Ray Shero of the Pittsburgh Penguins (receiving 18 of 27 first-place votes and appearing on 22 of 27 ballots)
Ray Shero was a busy man this year. Not merely content with a roster that boasts names like Malkin, Crosby, Neal, Letang and Fleury, Shero made a splash at the Draft (acquiring Brandon Sutter) and the deadline (adding Jarome Iginla, Brandon Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Douglas Murray). When you wheel, deal and heavily improve your team without giving up a lot of key assets, that’s an impressive feat. To do it as often as Shero has over the past year is hugely impressive.
RUNNERS-UP: Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens and Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks
2012 WINNER: Dale Tallon
DETAILS: 15 GMs received votes, with six different GMs being a first-place choice. Both current Leafs GM Dave Nonis and former Leafs GM Brian Burke received votes, as well as newly-minted Blue Jackets boss Jarmo Kekalainen, who was edged out for third place by Murray.
BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE SEASON
Left deliberately open-ended, this award honours the biggest surprise of the regular season – the player or team that most wildly exceeded expectations.
WINNER: The Columbus Blue Jackets (receiving 7 of 27 first-place votes and appearing on 10 of 27 ballots)
The Blue Jackets jettisoned Rick Nash, added a bunch of new faces and a new goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky. Despite an inexperienced line-up, Columbus won five fewer games in a lockout-shortened season than they did in the entire 82-game 2011-12 season. The team was almost miraculously improved over the prior season, and all it took was a few new faces and some confidence. They narrowly missed the playoffs after three years well on the outside of the post-season picture.
RUNNERS-UP: Sergei Bobrovsky (of the Columbus Blue Jackets) and The New York Islanders
2012 WINNER: The Ottawa Senators
DETAILS: 20 different teams and players received votes and 11 different first-place choices were selected. The Islanders tied with the Montreal Canadiens on points but won on first-place votes as the tie-breaker.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE SEASON
The flip-side of the previous award, this award signifies the team or player who most wildly fell short of what collective wisdom said they should be.
WINNER: The Philadelphia Flyers (receiving 8 of 26 first-place votes and appearing on 12 of 26 ballots)
After five straight playoff appearances, the Flyers crashed down to Earth this season. Nothing seemed to go there way and undisputed starting netminder Ilya Bryzgalov became the object of much scorn due to his unimpressive performance in net. That said, Philly’s defense was also pretty bad in front of Bryzgalov, so he’s not entirely to blame.
RUNNERS-UP: The Florida Panthers and The Buffalo Sabres.
2012 WINNER: Alex Ovechkin
DETAILS: Just like last year, this category had the most wide-open voting. 32 players or teams received votes, with 13 receiving at least one first-place vote. The Flyers had more than three times the points of the second-place Panthers for this award.