With a playoff spot officially clinched, the last week of the season is a great time to look back at some of the better regular season performances before shifting towards the playoffs. The LA Kings have flown under the radar for most of this season. They overcame a slow start in the first quarter of the season to find themselves in contention for home ice advantage in the first round. While the team is unlikely to receive much recognition at the NHL Awards show, they have plenty of candidates that should at least get some attention.
Hart Memorial Trophy
“award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team”
Jeff Carter – 25g, 7a, -1, 8 GWG
Anze Kopitar – 10g, 31a, +14
The difficulty in deciding this award stems from the actual definition of it. There is no award for “most outstanding player,” but there is an award for “most valuable to his team.” If the question centered around the most outstanding player, Anze Kopitar would be the unquestioned winner. However, “most valuable to his team” brings about a different argument.
Jeff Carter went on a scoring streak precisely when the LA Kings needed him the most. As the team labored through a slow start, Carter put the team on his shoulders and provided the scoring that they badly needed. He has seven more goals than the next player on the Kings (Dustin Brown – 18), and even more impressive, he has 8 game winning goals (Mike Richards is 2nd on the team with 3). While Kopitar has demonstrated a better all-around game and leads the Kings in points this season, there is a major question of where the Kings would be if Carter didn’t hit his scoring streak. For that reason, I would strongly consider Jeff Carter as the Kings’ Hart Candidate.
MVP for the Kings: Jeff Carter
Hart Trophy Chances: 0%. Carter’s stats simply don’t match up to the rest of the candidates and it’s not even certain that he’s the MVP of his own team. Kopitar has had a better all-around season, but hasn’t played up to the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, and others.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
“award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position”
Drew Doughty – 6g, 16a, +3
Slava Voynov – 5g, 19a, +8
Drew Doughty’s 2013 season has been a rollercoaster. He played heavy minutes in the early portion of the season when Willie Mitchell did not return and Matt Greene went out with a back injury, but he received criticism for not scoring early on. His all-around game has improved as of late, especially boosting the Kings’ powerplay in recent weeks. Despite Doughty’s return to form, Slava Voynov’s performance also merits consideration as the best defenseman on the Kings. Voynov has been steady throughout the season and has proven himself to be quite valuable when Doughty wasn’t playing at his usual level. This is a tough decision since Doughty averages almost 4 more minutes per game than Voynov, but Voynov’s consistency this season warrants more recognition.
Best Defenseman for the Kings: Slava Voynov
Norris Trophy Chances: 0%. There is a strong chance that the big name of Drew Doughty will receive some 4th and 5th place votes for the Norris, but there is no chance either Kings defenseman will win. Neither one matches up to the front-runners in the league, but there’s a strong chance both of their names will come up for consideration in future seasons.
“award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position”
Jonathan Quick – 17-12-4, 2.44 GAA, .901 Save%
Jonathan Bernier – 9-2-1, 1.86 GAA, .922 Save%
Last year, Jonathan Quick was the slam dunk candidate for the Kings and finished 2nd in the Vezina voting to Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. This season, It can certainly be argued if Quick has even been the best goalie on his own team. While Quick has played well enough and still receives a majority of the starts, Jonathan Bernier has stolen the show in terms of statistics.
Best Goalie for the Kings: Jonathan Bernier
Vezina Trophy Chances: 0%! Quick has not played well enough to earn a Vezina vote and Bernier hasn’t played enough games to earn any consideration.
Calder Memorial Trophy
“award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League”
Jake Muzzin – 7g, 9a, +14
Jake Muzzin was drafted in 2007 by Pittsburgh with the 141st overall pick but was not signed by the Penguins. After some seasoning in the OHL, the Kings signed him to a three-year deal in 2010 as an undrafted free agent and have watched his stock soar ever since. Muzzin made a short NHL debut in the 2010-11 season before returning to the Manchester Monarchs to continue his AHL career until this season. With Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene sidelined, Muzzin returned to the NHL and has been a surprising bright spot on the team, amassing 16 points and comfortably averaging almost 18 minutes a game in his rookie campaign.
Rookie of the Year for the Kings: Jake Muzzin
Calder Trophy Chances: 15%. Muzzin will certainly receive some votes, but will be overshadowed by a few outstanding forwards, including Brendan Gallagher of Montreal and Jonathan Huberdeau of Florida.
So while it appears the Kings won’t have a chance at any individual awards at the end of the season, that’s okay. They’ll just have to settle for chasing that big trophy in the playoffs again.
Meesh is an attorney and one of the Pittsburgh Penguins Contributing Writers for The Hockey Writers. He also writes for ThePensNation.com. You can contact him on twitter @HockeyMeesh or e-mail HockeyMeesh@gmail.com