Every year, the National Hockey League’s awards are voted upon by the league’s general managers or the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The idea is to get a balanced cross-section of opinions and, hopefully, cancelling out any specific homerish voting patterns.
With writers in all 30 NHL cities, some with multiple writers, and several at-large subject specialists, this year we at The Hockey Writers have decided to jump into the fray with our own year-end awards. Voting on the awards was conducted between April 8 and May 8 and focused on the regular season accomplishments of the National Hockey League players, teams, coaches and managers. The only qualifications was that each voter be a writer in good standing and be able to choose up to three choices in each category, with the first place selection gaining three points, the second place two points and the third place one point. In the event a writer noted a tie between two or more for a single spot, the points for that selection were split between their choices.
Overall, 30 ballots were cast for the awards, ranging from some of the site’s senior editors to some writers that are brand-spanking-new.
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. By definition, the “best” player is also the most “valuable.”
WINNER: Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins (receiving 17 of the 30 first-place votes and appearing on 29 of 30 ballots)
A product of Magnitogorsk, Russia, Malkin (25) spent the majority of the season as the Penguins’ biggest gun, due to the absence of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Despite this handicap, Malkin had a tremendous season. He led the NHL in points and was second to Steven Stamkos in goals.
RUNNERS-UP: Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers
HART NOMINEES: Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos
DETAILS: Eleven different players (seven forwards, one defender, two goalies) received votes and six players were first-choice selections. Malkin won by a hefty margin.
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: Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche (receiving 20 of the 30 first-place votes and appearing on 28 of 30 ballots)
The second pick in last June’s draft, the Stockholm-born Landeskog (19) was tied with Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in rookie scoring but his real impact was seen in the plus-minus column. Landeskog’s +20 was second only to the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin among rookies. (And let’s face it, the Rangers are a lot deeper than the Avs…)
RUNNERS-UP: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers and Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils
CALDER NOMINEES: Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
DETAILS: Ten different first-year players (eight forwards, two defenders) received votes and four of them were first-choice selections. Landeskog won by a large margin.
MOST OUTSTANDING GOALTENDER
Modeled after the NHL’s Vezina Trophy, this category celebrates the goaltender who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings (receiving 13 of the 30 first-place votes and appearing on 25 of 30 ballots)
A native of Milford, Connecticut, Quick (26) enjoyed his third-straight season of 30+ wins with the Kings. He led the entire NHL in shutouts (with 10) and was fourth in the league in games and minutes played.
RUNNERS-UP: Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators
VEZINA NOMINEES: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne
DETAILS: Eight different players received votes and five of them were first-choice selections. Quick won over Lundqvist by 7 points (leading the Rangers netminder in first and second-place votes). The third-place race was also tight, with Rinne edging Phoenix netminder Mike Smith by 3 points.
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: Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators (receiving 19 of the 30 first-place votes and appearing on 26 of 30 ballots)
One of the major reasons for the resurgence of the Senators, Karlsson (21) continued his remarkable progression. Only in his third NHL season, Karlsson had more assists this season (59) than he had points in all of last season (45). His assists totals put him third in the entire NHL, behind only Henrik Sedin and Claude Giroux.
RUNNERS-UP: Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators and Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues
NORRIS NOMINEES: Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber
DETAILS: 13 players received votes and six of them garnered first-place votes. Karlsson won by a lot, but Pietrangelo was third-place by a single point over Boston Bruins blueliner Zdeno Chara.
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 9 of the 29 first-place votes and appearing on 13 of 30 ballots)
Big, mean and really tough to get past, Chara (35) led the entire league in plus-minus by a defender (with a crazy-good +33). Not bad for a player who spent his nights playing against the league’s very best.
RUNNERS-UP: Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators
DETAILS: The first of the more unique categories, this one was fairly wide-open; 25 players received votes and 13 of them got at least one first-place vote. Chara won by a comfortable margin.
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 7 of 27 first-place votes and appearing on 18 of 27 ballots)
The top five players in the league in plus-minus were all Boston Bruins. The best in the league in that category was Bergeron (26), with a +36 mark. Not just a strong shut-down player, Bergeron enjoyed his third straight season of 50+ points with the Bruins.
RUNNERS-UP: Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and David Backes of the St. Louis Blues
SELKE NOMINEES: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Datsyuk
DETAILS: 24 players received votes and 11 of them received first-place votes. Bergeron won by a comfortable margin.
MOST OUTSTANDING COACH
Our version of the Jack Adams Award, this goes to the coach who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues (receiving 17 of 29 first-place votes and appearing on 22 of 29 ballots)
Fired in 2010 from his previous job in Columbus, Ken Hitchcock (60) broke back into the NHL in a big way in November with the Blues. With the team seriously underachieving, the Blues axed coach Davis Payne and turned to the wily veteran Hitchcock. The result was a 43-15-11 finish and one of the most remarkable turn-arounds in recent memory.
RUNNERS-UP: Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators and Kevin Dineen of the Florida Panthers
ADAMS NOMINEES: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean and John Tortorella
DETAILS: A fairly wide-open category, somewhat owing to the open-to-interpretation nature of the definition of what “coach of the year” stands for. Is it the best finish? The most surprising finish? The best turn-around? The best motivator? The answer appears to be…a little of all of these. 13 coaches received at least one vote, with 8 of them being a first-place choice on a ballot. Hitchcock won by a wide margin, but there was a fairly tight race for third – Dineen edged out Phoenix’s Dave Tippett by two points and Rangers boss John Tortorella by eight.
MOST OUTSTANDING GENERAL MANAGER
Awarded to the general manager who had the most outstanding season.
WINNER: Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers (receiving 15 of 29 first-place votes and appearing on 22 of 29 ballots)
This past summer, the Florida Panthers went shopping. In came big-ticket defender Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg via trades. In came Jose Theodore, Ed Jovanovski, Sean Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall and others via free agency. In came new coach Kevin Dineen. It wasn’t supposed to work, but somehow Dale Tallon (61) threw together a rag-tag bunch in South Florida and they won their division.
RUNNERS-UP: Paul Holmgren of the Philadelphia Flyers and David Poile of the Nashville Predators
NHL GM OF YEAR NOMINEES: Doug Armstrong, David Poile and Dale Tallon
DETAILS: Tallon wins by 30 points over Holmgren, but oddly Poile tied with Phoenix GM Don Malhoney and won the tie-breaker based on being on more ballots. 11 GMs received votes, with seven different GMs being a first-place choice.
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 Ottawa Senators (receiving 6 of 28 first-place votes and appearing on 13 of 28 ballots)
Last season, the Senators finished 13th in the Eastern Conference – 19 points out of the playoffs with a 32-40-10 record. With a few roster tweaks and a new coach, the Senators made a big leap forward and shocked many by qualifying for the post-season.
RUNNERS-UP: The Florida Panthers and Brian Elliott of the St. Louis Blues
DETAILS: A very open race, with 27 different teams and players getting votes and 16 different first-place choices. The Senators and Panthers were a bit away from the pack, with the Sens edging Florida by 7 points. Elliott edged Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul for third.
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: Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (receiving 6 of 29 first-place votes and appearing on 10 of 29 ballots)
Last season, Alex Ovechkin (26) had 85 points, was a +24 and helped the Washington Capitals win their division. This season, Ovechkin had just 65 points (the lowest of his NHL career) and was a mere -8 as the Capitals crept into the playoffs with one of the two last spots.
RUNNERS-UP: The Buffalo Sabres and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks
DETAILS: In stark contrast to the previous category, Ovechkin easily lapped the field for the “honour” of being the league’s biggest disappointment. Getzlaf tied Jeff Carter (of Los Angeles/Columbus) for third, winning on tie-breakers.