Not so early look at NHL Regular Season Awards

10.4.2024. NHL regular season ends next week, on Friday. After that, it’s time to vote for the annual regular season awards. The finalists will be announced during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the winners at the annual NHL Awards Gala after the season. Here is a not so early look at our picks, not predictions.

The PHWA, the GMs, and the Broadcasters

It is crazy out there with the final weeks of the NHL regular season, the chaotic battle for the final playoff spots, especially in the East, and for the playoff seedings. Every morning there seems to be a different team in the Eastern Conference final wild card spot. 

It is time to relax and take a break from the insanity and chaos, and take a look at the regular season awards. This is not a prediction, just somebody’s ideas on who to vote for. Somebody’s who doesn’t even have a vote. These picks are mostly based on the eye test. You know, from actually going to the games or watching them on TV. I know, who the hell does that anymore?

The members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote for the Hart, Norris, Calder, Selke and Lady Byng finalists. Broadcasters, the so called electric media (isn’t all media electric nowadays?) vote for the Jack Adams, and the General Managers vote for the Vezina Trophy. 

The 200 or so PHWA people have to send in their ballots at the conclusion of the regular season, before the first night of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They are asked to write down their five top picks for each award, in order. The top three vote-getters are designated as finalists. The vote is not public, unfortunately. Remember when that one guy didn’t include Connor McDavid in his Hart ballot? 

They found him in Pittsburgh. They let him live. 

Calder Memorial Trophy

The Calder Memorial Trophy is presented annually “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.” Matty Beniers won the Calder last year. 

This year’s Calder Trophy race is a philosophical debate. This is a two-horse race between Connor Bedard, and Brock Faber. Comparison is the thief of joy, said a wise man. 

Which do you prefer, an 18-year old future superstar who has put up very decent numbers on a very bad Chicago Blackhawks team? Or, a 21-year old defenceman who is in the top 6-7 in average ice time in the whole League, with very decent stats and a very prominent role on his team? 

Brock Faber may be the most physically advanced NHL rookie with three seasons of American University hockey experience under his belt before entering the NHL. A remarkable, and unexpected rookie season for the defenceman. 

There is a goalie or two, who deserve to be in the Calder discussion, but we decided to go with all skaters for the top five. 

1. Connor Bedard

2. Brock Faber

3. Logan Cooley

4. Luke Hughes

5. Ridly Greig

Hart Memorial Trophy

The Hart is actually not really the MVP trophy. Do not believe that bs. The Conn Smythe is a Most Valuable Player Award, maybe the most prestigious award of them all. The Ted Lindsay is the same way, voted by the players. 

The Hart Memorial Trophy is presented annually to the player “adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”. What does this nonsense even mean? Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers took the Hart home last year. Does Connor know? 

Are you supposed to have so many more points than the next player on your team? Should we speculate what would your team have done had you not played at all? Does it always have to be a forward? Does his team have to make the playoffs? Why? 

In any case, Nathan MacKinnon is our pick for the Hart. A very consistent season, a couple epic points streaks. A top player on a very top heavy team. While Connor McDavid is arguably the best player in the NHL, MacKinnon has had the best season. 

Some other people deserve to be in the discussion. McDavid has been an absolute force since recovering from whatever he was ailing from early on. Artemi Panarin has put together an exceptional season in New York.  Nikita Kucherov has as this is being written, 139 points. The next best player on Tampa, Brayden Point, has 86. Nobody wants to play the Lightning in the first round. 

What about Sidney Crosby? He is willing the Pens to the playoffs, an old man. David Pastnak. Auston Matthews is going to score 70 goals soon. Last time anybody had more than 66 goals (Mario Lemieux had 69 in 1995-96), they were playing the “Macarena”. Remember that? No? 

We may have two players at the conclusion of the regular season with 100 assists each. That is a big deal.

1. Nathan MacKinnon

2. Nikita Kucherov

3. Connor McDavid

4. Sidney Crosby

5. Auston Matthews

James Norris Memorial Trophy

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is presented annually “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position”. 

This is not a trophy for the defenceman who has the most points. There really should be two different trophies, The Bobby Orr Trophy for the best offensive defenceman, and the Rod Langway Trophy for the best defensive dman. Even though Orr was superb in all aspects. 

Erik Karlsson won the trophy last season. 

This has been the Vancouver Canucks` and its captain Quinn Hughes` season. Roman Josi, Cale Makar, Evan Bouchard and a few others deserve to be in the discussion. If you watch a lot of games, you will probably pick Josi. Jon Cooper, of all people, said that Josi has willed his team to the spot they’re in. A playoff spot, that is. 

If you value actual defending, like penalty kill, Makar is your man. 

There should be respect given to Victor Hedman, Gustav Forsling, Noah Dobson when voting. Mattias Ekholm may not get the respect he certainly deserves. 

Quinn Hughes has a huge impact on the Canucks play. For every 10 goals that Quinn is on the ice, seven of them are for the Canucks, and three for the other team, according to the statistics. 

1. Quinn Hughes

2. Cale Makar

3. Roman Josi

4. Victor Hedman

5. Noah Dobson

Frank J. Selke Trophy

The Frank J. Selke Trophy is presented annually “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” This is the most eye test Trophy of all. One can throw all kinds of data to prove someone is better than the other as a defensive forward, but there is no solid criteria.

Patrice Bergeron captured this Trophy the last two seasons. Why did you have to retire? Where is Jere Lehtinen, when we need him? 

This is, and always has been, a wide open category. Aleksander Barkov will probably win it. Being the best defensive player on the Leaugue`s best defensive team should do it. We like also Jordan Staal for his all-round play, face-offs, his part in the Leagues best penalty kill, and his play on the Canes` checking line. 

1. Jordan Staal

2. Aleksander Barkov

3. Anze Kopitar

4. William Karlsson

5. J.T. Miller

 Art Ross Trophy

The Art Ross Trophy is presented annually “to the player who leads the League in scoring points at the end of the regular season. Connor McDavid won last year. The tie breakers, in case two or more players finish the season with the same number of points are interesting. 

1. Player with the most goals, 2. Player with fewer games played, 3. Player scoring first goal of the season. 

As this is being written, Nikita Kucherov is leading the scoring race with 139 points, and Nathan MacKinnon is second with 137. Connor McDavid has a lower body injury and will most likely not play on Wednesday when the Vegas Golden Knights visit Edmonton. 

So this is down to Kuch and Nate Dogg, as the hip people would say. 

The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy

The Rocket is presented annually “to the player finishing the regular season as the League’s goal-scoring leader.”

Auston Matthews will win this award. 

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is presented annually “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

Is this supposed to go to the player with the most points and the least penalty minutes? Can a defenceman be a gentlemanly player? Can a gentleman defend his teammates with his bare fists? If so, why didn’t Jarome Iginla ever win this trophy? 

This is down to personal favourites, which we all have. 

1. Auston Matthews

2. Kyle Connor

3. Elias Pettersson

4. Brayden Point

5. Jack Hughes

Vezina Trophy

This is an old Trophy. Awarded since the 1926-27 season annually “to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position.” The general managers of the NHL`s 32 teams submit the ballots at the conclusion of the regular season. A very selected group of very knowledgeable hockey people select the best gardien. 

Is it really true that Georges Vezina, the outstanding Montreal Canadiens goaltender who died during the 1925-26 season of tuberculosis, and in whose memory this trophy is named after, had 22 children? 

Linus Ullmark won the Vezina last year. 

Connor Hellebuyck has been the best goalie in the NHL all season, except for maybe the last few weeks. We will respect the real experts` picks on this one, but here are ours: 

1. Connor Hellebuyck

2. Thatcher Demko

3. Joey Daccord

4. Stuart Skinner

5. Jake Oettinger

Jack Adams Award

The Jack Adams Award is presented annually “to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success”. Members of the NHL Broadcasters` Association vote for this award. The Broadcasters may actually have a very good idea on this, as they always get together with the coaches before games for an informal meeting. No recorders. 

Some really good coaches deserve to be included in the discussion. Peter Laviolette. Paul Maurice, always. John Tortorella looked like a good candidate up until about eight games ago. We pick Rick Tocchet. He has made the Canucks play above their level, and he has done so by putting in his system, and challenging each and every player early on to be at their best every day. The “bubble” has never burst. The Canucks are good, because of their coach. 

1. Rick Tocchet

2. Andrew Brunette

3. John Tortorella

4. Kris Knoblauch

5. Jim Montgomery

Please note: The Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award, which is presented annually “to the League’s most outstanding general manager” is not really a regular season trophy. 

NHL general managers and a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media vote for this award at the conclusion of the Second Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the three top vote-getters designated as finalists. 

Last year’s winner was Dallas Stars` GM Jim Nill

These are the blog´s picks which may still change somewhat before game 82 is over. 

What are the readers` picks? 

Jouni Nieminen, Edmonton

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