Saturday, April 27, 2013

NHL Awards Predictions and Thoughts

Last day of the regular season for our Caps, with the final game of the NHL regular season coming tomorrow. This is the time of year where players, coaches, writers, and generally everyone in hockey decide who is awarded the various NHL Awards. Well here are my two cents on some of the big ones (sorry, Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy):
  • Hart (Player judged most valuable to his team, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association)
    • Top five candidates: Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechin, Sergei Bobrovsky, John Tavares, Patrick Kane
    • My three finalists: Crosby, Ovechkin, Bobrovsky/Tavares (If the Blue Jackets make the playoffs, Bob. If not, Tavares)
    • Hahahhaa Ovi Number 1 best! )))))
    • Winner: Ovechkin. Two weeks ago I would not have said this. Bobrovsky may be even more deserving, and Crosby played like he was the living embodiment of the Hockey Gods for the first 75% of the season (more on that later). But Ovi has been a man on fire of late, locking up the Rocket Richard and competing for the Art Ross, all while setting league records for the month of April. His goal total will be at least that of last year. Without him, it's unlikely the Caps make the playoffs, let alone win the final Southeast Division banner. The playoff bias goes against Bob, and the Pens' cavalcade of captains and wins, coupled with the missed games, goes against Sid. Hockey writers love Crosby more than I love bacon, but the tide of pixels lately have been tipping in Ovi's favor.
  • Ted Lindsay (Most outstanding player, voted on by the NHLPA)
    • Top five candidates: Same as the Hart
    • My three finalists: Crosby, Ovechkin, Patrick Kane
    • Cros-bot sprung a leak... wait, that's blood! He's human!
    • Winner: Crosby. No question. He missed the last quarter of the season, a period over which Ovechkin scored at a goal-per-game pace, and he will still finish top-5 in overall scoring, if not top-3. He put Chris Kunitz on a scoring pace that would have seen him break 50 goals. In an 82 game season, if healthy, Crosby was on pace for over 127 points. The injury time doesn't hurt him here, as he still played the majority of the season and made almost everyone else look like they were playing pond hockey during that time. It's those players who will give him the award.
  • Vezina (Best goalie, voted on by the general managers)
    • Top five candidates: Bobrovsky, Niemi, Lundqvist, Anderson, Rask
    • My three finalists: Bobrovsky, Rask, Anderson
    • The puck stops here.
    • Winner: Bobrovsy. Really, this is a two horse race between Bobrovsky and Anderson. There are a lot of guys with numbers similar to Rask, Lundqvist, and Niemi. Crawford and Schneider, for example. They all look up to Bob and Anderson. One of the effects of this shortened season has been a smaller sample size for goalies to really have as many bad (or good) games. Anderson had this locked up before he was injured - like Crosby in net, essentially. Bobrovsky seems to get better every game, and Flyers fans have just got to be furious. If the Blue Jackets can make the playoffs, this will just be the icing on the cake to cap off a great year for the underdogs. Looking forward to having them in the division next year.
  • Jack Adams (Coach who contributed the most to his team's success, selected by the NHL Broadcasters Association)
    • Top five candidates: Boudreau (Anaheim), Oates (Really?), Quenneville (Chicago), Therrien (Montreal), MacLean (Ottawa)
    • My three finalists: Therrien, Boudreau, Quenneville
    • Therrien. Michelle Therrien. Wait...
    • Winner: Therrien. Everybody has been talking about MacLean lately, because the Senators barely made the playoffs after losing their top forward, top defenseman, and starting netminder for most of the season. Color me not impressed. Winnipeg and Philadelphia finished with more ROW, so the Senators just tended to lose later more often. Bettman has more to do with their finish than MacLean. Keeping a playoff team in the playoffs after injuries isn't enough for me. Nor is taking a winning team with a recent Cup to the President's trophy enough. Oates? Sorry, but the Caps are a perennial playoff team. Boudreau and Therrien accomplished far more by taking teams that finished 25th and 28th, respectively, in the NHL last year to securing home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Therrien gets the nod given that the Northeast was more competitive than the rest of the Eastern Conference (in a good way) as well as the Pacific. Plus Therrien didn't have Getzlaf, Perry, and random stud Victor Fasth.
  • Norris (Top all-around defenseman, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)
    • Top five candidates: P.K. Subban, Ryan Suter, Girardi, Letang, Beauchemin
    • My three finalists: Subban, Suter, Letang
    • Eat it, Weber.
    • Winner: Suter. Subban leads all defensemen in points and with a +10, but Suter played almost four minutes a night more than PK while being one of the most productive blueliners in the league, making people in Nashville ask who really names their son Shea. Honestly, it's close. Subban or Suter really could take it. There's a chance it comes down to where Montreal and Minnesota finish. If Montreal can manage to win the Northeast Division, Subban will get a bump for being such a huge part of that team's rebound. If Minnesota misses the playoffs, Suter's even plus-minus could face some scrutiny. Subban's lack of physicality (hits and blocked shots are lower than the other candidates') and Suter's plus-minus (fair or not) could lead to an upset, but I think it comes down to these two guys.
  • General Manager of the Year (The name is pretty self-explanatory, voted on by pretty much everyone who doesn't actually play hockey)
    • My three finalists: Jarmo Kekäläinen (Columbus), Chuck Fletcher (Minnesota), Ray Shero (Pittsburgh)
    • Winner: Shero.
      The face of Evil
    • I want to give it to Jarmo, but he has had the job for two months now. Fletcher's Wild could still miss the playoffs, and it isn't clear how good or bad the Parise and Suter signings will be. Shero, I am now forever convinced, has evidence in a storage locker somewhere in Sewickley that would put every other General Manager in jail for life and cause their wives/girlfriends/parents to leave them. There's no other explanation than how he took away two of the Western Conference's most respected captains from their franchise teams and convinced Jim Rutherford (Carolina, and winner of the Holy Crap Is That A Real Contract Award) to give the Pens Jussi Jokinen, presumably as penance for signing Jordan Staal. Carolina is literally paying Jokinen to play for Pittsburgh. Shero wins.