With the NHL Awards on tap in Las Vegas tonight (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN), it’s time to take a look back at my end-of-season choices. Feel free to share your dissenting opinions in the comment section below.
Finalists: Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price, John Tavares
It’s been 13 years since a goalie was last named MVP, but a perfect storm is going to challenge the traditional voter bias against the position.
Absent a truly standout offensive performance this season—blame deeper lineups, better defensive structures and rise in parity for that—Price’s across-the-board statistical dominance can’t be ignored. Put them in the context of a fairly pedestrian Canadiens squad—20th in goals-for, 21st in shots allowed—and it’s fair to say that Montreal would have been in tough for a wild card spot instead of winning the Atlantic Division crown if not for him. No player had a greater impact on his team’s success than Price.
Finalists: Devan Dubnyk, Carey Price, Pekka Rinne
The pick: Carey Price
This one’s not even close. Price is the first goalie since Ed Belfour in 1990-91 to top the charts in wins (team record 44), goals-against average (1.96), and save percentage (.933), and he was tied for second in shutouts (9), a performance that will go down as one of the best in the history of hockey’s most storied franchises.
Finalists: Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews
The pick: Patrice Bergeron, center, Bruins
That +2 rating might throw off some voters, but everything else points to Bergeron as the NHL’s best two-way forward. His 60.2% success rate makes him the best face-off man in the game, he’s sixth in driving possession, he consistently matches up against the opposition’s top line, and he still manages to lead the Bruins in scoring. Nobody does it all quite the way he does.
Finalists: Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban
The pick: Erik Karlsson, Senators
This should have been Mark Giordano’s trophy, but his season-ending injury opened the door to a field of replacements. Tops among them is Karlsson, who overcame a slow start under former coach Paul MacLean to emerge as a key driver in Ottawa’s late-season playoff push under replacement bench boss Dave Cameron. Karlsson led the league in scoring from the blueline (66 points) and is the game’s top transitional weapon. Add in his maturing play in his own zone and that fact that he just might be the most entertaining player in the league, and Karlsson is an easy pick.
Finalists: Aaron Ekblad, Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Stone
The pick: Aaron Ekblad, defenseman, Panthers
This might be an even bigger toss-up than the Norris, with four excellent candidates (Nashville’s fast-starting Filip Forsberg didn’t make the cut) who made immediate and dramatic contributions to their teams. To my mind, though, the edge goes to Ekblad, who jumped into the league at 18 and has averaged better than 21:48 per night of poised, all-situation play at a position where even the slightest mistake can be glaring. If he wins, he’ll become only the fifth teenaged defenseman to claim the award.
Lady Byng Trophy
Finalists: Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler, Anze Kopitar
The pick: Jiri Hudler, right wing, Flames
He enjoyed a breakthrough season skating on one of the top lines in hockey and he did it the right way, picking up just 14 penalty minutes, the fewest of any player among the league’s top 20 scorers.
Jack Adams Award
Finalists: Bob Hartley, Peter Laviolette, Alain Vigneault
The pick: Bob Hartley, Flames
Gaudreau could win rookie of the year. Hudler is a top-10 scorer. Sean Monahan is a 30-goal man. Dennis Wideman could be the comeback player of the year. And a team that is still early in its rebuild and expected to finish among the bottom three or four in the Western Conference ended up in the postseason. What a remarkable year in Calgary, and a tribute to the tutelage of Hartley, a man who completely altered his style to fit the changing times and get the most out of his talent.
GM of the Year
Finalists: Bob Murray, Glen Sather, Steve Yzerman
The pick: Steve Yzerman, Lightning
I can't for the life of me figure out how Garth Snow wasn’t a finalist after revamping his Islanders into a playoff club with a series of bold moves. Since he’s not an option, the smart money is on Yzerman, who addressed problem areas (defense, forward depth) with the off-season signings of Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle, respectively, and has proven to be an astute judge of talent.
OTHER TROPHY WINNERS
Art Ross (scoring): Jamie Benn, Stars
Rocket Richard (goals): Alex Ovechkin, Capitals
Jennings (fewest goals-against): Corey Crawford, Blackhawks; Carey Price, Canadiens
Conn Smythe (postseason MVP): Duncan Keith, Blackhawks