Will NHL awards honor Leafs, Oilers, Columbus?
Mike Babcock, John Tortorella and Todd McLellan had plenty in common.
Not only did the three steer their playoff-starved franchises to the postseason, they are the NHL coach of the year Jack Adams Trophy candidates.
Before this season, the Maple Leafs, Oilers and Blue Jackets combined to make four playoff appearances since the NHL lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. Those memories are long gone now.
Two years after leaving Detroit, Babcock and the youthful, Auston Matthews-led Toronto Maple Leafs clinched their second playoff berth in 12 years and put up the most wins since 2006-07. In Edmonton, McLellan and his Connor McDavid-led Oilers team ended a 10-year playoff drought.
In Columbus, the Blue Jackets set franchise records for wins and points under Tortorella, who replaced Todd Richards after the team's 0-7 start to the 2015-16 season. They also had a 16-game winning streak, one shy of the NHL record.
A glance of who's in the running for the NHL's major regular-season awards, which will be announced Wednesday night in Las Vegas:
Should win: Babcock
In the running: Tortorella and McLellan are the other finalists
Quick fact: Babcock led the Maple Leafs to a 95-point finish this season, a 26-point improvement from 2015-16. All three finalists have been nominated for the award before but only Tortorella has won it (2004, with Tampa Bay).
Should win: McDavid
In the running: Pittsburgh C Sidney Crosby and Columbus G Sergei Bobrovsky are the other finalists. Question: In a season featuring a transformative influx of youth, is it too soon to include Matthews?
Quick fact: Crosby has won the Hart twice before and led the league with 44 goals. McDavid led the NHL in scoring with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists).
NORRIS (Top defenseman)
Should win: Ottawa's Erik Karlsson
In the running: San Jose's Brent Burns and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman are the other finalists.
Quick fact: Karlsson is a two-time Norris winner whose 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists) were third among defensemen. Burns played all 82 games for a third-straight season and led the league with 320 shots on goal.
VEZINA (Top goalie)
Should win: Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky
In the running: Washington's Braden Holtby and Montreal's Carey Price are the other finalists.
Quick fact: Holtby led the league with nine shutouts while Bobrovsky led the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
Should win: Matthews
In the running: Winnipeg RW Patrik Laine and Columbus D Zach Werenski are the other finalists.
Quick fact: Matthews tied for second in the league with 40 goals, the first rookie to reach that mark since Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06.
SELKE (Top defensive forward)
Should win: Minnesota C Mikko Koivu
In the running: Boston C Patrice Bergeron and Anaheim C Ryan Kesler are the other finalists. So much for RW Marian Hossa getting any love for an award traditionally dominated by centers.
Quick fact: Koivu is a first-time finalist who had career highs with a plus-27 for the season along with blocked shots (65) while winning 55.2 percent of his faceoffs. Bergeron has won the Selke three times and led the league in faceoff wins with 1,089. Kesler won the award in 2011 with Vancouver.
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