With the 2013-14′ season officially over, with a new champion crowned, it’s time to recognize some of the outstanding performances from this past regular season at the 2014 NHL Awards Show.
Set to take place Tuesday night, June 24th, at 7pm EST inside Las Vegas’s Encore Theater, you may recognize some names (Sidney Crosby, anyone?) while others will be experiencing this “star treatment” for the first time. Two organizations in particular stand out, as both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche sent four finalists out west. Other teams represented well include last season’s Stanley Cup champion, Chicago Blackhawks, this season’s champion in the Los Angeles Kings and the 2014 Presidents Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.
The only question left to be answered is who will take home which piece of hardware? A somewhat difficult decision in some categories, I’ll attempt to give you all my best predictions. If you’re looking for complete accuracy, however, I suggest you watch the ceremony itself, broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network and TSN.
Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby
Difficult as it may be for me and lots of other NHL fans to swallow, Crosby hands-down deserves this award. His 104 points were 17 more than his nearest competitor, Ryan Getzlaf, and the 68 assists he compiled led the league. More than that, he helped lead an injury-ravaged Pittsburgh Penguins team to first place in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division. Granted, that’s not saying much considering the Atlantic Division’s top 3 teams ended up with more points than the Metro’s 2nd and 3rd place team.
Crosby’s ability to produce when needed most was incredibly evident this season, as he pretty much single-handedly kept the Penguins rolling toward a playoff berth despite dry spells and injuries to Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang. Combine that with sometimes stellar, sometimes shaky performances out of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, plus no experienced backup, and what Sid the Kid managed to do became even more impressive.
Ted Lindsay Award: Claude Giroux
This is by far one of the more difficult awards to predict. I choose Giroux for two reasons.
First, the players vote on this, and I don’t see Crosby as being well-liked among other NHL players. While beneficial to his team, the whining and antics he pulls with league referees doesn’t strike me as a way to gain respect among peers.
Secondly, Giroux led the Philadelphia Flyers to the playoffs after a horrific start that saw head coach Peter Laviolette get canned just a few games into the season. His 58 assists ranked fourth, and his 86 points were far-and-away better than the Flyers next leading scorer.
Put it this way. The Flyers, who had to scratch and claw their way into the Metropolitan Division’s third seed, very likely would have missed the playoffs completely if it weren’t for Giroux’ outstanding play throughout much of the season. That’s how close the wild card Columbus Blue Jackets and outside-looking-in Washington Capitals were to them as the season wound to a close.
Getzlaf was impressive and should be proud of the season he had, both individually and leading the Anaheim Ducks to the Pacific Division’s best record, but Giroux is my pick for this particular award.
Norris Trophy: Duncan Keith
Given to the best defenseman in the league, this was another tough one. I’ve chosen Keith because his 61 points rank second, and 55 assists lead all NHL blueliners. He also plays nearly 25 minutes per game, while posting an outstanding plus-22 rating on one of the Western Conference’s best teams in the Chicago Blackhawks.
What he accomplished cannot be understated, as any of Zdeno Chara’s mistakes can be easily covered up by potential Hall of Fame netminder and Vezina finalist Tuukka Rask and Shea Weber’s Nashville Predators team failed to make the postseason.
Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar
Another difficult one to choose, I think Kopitar wins the Selke for a couple of reasons.
First, he logged more ice time than all NHL forwards, minus Crosby, and logged nearly 165 minutes of shorthanded time. That was more than any of the league’s top 30 scorers.
Next, his plus-34 rating led the Kings and ranked fourth in the league, behind Patrice Bergeron and two other Boston Bruins.
While that may not sound impressive to some, it’s important to realize Jonathan Quick is not Rask and this award’s based on regular season performances.
Lady Byng Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly
This one was a bit easier to choose, as one finalist (Martin St. Louis) doesn’t even deserve to be in the Top 3.
I selected O’Reilly because he led the Colorado Avalanche in both goals and power play goals, plus tied fellow forward Matt Duchene for the team lead with six game-winners. All of that while only taking one minor penalty all season long.
Fellow finalist Patrick Marleau had a great year with the San Jose Sharks, but his 18 penalty minutes could prove costly. As for St. Louis, deserting your team with a month remaining in the season because of an original Olympic snub (he still got to go in place of his former teammate and best friend, bringing home a gold medal mind you) doesn’t fit the Lady Byng criteria.
Masterton Trophy: Dominic Moore
A relative no-brainer if you ask me, there’s nobody more deserving of this trophy than Moore. What he went through these past two years almost is something that tugs on the heart strings. You see, when he walked away from the Sharks during the 2012 playoffs to care for wife, Katie, he never could’ve imagined what would follow.
After battling cancer for about 9 months, Katie passed away in early 2013. Once the lockout-shortened season began, teams came calling, wanting to sign Moore. He faced another extremely difficult decision. Should he sign with someone, knowing full well his heart may not completely be into it, or wait and let the grieving process run its course? He chose to wait, and the New York Rangers ended up benefitting, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
Vezina Trophy: Ben Bishop
Crazy as it may seem, Bishop deserves this trophy hands-down.
While his goals-against average and save percentage don’t rank in the top 5 of league netminders, it’s obvious he’s the main reason the Tampa Bay Lightning stayed in the playoff hunt without elite sniper Steven Stamkos for four months. Add to that the Lightning’s suspect defense and Bishop’s franchise record-setting 37 wins, plus .924 save percentage are all the more impressive.
Calder Trophy: Ondrej Palat
While everyone and their mother picks Nathan Mackinnon, I’m going to go in a different direction.
Palat ranked second among all rookies in points, but led that category after January 1. More than that, however, would have to be his out of this world plus-32 rating. That’s more than all of his Lightning teammates, and it’s really not even very close.
For those who might be thinking I’m putting too much stock into a players plus-minus statistic there’s a reason behind that. Without playing well defensively, the team’s chances of winning or even picking up crucial points aren’t exactly considered likely. And minus points, a team’s playoff hopes sink faster than the Titanic.
Jack Adams Award: Patrick Roy
This was probably the hardest for me to decide, as each of the three finalists is extremely deserving.
I chose Roy, in large part because of the Avalanche’s turnaround. Last season, Colorado finished 29th in the 30 team league. This season, they racked up 112 points, won the Central Division title and finished third overall in the final NHL standings.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper and Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock each have a case to be made, especially Cooper with the devastating injury to Stamkos and sudden trade of former captain St. Louis, but Roy’s orchestration of the league’s biggest turnaround wins this honor.
Now that I’ve predicted all of the major awards, what do you all think? Agree? Disagree? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.