I may be a little late to the party with the award ceremony being tomorrow, but here are my picks and reasonings for the 2018 NHL Awards:
The head coach who has contributed most to his team’s success
My Pick – Gerard Galant of the Vegas Golden Knights
In my humble opinion, this is the first of 3 absolute no-brainers at this year’s awards. With Gallant at the helm, 11 players on the 2017-18 Golden Knights roster recorded career-best points totals, the Knights won 34 regular season games – a record number of wins by any team during its inaugural season, and they became the first modern era expansion team, not only in NHL history but in NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB history to win their division in their first season. An incredible feat, a surprise for everyone, and a more than worthy winner.
Frank J. Selke
The forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive department
My Pick – Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings
A tough shout between Bergeron and Kopitar for this one, and by no means number 2 of my 3 no-brainers. Kopitar has been nominated for the Selke 4 times, taking the trophy home once in 2016. Bergeron has won it 4 times and shares the title of most Selke’s won by any player with Bob Gainey who also had 4. There are 2 key reasons why I favour Kopi over Bergeron for it this year: Firstly, Bergeron only played 63 games in regular season – this may have a negative impact on his vote come tomorrow evening: Secondly, although Bergeron led the way in 3 of the 6 defensive-based stats (FO%, SA/60, CF% Rel), Kopitar led in 2 (TOI and SHTOI), he also came a close second in several of the others, but the key stat for me here is the Kings PK, which was the best in the league at 85%, for which he had the highest SHTOI of any player in the league (2:10). For me, the fact that he played more games and had a greater SHTOI for the most effective PK in the league means that he just picks Bergeron to the post this year.
The goaltender judged to be best at his position
My Pick – Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators
People may disagree with me on this one, but in my mind, this is the second no-brainer this year. Although with 42 wins, he had 2 fewer wins than Hellebuyck, he had a svs% (.927) greater than both Vasilevskiy and Hellebuyck. Rinne also had a better GAA at 2.31 than both other goaltenders nominated this year. Aside from the stats, he backstopped the preds to their first president’s trophy and smashed franchise records for both shutouts and regular season wins.
The player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition AKA Best Rookie
My Pick – Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders
The third and final no-brainer of 2018. He scored 85 points, 20 more than any other rookie. Brock Boeser was leading the rookie pack in points before he was sidelined by injury, so in my opinion that places him out of contention. This may be the one no-brainer that most of you don’t disagree with!
Defence player who demonstrates the greatest ability in the position during regular season
My Pick – Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Although my heart says Doughty, my head says… Hedman. 63 points, 17 goals (tied in first place for most goals by any D-man). His +32 rating was better than both Doughty and Subban. 26 of these points were produced on the PP, for which the bolts had the second best in the league at 23.9%, which was more than both other contenders. He also set a career high for hits at 139 (considerably more than both other nominees) and ranked second on his team for blocked shots. Hedman has the best numbers of all three nominees, despite playing fewer games. Aside from the stats, he set new franchise records for both points and assists by a D-man in one season, became the first defenseman in franchise history to post more than 60 points in back-to-back campaigns AND became the leading defensive scorer overall in franchise history with 73 goals. As of the 2017-18 season, he tops almost every single category for a defenseman in franchise history. With a heavy heart, it’s Hedman for the Norris.
The player judged to be most valuable to his team
My Pick – Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings
First of all, let’s look at the definition of the wretched Hart. It isn’t supposed to go to the league MVP – that’s the Ted Lindsay – it’s supposed to go to the player judged to be most valuable to his team, and only during regular season… I have an issue with the Hart trophy – I’ll save this for a later post. Kopitar ended the regular season with 92 points, 31 more than any other player in his team, making it the 10th time in 11 years that he has led the Kings in points. With his 92 points, he became the only player in franchise history aside from Wayne Gretzky to pass the 90 point mark in one season. He set career highs in points, goals and assists and had the most TOI of any forward in the league. Kopitar spent 178.05 TOI on the best PK in the league, whilst no other player in the Top-10 in league scoring spent more than 105:00 on the PK. Aside from that, Kopi’s defensive zone starts are largest of the three nominees. He started 45.98% of his full strength shifts in the D-Zone but finished with a 52.08 SAT. All three guys had stellar seasons, but I just don’t buy the fact that Hall or Mackinnon had as much impact in all zones as Kopi did for the Kings. Revert to the second sentence.