With the regular season unlikely to resume, the GOTI staff decided to submit our ballots for the end of season awards. The competition was fierce, with many awards up in the air until the very end. There are upsets, first-timers, surprises, and the usual suspects.
With so many end-of-season awards, there were some that neither made sense, nor called for writers to vote on. Statistical-based awards such as the Maurice Richard (most goals) and Art Ross (most points) require no votes. Other awards, such as the Messier Leadership Award and the Bill Masterton (perseverance & dedication) also did not make sense for us to vote on. In the end, we decided upon eight awards that we could submit ballots for:
The Hart: The most valuable player to his team
The Norris: The best defenceman
The Vezina: The best goaltender
The Calder: Most outstanding rookie
The Selke: Best two-way forward
The Ted Lindsay: Most outstanding player
The Jack Adams: The best coach
GM of the Year: … the Best GM this year
Tears were shed, blood was spilled - not by the players, by the staff - but at the end of it all, we democratically found our eight award winners. Our writers mentioned some of their bolder, more unconventional picks, and the rationale behind them.
Winner: Nathan MacKinnon (42 points)
Runner-ups: Leon Draisaitl (26), Artemi Panarin (23)
Honourable Mentions: Connor McDavid (18), David Pastrnak (11), Connor Hellebuyck (8)
MacKinnon is a beast. Boasting an incredible 35 goals, 58 assists for 93 points in only 69 games. You may be saying that's really good, but Leon Draisaitl had 110 points. The big difference here is that Draisaitl had McDavid (97 points) on his team, they would miss him if he wasn’t there but ultimately they would be okay. MacKinnon on the other hand, is 43 points ahead of his closest teammate (who just so happens to be Rookie Cale Makar). MacKinnon put the Avalanche on his back and virtually willed them into a playoff spot at this point in the season. He had to do this largely due to the fact that the teams top players were injured for most of the season.
Now of course you do have to acknowledge the season that Draisaitl has had, with 11 games left to play, he was already at 110 points, simply unreal. The Hart Trophy is awarded to the most valuable player to his team, and it is here where Draisaitl falters because there is a major argument that he is not even the most valuable player on his own team, and that's the unfortunate truth when you play with Connor McDavid.
Artemi Panarin received third place in this vote for similar reasons to MacKinnon. One of the things to consider though is that Panarin is doing this on a team that was not expected to be great, only a few short years ago the Rangers announced they were in a rebuild, and while they did not finish the season in the playoffs, they were only 2 points out when the everything was put on hold. A gap that they could have easily overcome, especially with the help of a superstar year from Artemi Panarin.
Winner: John Carlson (37 points)
Runner-ups: Roman Josi (32), Alex Pietrangelo (19)
Honourable Mentions: Victor Hedman (18), Shea Theodore (10), Ryan Ellis (7)
Carlson had an incredible offensive year, producing a staggering 75 points in 69 games, which would put him on pace for an 89 point season. He didn’t make my ballot. Instead, I had, most notably, Shea Theodore first and Ryan Ellis second. Theodore was a horse this season for Vegas, playing plenty at 5 on 5 and on both special teams, while chipping in a tidy 46 points in 71 games. But his advanced statistics suggest that he was creating the most chances for his team on the ice, but was mired by a low shooting percentage. Let’s start with CorsiFor%, which is the percentage of shot attempts that your team takes when you are on the ice. Theodore led all defencemen with a minimum of 500 minutes played with a 59%. This is reflected in ShotsFor% as well, which is the percentage of registered shots that your team has when you are on the ice. 58.36% in this category leaves him a hair out of first place, behind only Dougie Hamilton. But these next stats are the kicker.
His GoalsFor%, the percentage of goals that his team has when he is on the ice, sat at a respectable 54.64%. His ExpectedGoalsFor%, which accounts for all the shots and their probabilities of going in, leads the league with 64.35%. This huge discrepancy largely led to his pedestrian point total despite his elite play. This is further cemented by his league leading ScoringChancesFor%, at 59%.
But he has an OnIceShooting% of 6.78%, which is significantly lower than the average of 9%. This also contributes to his PDO - which is simply his luck - which is well below the average of 1 at 0.989.
Simply put, Theodore drove play, limited defensive zone time, and put Vegas in a position to score more than any other defenceman (including Carlson). That is why I was honoured to vote for Shea Theodore to win the Norris Trophy.
Winner: Tuukka Rask (47 points)
Runner-ups: Connor Hellebuyck (34), Ben Bishop (22)
Honourable Mentions: Andrei Vasilevskiy (14), Philipp Grubauer (5), Jordan Binnington (4)
This was a two horse race between our winner, Tuukka Rask, and the first runner up, Connor Hellebuyck. I am here to say that I am the only one who voted Hellebuyck over Rask. For one simple reason - less help. Rask and Hellebuyck have been long known to be in the top two for Vezina voting. Their Goals Saved Above Average - which is the difference between how many goals they allowed and their expected goals against - blew everyone else out of the water. Both tendies sat comfortably in 22 GSAA, and no one else got to 18.
But Hellebuyck maintains these stats over a far tougher and larger workload. He nearly doubles Rask in all counting stats categories: shots against, high danger shots against, rebound shots against, but not time on ice. This is because he was relied upon SO heavily as the last line of defence in Winnipeg, whereas Rask had an actual NHL-caliber defence corps in front of him. That also explains why Hellebuyck’s average goal distance is far smaller than Rask’s - his defence are letting them in.
I don’t usually value the physical amount of work with regards to awards voting. I don’t often think games played matters much within reason (which is why I gave Grubauer a third place vote here), but this race was so tight, that this was the best form of distinction that I could find. Rask is a justified winner, but I believe Hellebyuck earned it more.
Winner: Quinn Hughes (44 points)
Runner-ups: Cale Makar (41), Adam Fox (15)
Honourable Mentions: Elvis Merzlinkis (12), Dominik Kubalik (10), Victor Olofsson (4)
There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar will be trading first and second place votes. I personally had Makar over Hughes, but it was certainly not an easy decision, both these young stud defencemen put up outstanding numbers in their first full rookie season. Makar ran into some injury problems throughout the year but was still able to put up 50 points in just 57 games, meaning he was on pace for a whopping 72 points in a full 82 game season. His point total was good for 7th in the league among defencemen scoring, only being 5 points back of third while having missed far more games than any other player ahead of him. However, Quinn Hughes, the 20-year-old rookie logging major minutes for the up and coming Vancouver Canucks team is 5th on that very same list. Accumulating 53 points in 68 games, he was a stalwart on that Vancouver blueline. The argument can be made that Hughes was better defensively, but that is heading into some murky water. To put it simply, Hughes made less mistakes in his own end and held the other team to less shots against than Makar, BUT when the other team had shots, they were extremely high danger chances which often resulted in goals against. Both of these players are going to be bonafide number one defencemen for their teams, and this was just the beginning of what looks to be a very long and successful career for both players. Honestly, you could pick either guy and it would still be the correct answer.
Winner: Sean Couturier (31 points)
Runner-ups: Ryan O’Reilly (28), Patrice Bergeron (22)
Honourable Mentions: Mark Stone (17), Aleksander Barkov (12), Anthony Cirelli (10)
Couturier really has been a do-it-all type player for the Flyers this year, with his efforts being recognized across the league. He was primed to be in contention for the Selke this year after being the runner-up in 2017-18. Couturier was Philly's offensive spark this year, being first on the team in points (43), assists (30) and even strength points (35). His production offensively has not come at the expense of his defensive reliability, as he continues to play a complete 200-foot game. A premier short-handed forward in the league, Couturier is drawing comparisons to perennial Selke contender Patrice Bergeron. Couturier has been a coach's dream this season, and is certainly one of the main reasons the Flyers were competing for their division title.
Ted Lindsay Trophy
Winner: Leon Draisaitl (36 points)
Runner-ups: Nathan MacKinnon (33), Connor McDavid (31)
Honourable Mentions: Artemi Panarin (15), David Pastrnak (14), Auston Matthews (1)
There were five players that stood above the rest this season. Draisaitl, MacKinnon, McDavid, Panarin, and Pastrnak made every writer’s ballot, except mine. Now, I had four off the players, but instead of Pastrnak, I had Matthews. This was to account for his improvement on the defensive end.
This season, Matthews began to produce like the superstar that he was billed to be. Yes, in years past he has been relatively consistent in his elite production, but this was another story. Sitting well over a point per game, he was in the mix for the Rocket Richard, alongside the guy I left off the list and arguably the greatest goal scorer in hockey history. Furthermore, his isolated numbers on defence were stelar, with Matthews limiting both shots and chances within the “home plate area” of the defensive zone. This all amounts to a respectable nomination for most outstanding player this season. This was not to diminish the efforts of David Pastrnak on the league-leading Bruins. But Matthews’ effectiveness at both ends of the rink, his larger share of team production, and role as a centre amounted to him claiming the final ballot spot over Pastrnak.
Jack Adams Trophy
Winner: Alain Vigneault (29 points)
Runner-ups: Bruce Cassidy (26), John Tortorella (25)
Honourable Mentions: Mike Sullivan (22), Dave Tippet (10), David Quinn (7)
Orange is bright, and it's always a bright season when you’re sitting second in your division, especially the Metropolitan (Metro) Division and one point out of first. Not making the playoffs in the past 3 years and falling just short in a few of them, the Flyers needed a change. Enter Alain Vingeault. New coach, new season. Despite his spectacular college hockey resume, the Flyers head coach from 2015-2018 Dave Hakstol, couldn't get it done. Plain and simple. Even their interim coach Scott Gordon over the 51 games he coached since Hakstol was fired went 25-22-4, an overall losing record. There needed to be change. Over those years the organization locked up their core that they thought would be able to get them through the playoffs, guys like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov. They went out and added notable free agents bringing back James Van Riemsdyk ($7M) to the Flyers and newcomer Kevin Hayes ($7,142,857M) over the past 2 off seasons. With the tandem of the upcoming STUD Carter Hart and the always consistent Brian Elliot, this team was destined for success this season. All they needed was for someone to point them in the right direction. This roster is full of impactful talent, a team that deserves to be in the playoffs and make a run, and don’t get me wrong but that's my issue with this award. Vigneault stepped into a playoff ready team as the organization was fluttering at just above a 500. record the past few seasons and now he is looked at as the organizations saving grace. Vigneault is a good coach with years of experience for sure but in my opinion, whether you agree or not, no matter who came in as coach, if they had any kind of experience, Philly was destined for a good year.
Now nobody else from GOTI put Dave Tippett in their top 5 but he was straight to number one on my board. The reason is, think of the Edmonton Oilers. Since drafting Connor McDavid in 2015 people assumed they would make the playoffs for a decade straight based on his talent alone. Well that's the thing, they haven’t. Edmonton has brought in 2 very decorated and successful NHL coaches before Tippett in Todd McLellan and Ken Hitchcock but had one year of success. Look at how poorly Jesse Puljujarvi was handled, a 4th overall pick from yet another failed season who is now refusing to play for the Oilers and is destined to be traded for a lot less value. Over those 4 years there were little to no consistency, awful special teams numbers, and they arguably had a deeper and better roster before this season. He took a team that has the best player in the world in Connor McDavid and a contract that is hard to build around (at 12.5 million dollars per season) and instilled a system of consistency and success. Sitting here reading this I'll ask you, can you name the Edmonton Oilers third line? Or their bottom 2 pairings? Most people can’t. That speaks to what Tippett has been able to do. Now you can ask yourselves isn't that what Vigneault did in Philly? For sure! But there is a big difference. Can you name any big name free agents Edmonton has signed? Can you name any depth players on their roster? Lastly, the biggest difference is how Edmonton now has the best powerplay and second best penalty kill in the league. With all those big names on the Flyers, aside from McDavid, Leon Draisitil and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins there are no stars on this team. Yet, Tipett found success where they also now sit second in their division and just a couple points out of first. This is why Tippett to me deserves the Jack Adams as he has had the single biggest impact on a team’s successes.
Winner: Joe Sakic (37 points)
Runner-ups: Don Waddell (31), Ken Holland (16)
Honourable Mentions: Jeff Gorton (13), Ron Hextall/ Chuck Fletcher (9), Tom Fitzgerald (7)
There were a lot of good candidates for this award, and Joe Sakic has done an outstanding job building a young and competitive team in the Colorado Avalanche. He has made some tremendous trades in his tenure as general manager and has found money in some cheap free agent signings. Don Waddell is another guy who has done very similar things, although his Carolina Hurricanes have struggled a little this year, he made some outstanding deals at the trade deadline. However, I am here to talk about that second honourable mention we have up there. That’s right Mac and I gave some love to the original general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, the one who had drafted and built the core of this Flyers teams. He was able to draft key players such as Travis Konency (whom he traded up for), Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanhiem, and Carter Hart. He also stockpiled the farm system with guys like Philippe Myers and Morgan Frost. Ultimately, his patient approach was what got him fired as he did not want to rush the development of key prospects, especially Carter Hart who was destined to finally resolve the Flyers goaltending issue. Ron Hextall was a key part of building the current Flyers roster and I think he deserves credit for that.
However, we also have to acknowledge Chuck Fletcher as he helped solidify the young core by bringing in veterans guys like Kevin Hayes, Justin Braun, and Matt Niskanen. Although the Hayes extension is a little pricey, he fits their style of play perfectly and brings an element of leadership and punch to this Flyers team. He was also the one to make the executive decision in recalling Hart and having him tend the net with teammate Brian Elliot. Although it was against everything Hextall believed in, it turned out to be a brilliant move. Hart has been tremendous so far in his young NHL career and will only get better. I think between Fletcher and Hextall, they built a fun and exciting team that may have made a serious run if the season wasn't put on hold.
Listed below are all of the GOTI staff's top 5 picks for each category:
Photo taken from NHL.com