Last year, Carey Price dominated the THN Awards. This season brought more parity. The 2015-16 votes are in.
The NHL hands out its annual awards Wednesday. It will crown hockey’s most valuable player, best all-around defenseman, best goaltender, best defensive forward and more. But a few honors slip through the cracks. We never see the best defensive defenseman acknowledged, nor the best penalty killer, nor the toughest player. Heck, there’s no official award for the actual best player, even if the Hart Trophy has essentially become that.
So we at THN take it upon ourselves to fill the gaps with our annual awards. We still cover off the staples, but we add in a few custom virtual trophies. The 2015-16 results are in. Our system only factors in regular season play. We awarded five points for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote, three for a third-place vote, two for a fourth-place vote and one for a fifth-place vote.
MARIO LEMIEUX AWARD (Best Player)
1. Patrick Kane, Chicago (30 points)
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (20 points)
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington (9 points)
4. Jamie Benn, Dallas (8 points)
5. Brent Burns, San Jose (7 points)
Kane is a polarizing figure, but if we grade 2015-16 by on-ice efforts, he is king. He crushed the scoring field with 106 points, joining Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Gordie Howe as the only modern-era players to win the points race by more than 16.
Also receiving votes: Braden Holtby, Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton
WAYNE GRETZKY AWARD (Most Valuable Player)
T-1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (23 points)
T-1. Patrick Kane, Chicago (23 points)
3. Jamie Benn, Dallas (13 points)
4. Joe Thornton, San Jose (10 points)
5. Braden Holtby, Washington (7 points)
We’re anti-tie in this office, so we held a second vote to break the deadlock between Kane and Crosby, and Sid the Kid won. Crosby had less star-studded help at his disposal than Kane. Crosby ignited for 66 points in 52 games after coach Mike Sullivan took over. Crosby carried the Pens to a 13-2-0 record (13-1-0 with him in the lineup) while injured Evgeni Malkin sat down the stretch. Considering Crosby also plays a sound 200-foot game, no one contributes more to his team’s success.
Also receiving votes: Ben Bishop, Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Alex Ovechkin, Vladimir Tarasenko
BOBBY ORR AWARD (Best Defenseman)
1. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (26 points)
2. Brent Burns, San Jose (24 points)
3. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles (18 points)
4. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay (7 points)
5. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh (6 points)
Karlsson owned the possession game for Ottawa. The discrepancy in the Sens’ play with or without him on the ice was astronomical. He joined Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey and Denis Potvin as the only D-men to finish top-10 in NHL scoring twice.
Also receiving votes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Roman Josi, John Klingberg, Ryan Suter
PATRICK ROY AWARD (Best Goaltender)
1. Braden Holtby, Washington (24 points)
2. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay (23 points)
3. Corey Crawford, Chicago (17 points)
4. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles (10 points)
T-5. Brian Elliott, St. Louis (5 points)
T-5. Roberto Luongo, Florida (5 points)
Holtby’s a cold-as-ice workhorse, among the game’s most consistent goalies, and he equalled Martin Brodeur’s NHL record for victories in a season with 48.
Also receiving votes: Thomas Greiss, Martin Jones, Henrik Lundqvist, Cory Schneider
TEEMU SELANNE AWARD (Best Rookie)
1. Artemi Panarin, Chicago (27 points)
2. Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia (25 points)
3. Connor McDavid, Edmonton (20 points)
T-4. Jack Eichel, Buffalo (6 points)
T-4. John Gibson, Anaheim (6 points)
Playing with Patrick Kane was a cushy first-year assignment for mysterious KHL import Panarin, but it also takes a special talent to hang and stick with No. 88 all year. Panarin’s 77 points led the next-closest rookie by 21, and it hardly seems a coincidence Kane had his best season yet with Panarin on his line making silky-handed magic.
Also receiving votes: Max Domi, Dylan Larkin, Colton Parayko
SAKU KOIVU AWARD (Comeback Player)
1. Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers (23 points)
2. Joe Thornton, San Jose (9 points)
T-3. Jaromir Jagr, Florida (7 points)
T-3. Vincent Lecavalier, Los Angeles (7 points)
T-5. Loui Eriksson, Boston (5 points)
T-5. Keith Yandle, New York Rangers (5 points)
Playing hockey again was a dream in peril for Zuccarello last April. An errant shot from teammate Ryan McDonagh left Zuccarello with a hairline fracture in his skull, a brain contusion, loss of feeling in his arms and an inability to speak. He battled back, recovered fully and set career bests in games, goals and points this season. Wow.
Also receiving votes: Jamie Benn, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Brian Elliott, Mark Giordano, Thomas Greiss, Taylor Hall, Boone Jenner, Dmitry Orlov, James Reimer, Michal Rozsival, Zack Smith, Lee Stempniak
CAM NEELY AWARD (Breakout Player)
1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington (25 points)
2. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg (11 points)
3. Aleksander Barkov, Florida (10 points)
T-4. Brent Burns, San Jose (5 points)
T-4. John Klingberg, Dallas (5 points)
Kuznetsov held the unofficial title of “best player not in the NHL” for a couple years, and his bust-out year at 23 validated that hype. He improved from 37 to 77 points, more than any other Washington Capital, including established stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Is a run at the Art Ross Trophy next?
Also receiving votes: Jake Allen, Shayne Gostisbehere, Thomas Greiss, Connor Hellebuyck, Roman Josi, Dylan Larkin, Brad Marchand, Petr Mrazek, Artemi Panarin, Colton Parayko, Rasmus Ristolainen, Brayden Schenn
ROD LANGWAY AWARD (Best Defensive Defenseman)
1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles (20 points)
2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose (18 points)
3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay (9 points)
T-4. Matt Niskanen, Washington (6 points)
T-4. Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay (6 points)
T-4. Ryan Suter, Minnesota (6 points)
Doughty allowed fewer 5-on-5 shot attempts per 60 minutes than all but one NHL blueliner, and Doughty did so facing opponents’ best attackers every night.
Also receiving votes: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Roman Josi, Duncan Keith, Adam Larsson, Ryan McDonagh, Jake Muzzin, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Weber
GUY CARBONNEAU AWARD (Top Penalty Killer)
1. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim (13 points)
2. Jonathan Toews, Chicago (9 points)
T-3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay (8 points)
T-3. Brad Marchand, Boston (8 points)
T-3. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa (8 points)
The Ducks boasted the league’s top-ranked penalty kill, in large part due to Kesler, who ranked among the top NHL forwards in shorthanded ice time per game.
Also receiving votes: Karl Alzner, Francois Beauchemin, Patrice Bergeron, Jay Bouwmeester, Matt Cullen, John Gibson, Luke Glendening, Michael Grabner, Andy Greene, Hampus Lindholm, Jake Muzzin, Matt Niskanen, Alex Pietrangelo, Roman Polak, Cam Talbot
BOB PROBERT AWARD (Toughest Player)
1. Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia (11 points)
2. Tom Wilson, Washington (10 points)
3. Ryan Reaves, St. Louis (9 points)
4. Matt Martin, New York Islanders (8 points)
5. David Backes, St. Louis (7 points)
Bob Probert, the most feared tough guy ever, could also put the puck in the net. Simmonds notched his first 30-goal campaign and was a power play demon for the Flyers. He absorbs major punishment from opposing D-men in front of the goal and gets revenge with thunderous hits. Simmonds is vicious when he decides to fight, too.
Also receiving votes: Karl Alzner, Francois Beauchemin, Jamie Benn, Mark Borowiecki, Dustin Byfuglien, Zdeno Chara, Cal Clutterbuck, Calvin de Haan, Derek Dorsett, Evander Kane, Leo Komarov, Milan Lucic, Brooks Orpik, Kris Russell
SCOTTY BOWMAN AWARD (Best Coach)
1. Barry Trotz, Washington (21 points)
T-2. Gerard Gallant, Florida (17 points)
T-2. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh (17 points)
T-4. Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia (8 points)
T-4. Lindy Ruff, Dallas (8 points)
The capitals won a franchise-best 56 games under Trotz’s watch and flirted with the 1976-77 Habs’ torrid pace throughout the season. Trotz still can’t get Washington out of Round 2, but there’s no denying his regular season teams are consistently well-rounded juggernauts.
Also receiving votes: Bruce Boudreau, Jack Capuano, Jon Cooper, Pete DeBoer, Ken Hitchcock, Joel Quenneville
SAM POLLOCK AWARD (Best GM)
1. Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh (20 points)
2. Brian MacLellan, Washington (16 points)
3. Doug Wilson, San Jose (14 points)
4. Jim Nill, Dallas (12 points)
5. Stan Bowman, Chicago (8 points)
Rutherford aggressively chased any deal that could help his win-now Penguins secure a title, from the Phil Kessel trade to a mid-season coaching change to upping the team’s speed with deals for Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley. Rutherford’s touch was Midas-like.
Also receiving votes: Doug Armstrong, Lou Lamoriello, Dean Lombardi, David Poile, Dale Tallon, Steve Yzerman
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin