The Bolts lead the way, and the THN staffers – well, most of them – tip their hats to Gerard Gallant for his mastery in Vegas.
It’s mid-season awards time for the 2017-18 season…finally. The debates have raged through the THN office for several months now. Is this the year Drew Doughty actually deserves the Norris? Will Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos’ stellar partnership make them cancel each other out on the ballot? Who deserves the credit for Vegas’ unbelievable season: Gerard Gallant, George McPhee, or both? Let’s find out.
A panel of seven staffers submitted their top fives for the Hart, Vezina, Norris, Calder and Jack Adams. Five points were awarded for a first-place vote, four for a second, three for a third, two for a fourth and one for a fifth. Behold, the results.
1. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning (33 points)
2. John Tavares, Islanders (23 points)
3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning (11 points)
4. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (10 points)
5. Blake Wheeler, Jets (nine points)
It’s fascinating to see our voting panel favor the goal over the pass here, freezing Steven Stamkos out of the top five and almost unanimously voting his linemate Kucherov the first-half MVP. Not that Kucherov doesn’t deserve it, of course. He’s been the league’s most dominant player, hands down, scoring at the rate of a 1990s superstar. Every time we think we understand how good he is, he gets better. The perception that the Isles go as John Tavares goes rings true again here, and that won’t change unless the team’s goaltending improves. It’s nice to see Blake Wheeler get some long-overdue respect in this vote, too.
Also receiving votes: Anze Kopitar, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Quick, Brayden Schenn, Drew Doughty, Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning (34 points)
2. Jonathan Quick, Kings (25 points)
3. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (15 points)
4. Connor Hellebuyck, Jets (11 points)
5. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (6 points)
How was this vote not unanimous? Vasilevskiy received one second-place nod despite leading the NHL in wins (26), goals-against average (1.95), save percentage (.937) and shutouts (6). Those positively jaw-dropping numbers look like Dominik Hasek’s from the late 1990s. On the analytics end, among stoppers with 1,000 or more minutes played, Vasilevskiy ranks first in 5-on-5 SP, second in low-danger SP, fourth in medium-danger SP and ninth in high-danger SP. He’s been an absolute juggernaut in the crease. That said, Quick is a highly deserving runner up. The league’s most athletic goalie looks healthy again and has keyed a resurgent Kings’ season with his best performance in years. It’s scary to think where the Blackhawks would be without Corey Crawford this year, isn’t it?
Also receiving votes: Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Cory Schneider
1. Drew Doughty, Kings (35 points)
2. Victor Hedman, Lightning (23 points)
3. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (19 points)
4. John Klingberg, Stars (7 points)
5. P.K. Subban, Predators (6 points)
Remarkable to see a unanimous winner for this award, which is typically divisive because every voter has a different idea of what an elite defenseman should be and how much the award should skew toward offensive or defensive ability. It’s a testament to how outstanding Doughty has been this year that he transcended any debate. He’s the league’s leader in minutes, he’s posting top-end offensive numbers, his possession stats are great…any way you slice it, Doughty has been the gold standard in 2017-18. The irony: he might not have deserved it when he won in 2015-16, and even though he will deserve it this time if he keeps it up, the Professional Hockey Writers Association’s voting trend might again favor “the guy who is due” – and give it to Hedman. Go figure.
Also receiving votes: John Carlson, Mark Giordano, Ryan Suter, Brent Burns, Mattias Ekholm, Zach Werenski
1. Brock Boeser, Canucks (35 points)
2. Mathew Barzal, Islanders (23 points)
3. Charlie McAvoy, Bruins (21 points)
4. Mikhail Sergachev, Lightning (16 points)
5. Clayton Keller, Coyotes (11 points)
This was a locked-in top five. With apologies to the likes of Jesper Bratt and Danton Heinen, all seven voters picked the same five rookies. All seven picked the same winner, too. Boeser has wowed us with his dynamite release. The Canucks may have their best pure goal scorer since Markus Naslund, and that will accelerate their rebuild. It’s interesting to see Keller in fifth after he seemed to be running away with the Calder in October before going ice cold.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Gerard Gallant, Golden Knights (34 points)
T-2. John Hynes, Devils (19 points)
T-2. John Stevens, Kings (19 points)
4. Jon Cooper, Lightning (12 points)
5. Paul Maurice, Jets (9 points)
I’ll admit to being the one voter who didn’t slot Gallant in first place. I had him second. The reason: when a coach takes over a team made entirely of transplants, how do we truly know it’s his handiwork that’s crafted this powerhouse? Isn’t it George McPhee who deserves the most praise? I had Stevens first. He took over a team that made almost zero roster changes. When a team turns over so little yet suddenly rockets up the standings, that’s clearly the result of coaching, no? Still, hats off to Gallant for helping his group strike amazing chemistry. That couldn’t have been easy, even if McPhee did a great job setting the chessboard.