Braden Holtby is the lone unanimous winner among THN’s mid-season award selections. The Vezina is all but his; can he overtake Patrick Kane in the MVP race, too?
Most NHL teams have reached the halfway points of their 2015-16 seasons, give or take a few games. It’s thus a fun time to double every player’s individual statistics and project how they’ll close out the year. Fifty-point guys are 100-point guys, 20-goal men are 40-goal snipers, and so on.
The midpoint also offers the ideal juncture for mid-season awards. We won’t pretend they mean anything official. A lot can change in the second half, and the season’s back nine may or may not carry the recency bias, meaning late-season surges carry slightly more weight than early-season heroics. Andrew Hammond debuted Feb. 16 last season and finished seventh in Vezina Trophy voting and 15th in Hart voting.
Still, the awards are a fun way to take stock of the season to date. We held a vote between eight THN staff members to pick our mid-year Hart, Vezina, Norris, Calder and Jack Adams winners. Finalists received five points per first-place vote, three per second-place vote and one per third-place vote.
1. Patrick Kane, Chicago (38 points)
2. Jamie Benn, Dallas (13 points)
3. Braden Holtby, Washington (12 points)
Kane has just been so out-of-his-mind good all year that no one could knock him out of the top spot. He received seven of eight first-place nods, with the other going to Holtby. Kane’s 26-game point streak really symbolizes why he’s been the MVP of the NHL so far this season. What is more valuable than a prolific point-getter who does it over and over, getting his name on the score sheet every single game from Oct. 17 to Dec. 15? Kane also hasn’t deflated since the streak ended, which would’ve been understandable. He has 14 points in 10 games since, including points in eight of those games.
Interestingly, Tyler Seguin didn’t receive a single top-three vote despite being so darned great this year. He and Benn almost affect each other adversely in voting. They’re so good together that we seem to deem each guy successful because of the other. In last year’s mid-season poll, Seguin received votes and Benn didn’t. Go figure.
Also receiving Hart votes: Johnny Gaudreau, Erik Karlsson, Vladimir Tarasenko
1. Braden Holtby, Washington (40 points)
2. Roberto Luongo, Florida (14 points)
3. Cory Schneider, New Jersey (8 points)
An absolute walk for Holtby, the only unanimous first-place victor. We really can’t say enough about how dominant he has been between the pipes for the NHL’s most dominant team. He was always a good netminder, but he’s grown into an elite netminder under the watchful eye of Mitch Korn, who is to goalies what Dave Duncan is to pitching. Holtby’s consistency is especially impressive. He has a goals-against average below 2.00 and a save percentage of .924 or better in every completed month this season.
Somewhere along the line, Roberto Luongo became underrated. Was it memories of his shaky playoff moments with Vancouver? Or has he masterminded his way into underdog status via his funny, self-deprecating Twitter account? We give him his due here with a healthy dollop of second-place votes. He’s been as responsible as anyone for the Florida Panthers’ sizzling play of late.
Also receiving Vezina votes: Corey Crawford, Jonathan Quick
1. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (27 points)
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles (22 points)
3. John Klingberg, Dallas (7 points)
Karlsson’s scoring pace has dipped ever so slightly of late, but he remains on pace for the most points by any defenseman since Ray Bourque’s 91 in 1993-94. Karlsson is tied for fourth in NHL scoring and, if he remains in the top 10 all season, he’ll join Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin and Paul Coffey as the only defensemen with more than one top-10 finish.
The voting panel forgives Karlsson’s lack of shutdown defensive ability – rather, his lack of perceived shutdown ability. He’s such a powerful driver of possession that he essentially creates defense by offense, with shot attempts drastically spiking for his own Ottawa Senators whenever he’s on the ice. The Corsi numbers also suggest he carries his ‘D’ partners, not vice versa, as their ratings plummet when they play without him. Marc Methot, for instance, has a hideous 38.4 5-on-5 Corsi percentage without Karlsson and 48.4 with him, and Karlsson sits at 56.6 without Methot, per puckalytics.com.
Will Drew Doughty end up just duplicating Brad Park’s entire career, loaded with runner-up Norris finishes (albeit with two more Cups than Park already)? Interesting to see Klingberg snubbed from the All-Star Game but not from our Norris podium. The only player other than Karlsson and Doughty to receive a first-place vote was Josi.
Also receiving Norris votes: Roman Josi, Justin Faulk, Brent Burns, Ryan Suter, Victor Hedman, Aaron Ekblad
1. Dylan Larkin, Detroit (32 points)
2. Artemi Panarin, Chicago (30 points)
3. Max Domi, Arizona (7 points)
Panarin continues to pace the rookie scoring race by a country mile. Sharing a line with Kane, the NHL’s top scorer and player right now, likely hurt Panarin in the vote. If Larkin or Domi played with Kane, how many more points would each have? Larkin’s 200-foot game also bolstered his status.
Note Connor McDavid’s conspicuous absence. He didn’t receive one vote. This process wasn’t about predicting the real Calder winner. It was about awarding the best rookie so far, and McDavid’s sample size is too small while we await his return from a broken collarbone.
Also receiving Calder votes: Colton Parayko, John Gibson
JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Gerard Gallant, Florida (29 points)
2. Barry Trotz, Washington (19 points)
3. Lindy Ruff, Dallas (9 points)
The Panthers’ top off-season acquisition was Reilly Smith, acquired for Jimmy Hayes. Gallant has worked with more or less the same roster as last year’s and gotten superb results, including a franchise-best winning streak of 11 games and counting.
The guess here is Trotz overtakes Gallant and wins the real award in June. Gallant deserves the mid-season prize, but his Panthers rank 20th in 5-on-5 score adjusted Corsi, per war-on-ice.com. A regression should come. The Capitals, meanwhile, are a top-10 possession team, suggesting they can maintain their excellence.
Also receiving Jack Adams votes: Dave Tippett, Mike Babcock, Michel Therrien, John Hynes, Darryl Sutter
Matt Larkin is an associate 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