Who takes THN’s hypothetical hardware as the NHL season reaches its halfway mark? Nashville shows strongly.
It’s that time of year when we pretend it’s that time of year.
Mid-season awards don’t really mean much, but they provide a strong sense of what to expect when the NHL hands out the real hardware in June. We held a vote between eight THN staffers for the Hart, Vezina, Norris, Calder and Selke trophies and the Jack Adams Award. Each voter submitted a top three for each award. Finalists received three points for a first-place vote, two for second place and one for third place.
1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville (17 points)
2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim (13 points)
3. Tyler Seguin, Dallas (6 points)
So the THN ballots project Rinne as the first goalie to win the Hart since Jose Theodore in 2002. This vote makes more sense when you see how large his victory margin is for the Vezina. Rinne’s career appeared to be floundering last season, when he had hip surgery and developed a mysterious infection as a result. In changing coaches from Barry Trotz to Peter Laviolette for 2014-15, Nashville shifted to an offense-minded approach, and Rinne’s oustanding play has allowed this team to take more chances. This team couldn’t be as dominant without him.
We project Ryan Getzlaf to win his second straight bridesmaid honor. He remained dominant when Corey Perry missed most of December with a knee injury. Tyler Seguin likely would’ve gotten more traction had Dallas been battling for Central Division supremacy instead of the final Western Conference wild card berth.
Also receiving Hart votes: Sidney Crosby, Mark Giordano, Jakub Voracek, Evgeni Malkin, Carey Price, Tyler Johnson, Steven Stamkos
1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville (24 points)
2. Carey Price, Montreal (14 points)
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh (5 points)
Rinne received every first place vote. He leads the NHL in wins and cracks the top four in goals-against average (2.00) and save percentage (.929). Given the goalies above him in the latter two categories are all timeshare tenders with smaller sample sizes, Rinne is the de facto triple crown leader. Carey Price has been a world beater for Montreal and racked up second-place nods, while Marc-Andre Fleury’s stellar first half earned the panel’s respect.
Also receiving Vezina votes: Roberto Luongo, Jaroslav Halak
1. Mark Giordano, Calgary (21 points)
2. Duncan Keith, Chicago (9 points)
3. Shea Weber, Nashville (6 points)
Mark Giordano was Calgary’s little secret last year, quietly scoring at the rate of every elite blueliner not named Erik Karlsson or Duncan Keith and posting outsanding advanced possession statistics relative to the competition he faced every night. Giordano runs away with our mid-season Norris, but less because of his defensive prowess than because he’s lit up the scoresheet. Flames coach Bob Hartley has let all his D-men freewheel, and Giordano is on pace to top 70 points as a result. Sorry yet again, Shea Weber. Nashville can’t win every award.
Also receiving Norris votes: Kevin Shattenkirk, Kris Letang, Drew Doughty, Brent Burns, P.K. Subban
1. Filip Forsberg, Nashville (22 points)
2. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary (16 points)
3. Aaron Ekblad, Florida (11 points)
The trifecta of Filip Forsberg, Johnny Gaudreau and Aaron Ekblad was pretty much preordained. It was just a matter of how each voter ordered them. Forsberg has already broken Nashville’s rookie scoring record in half a season. If Ekblad keeps playing like he has for the last two months, however, he could blow away his competition by season’s end.
Also receiving Calder votes: Michael Hutchinson
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston (12 points)
2. Jonathan Toews, Chicago (11 points)
3. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit (8 points)
Not surprisingly, the Selke had the wildest variation in vote-getters, as the best defensive forward is hard award to pin down. What are the criteria? If the advanced stats era requires we weigh possession heavier, Joe Thornton deserves a lot of love. Ryan Kesler plays the most shorthanded minutes of any Selke candidate to receive votes. Ultimately, the winner was the guy who does a bit of everything. It doesn’t feel like Patrice Bergeron’s best season, but the numbers, from possession to faceoffs, tell us he’s his same old self. Datsyuk really polarized the office. He got a few first-place votes, as he’s a dominant possession force at even strength, but others felt he shouldn’t factor into the race at all because he doesn’t kill penalties this season.
Also receiving Selke votes: Ryan Kesler, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Bryan Little, Marian Hossa, Mikko Koivu, Henrik Zetterberg, Anze Kopitar
JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Peter Laviolette, Nashville (21 points)
2. Jack Capuano, N.Y. Islanders (10 points)
3. Paul Maurice, Winnipeg (5 points)
Predators GM David Poile was extremely busy this off-season, especially with his forward corps, bringing in the likes of James Neal and Mike Ribeiro. He deserves credit for puppeteering Nashville’s resurgence. But so does Peter Laviolette. The most marked change in the Predators this season is their complete shift from a counter-punching group to an attacking force. They rank among the league leaders in goals, shots and Corsi Close. This team has Laviolette’s signature scrawled all over it. It seems the best defense is a strong offense, as being the aggressor more often has actually led to fewer shot attempts against.
Also receiving Jack Adams votes: Willie Desjardins, Bruce Boudreau, Bob Hartley, Jon Cooper, Mike Babcock, Mike Johnston
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