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No Vegas Vacation: 10 snubs left out of the NHL Awards

Claude Giroux finished second in league scoring, was one of only two players with a point on at least 40 percent of his team's goals and was rock-solid at both ends of the ice. It wasn't enough for him to be in the trophy mix at the NHL Awards in Vegas, though.

Many of the NHL’s best and brightest will descend upon Las Vegas for the 2018 NHL Awards on Wednesday evening, including standout stars such as Connor McDavid, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban and Anze Kopitar. But as important to note as those who will be attendance when the NHL’s individual hardware is handed out are those who will be conspicuous by their absence.

So, sure, while not everyone should be up for an award come the end of the season, there are more than a few players who are somewhat unexpectedly out of the running and won’t be flashing their toothy — or toothless — grins on the red carpet. Here are 10 players who could be considered snubs for Wednesday’s awards show:

There’s really two awards that Giroux could have made a case for, the Selke Trophy and the Hart Trophy, though one could argue the former has as much to do with skating on a line with Sean Couturier than it does Giroux’s own defensive ability. His case for the Hart, though, was fantastic. He finished second in scoring with 102 points, his 34 goals tied him for 17th place and as far as percentage of team points goes, Giroux was in a class with only one other player: McDavid. He and Giroux were the only skaters to record a point on at least 40 percent of his team’s total goals. Had Philadelphia done more than narrowly sneak into the final divisional playoff spot in the Metropolitan, maybe Giroux would have received more credit.

It’s one thing for Nikita Kucherov not to be present given he was one of the league’s top players for the vast majority of the season, but for Malkin not to get the nod over Hall or MacKinnon when it comes to the Ted Lindsay Award is somewhat surprising. Granted, it could be argued that Hall and MacKinnon did more with less around them than Malkin did — and surely that’s the argument some will default to — it’s impossible to deny how incredible Malkin was this past season, particularly over the second half. From Jan. 1 onward, Malkin scored 28 goals and 62 points, leading the league in the former and trailing only McDavid in the latter. The Penguins superstar was absolutely dominant, and if McDavid is worthy of a spot, so is Malkin.

In the early part of the campaign, Andrei Vasilevskiy appeared to be the runaway choice for the Vezina Trophy, but it’s difficult to understand how he found his place among the top three vote-getters while Gibson is on the outside looking in. Yes, Vasilevskiy tied for the league lead with 44 wins, but that’s a team statistic. In two of the three goalie-specific categories, save percentage and goals-against average, Gibson was superior to Vasilevskiy and the Ducks netminder was one of the best penalty-killers in the league. He posted a .916 SP on the kill, better than the next-best netminder by nearly 10 points.

Piggybacking off of Gibson’s worthiness for the Vezina over Vasilevskiy, the numbers also slant in favor of Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets' starting netminder, over his fellow countryman and Tampa Bay keeper. Bobrovsky was the league’s third-best 5-on-5 netminder and, according to Corsica, no netminder had a higher deviation in their actual 5-on-5 SP from their expected SP than Bobrovsky, who sat at 2.11. That’s to say that if any other netminder was thrown in his situation, their SP number could have been almost two percent lower. Again, he didn’t have the wins, but he made as much of a difference in goal as any netminder this season.

Bobrovsky isn’t the only Blue Jacket who will be watching from elsewhere despite having a good case to be in attendance, because while Jones may be the least snubbed of all the snubs listed given his competition, he still had a rock-solid case for the Norris Trophy and should have earned more consideration for the top three. He’s grown into an elite defenseman in Columbus, and his numbers are in line with all of the top defenders. His points-per-game rate was even with Drew Doughty and Jones was the second-highest scorer on a low-scoring Blue Jackets squad.

You can make all the arguments you want against McAvoy, but there’s an answer for all of them. He missed nearly 20 games? So did Brock Boeser, but he’s likely to finish second in voting. He didn’t produce at the same rate as Mathew Barzal? Sure, but he also arguably played a bigger role in his team’s success as a top-pairing defenseman on a playoff team. McAvoy may not have the pure goals-and-assists numbers, but he had what was almost certainly one of the best rookie seasons from a defenseman in the post-lockout era, and if it weren’t for his injury, he would have almost certainly earned his way into the top three. It will be interesting to see how far back he finished of Keller, the likely third-place finisher, for the final spot in Vegas.

Can a 26-year-old be the victim of awards-based ageism? Because if that’s possible, it might be the case with Gourde. By the book, Gourde was a rookie this past season even if he has spent the past six seasons bouncing around the AHL as he waited for his opportunity. He got it this season, though, and the rookie exploded with 25 goals (fourth among rookies), 64 points (third among rookies) and turned into a scoring sensation in Tampa Bay. Here’s the thing, too: Gourde scored about as much as Keller despite playing fewer minutes and earning less of his points on the power play. Gourde also contributed on both special-teams units, showing the dimensions to his game. There are those who won’t be upset about his exclusion, but Lightning fans especially will feel like this was a slight.

There’s no chance Maurice would have won the Jack Adams Award even if he were attending the awards show Wednesday evening, but in a crowded field, he was as deserving a candidate as any of the final three. Gerard Gallant did tremendous things with the Vegas Golden Knights, Jared Bednar helped rejuvenate the Colorado Avalanche and Bruce Cassidy made a bubble Boston Bruins team a contender for the division crown. What Maurice did, however, was help shape a young roster with plenty of potential and turn them into a contender for the Presidents’ Trophy. In fact, the Jets' pursuit of the best regular-season record came down to the wire and they narrowly lost to the Nashville Predators, and he got all of this from a team that finished with less than 90 points just one season earlier.

Point-based improvement isn’t the sole factor in deciding which coaches get nominated for the Jack Adams, but it certainly doesn’t hurt their candidacy. So, while Bednar heads to Vegas after driving the Avalanche to a 47-point improvement and Cassidy earned his way there by making the Bruins 17 points better, Hynes sits at home despite having helped the Devils snap a five-year playoff drought and improve by 27 points. There was an element of singular player-driven success with Taylor Hall dominating for New Jersey, but that’s no different from MacKinnon driving Colorado. And at all strengths, the Devils had less so-called puck luck than the Avalanche, boasting a 1.002 PDO to Colorado’s 1.018 mark, per Natural Stat Trick.

While it’s not a major award, nor one that Spurgeon would favor over, say, the Norris Trophy, it’s remarkable that a rearguard who averaged upwards of 24 minutes per game across 61 games and was penalized just four times while playing against top competition was overlooked for the Lady Byng Award. Spurgeon is one of only three defensemen in the post-lockout era to skate those kind of minutes across 60-plus games and register less than 10 penalty minutes. Teammate Jonas Brodin accomplished the feat in 2014-15, and Brian Campbell managed just six minutes in 82 games back in 2011-12. Fittingly, he won the Lady Byng, becoming the first defenseman to do so since Red Kelly in 1954.

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