Wild Accusations: Awards Vol. 3

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On January 13th and February 9th I wrote columns predicting NHL Award winners, both individual and team , and with the NHL regular season over and the playoffs upon us, I feel like now is a good time to see what I am right about (there are some), where I can no longer be right (there are some), and give my playoff predictions for the first round.

THE STUFF WE ACTUALLY KNOW NOW

President’s Trophy Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

This is a Washington versus Chicago race now, but I’ll give Washington the trophy, as the West is comprised of better teams, so Chicago won’t be able to pick up as many points down the stretch as Washington, who will continue to beat up on poor Eastern teams.

What we know now

Washington completely beat up on the East capturing their second President’s trophy in the last 5 years.

 

Who Will Make the Play-offs – Eastern Conference

What I said on Feb. 9, 2016

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*Buffalo, Toronto and Columbus have no shot

Well, I don’t see a whole lot changing in this conference. Pittsburgh is on a roll (6-2-2 in their last 10) and I’ll never keep Detroit out of the playoffs until the year after they actually miss the playoffs so I see them holding their Wild Card spots. At some point, I think the wheels are going to fall off in New Jersey and Carolina, and the wheels have long been off in Montreal, so I don’t see them making the playoffs.

What we know now

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Pitt got real hot and the Bruins turned into a tire fire. The team I gave a shot to, Philly, capitalized and captured the last wild card spot. I wasn’t far off here at all.

Who Will Make the Play-offs – Western Conference

What I said on Feb. 9, 2016

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The West is a little dicier than the East, but still don’t see a lot of movement. The Central Division teams are all locked in, as well as LA. Anaheim is 8-2-0 in their last 10 and even though they started off so poorly this season, they’re a play-off built team and I have them making the tournament.

I have a hard time counting San Jose out of their annual chance to lose in the first round, so I’ll keep them in there too.

Nashville should make it—their D-core is just too good—but I’m not sold on Colorado. You have to figure Minnesota’s terrible play (1-8-1 in their last 10) will turn around at some point and the fact that you can win 1 game out of 10 and still be in the mix shows that they’ve played good hockey this year…so I think they’ll figure it out and gain the points they need to pass Colorado.

What we know now

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Other than only having Anaheim “making” the tournament instead of powering into the tournament (man, they’re good!), I was bang on with who was making it in the West
Maurice Richard Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

Real easy: Alex Ovechkin has won this award the past three years, just potted his 500th career goal, and will go on a tear from here until the end of the year. Another trophy in the case for Ovi.

What we know now

Yup. Ovi. Like clockwork.

Art Ross Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

Patrick Kane jumped out to what I think is an insurmountable lead in this category so, as much as I think Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are going to push, Kane is taking this one home.

What we know now

It ended up being Sidney Crosby who pushed, but Kane’s hot start was insurmountable and he’s the NHL’s only 100-point scorer.

William Jennings Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

So this is a total guess but right now the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and LA Kings goalies are the front runners, and I don’t see the Panthers staying at the top all year. Down to the Caps and Kings, I think Braden Holtby is having a better year than Jonathan Quick (more on that later in the column), so I’ll give it to Holtby

What we know now

I was WAY off.

It wasn’t Holtby, it wasn’t Florida and it wasn’t LA, it was Anaheim. The Ducks only lost 10 of their last 49 games in regulation and ended up beating Holtby and the caps by the slimmest of margins for this category:  192 goals against to 193.

THE STUFF WE STILL DON’T KNOW

GM of the Year

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

For me, the contenders for this award are Nashville Predators GM David Polie and Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan. Polie a lot for the deal he just made to get Ryan Johansen to the Preds. If that deal works out and the Predators vault to the top of the standings, then Polie could be looking at this trophy in his office come year end, but I am going to guess that MacLellan and the Capitals are going to win this one for 2015-16.

Why? Well, because Alexander Ovechkin is no longer the Capitals most important player. Note that I am not saying he’s not their best player, as he is certainly still their most talented player; but he is not their most important player anymore, which is huge for the Capitals.

The reason I, in the past, have doubted Washington is because Ovechkin was both their best and most important player, and the difficulty with that is that Ovechkin, as terrific as he is, is still fairly one dimensional. He’s abysmal defensively still and so, when he’s not scoring, he’s not doing much else to positively affect the game. When your most important player can’t affect the game at all times, scoring or not, your team is in trouble. MacLellan has finally been able to add pieces, develop, and structure the Capitals so that even when Ovechkin is not lighting the lamp, the team is still solid top to bottom.

Am I changing my prediction?

Nope. Though Polie’s Preds did make a nice push and Johansen fit in really well in Nashville, MacLellan is getting this trophy.

Bridgestone Messier Leadership Award

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

I don’t know, this award is kind of stupid in my opinion. It’s basically just Messier picking a guy he likes throughout the year. Aside from 2007 to Chris Chelios, this award has gone to a player who was the Captain of his team, but since there is precedent of a non-Captain winning, I’m going to say give this award to Roberto Luongo out in Florida. Who had the Panthers doing this well this season? And though he’s not the Captain, Luongo is the leader of that team and he’s the guy whose good play has been so infectious to spread to the rest of the squad, so Luongo is going to win this one.

Am I changing my prediction?

Yes. I think Sidney Crosby or Ryan Getzlaf are going to end up getting this trophy. I think Messier loves a good comeback story and the run that Anaheim and Pittsburgh had to go on to not only get into the playoffs, but vault to the tops of the standing will be too impressive for Marky Mark to overlook.

Ted Lindsay Award

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

This one is going to Patrick Kane for the simple reason that I believe his 26-game point streak did enough to engrain him in this spot to his fellow players. Which it should. 26 straight games with a point is insane, and it’s not like he’s slowed down at all, either. He’s currently leading the league in points and baring a big slump, I don’t see Jamie Benn catching up. Kane’ll win this award, though I do think Benn will get some votes (as well as the guy who I have as the MVP).

Am I changing my prediction?

Nope. If you’re the only 100-point scorer in the league, your brethren are going to give you all the shine. Kane is a lock.

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

Typically, however, this award goes to a player who has suffered some sort of significant injury or life event. Dominic Moore’s perseverance after his wife’s passing; Josh Harding battling MS; Phil Kessel beating testicular cancer. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a player who is overcoming something like this (although I’m sure there is one), so I’m thinking, give the award to Jagr.

The fact that he’s playing in the NHL (and playing well) at 43 shows his perseverance and dedication, and he’s only taken ten penalties all year, so there’s his sportsmanship. More than that, the people love Jaromir Jagr again. Yes, we’ve forgotten that there was a time when Jagr jolted from team to team, chasing whatever the biggest payday was; we’ve forgotten that he used to be criticized for not giving his all, all the time; and we’ve forgiven him for leaving the NHL to go play in Russia. Now that he’s back in the NHL and playing, at 43, just for the love of the game, we all love him again.

And you know what? He’s one of the greatest players ever, and if it were not for that little stint in the KHL, he’d easily be the 2nd highest scorer in NHL history and the only guy remotely close to catching Gretzky, so give him a trophy this year, because we don’t know how many more chances we’ll get to give him one.

Am I changing my prediction?

NO WAY!

Give it to Jagr! Give anything you can to that old man!

Jack Adams Award

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

Mike Babcock, right Leafs’ fans? I mean, quite honestly, Babcock might deserve it at the end of the year because the Leafs are so dramatically better than last year with a—on paper—worse roster, but the candidates are going to be Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers, Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars, and Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals.

I’ll knock Ruff off right now, because as much as the Stars have improved this year over last, they underachieved last year, so the improvement is a little sullied.

Gallant is going to get a nice long look at this, because as I said before, no one thought the Panthers were going to be this good this year. The only thing going against him is, how many of you would know who Gerard Gallant is, if I didn’t say he was the Florida Panthers’ Coach?

That leaves Trotz, which works perfectly because I believe the Jack Adams and GM of the Year awards sync up really nice. Again, the Capitals aren’t the Ovi Show anymore, and it’s helped their team tremendously. And, for as many Coaches that the Caps have had go in there and try to fix Ovi’s game, Trotz is the only Coach to go in there and fix the TEAM, which was much more important.

Am I changing my prediction?

Ugh, Gereard Gallant really did a fantastic job this season, but if Trotz doesn’t win this award I’d be completely shocked. For all the reasons I said back then, Trotz really deserves this one.

Frank J. Selke Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

Since Pavel Datsyuk first won this in 2008, this award has basically gone to the highest scoring forward who isn’t a liability in his own end, which is why Datsyuk and Patrice Bergeron have dominated this award (with a little Jonathan Toews mixed in) the past couple years.

That said, it’s looking like Bergeron’s trophy to win again this year, but I’d just like to remind voters that Jamie Benn is a beast in his own end too, so don’t forget about him.

Am I changing my prediction?

Yes. I think Joe Pavelski is going to win this award. He had 38 goals this season, 78 points and was a plus-25 for the San Jose Sharks and people kind of love to point out that Pavelski is underrated (according to most) so I think if there’s an opportunity to give him an award, he’ll get one.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

Jagr. Give as many awards to Jagr as we can. Like I mentioned, only ten penalties so far this year (sportsmanship), he was voted to the All-Star Game (high standard of playing ability), and because, “He’s one of the greatest players ever, and if it were not for that little stint in the KHL, he’d easily be the 2nd highest scorer in NHL history and the only guy remotely close to catching Gretzky, so give him a[s many] troph[ies as we can] this year, because we don’t know how many more chances we’ll get to give him one. “

Am I changing my prediction?

Yes. Though I still believe in the “give as man awards to Jagr as we can,” theory,  Johnny Gaudreau scored 78 points in 79 games during his sophomore season and only took 20 PIMS. That should be enough to get him his first Lady Byng.

Calder Memorial Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

I want it to be Max Domi because I love Max Domi, but it’ll be Artemi Panarin edging out Dylan Larkin.

Listen, I think Larkin deserves all the credit in the world. When you’re a 19-year-old who the Red Wings determine can play in the NHL, writers—who vote on the award—take notice (it doesn’t happen often). Include the fact that you’ve got a shot to lead the league in +/-, and you’re second in rookie scoring (and not playing with Patrick Kane), that’s a whole lot to be considered. But, by the end of the year, Panarin is going to run away with the scoring lead, and that’ll get him the votes. Plain and simple.

Am I changing my prediction?

Not a chance. I know that Canadians desperately want Connor McDavid to get this award and hockey hipster want Shayne Gostisbehere, but Aremi Panarin had 77 points in 80 games.

If he doesn’t win best rookie, it’s a joke.

James Norris Memorial Trophy

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

Erik Karlsson is going to be looked at because he’ll lead the NHL’s defense in overall scoring, but I think this is going to come down to two players: Brent Burns and Drew Doughty. Now, I think Brent Burns might score 40 goals, which is totally insane for a defenseman to do, but I kind of think NHL writers are going to force Doughty into the conversation because it’s totally insane that he hasn’t won a Norris yet.

But, when it’s all said and done, Brent Burns is taking this trophy back to Barrie, Ontario. If he gets over 30 goals it’s a lock (17 already).

Am I changing my prediction?

Yes.

Karlsson did lead the NHL’s defense in scoring (4th overall) and became the first D-man to record over 80 points since 2006, but boy-howdy is there a lot of clamoring for Doughty to finally get his. I’m torn on this because Karlsson should get recognition for being the first defenseman to finish in the top-5 of league scoring in 30 years but it’s the writers that vote and the writers that want Doughty to get his…

I’m going to have to go with Karlsson…his year was just insane.

Vezina & Hart Trophies

What I said on Jan. 13, 2016

Last year Carey Price won this award and the MVP award, as he is the best hockey player in the planet. However, he’s hurt this year and another dude in pads has been both the best goalie and the best player in the NHL….

Braden Holtby, man. For me, he’s going to win both the Vezina and the Hart. No goalie is playing better than him this year, and no player is more valuable to his team than Washington’s net minder…

Braden Holtby is the biggest reason the Caps are in the Hunt for the President’s Trophy and he deserves to get both the Hart and the Vezina.

Am I changing my prediction?

For the Vezina, no.

Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s single season record for most wins, so the Vezina is a no brainer.

For the Hart, yes?

It’s Sidney Crosby, man.

On February 9th, the Penguins were 26-18-8 and hanging on to the last Wild Card spot in the East. Since then, they’ve been—for my money—the best team in the NHL and have catapulted to 2nd in the east with a 48-26-8 record, despite not having Evgeni Malkin since March 13th!

And do you know why?

Because Crosby is a beast, that’s why.

Prior to the All-Star break,Crosby had 41 points in 47 games; far below expectations.

Post All-Star break, Crosby put up 44 points in 33 games, the most in the NHL.

Prior to the All-Star break, the Penguins were terrible and everyone was jumping off the bandwagon.

Post All-Star break, the Penguins have climbed to the 4th best record in the league and moved from 19th overall in goals for per game to 3rd overall , due to being the highest scoring team in the games after the All-Star game.

Need I say more? Sid the Kid is the MVP.

Western Conference Champions

What I said on Feb. 9, 2016

As good as the Blackhawks are right now, I just believe at some point, the amount of hockey their core players have played over the past 5 years is going to make them hit a bump in the road. As of February 8, 2016, Patrick Kane has played in 602 professional/international hockey games since the start of the 2009 season (Kane’s first Stanley Cup).  Not including this season’s games, that’s 54 games more than if he just played 82 games per season from 2009-2015. Jonathan Toews has played in 587 games in that span; Duncan Keith has play 610 (and he literally plays half of the games he plays in).

That’s a ton of hockey and these guys aren’t robots. At some point they’re going to hit the wall. As such, I think the rest the LA Kings had last season missing the playoffs is going to benefit them, and they’ll end up walking out of the West.

Am I changing my prediction?

I want to. I want to give Anaheim a shot to win because it would be such an absurd story to go from literally one of the WORST teams in the NHL at the beginning of the season to winning the Western Conference, but…I don’t know, I really don’t have any solid reasoning other than I’ve watched a ton of LA Kings’ hockey, and holy $#!+ they’re good.

Kings win.

Eastern Conference Champions

What I said on Feb. 9, 2016

I mean, this isn’t even a conversation. The Capitals are so much better than everyone in the East, right? Plus, in that Individual Awards article I wrote, I said the Kings over the Caps in the Cup final.

So, I have Pittsburgh coming out of the East.

I know, I know.  At times they have looked SO bad this season, but recently Sid the Kid has looked like the best player in the World. And when the best player in the World is playing like the best player in the World, you have to give him all the respect in the World (that’s too many times writing the word “world”).

I don’t know, this may be a heat of the moment pick, but for some reason I’m feeling Crosby and the Penguins right now.

Am I changing my prediction?

Now that I know the Pens are playing the Rangers in the first round, I think their road definitely got a whole lot tougher, but if they can get out of the 1st round, I’m still picking the Pens.

Tampa Bay is all sorts of beat up and Washington slowed down in the last bit of the season, so I’d actually say that whoever wins the Pittsburgh versus New York Rangers series will likely come out of the East.

Stanley Cup Champions

What I said on Feb. 9, 2016

Kings. Plain and simple.

Whoever actually does come out of the West, be it the Kings or be it someone else, will win the Stanley Cup.

Am I changing my prediction?

Not a chance, man. Not a chance.

What do you think?