The National Hockey League has it all wrong when it comes to voting for awards.
Its system is illogical and, in fairness, must be changed.
As everyone — especially Sidney Crosby — knows, the most important part of the season is the playoffs.
Yet when NHL awards are voted upon, the playoffs are ignored as if they were some pickup games played in South Pago Pago.
Frankly, I don’t get it. Nor does the NHL for that matter.
My memo to Gary Bettman will go like this: “Dear Commissioner: Kindly include playoff performances in relation to all award voting.”
While I’m waiting for The Commish to reply, I will further underline my point by giving you a clear idea how this year’s awards should have been divvied up.
In a more realistic way than the present system, I include post-season performance as well as efforts during the regular schedule.
Here are my picks:
HART TROPHY: Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars (Instead of Patrick Kane)
Granted that Patrick Kane had a terrific season, but Jamie Benn — 2015’s Art Ross winner — is the rightful Hart Trophy winner. He posted his second consecutive 80-plus point season this year. In 82 games he finished with 89 points racking up 41 goals and 48 assists.
In the playoffs, Benn went on to lead his team to Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. He’s the Stars best player and produced like it. In 13 postseason games he scored five goals and had 10 assists for 15 points, which led his team.
Had Kane’s Blackhawks made it to the second round, I would have leaned in his direction; but just one round for the ex-Champs doesn’t cut it.
Of course, I could have picked Smythe Trophy-Cup-winner, Sidney Crosby but that would have been too easy!
VEZINA TROPHY: Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks (Instead of Braden Holtby)
No question that Braden Holtby had the best regular season since Martin Brodeur was in his prime, but what happened in the playoffs? What always happens with the Caps and Holtby in goal? An early postseason exit. Until Holtby demonstrates that he can do better in the playoffs I say no Vezina for him.
The rightful winner should have been San Jose’s Martin Jones. In his first season as a starter, Jones won 37 games, had a 2.27 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. But, it isn’t about the regular season, it’s about what he did in the playoffs. All of his statistics improved as he went 14-10 giving up just 2.16 goals a game while recording a .923 save percentage.
He was the driving force that allowed San Jose to survive in the Final against the Penguins: often carrying the Sharks to unlikely triumphs. Twice he made 40-plus saves to steal wins from the Penguins in that series. Holtby wasn’t even a one-series wonder!
NORRIS TROPHY: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins (Instead of Drew Doughty)
What does Kris Letang have to do to gain respect? Really. The two-time Stanley Cup winner deserved to be voted to his first Norris Trophy.
Not only did Letang have the best regular season of his career — 16 goals, 51 assists and 67 points in 71 games — but he helped Pittsburgh win another Stanley Cup in a great big way.
In the Cup Final, Letang produced five points in six games. His one goal just happened to be the game-winner in Game 6 to clinch the series for Pittsburgh. Doughty could not make that statement.
SELKE TROPHY: Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders (Instead of Anze Kopitar)
Frans Nielsen has been one of the most unheralded players in the league over the last four seasons. What he does may not be flashy, but it certainly is effective on both offense and defense.
Apart from the fact that he posted his second best scoring season ever, Frans played in every situation for the Brooklynites. He was the club’s best penalty-killer, at times their best power play forward and easily their most responsible forward defensively.
On a team riddled with inconsistent play from their forwards in their own end, it was easy to see that Nielsen was the glue that held this team together throughout the season, often willing his team to victory. He did likewise, guiding the Isles to a second playoff round experience.
As for Kopitar, sure he’s a fine player but couldn’t even get his Kings into the second round.
CALDER TROPHY: Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers (Instead of Artemi Panarin)
“The Ghost” invigorated Bettman, Inc. after Philadelphia promoted him from the minors. The Flyers’ young defenseman almost single-handedly pushed his club into the post-season. Quite often It seemed that every time he had the puck on his stick the Flyers were going to score.
Ghost finished third on Philly in plus-minus (+8 ) and was fifth on the team in scoring with 46 points. He demonstrated unbridled scoring ability with his deceptive release, totaling 17 goals and adding 29 assists in just 64 games.
ADAMS AWARD: Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins (Instead of Barry Trotz)
By any standard, this should have been a no-brainer and even Sully’s late start behind the Pitt bench should not have mattered. When Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston behind the Pittsburgh bench on December 12, 2015, the Penguins were 15-10-3. This franchise was plumbing subterranean depths. Yet, six months after Sully’s hiring, the Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup.
“When he came in, he changed the way we play the game,” says Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, part owner of the Pens. “We started playing a fast game, we played on our toes. And he changed the way we approached the game as well. He made all the difference in the world.”
It isn’t always easy to get a star-studded team to mesh. In fact, it can be a major challenge but Sully worked wonders with his team and led them to the Promised Land. P.S. He turned Phil Kessel into a major asset and — no less important — thoroughly out-coached Trotz in the opening round.
GM OF THE YEAR: Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh Penguins (No change here)
As much as we’d like to be contrarians, there’s no argument to be made. Gentleman Jim deserved the honor — in spades.
MASTERTON TROPHY: Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers (Instead of Jaromir Jagr)
The Rangers’ “Hobbit” is — in The Maven’s opinion — the comeback player of the year. Few stickhandlers ever have persevered through more adversity than the minuscule Blueshirts forward.
Less than a year removed from the devastating, concussion-producing slap shot off the back of his head in the 2015 playoffs, Mats enjoyed the best season of his career.
What’s so astonishing is that he did it after recovering from a brain contusion that had blood seeping onto his brain. Not to mention a hairline fracture of the skull that made it almost impossible for Mats to either speak or walk.
What did he do? He came back for 2015-16 to lead the Rangers in scoring with 61 points. Which is not to denigrate Jaromir Jagr’s accomplishments but I like Zuccy’s better.
LADY BYNG TROPHY: Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers (Instead of Anze Kopitar)
Aleksander Barkov was the league’s most gentlemanly player. In 66 games the youngster had a grand total of eight measly penalty minutes.
Under the tutelage of living-legend Jagr, Barkov enjoyed the best season of his young career. The 20-year-old Finn scored 28 goals and racked up 31 assists for 59 points.
All that time spent outside of the penalty box allowed him to play at an almost point-per-game pace. Furthermore, Barkov had half as many penalty minutes as Kopitar.