The NHL coaches have spoken to TSN’s Bob McKenzie as part of his end of season coaches poll for the various NHL awards and other fun fodder. And the results … some predictable (Carey Price as the Hart Trophy winner is a slam dunk). Others may be a little surprising.
McKenzie enlisted the services of 10 coaches in the Eastern Conference, and then 10 in the Western Conference.
For the Hart Trophy:
It was unanimous, 20 for 20, a veritable Carey Price Love-apalooza.
But, on an interesting note (remember this is the coaches speaking)
Ovechkin was the automatic runner up, though one of the coaches surveyed didn’t have Ovie in his top three. The other 19, though, had it as Price-Ovechkin.
While Ovechkin is often a lightning rod for criticism, clearly the coaches believe he is extremely valuable to what the Capitals do.
It's pretty amazing to see Ovechkin go from pariah a year ago -- a coach killer who was minus-35 and didn't 'play the right way' to paraphrase old school Xenophobic thinking -- to someone other coaches respect and laud for his skill and importance to his team. Hockey is a funny game.
As for Price, he's the most important player on Montreal and having a lights out season with a 1.93 goals against average and .935 save percentage. Both tops in the NHL. Price will likely be the first goaltender to win the Hart since Jose Theodore in 2001-02.
Now onto the other votes that were um … interesting.
According to this poll, Erik Karlsson was the clear cut winner for the Norris Trophy. Yup, the award that’s supposed to be given to the best all-around defenseman.
Again, this is 10 coaches in the East and 10 in the West, and not the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, which has certain chapters with higher numbers than others. So you therefore have to put a different type of stock into it than the typical Norris voting group.
The Senators’ captain struggled mightily through much of the NHL’s first quarter but, like his team, Karlsson has surged to be a dominant if still inconsistent shooting star who leads all blueliners in scoring.
Nevertheless, Karlsson received eight first-place votes, twice as many as Los Angeles King Doughty (4) and four times as many as the only other two blueliners – teammates Shea Weber and Roman Josi, two apiece – to get multiple first-place votes.
And per the story, with Mark Giordano out with an injury after 61 games played, “You’re right,” one coach commiserated, “the Norris is impossible this year.”
Karlsson is a wonderful player, and clearly the most valuable skater on Ottawa. His ability to move the puck up ice and skate it out of trouble is unmatched. And he can score, leading blueliners with 65 points this year.
But is he the best all-around defenseman this year? Remember, the Norris Trophy is given to the blueliner who “demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position.” While Karlsson’s offensive numbers are unmatched, does he have a better offensive/defensive balance than Weber or Doughty? Plus, do we knock out Giordano just because he’s hurt?
Karlsson’s advanced stats have always been good, his Corsi is at 6.00 5-on-5 according to Behind the Net. Weber’s aren’t so great at minus-0.89. But Weber’s Offensive-zone starts (45.6 percent) vs. Karlsson’s (52.3 percent) are slightly indicative of which defenseman is more trustworthy in his own end.
And Doughty … he’s at plus-11.45 5-on-5 and his o-zone starts are at 52.8 percent. But he plays 2:41 shorthanded minutes per-game to Karlsson’s plays 32 shorthanded seconds per-game. Weber? He plays 2:28 on the PK per-contest.
Apparently coaches think a defenseman who doesn't play on the penalty kill deserves a trophy given to the best all-around defenseman.
Moving along … as for the Calder Trophy per McKenzie’s story:
Top three balloting was close but Johnny (Gaudreau) Hockey led the way (eight first-place votes) to runner-up (Aaron) Ekblad (7) and (Filip) Forsberg (5).
One coach, echoing sentiments of others, said this of Gaudreau: “He’s had the biggest impact on team success. He sets the tone for their identity: resilience, speed, skill.”
We agree. Gaudreau may even be the Flames’ MVP with Giordano out. Ekblad has been a solid all-around rookie all year for the Panthers, and Forsberg, once the runaway choice, has cooled off, but still deserves consideration. You can't deny his importance to Nashville's early run.
Your Stanley Cup favorite:
Survey says: The New York Rangers enter the playoffs as the morning-line favorite, with 11 of 20 coaches tabbing them as the team to beat. The Rangers were the only Eastern Conference team to get a vote as Cup favorite; Anaheim and Los Angeles (the defending champion Kings aren’t even guaranteed a playoff spot) got three votes apiece, St. Louis had two and Chicago one.
Amazing that the Kings may miss the playoffs and they garnered votes. This shows how good they are and how much respect they’ve earned over winning two of the last three Stanley Cups.
And the funniest part of the story, which team would you like to see grab Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. One coach hit it right on the money:
“Columbus, because they are playing their ass off as opposed to trying to lose,” said one Western Conference coach. “Plus, they’re in the East.”
As we’ve said before, Ryan Johansen, plus McDavid equals a dynasty for a lifetime.
I liked this quote:
“(McDavid) might just save a franchise,” added one who chose Arizona.
So true. But he'll still probably end up in Buffalo, which means more nationally televised Sabres games! Le sigh.
Again, major props to McKenzie for compiling this interesting and thought-provoking list. He is truly a hockey media treasure.
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