The NHL Awards are this week, which means it's once again time to lament those players whose performances are never properly recognized.
'Oh, geez, more NHL Awards? Don't we already have too many?'
Look, it's not our fault that the NHL decided to add something as nebulous as the GM of the Year award, whose winner could be out of a job in three years based on his seemingly shrewd decisions this year. And it's not our fault that the Mark Messier Leadership Award apparently exists, because what the world really needed was a third MVP trophy, but for captains.
We're talking about practical NHL Awards that should have existed, like, yesterday. Not awards drenched in cynicism like "Best Diver", which should be handed out at the Vancouver or Boston team banquets anyway. (Besides, Dirk Hoag has that covered on his Alternative NHL Awards.) And not something like "Most Gruesome Injury," because we already have the next season's Masterton.
Practical awards. Like, for example …
The "Reverse Jennings"
As suggested by Daryl Reaugh on today's 'Marek Vs. Wyshynski', an award given to the team that scores the most goals per game. We have the Jennings Trophy that celebrates the NHL's best defensive team as far as goals-against average; doesn't it make sense to do the same for the highest goals-for average, given how much [expletive] harder it is to put the puck in the net rather than keep it out in 2012?
This year's winners: The Pittsburgh Penguins, with 3.33 goals per game.
The trophy's name? Considering the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers hold the NHL record for most goals with 446, why it's the Pocklington Trophy of course. And what more revered figure than Peter Pocklington to have an NHL Award in his honor?
The 'Rocket Richard' for Assists
We have a trophy for the most goals by an individual player in the Rocket Richard. We have a trophy for the most points in the Hart Trophy Art Ross. (heh)
Won't anyone think of the setup men?
What we have in this League is assist bias; the notion that goals have a purity that helpers can't have because (a) it's more difficult to score a goal than set one up and (b) secondary assists are seen as a boil on the backside of hockey statistics. But if assists factor into the annual points leader in the NHL, then, darn it, they should be honored on their own as well.
This year's winner with 67 assists would have been Henrik Sedin, just edging Claude Giroux (65). It would have been Sedin's third straight trophy, putting him 13 titles behind the all-time leader in the category.
What's that you say? You'd like to get Wayne Gretzky back in the good graces of the NHL because he's a great ambassador for the game? Wonder if he'd like a trophy named after him for annual assist leaders …
(For the record: It wouldn't be a trophy. It would be a giant dish, like you get a Wimbledon. First, because that's slang for assists. Second, because it signifies how assists are just an empty plate without the main course of a goal gracing it. We know: deep.)
The Best Offensive D-Man
Common misconception: That in order to restore the integrity of the Norris Trophy, there should be some type of Rod Langway Award that honors the best defensive defenseman.
Au contraire … we'd argue that the best way to restore honor to the Norris is by surgically removing certain not-all-that-well-rounded offensive defensemen from the list of candidate by giving them their own award.
In fact, it would open up the process to players that would never get a sniff of either award. Your Dan Girardi for the Norris. Your Brian Campbell for the offensive defenseman award. Everyone wins.
This year's winner for offensive D-man … well, just give Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators the trophy now. And by "trophy" we mean "The Phil Housley Award for Defensive Excellence in Offensive Zone Play."
The Junior Jack Adams
Who is the best assistant coach in the NHL?
Every team probably has one guy they feel is most vital to strategy or communication behind the bench. They guy that runs the penalty kill or plays Bon Cop, Bad Cop when the head coach goes nuts after a loss.
Yet their bosses get all the glory, and they're the first men overboard if something needs to change. It's time we give them their due.
Call it the Mike Nykoluk Award after the first full-time assistant coach hired in the NHL by Fred Shero with the Philadelphia Flyers. If only to hear the celebrity presenters struggle with it's moniker each summer.
The Shootout Award
If nothing else, the NHL Awards are window dressing that bridges the gap between the Stanley Cup Final and the NHL Draft; a popularity contest that's like throwing candy at starving fans eager to debate anything in the absence of hockey.
And, of course, a chance for Nickelback to hang out with Mark Messier.
How the NHL's most prominent piece of superfluous piffle doesn't have a spotlight at its Awards is beyond us, which is why the most proficient player in the shootout should receive the same kind of auto-award as the points, goals and (in our world) assist leaders.
No matter if you went with total goals (14) or shootout percentage (78.6), this year's winner would have been Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils.
Who should be this trophy's namesake? The highest-bidding NHL sponsor each season of course, like a college bowl game.
Because if we're going to honor a shallow exercise like the shootout, might as well sell out all the way ...