What We Learned: Worst thing about NHL Awards? The voters
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Hockey fans will absolutely hate to hear this, but here it is anyway: There's one thing baseball does way better than hockey, and to which this sport really needs to switch as soon as humanly possible.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America makes a point to publish the ballots of every person who voted for Major League Baseball's awards, and that level of accountability is generally welcomed in the sports world at large. You know exactly who voted for exactly what, and writers who made some of the more absurd picks for the MVP or Cy Young awards have to try to defend those choices as best they can.
The Professional Hockey Writers' Association, however, does not publish the individual ballots of its members, and that they don't is ludicrous. This was a debate that kicked up around the end of the regular season, when some writers, in the interest of transparency and to engender discussion, said who they voted for when it came to a number of awards and often why they did so. That they were occasionally wrong in their voting is to be expected, because no one can get everything right all the time, but at least those writers in particular had the guts to say, "No, I didn't think Sergei Bobrovsky was more valuable to his team than Jonathan Toews," no matter how ridiculous such a statement was.
But that the organization doesn't do so is ridiculous and a little cowardly.
Without this accountability, the practice outwardly it lends itself to ballots for most valuable player being filled out with votes for Eric Staal, Pascal Dupuis and Evgeni Nabokov, none of whom deserve that much recognition. Writers don't have to think about why they put who where, and if they did, they would, perhaps, be a little more judicious.
Interestingly, the Alex Ovechkin pick was the wrong one even if you're going to disqualify Sidney Crosby on the basis that he was injured for the final quarter of the season, but you can at least see why the decision was made. Sometimes guys don't always win the awards they deserve (see also: Jarome Iginla losing to Jose Theodore in 2002).
This is true of Jonas Brodin or Nail Yakupov not finishing in the top three for the Calder voting, and some (presumably Boston-based) writer considering Dougie Hamilton to be the second-best rookie in the league this season. Worse, some moron considered Sheldon Souray, who wasn't the third-best defenseman on his team, to be the fifth-best defenseman in the league this year. Hell, someone else looked at Andrei Markov's season and thought he was worthy of a first-place vote.
For best defenseman in the National Hockey League.
Someone gave Shane Doan, who was suspended for three games last season, a first-place Lady Byng vote. Perhaps most absurd of all, and I swear to you that this is a real thing that actually happened, is that Tyler Bozak received not one but TWO fifth-place votes for the Selke, which last time I checked was supposed to go to the best defensive forward in the League.
These are oversights, or outright incorrect opinions, from writers, and they should have to be answered for. Professional hockey writers, as the name of their job implies, are people who are paid money to watch and think critically about hockey. Most are at the rink every day, they talk to the players, they theoretically watch other teams on television as well.
Votes like these go beyond the traditional complaints of East Coast Bias, and moves into something more insidious: Ignorance.
No one in their right minds, or with a strong understanding of the sport about which they are paid to write, can watch a season's worth of hockey and say to themselves, "Why yes, I did think Patrick Kane was the second-best defensive forward in the league." And even if they did watch that much hockey and did think so, the due diligence of actually looking at all the relevant statistics would, one might conjecture, necessarily dictate that they'd rethink such a ludicrous position.
Which is why ballots should be made public. Every rotten one of them. This way we can tell for absolute sure who is wrong, and probably glean why as well (my guess more or less across the board: Homerism).
Publishing votes might also lead the people who arrived at such decisions to write something, or anything, justifying exactly why they thought Dan Hamhuis was No. 3 among the League's top blue liners this year, as one person did.
The argument against such a move is that it opens up writers to mockery or an avalanche of questions and criticism from their hometown fans about exactly why their ballots didn't list five players from the teams they cover. That makes sense to some extent, at least from the organization's point of view, because members have to be protected from the dumber of hockey's myriad dumb fanbases.
But at the same time, writers who usually get their ballots as wrong as that seem, in general, to also be the ones who complain the most about Internet Trolls Hiding Behind Anonymous Screen Names. It would not surprise me in the slightest if these writers filled out these ballots in their underwear, perhaps in their mother's basement. We have no way of knowing for sure, because of how cloaked in mystery and anonymity this all is, so that's really the only thing that's safe to assume.
Perhaps the good thing for the PHWA, though, is that they are not alone in this. The NHLPA votes for the Ted Lindsay award, but all we know is that Sidney Crosby won it. A whopping 18 broadcasters thought Randy Carlyle was among the three best coaches in the league, and three thought he was tops. Two NHL general managers thought Scott Howson was one of the three best people at that job this season, even though he got fired from it, and another thought Ray Emery was the league's No. 1 goaltender.
We don't know who any of those idiots are either.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks were the 10th-oldest team in the league last season, so no matter who they get in the draft in a few weeks, they'll be addressing perhaps their most pressing organizational need: youth.
Boston Bruins: Just go ahead and give Tuukka Rask the Conn Smythe right now.
Buffalo Sabres: According to their director of amateur scouting, the Sabres are trying really hard to get the No. 1 pick from Colorado, which obviously isn't going to happen.
Calgary Flames: Big weekend of Flames news, each bit pretty important, so here they all are: They're not buying anyone out this summer, they're probably going to hire Brendan Shanahan as team president, and they tried to trade the No. 6, 22, and 28 picks for Colorado's No. 1 overall. You can't say they're not interesting, at the very least.
Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal plans to start skating again in August, and is still moving around with a little bit of difficulty. Man that knee-on-knee was brutal.
Chicago Blackhawks: David Bolland has been taking to mentoring Andrew Shaw on all things pest-like, and that seems like it'll be bad news for the rest of the league for years to come.
Colorado Avalanche: It's all in French but JS Giguere says new coach Patrick Roy "will make a big difference," largely because he is already talking about winning. That doesn't necessarily make him good at his job, but it does make him almost absurdly blind in his optimism.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Big-time shout out for Sergei Bobrovsky for winning the Vezina and then maybe bolting to the KHL this summer without a second thought. When asked about it following his award win, he simply said, "We'll see." Not encouraging.
Dallas Stars: Still no coach in Dallas, as Alain Vigneault is headed to New York instead. Not the hottest of starts for Jim Nill.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Henrik Zetterberg won the Foundation Player Award, an honor so prestigious I didn't know what it really was. Basically, the NHL is giving him $25,000 to start three water stations in Ethiopia, so that's pretty cool.
Edmonton Oilers: Oklahoma City Barons coach Todd Nelson says he was "very disappointed" to not be named the new Oilers' coach, but did you even hear his name mentioned as a possibility? It was all Eakins all the time. And for good reason.
Florida Panthers: Well, I guess Jonathan Huberdeau wasn't an UNdeserving Calder candidate, right?
Los Angeles Kings
: Slava Voynov is close to re-signing with the Kings and boy is that contract going to be a real laugh.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild's AHL affiliate is more likely to succeed than other minor-league teams in Des Moines have in the past, because of how close to Iowa is to Minnesota. This makes perfect sense.
Montreal Canadiens: PK Subban says his little brother Jordan, who's draft-eligible this year, might be better than him. Yeah, but does he Play The Right Way? This is important. Lay off the triple low fives, kid.
Nashville Predators: The Preds are going to work with the city to build a new practice rink on the site of a former mall in Nashville. Apparently it's part of the team's lease at Bridgestone Arena that it has to build more rinks that could be used for youth hockey.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils' arena finally reached a revenue-sharing deal with the city of Newark and its Housing Authority last week, which has been a major pain in the ass for all parties since about 2006. Oh but those sniper battles were fun while they lasted.
New York Islanders: How will the Islanders get prospect Kirill Petrov over to North America? By guaranteeing him a roster spot. How very Islanders-y.
New York Rangers: Hmm maybe Larry Brooks is right that a guy with literally no pro coaching experience ever wouldn't have been the right fit for a team that has designs on winning a Stanley Cup in the near future. Maybe.
Ottawa Senators: Daniel Alfredsson has yet to make a decision on what he'll do next season but the Senators aren't about to pressure him, likely because they're still wrapping up the Karlsson/Cooke investigation.
Philadelphia Flyers: "Sources: Flyers consider buyout for Bryzgalov." These sources, while unnamed, are likely Steve Logic and Will Common-Sense who both work in the team's No Kidding Operations wing.
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 311 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. But don't worry, even despite all those Seattle plans, the team has a "framework" for the lease agreement with another new ownership group. At some point someone is going to get the team solely on the basis of their being the one-millionth group to submit a bid.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Wouldn't it be nice if Mario Lemieux also pledged his undying devotion to and love for Marc-Andre Fleury? Can't wait until the point we eventually need gubernatorial, presidential and papal proclamations that he's the starter now and forever.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks fired two executive vice presidents and their chief financial officer late last week, and the team has had a number of front office shakeups in the last several months. On the ice, though? No changes (yet). Weird.
St. Louis Blues: How will the Blues improve next season? Sit around and let their many younger players get better. Why haven't the Oilers thought of that? Oh, wait.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Martin St. Louis has won the Lady Byng in three of the last four seasons. He probably slashed Brian Campbell's tires last year.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Pretty good rundown of the most recent dumb decisions Dave Nonis has made as the GM of the Leafs. It's amazing that an organization is being run like this in 2013.
Vancouver Canucks: Oh will the Canucks and John Tortorella just go ahead and kiss already?
Washington Capitals: Adam Oates wants to be the Bill Belichick of the NHL. Insofar as he doesn't want to scream or make a big scene to be noticed as a coach. So, essentially, Oates wants the world to see him as a quiet jerk.
Winnipeg Jets: "Did the Winnipeg Jets' coaching staff optimize their goaltenders?" Let's have a look at Ondrej Pavelec's stats here and just s… Ohhhh, no they did not.
Play of the Weekend
Overtime hero Danny Paille has an odd ring to it, but damn if that wasn't a nice shot.
Gold Star Award
Tuukka Rask is just killing it in these playoffs. It's quite unbelievable.
Minus of the Weekend
Here's a free tip for Kaspars Daugavins: Don't try to sit on your goalie.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "superhenderson13" has it figured out.
Not like the Penguins need defensive help anyway, right? I can't believe there's not an overweight, embattled defenseman who might be a better fit instead.
Now, I think you might like this next show, The X-Files. I always thought it was some kind of porno, on account of the title, but turns out it's all about two young people who don't have sex.
Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.