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It's been a whirlwind of an NHL season. It feels like over half of the league has been put in COVID protocols in the past month. The league was suspended due to the issues teams were having. Even now, games are being postponed on an almost daily basis. Some teams have played 38 games while others have played 28. There are teams that haven't played games in nearly two weeks.
Nevertheless, the league still seems like it will push forward and play a complete 82-game schedule. That means we haven't yet reached the halfway mark, but some individual teams are getting close. It's been a bizarre season and that makes it hard to separate what's real from what's just noise, but at this point, certain factors are becoming hard to ignore.
Does McDavid still deserve to be the Hart favorite?
The Hart Trophy is given to the NHL's MVP. Connor McDavid won the award last season and he's currently a +200 favorite to win the award again this season. There's no denying that McDavid is the most talented player in the sport, but is he truly a deserving favorite at this point?
McDavid's Edmonton Oilers are tailspinning. They are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff spot after opening the season as one of the league's hottest teams. The Oilers have lost five straight games. They have just two wins in their last 13 games. The team is currently shut down due to an influx of COVID positives, which at one point included McDavid.
Additionally, McDavid is still tied for the league lead in points, but the gap isn't as wide as it was last year. Sure, McDavid might still end up leading the league in points, but if it's not as dominant and it's for a losing team, does he deserve to be MVP? There certainly is minimal value in backing him as a favorite at this point.
Alex Ovechkin is currently sitting at +350 to win MVP. Ovechkin is one of the best players in the history of the league and he's having one of his best seasons. His case is certainly improved by the fact that his Washington Capitals are near the top of the standings.
If you'd like a longer shot, Nathan MacKinnon is 20-to-1 to win MVP. He's missed 10 games, but on a points-per-game basis, he's right there with the league's best. Jonathan Huberdeau is an ultra-long shot at 80-to-1, but he's tied for fourth in the league in points and his Panthers are having a very good season.
What's the best Vezina bet?
Andrei Vasilevskiy is the best goaltender in hockey. He's proven that for years now behind a team that has won back-to-back Stanley Cups. It's no surprise to see him as a co-favorite to win the Vezina at +450. However, the goaltender he's sharing the favorite mantle with is catching my eye.
Igor Shesterkin has been incredible for the Rangers this season and he's the main reason the Rangers are where they are in the standings. Shesterkin ranks fourth in goals-against average and second in save percentage among goaltenders with at least 20 games played. Shesterkin is in COVID protocol now, and the Rangers have lost two of three games with him out. That's pretty telling. Shesterkin is +450 to win the Vezina.
Jack Campbell of the Leafs has had a tremendous season, but will he get the credit he deserves on one of the league's most talented teams? That's my concern with backing Campbell to win the Vezina at +650.
If I'm throwing darts on a long shot, I'm going with Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators. Saros ranks sixth in goals-against average and fourth in save percentage among goalies with over 20 games played. His Nashville Predators are currently leading the Central Division when many expected this to be a down year for Nashville. Saros is 25-to-1 to win the Vezina.
What about the other awards?
Calder: The Calder is given to the league's best rookie, and the current favorite is Lucas Raymond at +140. Raymond has a great chance to win the award, but Trevor Zegras at +200 is also an appetizing bet. Zegras might be the bigger name with more clout among the media and hockey fans, and that could be the difference.
Norris: Cale Makar is the favorite to win the Norris Trophy, which is given to the league's best defenseman. Makar is +250 to win the award, and with plays like this, it's hard to disagree.
Cale Makar in overtime. Oh my god. pic.twitter.com/dbZgyMBVXF
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 5, 2022
Jack Adams: Rod Brind'Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes won the Jack Adams Award last season, which is given to the league's best coach. Brind'Amour is currently a +600 favorite to repeat, but I'm not exactly buying that right now.
Instead, I'd look toward two first-year coaches who have their teams in great positions. Darryl Sutter of the Flames currently sits at +800 to win the award as his team is currently sitting in a playoff spot. Gerard Gallant of the Rangers has done a tremendous job to improve them. Gallant sits at 12-to-1 to win the award.
If you're feeling really frisky, and you believe that the New York Islanders can climb the standings after their poor start, Barry Trotz at 50-to-1 sticks out. Trotz is widely regarded as one of the league's best coaches and his team has started playing better as of late despite being dealt a very bad hand to begin the season. No team has played fewer games than the Islanders, so they have the games remaining to make a move.