Balloting for most of the NHL’s regular-season awards ended on Wednesday, with writers asked to submit their choices for the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP), James Norris Trophy (best all-around defenseman) Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year), Frank J. Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability), along with NHL All-Star and all-rookie selections.
Here are my top three selections in each category with a short explanation for each chosen winner. I did not vote for the Vezina Trophy (best goalie) or Jack Adams Award (best coach), but I still took a crack them. NHL GMs choose the Vezina winner; the NHL Broadcasters’ Association selects the Jack Adams Award.
Others in consideration: Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars; Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks; Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers.
Why I chose Crosby: He had a 17-point lead over his next closest competitor (Getzlaf) for the NHL points lead and he carried the team that lost the most man-games to injury (by far) all season. Despite Getzlaf’s remarkable season, this choice was not difficult.
Others in consideration: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phoenix Coyotes; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators.
Chicago’s Duncan Keith
Why I chose Keith: The Norris voting was the most difficult for me for two reasons. There were several players who warranted consideration, and all of them had significant flaws. Of my top three, Chara’s points (40) were low, especially when you consider, as Yahoo Sports’ Nick Cotsonika pointed out, that 10 of his 17 goals and 15 of his points came on the power play, when he plays forward as a net-front presence. Weber logged important minutes but played on a non-playoff team and finished in the minus. Keith no longer plays against opponents’ top skill. That role now falls to the Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson pairing, but that might have something to do with the recent struggles of Keith’s partner, Brent Seabrook. Keith had a terrific offensive year, his possession numbers are very good, and he still has the ability to match up with any forward line because of his speed and active stick in passing lanes.
Others in consideration: Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks; Torey Krug, Boston Bruins; Jacon Trouba, Winnipeg Jets; Chris Kreider, New York Rangers; Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames; Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers; Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why I chose MacKinnon: This was actually easy. Other than Palat’s late run, I never seriously considered anyone else. MacKinnon, once a controversial top pick over Seth Jones, is only 18, yet he tied for the rookie lead in goals with 24 and led rookies in points with 63. His speed and skill add another dimension to Colorado’s impressive crop of forwards.
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon
Others in consideration: Martin St. Louis, New York Rangers; Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; David Krejci, Boston Bruins; Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers; Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers; Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild; Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders; Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks.
Why I chose O’Reilly: Two penalty minutes for an excellent defensive forward? Are you kidding me? The one infraction? O’Reilly’s stick broke on a faceoff in Colorado’s 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks in late March. Before he dropped it, he kicked the puck to the corner. Tsk-tsk.
Others in consideration: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks; Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers.
Why I chose Bergeron: I struggled with this pick, too. Only one player in the Pacific or Mountain time zones has won this award since its inception in 1978. That is absurd eastern bias by the NHL cognoscenti. Kopitar (plus-34) comes within an eyelash, especially considering he plays in a much tougher conference and squares off against superior centers on a nightly basis. But Bergeron is so darned good at his job every night of the week. He embodies the Bruins’ attention to detail. The eastern bias lives another year.
Others in consideration: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens; Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets.
Why I chose Varlamov: It’s simple, actually. Rask plays on a water-tight defensive team. Colorado is anything but water-tight, allowing the sixth-most shots per game (32.7) in the NHL with a cast of who’s-that blue-liners. And yet, Varlamov’s save percentage (.927) was third in the NHL. Rask was second at .930. The Bruins won a Cup with Tim Thomas and a similar cast to this season’s club. Where would the Avs be without Varlamov? Want one more argument? Look at how similar Bruins backup Chad Johnson’s numbers are to Rask’s. Then look at the wide disparity between Varlamov and his backups. The system matters in Boston; Varlamov matters in Denver.
Others in consideration: Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks; Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues; Claude Julien, Boston Bruins.
Why I chose Roy: You could argue that Roy benefitted from a group of skilled forwards and Vezina-worthy goaltending, but who got all those pieces to play at that level? Colorado finished dead last in the Western Conference last season. They won the Central Division — over St. Louis and Chicago — this year. Babcock overcame injuries to seemingly every key player to push Detroit to the postseason for the 23rd straight season. He is one of the best minds in the game. He just gets overshadowed this year by the remarkable turnaround Roy engineered.
RIGHT WINGS: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks; Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs; Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals.
LEFT WINGS: Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks; Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars, Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks.
DEFENSEMEN: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins; Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks; Shea Weber, Nashville Predators; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild.
GOALTENDERS: Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche; Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins; Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning.
DEFENSEMEN: Torey Krug, Boston Bruins; Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks.