Inside the NHL | NHL Olympic-break awards
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 03:02
The NHL season is nearly three-quarters of the way through, and with the league currently on hiatus because of a minor tournament in Russia, it’s time to look at some early awards (including a couple fake ones) and predict who will take home Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Hart Trophy (MVP): Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Yes, Sydney Crosby leads the league in points and once again has the Penguins in position to make a run for the cup, but Getzlaf is without a doubt the best two-way player of all MVP candidates. He is one of the most physically imposing centers in the league, and, statistically, he gives Crosby a run for his money. Getzlaf is second in points and game-winning goals, and his plus-minus (24 to Crosby’s 12) and shooting percentage (19.2 to 14.8) make it harder to make the case for Crosby. Getzlaf is also captaining the top team in the West and does not cry every time he does not get a call.
Vezina Award (Best Goalie): Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bishop has been an absolute stud this year. He is second in the league in save percentage and third in goals against average among eligible goalies, but if you limit the scope to goalies who are their teams’ clear No. 1, he leads both categories. Furthermore, he is responsible for keeping the Lightning in second place in the Atlantic even though their top player, Steven Stamkos, has been injured for all but 17 games this year. Bishop is the biggest reason the Lightning has gone from second-to-last place in the conference to Stanley Cup dark horse.
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
It is painful not to give this award to Torey Krug, a defenseman for the Boston Bruins who has gone from undrafted free agent to important contributor, but MacKinnon deserves the nod. The top pick of last year’s draft leads rookies in points, goals and assists. He has lived up to the massive hype of being a top pick from the same hometown as Crosby (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia). The 18-year-old has his new team in position to make the playoffs after finishing with the worst record in the conference last season.
Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year): Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
As great as MacKinnon has been, Roy deserves the bulk of the credit. Many hockey fans wrote off the team’s 12-1-0 start as an anomaly, and while the team has inevitably regressed, it has established itself as a clear top-five team in the West. Roy’s job is more impressive when considering the Avalanche’s cheap roster and the early-season arrest of starting goalie Semyon Varlamov (whose charges were later dropped). In just one season, Roy has turned a dormant franchise toward an exciting upstart.
Bruce Boudreau Award (Most Entertaining Character(s) on HBO’s “24/7”): Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs
Hands down, “24/7” is the best part of the buildup to the annual Winter Classic, so it is only fair that this award is named after former Washington Capitals coach Boudreau, whose foul-mouth made him the star of the 2011 series. Kessel, known for being reticent with the media, looked and acted like the most down-to-earth hockey star imaginable, cracking jokes at Bozak’s expense and waxing poetically about his ping-pong victories and late-night video game sessions. He more closely resembled my ideal college roommate than a man who had just signed an eight-year/$64 million contract. Bozak, meanwhile, wittily played the role of Kessel’s sidekick, chauffeur and free live-in roommate, only to be the hero of the big game.
Joffrey Lupul Award (Most Irritating Character on “24/7”): Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs
Lupul should have shined on “24/7:” he had the looks and skills to attract the camera’s attention on and off the ice. Instead, he was a constant complainer in games and never seemed to hit it off with teammates, despite being a leader on the team. Also, he bought his mother’s Christmas gift on Christmas Eve, so he earns the right to be this award’s namesake.