Hockey NHL

E.L.M.M.: NHL Mid-Season Awards

With the NHL season at roughly the mid point of the season what better time to look back. Our friends at the Chtib and Zhang podcast broke it down themselves, so for fun let’s compare notes! For each award I will include who each picked as their winner for the award, and you will be able to find the full clip at the bottom of this article.

Awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to their team
2020 Winner: Leon Draisiatl
Chtib – Patrick Kane
Zhang – Connor McDavid

Starting at the top with the marquee award every year, the league MVP award. Chtib & Zhang picked the two front-runners for the award at the moment, but there are few other names who are going neck and neck with them. The first name that needs to be mentioned in the same breath as these two is Auston Matthews. If it weren’t for a wrist injury slightly slowing him down, he could easily be the top choice. No player is even remotely close to his Goals per game and he sits fourth in the league in Points per game.

A second player that deserves some recognition is Marc André Fleury. His misfortunes are far too often highlighted, so in fairness he deserves praise. Among starting goalies, Fleury ranks first in Goals Against Average (GAA), Save Percentage (SV%) and Shut Outs. The return of Robin Lehner will hurt his chances at the Hart, even if Fleury remains the starter, but the Flower still deserves his due at this point.

My Pick – Connor McDavid

Awarded annually to the NHL goaltender who is adjudged the best at this position
2020 Winner: Connor Hellebuyck
Chtib – Marc-André Fleury
Zhang – Andrei Vasilevskiy

The boys were on a roll, as this is another category where I believe they identified the clear favourites. I tend to agree with Zhang, mainly for the reasons I mentioned for Fleury in the Hart discussion. Vasilevskiy has no competition for the crease in Tampa, and while the argument can be made the Lehner will push Fleury, it’s the Games Played that I am afraid will be a factor.

Semyon Varlamov and Connor Hellebuyck will be around all season, keeping their names in the running. Varlamov is a beneficiary of the Trotz system while elevating his game as he get’s more comfortable on Long Island. Hellebuyck is the Jets best player on most nights, battling with Scheifele for the that title. If the Jets are to compete with Toronto for top spot in the North, it will be in large part due to their goalie.

My Pick – Andrei Vasilevskiy

Awarded annually to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL.
2020 Winner: Cale Makar
Chtib – Kevin Lankinen
Zhang – Kirill Kaprizov

I love the hype that Kevin Lankinen is getting, as well as just the overall success that the Blackhawks are having, but I’m not sold. I hope I’m wrong but I personally believe everyone is watching the wrong rookie goalie.

Before getting to the goalie, Kirill Kaprizov is the real deal and I don’t care about his age. For starters the argument completely undermines his progress player. He worked and earned his way to where he is now, and people want to penalize him because the Wild kept him in the KHL for the perfect amount of time? Where was this last year for Kubalik? Panarin? Matt Read? Would things be different if he played in the AHL instead?

At the end of the day, I think that there is a strong chance that this will be a moot point. I believe that the Calder Trophy will find it’s way to Minnesota this off-season, but it will be awarded to Kaapo Kahkonen. He has 11 wins in 14 starts, ranks 8th in GAA and is tied for 6th in SV%. These are all NHL ranks, he’s first (or tied for first) among rookies in every statistical category. The reigning AHL goalie of the year is 24, so he’s too old right?

My Pick – Kaapo Kahkonen

Awarded annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game
Chtib – Mark Stone
Zhang – Mark Scheifele

The race for the Selke will probably be the mot competitive and entertaining to watch and most people won’t even take notice. If you like Mark Stone, you NEED to check out the incredible article done by Healthy Skratch’s very own Kris! This beauty examines Stone’s effectiveness on both sides of the puck and shows just how underrated he has been his entire career.

The second name, who did not get any love from Chtib and Zhang (which is very a propos for this player) is Aleksander Barkov. Easily one of the best 200 foot players in the NHL since joining the league, Barkov should be finally getting his due this season. It helps that the Panther’s are one of the best teams in the league this season, giving him more exposure in the otherwise small market.

My third nominee would be Kopitar who sits one point ahead of Barkov and whose defensive prowess has been well document to this point. However, Kopitar has done much more of his damage on the scoreboard while on the Power Play, which does not help him for the Selke.

Of course we cannot ignore guys like Sean Couturier who missed time due to injury but has produced at equivalent rates to the other nominees. Finally, are you truly discussing the Selke if you do not bring up Patrice Bergeron?

My Pick – Mark Stone

Awarded annually to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position
2020 Winner – Roman Josi

We now reach the categories that Chtib and Zhang did not get to! I will try not to dive too far down this rabbit hole because I can speak about Jeff Petry for days. I love that he is finally having a season that really shows how could he has been for the Habs. Petry is currently the only defenseman with double digit goals, and is tied for first in points by a D-man.

He will be in tough against Victor Hedman, who I admittedly think is the best defenseman in the NHL. It would be the second of his career, and would be the cherry on top of the incredible calendar year he has had. This of course includes a Stanley Cup and Conn Smyth which begs the question of, can we definitively call him the best defenseman yet?

Darnell Nurse deserves a nomination. The loss of Oscar Klefbom to start the season was tough for the Oilers, but Nurse has been playing out of his mind this season. He has arguable been on of the best defenseman at Even Strength with 16 points at 5on5 with a plus 15 Plus/Minus rating.

My heart says Petry, but my head says Hedman.

My Pick – Jeff Petry

Annual award presented to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to their team’s success
2020 Winner – Bruce Cassidy

An annual award to recognize the work of the top General Manager in the NHL.
2020 Winner – Lou Lamoriello

Both of these awards tend to reward the Coach/GM of the league’s top teams. So here are a couple of duos to keep an eye on.

Minnesota Wild
Bill Guerin won’t be a General Manager for much longer (they brought in Judd Bracket for a reason), but what he has done in a short amount of time is impressive. He seems to have righted the ship for the moment, putting the right people in place to succeed from an organization standpoint.

Dean Evason was promoted half way through last season and he currently has the Wild sitting 2nd in their Division, ahead of Colorado and St Louis. The Wild as a whole have gotten a lot of love from me, primarily because of what Evason is doing with his rookies, giving them prominent roles right out of the gate.

Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’amour and the Hurricanes are the first team to hit 20 wins as a team on the season, putting them in first place in the Central division. The Hurricanes have steadily improved under Brind’amour and this year looks like the year that they make a deep run.

I can’t say that I personally agree with the way in which the Hurricanes front office operates, but it is hard to argue with the results. Don Waddle embraced analytics and video scouting approach which has paid dividends. The team has been able to build upon the previous season for 2-3 years in a row.

Toronto Maple Leafs
The narrative that the Leafs are in an easy division is garbage. The Leafs seem to have finally settled into Keefe’s system and philosophies after the debacle that was Mike Babcock. Keefe has this team playing responsible hockey, while somehow not restricting any part of their game offensively.

I hate that I have to give the Leafs credit but Kyle Dubas has been rounded out this roster very nicely. Dubas’ cap management deserves more credit as well, how he manages to continue to improve this roster with literally zero cap space is infuriating.

My Picks – Rod Brind’amour / Bill Guerin

As mentioned earlier, check out the latest episode of the newest podcast to join the Hot Sauce Family! Chtib & Zhang bring a fresh perspective to the crew and you can check out their full breakdown of their Mid-Season Award winners.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: