The end of the NHL regular season has come and gone, and while many teams gear up for a hopefully long playoff run, others are left picking up the pieces, wondering how to regroup and making sure they’re taking part in the playoffs next year.
Some of those teams ready for the postseason are there because of the stellar, award winning performances of some of their players, while others get ready to watch from the couch despite truly amazing seasons by others. There may have never been an award season quite as difficult to select as this year, but here is my take.
Hart Trophy: Devan Dubnyk
It is very rare for a goaltender to win league MVP, but in a year there was not even a 90 point scorer, the time seems right for a goalie to reclaim league MVP. Carey Price has a very respectable argument for the award, as does Alex Ovechkin, but what Dubnyk has done with the Wild is just incredible. He ranked second in both save percentage (.929) and goals against average (2.07) for the season, and single handedly saved the Wild’s season. When he was acquired in January, the team had serious goaltending issues and was looked dead in the water. Now they are considered a Stanley Cup contender, largely due to the play of Dubnyk. If that doesn’t signify MVP, I don’t know what does.
Calder Trophy: Aaron Ekblad
Despite incredible seasons from Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, Mark Stone and even John Klingberg, the Calder should go to Ekblad. In any other year, all four of those guys would probably win, and Stone still might steal the award after playing some of the best hockey in the league down the stretch while his team tried to get into the postseason. However, what Ekblad has done at the defensive position at age 18 is just remarkable. His possession numbers are off the charts, especially in comparison to the very few other 18 year old defenseman in the last few years like Seth Jones and Victor Hedman. In fact, when you compare what Tyler Myers did when he won the Calder as a 19 year old defenseman, Ekblad’s numbers blow him away. I could go on, but Ekblad has the best case for the Calder.
Vezina Trophy: Carey Price
What Price has done all season for the Canadians is incredible. Playing behind a team that simply cannot score, and never has good possession numbers, Price has had to bail out Montreal a lot this year, and he has stood tall. He ranked first in wins (44), save percentage (.933) and goals against average (1.96) this season. He also posted nine shutouts. It’s hard not to have a successful team when you have a goaltender playing that well. We’ll see if he can continue his magical season into the playoffs, where you know there will be pressure from the Montreal community, but regardless of how he performs there, his regular season is one of the best we’ve seen from a goaltender in a long time.
Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty
It seems like Doughty has an oxygen tank strapped to his back when he plays. This year he was relied upon even more heavily than he was in the past with the departure of Willie Mitchell in free agency and Slava Voynov because of suspension. Doughty averaged over 29 minutes of ice time a night, always playing the most important and most difficult minutes in any game. While he will never put up the kind of offensive numbers Erik Karlsson puts up, in large part due to the defensive first system the Kings play, he is still able to hold his own in the attacking zone.
Selke: Patrice Bergeron
What Bergeron was able to this year on a struggling Boston team was very commendable. Bergeron seemed to be the only constant. While often going head to head against other teams top lines, Bergeron was still able to put up over 50 points. Take into consideration that his shifts start in the defensive zone over 50% of the time, and you really respect his 58.8% relative corsi mark. Bergeron is a prime example of what it means to be a two-way forward.
Jack Adamas: Peter Laviolette
There are a ton of worthy candidates here, and Paul Maurice is just as deserving as Laviolette, but the turnaround Nashville has made is impressive. This season was their first without Barry Trotz behind the bench, and Laviolette has made the Predators an extremely team to play against. The Preds drive the play, have the best defense in the league, a great goaltender and are a phenomenal neutral zone team. They may be a year away, but Laviolette has the Preds going in the right direction.
It was an incredible season in the NHL, and with the postseason about to begin, it is only going to get better. We’ll see if some of these stars that are in the postseason can lead their team to the Stanley Cup. For what it’s worth, I have the Minnesota Wild beating the New York Rangers in six games. Enjoy the playoffs.