The NHL regular season wrapped up Sunday, which means the playoffs are just around the corner. It also means the time to discuss awards has begun, even though the league won’t officially pass out its annual honors until a ceremony in late June.
That won’t stop us from making our choices now that the 2016-17 regular season is over, partially because we need something to talk about between now and Wednesday when the postseason gets going. A perfect time to argue about awards that we can’t actually vote in!
There were a lot of great races this year, from Connor McDavid vs. Sidney Crosby for the Hart Trophy to Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine for the Calder Trophy. The one thing that’s certain is that, unlike last year, the Blackhawks won’t sweep those two awards again. Luckily Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin still had pretty great years.
So here’s my complete ballot for the 2017 NHL awards, with voting from the full staff of Second City Hockey contributors included at the bottom. Feel free to share your award picks in the comments.
1. Connor McDavid, Oilers
2. Sidney Crosby, Penguins
3. Brent Burns, Sharks
The race between these three players was quite close. Crosby was just as good as McDavid, but he played seven fewer games, which matters when things are otherwise so close. Those extra games allowed McDavid to finish with 11 more points than anyone else in the league.
Crosby has more goals, 44 to 30, but most of that advantage came on the power play. In terms of even strength goals, Crosby had 30 to McDavid’s 27. Crosby was also better on faceoffs and shots per game despite spending a good chunk of the season with a rookie on the wing. Still, that’s how good McDavid was that I’m picking him anyway.
As for the third spot, it’s always hard to figure out how to weigh the positions against each other, but Burns helped carry the Sharks as a defenseman. He finished ninth in the league in points, which is ridiculous. You could also argue Sergei Bobrovsky deserves to be on here for what he’s done in Columbus, and Kane had another great year with the Blackhawks.
1. Brent Burns, Sharks
2. Erik Karlsson, Senators
3. Victor Hedman, Lightning
These three defensemen were head and shoulders above the rest. The only matter at hand is figuring out how to order them. For me, Burns goes No. 1 because of his unparalleled impact as a shooter. Burns scored 29 goals on 320 shots on goal this season, which are numbers more appropriate for a superstar winger.
No other player at the position had more than 17 and 241, respectively. Add in that Burns led all defensemen in points and had another exceptional year driving possession, and it’s just too much to consider anyone else.
As for who comes next, Karlsson and Hedman are ridiculously close. I give Karlsson the slight advantage for two seasons. First, his superior per-60 production during 5-on-5 play gives him an edge over the Lightning star. Second, Karlsson was one of just two players in the league to block more than 200 shots, so he wasn’t just racking up offensive stats. Karlsson is an amazing two-way player who would’ve won Norris if not for the special year that Burns had.
1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets
2. Braden Holtby, Capitals
3. Carey Price, Canadiens
Not a difficult choice. Bobrovsky leads the NHL in save percentage (.931) and goals allowed average (2.06) with a 41-17-5 record in 63 games. He’s turned the Blue Jackets into a contender a year after being limited to a .908 save percentage in 37 games, which was a big part of their issues.
The final two spots go to a couple stalwarts in Holtby and Price, who delivered years that live up to their reputations. The hardest choice was between Price or Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk for the final spot, but I’ll go with the Canadiens star because he was better at even strength.
1. Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs
2. Patrik Laine, Jets
3. Zach Werenski, Blue Jackets
As a rookie, Matthews led the NHL in even strength goals. That’s a pretty amazing way to start a career, and it should be no surprise given the way he puts pucks on net. That’s maybe the biggest thing that separates him from Laine, who was similarly great but depended more on shooting ability and a high percentage than shot volume.
That’s not why Matthews gets the nod, though. It’s because he was a top-two center on a playoff team while posting a 52.2 percent even strength Corsi (2.3 percent better than when he’s off the ice) and serviceable faceoff numbers (47 percent). He’s a good all-around player with historically good scoring ability.
The final spot goes to Werenski, who quietly had a monster rookie year with the Blue Jackets. Other than Bobrovsky’s turnaround, he’s the biggest difference from last year for Columbus. That he doesn’t turn 20 until July is incredible, and combined with Seth Jones, they have a fearsome top pairing going forward.
1. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins
2. Mikael Backlund, Flames
3. Trevor Lewis, Kings
This is a hard award to get a feel for at this point. It’s supposed to go to the forward who “demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game,” but really it just goes to a great two-way forward having a strong offensive year at this point. A defensive specialist like Marcus Kruger will never really be in the mix.
But this season, Bergeron stood out in a clear way for the Bruins. Yes, he’s a good scorer, but the center also had the lowest 5-on-5 shot attempts allowed per 60 minutes of any forward in the NHL, according to Corsica Hockey. That’s the sign of a great defensive player, and Bergeron has been at his best.
Beyond that, Backlund had an amazing year as defensive forward for the Flames. Despite taking a heavy dose of defensive starts, he finished the year with a 55 percent even strength Corsi, which is 6.2 percent better than when he’s off the ice. That’s a big impact tilting the ice, and Backlund also put up a career-high 53 points.
The last guy is Lewis, who had a really great year as a defensive center. He played over 1,000 minutes for the Kings, and finished second behind Bergeron in 5-on-5 shots allowed per 60. It’s not just the system, either, because the next Kings forward on the list is Tanner Pearson at No. 40. Toss in a decent 12 goals and 12 assists, and Lewis gets a nod for an award he definitely won’t win.
Jack Adams Trophy
1. Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks
2. John Tortarella, Blue Jackets
3. Bruce Boudreau, Wild
Okay, so maybe part of this is just because Quenneville hasn’t won the NHL’s Coach of the Year award since 1999-00, when he was still with the Blues. If he doesn’t win one in a season like this, when he led a team full of rookies to 50 wins and a No. 1 seed, he’ll probably never win it with the Blackhawks.
Tortarella is going to make it tough. He’s such an obvious choice for turning the Blue Jackets around without any big changes to the roster, and if he wins, nobody will complain. But they’ve also had Sergei Bobrovsky playing out of his mind, and that save percentage is the biggest reason for their success.
So let’s finally give it to Coach Q, who has had one of his best seasons in a fantastic run. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to hear about this.
GM of the Year
1. Chuck Fletcher, Wild
2. Brad Treliving, Flames
3. Stan Bowman, Blackhawks
There’s no obvious choice for GM of the Year this time around, so I went with Fletcher, who finally got the Wild rolling as a top team in the West most of the season. His two big offseason moves — hiring Bruce Boudreau as coach and signing Eric Staal — both panned out in a big way. They finished second in the conference and and fifth in the league in points.
Then again, my peers did not agree with me. Most of them picked Bowman, whose smart decision-making led the Hawks to a No. 1 seed in the West. The Hawks GM made the right call to lean on rookies, made good depth moves like Brian Campbell, and got Artemi Panarin signed to an extension.
Treliving also had a very good year as the Flames got back to the playoffs. He hired coach Glen Gulutzan, added Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer, and Brian Elliott for veteran depth, and drafted Matthew Tkachuk, who made an immediate impact as a rookie. You can make a reasonable case for any of these executives, and probably a couple others, to be the NHL’s best over the past year.
2017 NHL award picks