With NHL teams reaching the halfway point in their season just this past week, I thought it would be a good time to look at all the major awards and see who is the front-runner. Obviously things can change from now until mid-April, as last year the majority of my mid-season picks ended up changing. I had Mark Giordano as the Norris winner, but then he got injured and Erik Karlsson played out of his mind. Things can change quickly.
Anyway, I thought I'd take a stab at these major awards. Here they are.
Hart Trophy: Patrick Kane
Let's get things straight: it pains me to not pick Erik Karlsson here, but I really don't know how to make my point for a defenseman here. The last defenseman to win was Chris Pronger in 2000, and before that the only winner after World War II was Bobby Orr. I do agree that Karlsson is generational talent, but with Kane's 62 points in 44 games, it's hard to argue against him. I don't like giving him the award considering his off-ice troubles as well, but you can't factor that into his on-ice production.
It's almost impossible to compare forwards to defenseman, and I think a lot of the voters realize that. This pick is almost a prediction rather than my actual pick, and I would be surprised if Kane didn't win this if all things stay relatively the same. No matter how good Karlsson is playing, we have to acknowledge how good Kane has been. Honestly though, I'd love to see some arguments for Karlsson winning the Hart in the comments, because I know there are some strong ones out there. But I will go with Kane here, just so I'm not called a homer that doesn't watch other teams games.
Rocket Richard Trophy: Alex Ovechkin
Obviously this award is not based on opinion, it is simply whoever has the most goals. Ovechkin leads the league with 26 goals so far, which is becoming another incredible year for him. He hasn't been at the top of the leaderboard most of the year, as that honour belonged to Jamie Benn for a while. However, I had a feeling he would take over at some point, and I don't see him relinquishing his lead.
It's hard to bet against one of the best goal-scorers of all-time, even if Benn is having a phenomenal season. Ovechkin is already one goal ahead, and now has played three fewer games. He'll go down as one of the greats in our generation, so we should enjoy every amazing season that he has left in him. Just...leave the milestone goals for games not against the Senators.
Norris Trophy: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa
I don't even have to explain, do I? For Senators fans reading this, I can't imagine any fewer than 100% of people agreeing with this, as it shouldn't even be a contest at this point. He is having the best year of his career, which really is saying something. He's 4th in the entire league in points, and is on pace for 86 points. Defensemen don't do that anymore, except for Erik Karlsson. I think he's finally getting the recognition he deserves around the league, although you will assuredly still find the crazies online who legitimately think he is a bad defenseman. Not simply not Norris-worthy, but actually bad.
Anyway, he is 6th amongst defensemen in goals per 60 at 0.47, and third in points per 60 at 1.46 (although he was first when I initially wrote this two days ago). He is also first in relative corsi at a whopping +8.5%. For comparison, the next highest defenseman is Brian Campbell at +7.5%, and last year Karlsson was at +4.7%. He is having a legendary season, and he is doing it with a team that isn't that great. Without him on the ice, Ottawa looks disastrous as there isn't a single regular that has positive possession numbers without Karlsson. That just shows how much of a game-changer he is, because he is relied upon so heavily. Heck, he's even getting penalty kill time, which actually suits him well considering he leads defenseman in corsi against per 60 at 4 on 5 since 2013.
It's time that people realize he is one of the best of all-time. Sadly, I'm not sure 3 Norris Trophies will suffice.
Art Ross Trophy: Patrick Kane, Chicago
This is another trophy that isn't based off of people's opinion's and Kane is running away with this one. He leads the league with 62 points, and he sits 9 points up on Jamie Benn, and 11 up on Tyler Seguin. I don't think he'll tail off too much, and it should be an easy Art Ross win for Kane.
Vezina Trophy: Braden Holtby, Washington
This was an easy choice. Holtby is having a season similar to Carey Price's from last year, and he's definitely one of the best four or five goalies in the league now. Roberto Luongo was surprisingly close to Holtby's .932 save percentage at .931, but ultimately I think Luongo's will come down. Holtby has the youth on his side, so I'd be more willing to bet on his performance staying relatively the same.
Those numbers do look closer than you would think, although Florida's recent amazing run could give someone a bit of recency bias. I would still give the trophy to Holtby now, and I think by the end of the year there will be more separation between the two.
Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron, Boston
This is a classic Selke pick, and it's hard to vote against him, really. He ranks 11th amongst forwards in CA60 relative at -8.2% (negative is good), and he's one of the few names on the list near the top that also can actually produce some offense as well. He has had the fourth most defensive faceoffs amongst forwards at 242, and he can also kill penalties exceptionally well, ranking 9th in CF% at 18.7%. There are obviously many other defensive specialists out there, but Bergeron is one of the few that can do it while getting 60 points or so each year.
Calder Trophy: Artemi Panarin, Chicago
I definitely did not think that neither Connor McDavid nor Jack Eichel would not be winning this. However, as of now it looks like it'll be someone else. The easy pick right now is Panarin, and it's hard to make a case for anyone else, really. He leads rookies with 39 points, and the next two closest players are Dylan Larkin with 29 and Max Domi at 28. There's a possibility that Panarin falls off a bit (like Filip Forsberg did last year), and by April the race could be a lot closer.
As of now though, it's Panarin who is out in front, with Larkin, Domi, and even Eichel a ways back.
Jack Adams Award: Daryl Sutter, Los Angeles
This is sort of an off the board pick, but Sutter definitely deserves it. The Jack Adams is sort of a joke, because every year it seems the winner is the coach of a team that has a really high PDO and just out-performs their expectations. Look at the past three winners: Bob Hartley, Patrick Roy and Paul MacLean. They aren't exactly the cream of the crop. It's crazy that someone like Mike Babcock has never won the award, so it obviously isn't given out to who the best actual coach is. I think Sutter deserves some recognition here though, and he may get a bit of it.
The Kings sit first in the Pacific Division with a record of 27-12-3, and there's a real possibility that they could go on another cup run. He has gotten the results this year, and once again they are the class of the league in terms of possession numbers, as they are murdering teams night in and night out. They are first in corsi at 56.2% this year, and this is the fourth straight season they are leading the league in that category. Even in 2011-12, they were at 54.8% and the first-place Red Wings has 54.9%.
This is a team that consistently has fantastic coaching, and Sutter deserves some recognition at some point. It's not like they are a fringe playoff team like in years past either, because they should run away with a division title. Let's not go for the team with the highest PDO for once.
GM of the Year: Jim Nill, Dallas
Since Nill has come to Dallas, he has hardly done anything wrong. They didn't make the playoffs last year, but that was basically due to awful goaltending. He has addressed that by going with a 1A/1B system with Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, and they have been average, which is good enough for a team with a lethal offense. He acquired Patrick Sharp for basically nothing, and he now has traded for Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and Patrick Sharp for pennies on the dollar.
That's the sign of a good GM, and he has built a good core. I've yet to see a puzzling move from him, and I'm not sure I will for some time. It also helps that they sit 2nd in the entire NHL in points, so they have legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.
Well, that's all. Let's hear your picks!