Reviewing the NHL Awards

Some thoughts on watching the NHL Awards for the first time last night.

Last night, I watched the NHL Awards. It's something I'd never done before. In general, I dislike awards shows. All the information you want could be covered in 48 seconds, but they somehow drag it into 2+ hours of television. The host is often tough to watch, presenters try to seem personable but come off as awkward, and the camera seems to focus a lot on people who just lost. But with three Senators nominated for awards (and being in charge of this site), I decided to sit down and watch the awards show.

Things started terribly. I've never heard of Rob Riggle, and this awards show convinced me that I should avoid any movie he's in like last month's cream sauce. He tried to be funny, wasn't, and then would fill the awkward silence with his own laughter. I hate to complain about the guy, since I know I'd do a much worse job. Still, I can't help but think that if I were a casual fan, I wouldn't have made it three minutes into the show.

Mercifully the awards started to be presented quickly. The Ted Lindsay award was up first, and I thought it was a really nice gesture that Ted Lindsay himself was up there. Carey Price winning the Lindsay was the first in a lot of predictable awards for the night: Price won the Lindsay (MVP voted by the players), Vezina (best goaltender), and Hart (MVP voted by the media); Bob Hartley won the Adams (coach of the year); Patrice Bergeron won the Selke (top defensive forward). These were in addition to the awards that we already knew the person they were going to: Jamie Benn won the Art Ross (lead scorer), Alex Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard (most goals), Duncan Keith won the Conn Smythe (playoff MVP), Price and Corey Crawford split the Jennings (fewest goals against) because for some reason shootout goals count as goals against. Of all the awards handed out (16! Did you know there were 16 awards?! Somebody should've said there were 16 awards at least 16 more times!), most of them were foregone conclusions. It seemed that all the contentious awards races involved Senators.

Sens fans didn't have to wait long for the first award involving a Senator. Erik Karlsson WON THE NORRIS TROPHY just in case you didn't know. It was well-deserved, and seemed to cement Karlsson's place as a likely future hall of fame member. Seriously, the only players with multiple Norris wins who aren't in the hall of fame yet are Nicklas Lidstrom and Duncan Keith, because they aren't yet eligible. I was riding a high after that, confident the Sens would sweep their awards.

The next time a Senator came up felt like ages due to the uncomfortable so-called entertainment, but really was only maybe an hour later. Mark Stone lost the Calder to Aaron Ekblad. Despite my earlier praise of Stone, Ekblad was a worthy winner. Really, any of the top three would have been. As would Filip Forsberg or John Klingberg. I think any of those five could've had a chance at beating Nathan MacKinnon last year. It's hardly fair to Stone that there were so many quality rookies in his year. And if anything, this works out well for Ottawa. Stone hasn't signed a contract yet, and adding "Calder winner" to his resume wouldn't lower his cost.

It wasn't much later that the Masterton Trophy for dedication to hockey came up. Andrew Hammond was going to be in tough taking on Kris Letang, who'd been nominated last year for overcoming serious health issues, only to have a stroke and return to hockey again. Letang would get the personal struggle votes, but Hammond demonstrated perseverance better than anyone. So of course the award went to Devan Dubnyk, who overcame... a bad year? Sure, he played in the systems of five NHL teams in a calendar year, but Hammond had NEVER STARTED IN THE NHL. Most people give up on their hockey dreams when cut in Junior-A, or traded in Junior-B, or any of the other things that have happened to Hammond. This joke was made a lot on Twitter:

But really, if I'd had to pick one Senator to win, I would've picked Karlsson. Him winning a second Norris trophy further cements his reputation in the league. The other two would've been nice, but it would've been insufferable to have to listen to Canadiens fans singing P.K. Subban's praises if he'd won instead.

Outside of the awards, there were some great moments. Jordyn Leopold, the daughter of Jordan Leopold, famed for her letter to the Blue Jackets asking for her father to be traded to the Wild so he could be closer to his family, presented GM of the year with Gary Bettman. I was worried about aving an 11-year-old present an award, but she was fine. It was a forced touching moment, but it was still pretty touching.

The highlight of the night was Jonathan Pitre, the 14-year-old scout for the Sens who suffers from Epidermolysis bullosa. His entire body is covered in painful blisters, which led to the Sens initially reaching out to him and signing him to a one-day scouting contract. Sporting a suit given to him by Sidney Crosby, he came on stage, only to be met by Karlsson, Stone, Hammond, Cody Ceci, and Bryan Murray on stage. He also learned he would be heading to the All-Star Game held next year by Nashville. You can tell how much this all means to him as he deals with extreme pain for his whole life.

In the end, it was still an awards show, and I didn't love it. The non-hockey player presenters were either Canadian (George Stroumboulopoulos, Russell Peters) or way past their prime (Kix Brooks), or people you'd never heard of (everyone else). The whole thing dragged on way too long on purpose. The host was pretty bad. No lies, I turned it off after I found out about the Masterton winner because I couldn't stand watching much more. Still, there were some great moments, such as Jiri Hudler revealing that he's pretty funny, or Subban showing off his hosting prowess. Seriously, if Subban wants to take Strombo's job next year on Hockey Night in Canada, I won't complain.

I'll probably end up watching next year's awards. By then, I'll be numb to the issues with this year's. Just please, NHL, find a better host. I'd rather watch Gary Bettman host. Have you seen him host the entry draft? His comedic timing is perfect! And I promise I won't boo him, at least not when he presents Karlsson with his third Norris Trophy.

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