With the shortened 2013 NHL season in the books, Scott Cullen has his final take on the award races.
Injuries played a factor this year, seemingly more than usual. Both the Hart and Norris Trophy had contenders that missed at least a quarter of the season and the Vezina race could have been different had Ottawa's Craig Anderson not missed so much time. It's hard to provide value from the press box, don't you know?
My previous installments this season are here: First Quarter, Midseason, Three Quarters and now these are my final award picks for the 2013 NHL season.
Winner: Alex Ovechkin, RW, Washington
Runners-up: Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago; Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh
Comment: Through the first three quarters of this shortened NHL season, it was easy to have Sidney Crosby at the top of the MVP ballot. He was clearly having the best season, but then he suffered a broken jaw and missed the final quarter of the season, casting doubt on his Hart Trophy candidacy. I covered this in my three quarter awards and my position hasn't changed. It's one thing to say Sidney Crosby was having the best year prior to his injury; it's another to say that he's 25% better than the second-best player in the league.
As it turns out, there has been late charge among the contenders. Washington Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin scored a goal-per-game over his final 23 games to end up leading the league with 32 goals in 48 games (a 55-goal pace in an 82-game season) to emerge as a viable MVP candidate, something that seemed downright impossible early in the season.
Toews has been great all season and would be a worthy winner, so he gets a runner-up spot ahead of teammate Patrick Kane and Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky.
Winner: Ryan Suter, Minnesota
Runners-up: P.K. Subban, Montreal; Kris Letang, Pittsburgh
Comment: This race has been fascinating. Letang was my leader at the three-quarter mark, but was sidelined by a broken toe. Combined with several other injuries during the season, that left Letang missing 13 games in a 48-game schedule, more than Crosby, raising the question about whether Letang was that much better than every other defenceman that he could miss more than 25% of the season and provide more value.
At the same time, Letang finished with 38 points, the same total as Subban in 42 games (remember, he missed a handful of games at the start of the year while negotiating a new contract), so with little to choose between them at the offensive end, it opened the door for a guy who was a viable candidate all along. Ryan Suter played more minutes than anyone in the league this year, a career-high 27:17 per game, but he did more than just hop the boards.
His 32 points in 48 games represented the best per-game scoring output of his career and Suter regularly faced the opposition's best lines while paired with impressive rookie Jonas Brodin. That's good enough to get the nod, ahead of two impressive puck-movers. Others that deserved consideration include familiar names: Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Zdeno Chara as well as 32-year-old Ducks veteran Francois Beauchemin, who had the best year of his career.
Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus
Runners-up: Henrik Lundqvist, N.Y. Rangers; Tuukka Rask, Boston
Comment: There were three goaltenders to stop more than 94% of the shots they faced at even strength: Bobrovsky, Craig Anderson and Tomas Vokoun. Anderson missed a bunch of time due to injury and Vokoun was the backup in Pittsburgh, starting 17 games, so Bobrovsky is deserving of the honour as league's top goaltender.
More of the same from Lundqvist puts him in the discussion again and Rask didn't miss a beat, reclaiming the starting job in Boston with Tim Thomas gone. Others that warranted consideration include Anderson (.941 SV% in 24 games), Antti Niemi and Jimmy Howard. Lundqvist, Niemi and Howard all started more than 40 games and there should be some credit for durability in addition to stopping a high percentage of shots faced.
Winner: Brendan Gallagher, RW, Montreal
Runners-up: Brandon Saad, LW, Chicago; Jonas Brodin, D, Minnesota
Comment: None of the rookies ran away from the pack this year, leading to an argument to be made for several candidates. I'm keeping Gallagher in top spot for good production, ranking second in goals (15) and fourth in points (28) among freshmen, despite playing fewer than 14 minutes per game. He was also a plus-10, one of three rookie forwards to be in positive double figures.
The plus-minus leader among rookies was Saad (plus-17), the 20-year-old power forward who finished strong (24 points in his last 28 games) while skating on the Blackhawks' first line.
Brodin didn't have gaudy traditional stats (11 points, plus-3), but logged more than 23 minutes per game for the Wild, playing on the top pair with Ryan Suter. Since 2000-2001, Drew Doughty, Tyler Myers, Tobias Enstrom, Ryan Whitney, Duncan Keith, Francois Beauchemin and Filip Kuba are the only rookie defencemen to have logged more han 23 minutes per game (minimum 40 games). Myers and Doughty were the only teenagers from that group and Myers the only one with a positive plus-minus, so Brodin's play puts him in rare company and would make him a worthy winner.
A late-season charge (11 goals, 15 points, plus-7 in 14 April games) vaulted Nail Yakupov into a tie for the rookie scoring lead with Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau. Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk also finished strong (six goals, 12 points, plus-6 in last 13 games) and Edmonton defenceman Justin Schultz showed he could score, putting up 27 points in 48 games, but his defensive play still needs work. While there was no runaway winner in this short season, there was pretty decent depth in the rookie class.
Winner: Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston
Runners-up: Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit; Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago.
Comment: Using www.behindthenet.ca to look at strength of opposition, zone starts and shot differential, it becomes apparent which forwards are asked to do more than score. Any of these three are deserving winners and have been the leaders for quite some time.
Some others that warrant consideration? The Blues' David Backes remains a beast, taking the toughest assignments and still driving play in the right direction. While the top four are highly-regarded, Phoenix's Boyd Gordon doesn't get the same kind of publicity, but he was tremendous, generating positive shot differentials despite facing tough competition and starting 32.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
LADY BYNG AWARD
Winner: Martin St. Louis, RW, Tampa Bay
Runners-up: Matt Moulson, RW, N.Y. Islanders, Logan Couture, C, San Jose
Comment: I haven't tracked this award all season, but can acknowledge the contenders for an award that is a consolation prize or a way to reward a player for a good season, so long as they had modest penalty minute totals.
Martin St. Louis doesn't need a consolation award, since he won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's scoring leader, with 60 points in 48 games, but he also had just 14 penalty minutes. Moulson (44 points, four PIM), Couture (37 points, four PIM), Pavel Datsyuk (49 points, 14 PIM) and Patrick Kane (55 points, eight PIM) are all plenty deserving too.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
Winner: Joel Quenneville, Chicago
Runners-up: Paul MacLean, Ottawa; Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis
Comment: As always a difficult call. I've had Quenneville in top spot ever since the Blackhawks went through the first half of the year without a regulation loss. No one is suggesting that the Blackhawks aren't a very talented team, but Quenneville deserves credit for getting them to show up and perform at a high level night-in and night-out.
Paul MacLean faced the most adversity, losing several stars -- Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson -- for long stretches, and dragging that team into the playoffs was an accomplishment unto itself, but at least part of the reason that the Sens survived was the strength of their goaltending (Robin Lehner had a .936 SV% after he was called up from the AHL, Ben Bishop had a .922 SV% before he was traded to Tampa Bay). That doesn't take away from what MacLean achieved, it only puts some question on where the responsibility lies. In any case, MacLean is plenty deserving if he ends up winning.
A team that reached the playoffs despite a messy goaltending situation, the St. Louis Blues, probably warrants Ken Hitchcock garnering some votes. The Blues play stifling defence, in typical Hitchcock fashion, but the trio of Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen combined for a pedestrian .904 save percentage and only after Elliott was spectacular in April (posting a .948 save percentage).
If not Hitchcock, Montreal's Michel Therrien and the Islanders' Jack Capuano could get consideration for turning around teams that struggled in 2011-2012, while Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma has tons of talent to work with, but he kept getting results despite numerous injuries.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.