McKenzie: Coaches' poll predicts major NHL award winners

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Bob McKenzie
4/17/2013 10:19:10 AM
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With less than two weeks remaining in the NHL regular season, it's that time of the year when our attention turns to who'll win the major NHL awards.

The voting for most of the awards is done by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, although NHL GMs vote on the Vezina Trophy (top goaltender) and the NHL Broadcasters' Association select the Adams Award for Coach of the Year.

It's a highly unusual season, obviously. Because of the lockout, it's 48 games long, not the traditional 82. And there's been no interlocking play between the Eastern and Western Conferences.

So that certainly complicates some of the decision-making process.

While there are still games to be played, and what happens over the next dozen days could still impact who wins the awards, TSN sought to get a head start on the annual awards debate with an NHL Coaches Poll.

TSN contacted NHL head coaches and asked them to pick one winner and one runner-up in each of six award categories. There were only two requirements: Choose only players in their own conference -- those they've actually seen this season -- and do not pick anyone on their own team.

A total of 25 coaches -- 13 in the West and 12 in the East -- participated in the survey.

So without further ado, here's the rundown of how voting went in each of the two Conferences:

Eastern Conference

The big question was whether Sidney Crosby, who hasn't played since March 30th and may not play until the playoffs, missed too many games to win the Hart Trophy as MVP. Well, Eastern Conference coaches don't seem to be too concerned he will have missed 12 of 48 games.

The majority of Eastern coaches who responded had Crosby atop their hart ballot. New York Islander John Tavares was the only other player to get multiple first-place votes and finished second to Crosby, with Washington's Alexander Ovechkin getting enough second place votes to be No. 3, just behind Tavares.
 
The most closely-contested Eastern Conference voting battle was for Rookie of the Year. Montreal's Brendan Gallagher narrowly edged Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau for top Calder consideration in what amounted to an incredibly tight two-man race.
 
As for the Vezina, many of the coaches acknowledged that Ottawa's Craig Anderson was well on his way to being a slam dunk in this category but his injury derailed that.

You may be surprised to learn Montreal's Carey Price, who's had a horrendous three-game stretch in the last week, topped the survey, which was conducted after he was lit up by Toronto on Saturday but before he was torched by Philadelphia on Monday night. Boston's Tuukka Rask and New York Ranger Henrik Lundquist were second and third behind Price.
 
Montreal's P.K. Subban was the clear No. 1 choice as the Eastern Conference's top defenceman, ahead of both Boston's Zdeno Chara and Pittsburgh's Kris Letang. And it was no contest in Selke Trophy balloting for top defensive forward - Boston's Patrice Bergeron won in a landslide with no other player getting any appreciable level of support.
 
Montreal coach Michel Therrien was chosen No. 1 by his Eastern Conference peers, ahead of both Ottawa's Paul MacLean and Toronto's Randy Carlyle at Nos. 2 and 3.

Western Conference
 
The overwhelming choice for Hart Trophy MVP consideration in the Western Conference was Chicago Blackhawk captain Jonathan Toews. The only other player the Western Conference coaches had remotely close to Toews was Anaheim centre Ryan Getzlaf, with Chicago's Patrick Kane and Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky getting mentioned but nowhere close to the top two guys.
 
Toews also topped Selke Trophy consideration as the best defensive forward in the West, ahead of Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and L.A.'s Anze Kopitar.
 
Bobrovsky was the runaway leader for the Vezina as top goalie although San Jose's Antti Niemi finished a strong No. 2. One quirk in the voting was that both Chicago goalies - Corey Crawford and Ray Emery got mentions.
 
The Western Conference Calder battle for top rookie was closely contested, with Chicago forward Brandon Saad just edging Minnesota defenceman Jonas Brodin. Three other defencemen -- Justin Schultz of Edmonton, Jake Muzzin of Los Angeles and Brenden Dillon of Dallas -- also received some consideration.
 
As for top defenceman, the Western Norris nod went to Minnesota's Ryan Suter with only Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin within shouting distance, though Chicago's Duncan Keith and L.A.'s Drew Doughty had some multiple mentions.
 
The Adams voting for top coach in the West was primarily a two-man race with Chicago's Joel Quenneville coming out on top, ahead of Anaheim's Bruce Boudreau. Columbus's Todd Richards was a distant third.

Now, keep in mind a couple of things.

One, there are still games to be played and future performances may yet impact voting.

Two, while the coaches' insight is welcome, they actually have no input in actual NHL award voting.

In any case, let the debates begin.

Sidney Crosby (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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