Been doing this every so often throughout the season, as we try and get a handle on who really should be taking home the baubles come June. Of course, almost none of these awards will actually go this way, because as expert as hockey people like to think they are most of them don’t look beyond “points” in any of these categories. The only caveat being when it comes to the Selke award, where they’ll also look at faceoff percentage and then points. But we can do better, and one day dorks like me will have their “King Felix Winning The Cy Young With 13 Wins” day. Until then, we’ll remain in the shadows, plotting our revenge (our next trip to Five Guys, really).
So, without further ado…whatever the hell ado is…
Hart – I mean this one is really simple, and you can just look at points. While a section of Hawks fans, who probably need to be hosed down or beaten with a hose or both, will wail that Scumbag isn’t getting enough consideration for MVP because he’s second in the scoring race, this is Run CMD’s award. The Oilers basically suck when he’s not on the ice, and are a Lethal Leap Year when he is. When looking at the chances the Oilers give up and get when McDavid is out there vs. when he isn’t, they’re a full goal better in xGF% with him out there. It’s not the best in the league, but in the top five and combined with the chances he and his teammates are finishing with him out there…. this isn’t even close. The only other argument would have to be Sergei Bobrovsky, who is dragging an otherwise simply-ok Jackets team well over 100 points. But he gets his own award, and we only give these to goalies when we can’t find an obvious skater candidate. We have one here.
Vezina- See above.
Norris – This is where we can geek out a bit. Traditionalists always wail about handing this to the d-man with the most points and how it doesn’t value defense, and then they hand it to the d-man with most points because they don’t know that you can evaluate defense if you just look hard enough.
Thanks to the Sharks late-season dry heave, Erik Karlsson has basically caught Brent Burns in points, and that will be the race. But Karlsson isn’t really having the remarkable possession season we’re used to seeing, he’s just doing more with what he’s got. If we’re going to at least pretend to look at what goes on in the defensive zone…. the answer is Dougie Hamilton. I know, weird, right?
Hamilton is 8th in d-man scoring, taking on the toughest competition for the Flames alongside Mark Giordano. This is where things can get a little murky. We want to value players who keep scoring chances against down the most, but you can do that by simply having the puck. So it depends on how you want to weigh it. Hamilton ranks third among d-men in his relative xGF%, and he and Giordano are the only top pairing d-men you can find anywhere in the top 20 in that category. And they’re doing it against much harder competition.
If you just want to use straight possession numbers, and I would argue that you can be a good d-man and allow a fair amount of attempts if they’re not dangerous, Hamilton is second in the league in that as well (he only trails Michal Kempny, and at this point and what we’ve seen Kempny is probably just as sure of a bet to be effective as Oduya on a second pairing but we’ll have that talk another time). So Hamilton is scoring as well as basically all but three d-men (Hedman is awfully close to the top two) while dusting them as far as the chances and attempts he generates and prevents for his team. But he won’t come within a continent of winning it.
Selke – This can be simple if you want it. You can hand this to Patrice Bergeron and not really think about it and you wouldn’t be wrong. Even though the Bruins remain an analytic-darling team, Bergeron rises above that pretty significantly while also providing a platform for Brad Marchand to get to 40 goals. We all know it’s that easy, but what this post presupposes is… maybe it isn’t?
Bergeron is fourth in both relative corsi-against and corsi-percentage. It’s who he trails in the latter category that muddies things. That would be the entire 3M line in Calgary, which makes it impossible to separate who does what. But these things all go to centers, so I guess we’d have to nominate Mikael Backlund.
When it comes to expected goals against relative to the team, this is where our beloved Markus Kruger is second in the league behind Matt Stajan. And some day, we should probably start an annoying, Kings-fan and Kings-organization like campaign for Kruger to win this, because we know the things he’s asked to do all the time. If the idea of best defensive forward, than the job description is limiting the best opponents to the fewest chances, and Kruger’s been doing that for year. When it comes to limiting simple scoring chances, Stajan leads again. But it’s the 3M line that takes on the hardest competition there in Alberta. So split it three ways and give it to those guys and in no way will Flames fans get annoying about it.
Calder – Do you even have to ask? Matthews’s 39 goals as a rookie isn’t far off from Teemu territory when you consider the different scoring eras. If you adjust for that year’s average for scoring Matthews would have potted 58. Not quite 76 but not totally distant either. And he’s doing it as a center being tasked with some stiff competition. You don’t have to overthink this one either.