One Thing the NHL Award Voters Didn't Screw Up Was Taylor Hall as MVP
There were some bad votes (George McPhee as GM of the Year) and gimmicks (hello, magic show) at the NHL Awards, but Taylor Hall winning the Hart Trophy was not one of them.
Photo by Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The 2018 NHL Awards show may have felt like it lasted five hours but it only ran [checks watch] two hours and 15 minutes? Holy shit, that can't be right, can it? I've seen Greg Maddux pitch quicker baseball games than that. How did giving out a handful of sports trophies become such a bloated event?
Watch how quickly I can whittle this show down to 90 minutes:
CUT OUT THE LADY BYNG AWARD — Nobody cares and voting (more below) shows voters don't really care, either. Give it away before the show the way the Academy Awards give out the best foreign language animated documentary editing awards weeks earlier in the basement of a Dave & Busters.
NO MORE MAGIC SHOWS — Did we really watch a seven-minute "is this your card" trick? Is this because the show is in Vegas? Let those oiled up dancing guys present an award if you want some Vegas flavor. Stopping the show for a rejected set piece from the Now You See Me 3 script isn't something anyone wants.
NO MORE VIDEO GAME COVER REVEALS — This is very much me being old and shaking my fist at a cloud, but sell your video game during commercial breaks, assholes.
NO MORE JACOB TREMBLAY INTERVIEWS — A trained child actor can't make uncomfortable hockey players fun. Just let the kid host next year.
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NO MORE SAP STAT THINGIES — Nothing says excitement and pageantry and fun like some dorky-ass facts and figures about some dude's stats. Again: SELL YOUR PRODUCT DURING COMMERCIAL BREAKS.
I think if you give me enough time I can trim this show to an action-packed hour but we need to move on to the awards and discuss who won, who should have won, and which voters made us laugh the hardest.
Winner: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Runners-up: PK Subban, Nashville Predators; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Did they get it right? Yes. Hedman, however, is lucky the PHWA gave Doughty his lifetime achievement Norris Trophy a few years ago because his numbers were good enough this season to warrant the sympathy trophy.
What was the funniest vote? There are a lot of worthy choices (Jaccob Slavin was fifth on a ballot!) but this space is dedicated to the PHWA voter who thought Dougie Hamilton was the second-best defenseman in the NHL this season. Hamilton was named on just three of 164 ballots—he was voted fifth on the two others—so either one renegade voter saw something no one else did or a local Calgary media member got too close to the situation.
Winner: Mat Barzal, New York Islanders
Runners-up: Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks; Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
Did they get it right? Yes. And by "they" I mean the PHWA voters and not Lou Lamoriello, whose archaic hair rules left Barzal with a much shorter haircut than what he could have had on a special night.
What was the funniest vote? There was nothing too egregious but I'd like to say hi to the Boston voter who felt Jake DeBrusk was the fifth-best rookie in the NHL.
LADY BYNG TROPHY
Winner: William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
Runners-up: Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres; Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Did they get it right? Sure. Who knows? Karlsson seems nice. I'm sure he says "sir" and "madam" and knows which one is the salad fork at the royal castle. I have no idea why this award exists.
What was the funniest vote? This award is dumb but the criteria is very clear — be gentlemanly. So most voters just look for guys with a lot of points and few penalty minutes. The problem with that is it leaves a blind spot that leads to Auston Matthews finishing eighth in voting (with six first-place votes) and Connor McDavid finishing 10th (with two first-place votes). Why is this funny?
McDavid was hit with an abuse of officials penalty in January and Matthews mocked a referee a few days earlier by pointing at the net after scoring a goal because an earlier goal was disallowed. Were those two things fantastic? You bet. Would I like to see more of this? Oh yeah.
But it should disqualify them from getting any votes for "gentlemanly" play during that season. You may as well have a Tallest Player Award and give it to Mats Zuccarello.
Winner: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Runners-up: Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers; Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Did they get it right? No. I mean, I guess not. I don't know. Why is there a best defensive forward award but not a best offensive defenseman award? More sports need extremely narrow awards for specific positions. Baseball can adopt a best infielder base runner. Football can honor the best tight end route runners. But apparently Kopitar wasn't as good this year as he has been in the past. They should just give it to Bergeron every year until he decides it's time to give it to Brad Marchand.
What was the funniest vote? Nobody voted for a defenseman or goaltender so this vote is devoid of humor.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
Winner: Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
Runners-up: Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche; Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins
Did they get it right? Yes. In any other season, Bednar runs away with this and there's a case to be made he deserved it more than Gallant, but guiding an expansion team to a 100-point season made this automatic. They survived two months during the first half without Marc-Andre Fleury and still cruised to a playoff spot.
What was the funniest vote? I'd like to meet the two people who felt Randy Carlyle of the Anaheim Ducks was the second-best coach, which means they felt Carlyle did a better job than either Gallant or Bednar. I'm putting my money on one of those votes coming from Steve Simmons.
Winner: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Runners-up: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Did they get it right? Yeah, but who did John Gibson piss off among the general managers who voted for this award? Somehow he finished sixth behind Frederik Andersen, who somehow finished fourth with a first-place vote despite a pedestrian .918 save percentage. Apparently the Hockey Men can be just as bad at voting as people who Never Played The Game.
What was the funniest vote? Easily, it's the guy who felt Andersen was the best goaltender in the NHL this season. We likely will never figure out which GM cast this vote, but my guess is Marc Bergevin. Why? Because Andersen went 3-0 with a .950 save percentage against the Canadiens this season, and that's the sort of dumbass shit Bergevin would do. If this ever gets confirmed, please tweet a screenshot of this paragraph with the link to the story, because clicks are always nice.
GENERAL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Winner: George McPhee, Vegas Golden Knights
Runners-up: Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets; Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Did they get it right? No! Here's the thing—we give the Jack Adams to the coach of the team we all thought would be crap before the season that turned out to be awesome. The reason we think a team is crap is how the GM builds it. So how can Gallant be the best coach if he's simply coaching the team assembled by the best GM? You can't have both! This is also a flawed award because Cheveldayoff (he should have won!) slowly built the team over many years. McPhee did some nice things in the expansion draft but tricking Dale Tallon into giving you two studs for nothing isn't a big deal when Tallon probably still falls for the "got your nose" trick.
What was the funniest vote? This award is chosen by a swath of front-office and media types, so please let me meet the person who decided Ron Hextall was GM of the Year so I can take an Amtrak down to Philadelphia and have a Yuengling with this local.
Winner: Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
Runners-up: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Did they get it right? Yes! Surprisingly! And the vote was close—Hall edged MacKinnon by 70 points and held a 72-60 advantage in first-place votes. Hall had a slightly better MVP case and he won by a margin that presented that case. I went through all the ballots, looked very closely, and it turns out nobody casted a Hart vote for Adam Larsson.
What was the funniest vote? There wasn't anything all that "what an idiot" funny but a very "huh, that's funny" vote was Sidney Crosby getting just one fifth-place vote and nothing else. He had 89 points in 82 games, finished 10th in scoring but found himself tied in voting with Eric Staal and behind Artemi Panarin. It feels a little like the end of an era but also a little like taking Crosby for granted. Maybe it's both.