Nominated Kings and other NHL Awards Picks
In the weeks I was away another thing that happened in LA Kings land is that the nominees for the individual NHL awards were announced. The voting was done for all the awards prior to the start of the playoffs and were announced daily as the first round began.
We already know that Jonathan Quick has won the Jennings award for his team allowing the least amount of goals in the regular season. Had the Kings not traded Darcy Kuemper, he likely would have shared the award with Quick as he started 19 games with the Kings prior to being traded (you need 25 to qualify).
This is Quick’s second Jennings Trophy which is added to his trophy case, along with his Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012. However, the Jennings can feel more like a team award than an individual award as the system the Kings play doesn’t allow for goals against. In fact, the fact that the Kings only allowed 203 goals has as much to do with the defense core and forwards like Anze Kopitar than it does Quick.
Speaking of Kopitar and his defensive skills, he was nominated for the Selke Trophy along with Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins and Sean Couturier of the Flyers. Kings fans have known for a long time how good of a two-way player Kopitar is and the rest of the NHL world is seeing it as well.
All three players were outstanding this year in the defensive zone and all three were heavily leaned on, which is shown by their defensive zone starts. Kopitar was third in faceoff wins this season with 983, just behind Ryan O’Reilly and Sidney Crosby.
However, his faceoff winning percentage is only 54.1%, ranking 29th in the NHL, and is far behind Bergeron’s 57.3% (seventh in NHL). However, Kopitar ranks in the top 10 in faceoff victories in all three of even strength, power play, and shorthanded faceoff opportunities.
Bergeron, who is a four-time winner of the Selke, also had a 57.56% Shot attempts percentage placing him third in the NHL. He also had some Hart Trophy consideration by some factions of the media throughout the year, but Kopitar was named a nominee while Bergeron was not.
If you’re looking at the stats alone, Couturier was not close to his competitors in any of the statistics that I’ve mentioned so far. However, for traditionalists, he was tied for third in +/- at 34 which always means something to the voters. However, if this stat was used alone then why wasn’t William Karlsson or Jonathan Marchessault of the Vegas Golden Knights given more credit due them finishing ahead of Couturier?
If this were the Masterton Trophy he would have a shot, but Kopitar and Bergeron are a bit ahead of him this year.
My pick to win is Anze Kopitar for what I said earlier, his impact was just as valuable as Bergeron’s defensively but were among the best in the stats that matter.
As we look towards the other trophies Kings players are nominated for, it becomes much more subjective. The Norris Trophy is probably the hardest to predict as there were so many players who an argument could be made for.
This year, Drew Doughty was nominated once again along with P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, there could have been an argument for John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars and Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets as well.
The lack of offensive production from past winners like Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns opened the door for the more conservative defenseman to get a vote. In regards to points, Hedman led the way with 63 points, closely followed by Doughty with 60 and Subban with 59. Hedman, however, was tied for the league lead among defenseman with 17 goals with Dougie Hamilton and Ivan Provorov.
Doughty led the way this year with time on ice at 26:50 per game. Hedman ended fifth in the department at 25:51 and Subban finished 20th at 24:07. The lack of ice time compared to the other two could be argued that the coaching style and depth on defense could be the reason for the discrepancy.
I would argue that these three teams have the three best defense corps in the league. Whatever order you put them in, the top four of the Lightning, Predators, and Kings matchup well against anyone so I’m not sure how much that matters.
The last traditional stat to look at is +/- where Hedman leads the way at +32, good for sixth in the NHL. Next up is Doughty at +23, 21st in the league, while Subban was +18 (51st in NHL).
My prediction on who will win is Victor Hedman, not only because he deserves it, but because the voters like to give it to the one who has never won it before. Doughty won in 2016 and Subban won in 2013 while he was still a Montreal Canadien. Hedman’s narrative coming into this season that a Norris would be coming his way soon and he has given every reason for the voters to do just that.
The award that garners the most attention will be between Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils, and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.
MacKinnon led the way in regards to points with 97, closely followed by Hall with 93 and Kopitar with 92. Both Hall and MacKinnon had 39 goals this year while Kopitar had 35.
The main debate with this trophy has always been the question of if it is the “Most Valuable Player” or “League’s Best Player”. If it were the best player, that Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby would be nominated every year. However, as the most valuable player it allows for different story lines.
Hidden in the Golden Knights magical run to the Stanley Cup Final is the Avalanche’s return to the playoffs after suffering the worst record since the 2001 expansion Atlanta Thrashers. MacKinnon took the team on his back and got them into the second Wild Card spot where they eventually fell to the Nashville Predators in the first round.
Similarly, the New Jersey Devils were the worst team in the Eastern Conference last year and the Hall led team almost went coast-to-coast in a playoff spot all season.
In any other year where those story lines weren’t there, Kopitar would absolutely be in consideration for the Hart Trophy. Had the Kings remained at the top of the Pacific Division as they were for much of the first half of the season, then the argument would have been stronger for him. However, the Kings decline near the end of the season combined with the stories that Hall and MacKinnon have makes him the third place winner.
My pick is Nathan MacKinnon because his impact on his team essentially carried the Avs to the playoffs more than the other candidates. Colorado’s goaltending was just “okay” this season between Seymon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier while the defensive core is almost non-existent outside of guys like Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson.
Offensively, the top line of MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog carried the load for a very young and a non-exciting forward corps.
Other Award Picks
Connor Hellebuyck- WPG
Pekka Rinne- NSH
Andrei Vasilevskiy- TBL
Lady Byng Trophy
Aleksander Barkov- FLA
William Karlsson- VGK
Ryan O’Reilly- BUF
Bill Masterton Trophy
Brian Boyle- NJD
Roberto Luongo- FLA
Jordan Staal- CAR
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award
Deryk Engelland- VGK
Wayne Simmonds- PHI
Blake Wheeler- WPG
Jack Adams Award
Jared Bednar- COL
Bruce Cassidy- BOS
Gerard Gallant- VGK
Ted Lindsay Award
Taylor Hall- NJD
Nathan MacKinnon- COL
Connor McDavid- EDM
King Clancy Trophy
Daniel & Henrik Sedin- VAN
P.K. Subban- NSH
Jason Zucker- MIN
GM of the Year Award
Kevin Cheveldayoff- WPG
George McPhee- VGK
Steve Yzerman- TBL