The Professional Hockey Writers Association, of which I’m a member, released its 2020 mid-season awards earlier this week. While no Calgary Flames placed in the top three in any voting, since I participated in the awards it’s probably worth a chuckle to break the results down a bit.
(For the curious, mid-season voting is open to every PHWA member – 117 members submitted ballots. The year-end voting isn’t open to everybody, as only about half of the PHWA’s membership are invited to vote. Unless otherwise noted, these are all awards that the PHWA will determine when the season is over.)
“…to the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.”
The winners: 1st – Connor McDavid (Oilers), 2nd – Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche), 3rd – David Pastrnak (Bruins)
My ballot: 1st – MacKinnon, 2nd – Pastrnak, 3rd – John Carlson (Capitals)
There are two things to explain on my ballot: the presence of Carlson and the absence of McDavid. Carlson has been simply superb for the Capitals this season and while his club does have an Alex Ovechkin, Carlson touches more of the game than Ovechkin does and relative to the rest of the Capitals blueline, Carlson carries more of the mail.
No McDavid is pretty simple: the Oilers have him and Leon Draisaitl playing out of their minds right now, which diminishes both of their cases for the Hart right now. And even with both guys going nuts, the Oilers are second place in the weakest division in hockey. You can make the argument to me that Boston also has Pastrnak and Brad Marchand playing out of their minds this year, but the Bruins are also way ahead of Edmonton in the standings despite Edmonton having the top two scorers in the league, which speaks more to Pastrnak and Marchand’s collective value in helping elevate their team than the Oilers’ duo. (Year-end ballots have voters submitting five votes; McDavid would have been my fourth place spot.)
“…to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position.”
The winners: 1st – John Carlson (Capitals), 2nd – Roman Josi (Predators), 3rd – Dougie Hamilton (Hurricanes)
My ballot: 1st – Carlson, 2nd – Victor Hedman (Lightning), 3rd – Josi
Hamilton’s an offensive force but doesn’t do the heavy defensive lifting in Carolina, which tends to go to Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. I skewed a bit more towards three all-arounders have good years. Hamilton would’ve been my fifth place vote had we submitted five.
“…to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”
The winners: 1st – Sean Couturier (Flyers), 2nd – Patrice Bergeron (Bruins), 3rd – Ryan O’Reilly (Blues)
My ballot: 1st – O’Reilly, 2nd – Mark Stone (Golden Knights), 3rd – Couturier
I’m a big proponent of Stone as a great every situation, all-zones player. Bergeron would’ve been my fourth place vote.
“…to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.”
The winners: 1st – Cale Makar (Avalanche), 2nd – Quinn Hughes (Canucks), 3rd – Victor Olofsson (Sabres)
My ballot: 1st – Makar, 2nd – Olofsson, 3rd – Hughes
I had Olofsson and Hughes flipped primarily because Olofsson has been really impactful, but I suspect most of the voters had the two of them as 2nd and 3rd in some order. They’re basically 2A and 2B this year behind Makar.
Lady Byng Trophy
“…to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
The winners: 1st – Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche), 2nd – Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs), 3rd – Ryan O’Reilly (Blues)
My ballot: 1st – MacKinnon, 2nd – O’Reilly, 3rd – Miro Heiskanen (Stars)
Generally-speaking, the voting patterns here are “players with a lot of points that also don’t have a lot of penalty minutes.” I roped in Heiskanen, rather than Matthews, because he’s a blueliner that plays a ton yet doesn’t take penalties – that’s impressive as heck!
“…to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position.” [The PHWA doesn’t vote on this award at the end of the season.]
The winners: 1st – Connor Hellebuyck (Jets), 2nd – Ben Bishop (Stars), 3rd – Darcy Kuemper (Coyotes)
My ballot: 1st – Bishop, 2nd – Kuemper, 3rd – Tuukka Rask (Bruins)
I focused mostly on goalies that played a ton that had strong even strength save percentages. Hellebuyck would’ve been my fourth place vote, had we submitted four.
Jack Adams Award
“…to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” [The PHWA doesn’t vote on this award at the end of the season.]
The winners: 1st – Mike Sullivan (Penguins), 2nd – John Tortorella (Blue Jackets), 3rd – Craig Berube (Blues)
My ballot: 1st – Barry Trotz (Islanders), 2nd – Bruce Cassidy (Bruins), 3rd – Travis Green (Canucks)
The Islanders play an absolutely air-tight system. The Bruins are superb despite a rotating injury bug. And Green has the Canucks playing superb hockey despite the perception that they’re too young and inexperienced to be competitive. I have no qualms with the winners, I just saw things differently.
Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award
“…to the General Manager adjusted to have contributed most to his team’s success.” [The PHWA doesn’t vote on this award at the end of the season.]
The winners: 1st – Joe Sakic (Avalanche), 2nd – John Chayka (Coyotes), 3rd – Doug Armstrong (Blues)
My ballot: 1st – Don Sweeney (Bruins), 2nd – Jim Rutherford (Penguins), 3rd – Chayka
Even with a glut of dead money on his roster, Sweeney has managed to piece together a superb Bruins team. Rutherford has somehow withstood all the dang injuries in Pittsburgh. And Chayka’s just been great at finding value and weaponizing his cap space.
Rod Langway Award
“…to the defenseman who best excels in the defensive aspect of the game.” [Not a real PHWA award; created entirely for the mid-season voting.]
The winners: 1st – Jaccob Slavin (Hurricanes), 2nd – Victor Hedman (Lightning), 3rd – Roman Josi (Predators)
My ballot: 1st – Slavin, 2nd – Vince Dunn (Blues), 3rd – Patrik Nemeth (Red Wings)
I looked for players that played a ton, faced a lot of defensive zone starts, yet managed to not bleed a ton of shot attempts per 60 minutes. Nemeth is a tremendously underrated player.
Comeback Player of the Year
“…to the player who returned to a previous high level of performance that was interrupted by subpar play, long-term injury or major illness.” [Not a real PHWA award; created entirely for the mid-season voting.]
The winners: 1st – William Nylander (Maple Leafs), 2nd – Anthony Duclair (Senators), 3rd – Max Pacioretty (Golden Knights)
My ballot: 1st – Ryan Strome (Rangers), 2nd – Bryan Rust (Penguins), 3rd – Cam Talbot (Flames)
I’ll be honest: I focused primarily on players that moved the needle points-wise; Strome and Rust are having big bounce-back years. And Talbot has been superb after being pretty shoddy a year ago.