By writing this article, I am keeping my promise to compare my selections for the bulk of the National Hockey League (NHL) individual awards for the 2008-09 regular season against the results of the official voting.
Today is Thursday, June 25, 2009.
In an article published last month on Associated Content, I made my selections for the following awards: Hart Memorial Trophy (Best Player), James Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman), Calder Memorial Trophy (Top Rookie), Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly Player), Frank Selke Trophy (Top Defensive Forward), Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Perseverance to Hockey), Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender) and Jack Adams Trophy (Best Coach).
The main headline of the article, which was published on May 25, is “Associated Content Source Selects His Winners of National Hockey League Individual Awards for 2008-09.”
In that article, I mentioned that I planned to write a follow-up article in which I would compare my selections against results of the official voting.
The members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) vote to determine the winner of six of the awards — Hart Memorial Trophy, James Norris Trophy, Calder Memorial Trophy, Lady Byng Trophy, Frank Selke Trophy and Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The Vezina winner is determined by a vote of NHL general managers. And the Adams winner is determined by a vote of the National Hockey League Broadcasters’ Association.
Last Thursday — June 18, the NHL announced the winners during its annual awards event. This year, the event was staged in a new venue — Las Vegas, NV — after taking place for many years in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The highlight of the event was left wing Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals winning the Hart Memorial Trophy.
The other winners determined by voting by the PHWA were defenseman Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins (James Norris Trophy), goaltender Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets (Calder Memorial Trophy), center Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings (Lady Byng Trophy and Frank Selke Trophy) and left wing Steve Sullivan of the Nashville Predators (Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy).
The vote by NHL general managers resulted in goaltender Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins winning the Vezina Trophy. And the vote by the National Hockey League Broadcasters’ Associated resulted in head coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins winning the Jack Adams Trophy.
Ovechkin won the Hart Memorial Trophy for the second consecutive season. He was the first repeat winner of the award since goaltender Dominic Hasek of the Buffalo Sabres in 1996-97 and 1997-98. (Also for the second consecutive season, center Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the runner-up.)
In terms of making NHL history, Datsyuk surpassed Ovechkin.
By winning the Lady Byng Trophy for the fourth consecutive season, Datsyuk became the first player to do so since forward Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers (1927-28 through 1930-31).
And Datsyuk won both the Lady Byng Trophy and the Frank Selke Trophy for the second consecutive season. He is the first player in NHL history to do so.
The other five winners — Chara, Mason, Sullivan, Thomas and Julien — earned a NHL post-season individual award for the first time.
How JC Fared
Yours truly did well. I selected five of the eight winners.
The PHWA agreed with my selections of Datsyuk for the Lady Byng Trophy and the Frank Selke Trophy, Mason for the Calder Memorial Trophy and Sullivan for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. And the NHL general managers agreed with my selection of Thomas for the Vezina Trophy.
In addition, my other three selections finished in second place, with one runner-up trailing the winner by a narrow margin.
Malkin was my selection for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Defenseman Mike Green of the Washington Capitals was my selection for the James Norris Trophy. And head coach Andy Murray of the St. Louis Blues was my selection for the Jack Adams Trophy.
Keep in mind that I made my selections after the finalists for each award were announced. The finalists were the top three in the voting by the PHWA, the NHL general managers and the National Hockey League Broadcasters’ Association.
I was able to find on the Internet complete results for seven of the eight awards. Thus, it is possible to take…
A Closer Look at the Voting
For the Hart Memorial Trophy, the James Norris Trophy, the Calder Memorial Trophy, the Lady Byng Trophy and the Frank Selke Trophy, the members of the PHWA voted for five players, ranking them first through fifth.
A first-place vote was worth 10 points. The point value of a vote for second, third, fourth and fifth was seven, five, three and one, respectively.
I was not able to find the complete results for the other award on which the PHWA voted — the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The NHL general managers vote for three players, ranking them first through third, for the Vezina Trophy. And the members of the National Hockey League Broadcasters’ Association vote for three head coaches, ranking them first through third, for the Jack Adams Trophy.
A first-place vote was worth five points. The point value of a vote for second and third was three and one, respectively.
First, here’s a closer look at my selections that were correct.
By winning the Calder Memorial Trophy, Mason became the first player in the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets to win a NHL post-season individual award. The Blue Jackets began play in the 2000-01 season.
In the article I published on May 25 in which I made my selections, I wrote that I believed Mason would win the Calder Memorial Trophy easily and that he would get as much support from the PHWA as the other two finalists combined.
I was correct on both counts. Actually, Mason got more support from the PHWA that the other two finalists combined. He had 1,268 points compared to a combined 1,152 for the other two finalists.
Bobby Ryan, a right wing with the Anaheim Ducks, was the runner-up with 829 points. And Kris Versteeg, a right wing with the Chicago Black Hawks, was third with 323 points.
Mason received 121 of the 132 first-place votes. Ryan had nine first-place votes. And Versteeg had one first-place vote.
I picked Datsyuk to win both the Lady Byng Trophy and the Frank Selke Trophy. But I was wrong about his margin of victory for both awards.
I thought Datsyuk would win the Lady Byng Trophy by a narrow margin over left wing Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils. But Datsyuk, who had 933 points, was an easy winner while Parise finished third.
Martin St. Louis, a right wing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, was the runner-up. He had 662 points. Then came Parise with 521.
Datsyuk received 64 of the 133 first-place votes. St. Louis and Parise had 30 and 15, respectively.
Of the six individual awards for which the PHWA voted, the Lady Byng Trophy had the distinction of having the most players receive at least one first-place vote – 18. However, I have to question in writing what two members of the PHWA were thinking.
As mentioned earlier, the Lady Byng Trophy is awarded to the “Most Gentlemanly Player.” Players who score a lot of points and accumulate a low number of penalty minutes are ideal candidates.
With that in mind, how could right wing Ian Laperriere of the Colorado Avalanche and right wing Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes each have received one first-place vote?
Laperriere has accumulated more than 100 penalty minutes in 12 of his 14 full seasons in the NHL, including the second highest total of his career — 163 — in 2008-09. (Laperriere’s single-season high was 185 in 1999-2000 while he was playing for the Los Angeles Kings.)
The vote for Laperriere, I believe, was truly bizarre. The vote for Doan was bad, which in this case is better than bizarre. But I believe i
t also was not appropriate.
Doan has 915 penalty minutes in his NHL career. He has averaged just over 70 in 13 seasons. In 2008-09, he was essentially right on his average with 72.
Let’s move to the Frank Selke Trophy.
I predicted Datsyuk would win in a landslide, duplicating the blowout victory of conservative Republican Ronald Reagan over liberal Democrat Walter Mondale in the 1984 United States presidential election.
Instead, Datsyuk won by an ultra-slim margin. The appropriate United States presidential election to cite is the victory of Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore in 2000.
Datsyuk edged center Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers, 945-942.
Richards led in first-place votes, 61-55. (Fifteen players received at least one first-place vote.) But more PHWA members selected Datsyuk than Richards in the second (48-42), third (8-6), fourth (5-2) and fifth (4-2) positions on the ballot.
It’s not possible for me to devote the time to research to determine the previous time the voting for a post-season NHL individual award was so close. But off the top of my head, there’s a chance it was the voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy for 1999-2000. Defenseman Chris Pronger, who was then playing for the St. Louis Blues, edged right wing Jaromir Jagr, who was then playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, by one point.
As mentioned earlier, I was not able to locate the complete results of the voting for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
I believe that in naming Sullivan the winner, the members of the PHWA agreed with my logic. After being out for essentially two seasons, Sullivan was an impact player on offense upon returning to the Predators’ lineup.
A serious back injury — a fragmented disc in his spine that required multiple surgeries — caused Sullivan to be sidelined from the middle of the 2006-07 regular season to the middle of 2008-09 regular season.
After missing 153 games — 142 in the regular season and 11 in the playoffs, Sullivan returned in the middle of 2008-09. In 41 games, he had 32 points — 11 goals and 21 assists. He helped to keep the Predators in the race for a playoff spot in the Western Conference until they fell out of contention with only a few games remaining.
Sullivan, who is listed as being 5-foot-9 tall and weighing 165 pounds, is one of the smaller players in the NHL. But the courage he exhibited and the hard work he put in to return from the back injury was huge.
According to the NHL, Sullivan became just the third player since World War II to play in 150 or more games, miss 600 or more days and then return. The other two were center Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins and left wing Jim Peplinski of the Calgary Flames.
Sullivan was the first player in the history of the Predators to win a NHL post-season individual award. The team began play in the 1998-99 season.
The final award for which I made the correct selection was the Vezina Trophy. As I predicted, Thomas was an easy winner. He had 127 points.
Mason, who had 33, was the runner-up. The other finalist and third-place finisher, Nicklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild, had 31.
Now, here’s a closer look at my three incorrect selections — Malkin for the Hart Memorial Trophy, Green for the James Norris Trophy and Murray for the Jack Adams Trophy.
I had Malkin winning the Hart Memorial Trophy by a narrow margin. Thus, the fact that the PHWA selected Ovechkin was an unpleasant surprise. On top of that, the fact that he again won by a wide margin was a shock.
Ovechkin prevailed, 1,287-787. He received 115 of the 133 first place votes compared with 12 for Malkin.
In the 2007-08 voting, Ovechkin won by an even wider margin, 1,313-659. He received 128 of the 134 first-place votes. Malkin received one first-place vote.
I agree with the PHWA that Ovechkin was the “Best Player” in 2007-08 and, thus, that he deserved to win the Hart Memorial Trophy. His accomplishments included leading the league in scoring (112 points) and goals (65).
But I believe Malkin was the “Best Player” in 2008-09 regardless of how one assessed the candidates. I look at what is based in fact — accomplishment on the ice.
Others may use what I believe is flawed logic. They try to factor into the decision which team would be worse off if the particular candidate was not available to play.
Malkin led the league in scoring with 113 points and in assists with 78.
While Ovechkin had a better plus/minus than Malkin in 2007-08 (+28-+16). Malkin had a better plus/minus than Ovechkin in 2008-09 (+17-+8).
This information is part of what I believe to be a convincing case for Malkin in the article I published on May 25 in which I made my selections for the eight awards. I’m not trying to take anything away from Ovechkin. He is a GREAT player. But I am baffled by the outcome and baffled more so by Ovechkin’s margin of victory.
I can understand the other two picks that I got wrong.
The PHWA named Chara the winner of the James Norris Trophy. He had been a runner-up twice.
Chara won the 2008-09 election over Green by a narrow margin, 52 points — 1,034-982. The outcome was decided by the fact that Chara got the most first-place votes, 68 (out of 133). Green was second in first-place votes with 50.
Chara’s lead in first-place votes more than made up for the fact that Green got the most second-place votes — 53. Chara was second in second-place votes with 36.
It seems the members of the PHWA gave Chara credit for playing defense. He was the top defenseman on the team — the Bruins — that allowed the fewest goals in the NHL.
In addition, Chara had a strong plus/minus rating — +23. And his 169 hits and 95 penalty minutes is evidence of his physical style of play.
Chara also delivered enough offense to the Bruins to overcome in the minds of PHWA voters that Green led all defenseman in the NHL in scoring. Chara was 12th among defensemen with 50 points — 19 goals and 31 assists.
I also can understand the selection of Julien for the Jack Adams Trophy by the National Hockey League Broadcasters’ Association. He had 224 points compared with 135 for my selection, Murray, who was the runner-up.
Julein received nearly half of the first-place votes, 35 of 71. Murray was second in first-place votes with 15.
Julien led the Bruins to a 22-point improvement in 2008-09. After finishing in eighth place in the Eastern Conference in 2007-08 with 94 points, the Bruins finished first in the conference and second in the NHL this past season with 116.
A strong regular season from start to finish by the Bruins certainly justifies the selection of Julien as the winner of the Jack Adams Trophy.
Conversely, it is true that the Blues were strong for only half of the season. They had the best record in the NHL over the last 41 games — 25 wins, 9 losses in regulation and 7 losses in overtime or shootout.
The second-half surge was accomplished without three key players who were injured. It enabled the Blues to finish sixth in the Western Conference and secure their first playoff berth after failing to qualify in the previous three seasons.
In 2008-09, the Blues had 92 points. This was an improvement of 13 over the 79 they had in 2007-08.
Erik Johnson, Paul Kariya and Eric Brewer were three key Blues who were injured.
Johnson, a promising young defenseman, missed the entire season due to a knee injury. He tore ligaments in a freak injury in a golf cart just before the start of the regular season.
Kariya, a star left wing and a former all-star, played in only 11 games early in the regular season before suffering a hip injury that required surgery. He tried to make it back into the lineup, but did not play again — either in the regular season or in the playoffs.
And Brewer, a steady defenseman, suffered a back injury in December that ended his