2019 NHL Awards Recap

Last night, we got to watch the concluding ceremony for the 2018-2019 season. The 2019 NHL Awards. It was a night full of comedic savagery, including this shot at the Tampa Bay Lightning, and heartfelt moments, such as Carey Price sharing a special moment with a young fan and Robin Lehner speaking a line on mental illness that everyone needs to hear and take to heart.

We also got to commemorate the accomplishments of the NHL’s best through the 2018-2019 season.

Here are the winners of the 2019 NHL Awards:

Hart Trophy

Winner: Nikita Kucherov

Runners-up: Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid

How could anyone dispute this? Kucherov’s 128 points were the most of any single player since Mario Lemieux had 161 way back in the 1995-96 season. He led the Tampa Bay Lightning to tying the all-time NHL record for most wins in a single season while the team averaged nearly 4 goals per game (scoring 30 more than the 2nd place team). This was a no-brainer. And, the PWHA pretty much thought so too, as Kucherov was the near unanimous winner of the Hart Trophy, receiving 164 of the 171 first-place votes for the award.

Although the award is for most valuable to their team rather than best player in the league, without the skill and production Nikita Kucherov provides to the Lightning’s line-up, they would not have been able to accomplish what they could this past season.

You can argue ‘value’ to the team and vote for McDavid because of how much he means to the Oilers’ ability to win any of their games over the season, but the fact is the award is heavily weighted toward making the playoffs with a blurred line between most valuable and best player.

Regardless, Kucherov had a regular season for the ages.

Vezina Trophy

Winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Runners-up: Ben Bishop, Robin Lehner

This award I disagree with. Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies in the league, no doubt about it. But this season, with his statline and compared to others in the league, I do not feel is right for the Vezina. His .925 SV% and 2.40 GAA are amazing, don’t get me wrong. They are worse than other Vezina winners over the past few seasons, though scoring did go up in the 2018-19 NHL season to explain that.

But, Ben Bishop, playing 7 games less than Vasilevskiy, had a .934 SV% (leading the league) and a 1.98 GAA. Robin Lehner, also playing 7 less games, had a .930 SV% and a 2.13 GAA. Additionally, Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper, on a much worse team, did not even receive enough votes to be nominated for the award with a nearly identical statline. In fact, his .925 SV% and 2.33 GAA were actually slightly better.

Yes, all three of those goalies had worse records than Vasilevskiy, but team records are very much team stats and influenced by the performance of everyone. And, although GAA and SV% are too, to an extent, there is still more influence of the actual goalie’s performance on his own stats than the team’s.

Even in some of the advanced stats Ben Bishop beats out Vasilevskiy. Bishop has a 32.24 Goals Saved Above Average compared to Vasilevskiy’s 26.40, a higher quality start percentage, and fewer bad starts.

I think in this award, Ben Bishop was robbed.

Jack Adams Award

Winner: Barry Trotz

Runners-up: Jon Cooper, Craig Berube

No one expected the Islanders to be much of anything this past season but with the help of Barry Trotz, they made the playoffs and even swept the Pittsburgh Penguins. What he accomplished with the roster he was given was nothing short of outstanding. The performances he got out of his defense (going from worst to best in goals against over one season with very minimal change). Helping Robin Lehner have a career season and comeback that was nothing short of incredible. The performance of the 2018-19 New York Islanders was a great example of what top tier coaching and systems can do for a team.

For the runners-up, although the Lightning have the strongest and most talented roster in the NHL, it isn’t always easy to coach a team with that amount of talent, and Jon Cooper was able to do just that.

The strongest argument for a challenger to Trotz for the award came from Craig Berube, who led the insane turnaround from worst in the league on January 1st to Stanley Cup Winners 6 months later.

Honourable mention to Bill Peters, the coach of the Calgary Flames, who saw his team take a massive leap up the standings this past season. Unfortunately, his successes were overshadowed by some of the most intriguing storylines happening all at the same time.

Frank J. Selke Trophy

Winner: Ryan O’Reilly

Runners-up: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone

To really cap off the Stanley Cup Finals matchup between the two, Ryan O’Reilly won the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward over perennial candidate Patrice Bergeron and newcomer Mark Stone.

Defensive play can be hard to quantify in the same ways as other awards, but in the areas that we can analyze, O’Reilly had a significant impact on his team’s defensive performance when he was on the ice. In addition to leading the NHL in face-off wins, he led his team in ice-time per game and they had a .934 SV% when he was on the ice, significantly higher than the team’s overall .906 SV% (I feel the stronger teammates he plays with are countered by the stronger opposition).

Plus, this is often a very reputation-based award (not to diminish from just how good Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar are), so it is also nice to see a couple new faces up for this award.

Bill Masterton Trophy

Winner: Robin Lehner

Runners-up: Nick Foligno, Joe Thornton

Robin Lehner had an incredible season. Backstopping a team to an unexpected playoff appearance, a Vezina Trophy nomination, and most importantly, what appears to be a suitable environment for him to thrive. His bounceback is a testament to the strength and resiliency of his character and what can happen when given the proper support system, as he had his GM and Coach (Lamoriello and Trotz) giving him the chance to succeed and believing in him the entire way.

During his acceptance speech, he dropped a simple sentence that everyone needs to understand and take to heart, as it is an excellent mantra to help break the societal stigma surrounding mental illnesses:

I’m not ashamed to say I’m mentally ill, but that doesn’t mean mentally weak.

– Robin Lehner

James Norris Trophy

Winner: Mark Giordano

Runners-up: Brent Burns, Victor Hedman

Giordano deserved this award. He had an amazing season as, in my opinion, the best defenseman both offensively and defensively in the NHL. There’s been some question marks around what the Norris Trophy actually means recently, as point totals played a major role in who received the votes for this award.

But, this season, even though Giordano was the second highest scoring defenseman (with 74 points in 78 games), it showed a hopeful return to emphasizing the defensive play of Norris Trophy recipients. With a 57.1% Corsi For, it is representative of his strength at contributing to not only preventing the opponent from offense, but also contributing to his own team’s offensive production.

As the Norris can also be a reputation based award, sometimes not necessarily based solely on the performance of the most recent season, it is great to see Giordano get rewarded for his play for the Flames.

Ted Lindsay Award

Winner: Nikita Kucherov

Runners-up: Patrick Kane, Connor McDavid

The Ted Lindsay Award, the most outstanding player as voted by the players, is slightly different than the Hart Trophy by definition. But, in a season as impressive as Kucherov’s, it is hard to dispute him receiving both awards.

GM of the Year

Winner: Don Sweeney

Runners-up: Doug Armstrong, Don Waddell

Once again alluding to just how good the Bruins have been built, Don Sweeney earned the GM of the Year Award for his work putting together this roster. Although he only made a couple trades this season, both of them were instrumental in contributing to the playoff success the team had (though that doesn’t factor into the award voting).  His roster is strong top to bottom, his players are mostly signed to good contracts, and overall, the organization has done a decent job at acquiring and developing homegrown talent (with a few blips, of course).

Similar story for the Blues’ Doug Armstrong. He made some excellent trades leading into the season, the biggest one paying off the most in acquiring Ryan O’Reilly to solidify his forward core.

Don Waddell has been embracing a new identity for the Hurricanes, the Storm Surge and the Bunch of Jerks, the energy and excitement of which propelled the team into the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

And, once again, honourable mention to the Flames’ Brad Treliving, who revamped his roster, added significant depth and a new coach last offseason which launched the team to the top of the Western Conference.

Lady Byng Trophy

Winner: Aleksander Barkov

Runners-up: Sean Monahan, Ryan O’Reilly

Continuing to cement his place as the most underappreciated (he is not underrated anymore, too many people saying you’re underrated defeats the purpose) player in the league, Barkov capped off a career year scoring 35 goals and 61 assists with the Lady Byng Trophy as most gentlemanly player in the league. His 8 PIM’s was the least among nominees, as Monahan and O’Reilly both had 12. It also shows how reliable he is on the ice, you know that he is responsible enough on both sides of the puck to not take untimely penalties while also contributing big time offensively.

Calder Trophy

Winner: Elias Pettersson

Runners-up: Rasmus Dahlin, Jordan Binnington

Elias Pettersson came out flying this past season, and although he was injured a couple times and slowed down a bit by the end of the season, his 66 points set a new franchise record for rookies and led the NHL in rookie scoring. He was an absolute highlight reel throughout the year and marked the beginning of an exciting pairing between him and Brock Boeser in Vancouver.

Defensemen often take longer to break into the league, but Rasmus Dahlin jumped right in and found his footing relatively quickly. With 44 points and averaging 21:09 in ice time per game, Dahlin began cementing his place as a top pairing defenseman in Buffalo and will be an NHL star for years to come.

The story of Binnington’s rookie season is one for the history books. After almost being sent down to the ECHL, loaned out to the Bruins’ AHL affiliate and nearly pushed out of the organization, Jordan Binnington got an unexpected call-up early in December, making his first start on January 7th. From then on, he posted a 24-5-1 record with a 1.89 GAA and .927 SV%. Those are Vezina numbers, easily.

But, not only did he not play enough games to get a Vezina nod, he also didn’t play enough for the Calder. And that is the only reason he did not win this award, in my opinion. In the last 20 seasons, 3 goalies have won the Calder Trophy. Steve Mason (who played 60 games), Andrew Raycroft (who played 56 games) and Evgeni Nabokov (who played 60 games). Binnington’s 30 doesn’t quite cut it, especially for this award that has had games played factored in in the past (Landeskog/Nugent-Hopkins).

Other Awards

King Clancy Trophy

Winner: Jason Zucker

Runners-up: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Henrik Lundqvist

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award

Winner: Wayne Simmonds

Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award

Winner: Rico Phillips

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