BUFFALO – If you thought Dougie Hamilton getting traded at the draft last year was a monumental event, how would you react if P.K. Subban were moved by the Montreal Canadiens? That is not to say it will happen at the draft tomorrow, or ever, but if you’re a ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ kind of person, you’d have to think this story is getting some serious legs.
Because there’s smoke. Lots of it. Like more than there is when all the kids decide to hotbox after the prom. There has been chatter for sometime about the possibility of Subban getting dealt, and Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning did nothing to quell the wildfire when he told Matt Sekeres and Blake Price of TSN 1040 in Vancouver when asked whether he has called Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin about Subban, “Yeah. I think there’s a lot of teams that have reached out to find out what it would take to try to complete a deal of that magnitude. We’ve been one of the teams that have talked to them, but we haven’t gone down the path to make belief that’s something that’s going to be real or not.”
Everyone agrees, Patrick Kane was the best player in the NHL in 2015-16. The Blackhawks star cleaned up at the annual NHL Awards taking home both most-valuable-player awards among his three trophies.
Kane was the runaway winner of the most prestigious award, the Hart Trophy, earning 121 first-place votes from media voters. Runner up Sidney Crosby earned 11 first-place votes. Kane also won the Ted Lindsay Award for the most valuable player as voted by fellow players.
Kane also was the Art Ross Trophy winner as the league’s leading scorer. He finished the season with a career high 46 goals and 60 assists and was 17 points clear of second-leading scorer Jamie Benn.
The NHL hands out its annual awards Wednesday. It will crown hockey’s most valuable player, best all-around defenseman, best goaltender, best defensive forward and more. But a few honors slip through the cracks. We never see the best defensive defenseman acknowledged, nor the best penalty killer, nor the toughest player. Heck, there’s no official award for the actual best player, even if the Hart Trophy has essentially become that.
So we at THN take it upon ourselves to fill the gaps with our annual awards. We still cover off the staples, but we add in a few custom virtual trophies. The 2015-16 results are in. Our system only factors in regular season play. We awarded five points for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote, three for a third-place vote, two for a fourth-place vote and one for a fifth-place vote.
Sidney Crosby captured his first Conn Smythe on Sunday night, earning the nod from media voters in a tough field that hadn’t produced a clear cut favorite. Plenty of fans thought the voters got it right. But others were disappointed, with many of those feeling the honor should have gone to Phil Kessel.
It’s not hard to see why. Kessel is a divisive player (especially among fans of his former teams), but when viewed from a certain angle he makes for a fantastic story. And more importantly, he was the Penguins leading scorer in the playoffs, finishing three points up on Crosby. And that made his Conn Smythe loss to Crosby an unusual one, at least in terms of recent NHL history.
But simply leading a team in scoring is no guarantee of Conn Smythe glory, nor should it be, and the award has a long history of debatable decisions. So today, let’s look back at some of the other cases in NHL history in which a Cup winner’s leading scorer was snubbed by the voters. We’ll ignore the (many) times where a leading scorer was passed over for a defenseman or goaltender, since that tends to be an apples and oranges case. Instead, we’ll focus on cases that fit the Kessel/Crosby pattern, where a team’s leading scorer was passed over for another forward.
As we’ll find out, it turns out that Kessel and Crosby are in good company. Here are five forwards who skated away with the Conn Smythe despite finishing well back of one or more teammates in the scoring race.
SAN JOSE – Perhaps Sidney Crosby will never score 100 points ever again. Then again, maybe he will. If you go by analytics, logic states that his numbers should begin declining at some point pretty soon. But he proved in the Stanley Cup final, and by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, that he’s about so much more than numbers.
“I think Sidney Crosby’s best hockey is ahead of him,” said Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin.
Whoa there, cowboy. Best hockey ahead of him? Two Stanley Cups, two scoring championships, two Hart Trophies, a Conn Smythe, five 100-point seasons, two Olympic gold medals and a space waiting for his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame and his best hockey is still ahead of him? Well, if you consider that Crosby has essentially turned himself into a Selke Trophy candidate and that he’s altered his entire game a la Steve Yzerman, perhaps that’s not as outlandish as it sounds.
SAN JOSE – Things got so bad for Justin Schultz that he had to set up a fake Twitter account to keep up with the news of the day and read links to stories that interested him. That’s because his real Twitter account was so filled with vitriol and hate that he couldn’t stand looking at it.
So when a player tells you that he doesn’t read anything that’s written about him or that he’s impervious to the criticism, it isn’t always true. Some players can dismiss it, but others take it to heart. One win away from winning the Stanley Cup, Schultz can laugh about it now. But when he played with the Edmonton Oilers, he was hardly living the dream he’d spent so much of his life anticipating.
“It’s not a lot of fun getting booed in front of your home fans,” Schultz said. “It’s pretty tough to enjoy yourself when that’s happening.”
Nothing indicates the season is on the cusp of ending quite like seeing the Stanley Cup enter the building, and that will be exactly the case Thursday night at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins’ convincing 3-1 victory over the Sharks Monday night gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 series lead, inching them ever closer to hoisting their second championship in eight season.
But the Stanley Cup won’t be the only piece of hardware in the building for Game 5. Before the Stanley Cup is presented — be it Thursday, Sunday or Wednesday — commissioner Gary Bettman will present the Conn Smythe trophy to the post-season MVP.
Heading into the final, there were a number of top candidates from both clubs, including the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton. Given how the final has gone, though, it feels like an inevitability that the Conn Smythe will be heading Pittsburgh’s way. Barring the overtime game-winner by San Jose’s Joonas Donskoi, the Penguins have led for the entirety of the series and the Sharks’ biggest stars have been frustrated and largely held off the board with the aforementioned San Jose foursome combining for zero goals and six points.
As far as potential Conn Smythe winners go, though, there’s no clear-cut frontrunner. Last season, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith unanimously won the playoff MVP award and he was a no-brainer top choice. But this season’s winner could boil down to only a few top candidates, with the best bets being Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, winger Phil Kessel or rookie goaltender Matt Murray. But who’s leading the race? Read more
The Penguins took a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference final with a convincing Game 3 victory on Wednesday night, and that means GM Jim Rutherford’s bunch is only two wins shy of winning the Eastern Conference and six victories away from taking home the Stanley Cup. As the architect of this team, though, Rutherford could be in line for some additional hardware at season’s end.
It was announced Wednesday that Rutherford has been named one of three finalists for the GM of the Year Award along with Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan and Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill. Unlike other awards, the GM of the Year was voted on by GMs, executives and media members at the conclusion of the second round of the post-season, which helps take into account the impact deadline deals may have had on a club.
But even though that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine Rutherford doesn’t take home the hardware given what he managed ahead of the deadline. Read more