Why this year’s NHL’s individual awards voting was the toughest ever

Filip Forsberg (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

As a member of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association, I have the honor of casting a ballot for five of the NHL’s annual individual player awards (the Hart, Norris, Calder, Byng and Selke Trophies) as well as the league’s first-and-second-team All-Stars and Rookie Team. It’s something I never take lightly, and as such I canvass opinions on who I should vote for from as many NHL people – coaches, GMs, scouts, and players – before I submit my ballot. There’s usually not much consensus in any of the voting categories, but this year there was one thing everyone could agree on: the field of legitimate candidates for each award was so vast this year, voters are guaranteed to anger fan bases no matter which person they decide to support. Read more

This year’s Selke Trophy finalists identical to last year’s: Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar

Patrice Bergeron (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

For the second consecutive season, the finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward are the same three NHL star centers: Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and L.A.’s Anze Kopitar. And the latter is looking to win his first this time around. Read more

Here’s why Shea Weber deserves the Norris Trophy this season

Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Last season, the No. 1 spot on the Norris Trophy ballot I had the privilege of submitting belonged to Boston’s Zdeno Chara. But at the end of the breakdown of my vote for the Norris, I said “One of these years, though, Weber has to be the recipient”.

This is the year it ought to happen. And as it stands, I’m giving my first-place Norris vote this season to Predators captain Shea Weber. There are good cases to be made for more than a few blueliners (including Chicago’s Duncan Keith, L.A.’s Drew Doughty, Montreal’s P.K. Subban and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson), but it’s about time the hockey world acknowledged Weber’s unique skill set.

Weber certainly isn’t having a career year on offense (that came last season with his 23-goal, 56-point campaign), but he’s in the top 10 among NHL defensemen in scoring in 2014-15 with 15 goals and 45 points. With an average ice time of 26:24, he’s nearly three full minutes behind Doughty (29:17) and slightly behind Preds defensive partner Roman Josi (26:28). But if you’re basing your vote strictly based on points or time on ice leaders, you’re voting wrong. The Norris goes to the blueliner deemed to have displayed the greatest all-around ability, not the one who makes the most highlight reels. And Weber’s multitude of abilities make him capable of hurting you physically, in any zone, and have a direct effect on the scoreboard at both ends of the playing surface. Read more

The 10 lowest scoring Art Ross Trophy winners since expansion

Jared Clinton
Jaromir Jagr

With two points Monday, John Tavares took a three-point lead on Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the Art Ross Trophy race. But Tavares’ 87-point pace is hardly the type of total we’ve come to expect of the NHL’s leading scorer.

Gone are the days of the 150-plus-point season, a staple of the 1980s, and maybe Tavares’ low total signals the beginning of another dead puck era. Or maybe it’s just an aberration – a point total lower because of goaltenders who are having their best statistical seasons or point totals that have been spread out by the constant insistence for a team to have depth and roll four lines.

Whatever it is, though, Tavares’ 87-point pace wouldn’t be the lowest the NHL has seen since expansion. It would, however, tie that mark.

Here are the 10 lowest point totals by Art Ross winners post-expansion: Read more

Why aren’t the NHL’s big stars shooting the lights out this season?

Ken Campbell
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

As we head down the stretch run of the NHL season, the race for the Art Ross Trophy has never been closer. Going into tonight’s games, three points separates first from seventh in the scoring race and there are just eight points between the top spot and 18th place.

There have never been more players clustered at the top of the scoring race, but star players are about to make history this season for another, more ignominious reason. As it stands now, not accounting for Alex Ovechkin’s white-hot scoring streak and based only on points-per-game to this point of the season, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are on pace to score 86 points each to lead the NHL. (If that holds and they finish tied, Malkin would take the Art Ross on the basis of having more goals.) Read more

Ovechkin vs. Nash could become one of the great Rocket Richard races

Josh Elliott
Alex Ovechkin

It’s been five years since we’ve seen a scoring race this exciting.

Flash back to 2009-10, when the ‘Greatest Player in the World’ debate was in full swing and Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin were neck-and-neck-and-neck in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

The whole contest came down to the last game of the season on Apr. 11, when Crosby scored two goals, Stamkos tallied one and Ovechkin failed to score. Ovechkin had the lead going into the day, but couldn’t keep up as Crosby and Stamkos passed him.

Crosby and Stamkos ended up splitting the hardware with 51-goal seasons, while Ovechkin fell one goal short in 10 fewer games played.

Not since then have the goal scoring leader and the runner-up been one goal apart at the end of the season.
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Why no Selke love for two-way wingers like Hossa and Nash?

Josh Elliott
Marian Hossa and Rick Nash

Officially, the Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”

There’s nothing in there about faceoff percentage, yet that stat seems to have become one of the most important criteria for picking the Selke winner. Faceoff winning percentage comes up in the Selke conversation just as often as stats like plus-minus, shorthanded minutes and point production.

The problem with that is wingers are rarely taken seriously as potential Selke candidates.
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