As the NHL moves past the midway mark of the season, it’s time to look back at which players deserve hardware, based on their performance over the first half. To answer that question, we polled writers from across the Nation Network, talking to writers at every site.
Today, we consider the third and final set of our midseason awards: our picks for the winners of the Calder, Jack Adams, and Lady Byng trophies.
Calder Memorial Trophy
Description:The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.
Runners-Up: Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog (T-3rd), Matt Read (T-3rd)
The Edmonton Oilers have collected more than their share of trophies over the years, but they’ve managed to avoid ever having a player win Rookie of the Year. According to the Nation Network’s writers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on pace to halt that trend. The 18-year old has been one of the most prolific scorers on not just his team but also in the NHL as a whole, falling just below a point-per-game pace.
Nugent-Hopkins edged out New Jersey Devils forward Adam Henrique by just a single vote, however, indicating how tight a race that once seemed non-existent has become. The older Henrique is a little more polished, scoring at a comparable clip to Nugent-Hopkins and has been aided by a 10-game slump for the Oilers’ rookie (in the 10 games prior to going down to injury, Nugent-Hopkins had picked up no goals, five assists and a minus-5 rating).
Nugent-Hopkins injury has cost him some ground, and if he wants to win this race it is imperative that he hit the ground running when he returns. Otherwise things could easily go the other way at the end of the year.
Nobody else was close to the top duo; six other rookies received votes with second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog and the Flyers’ undrafted gem Matt Read being the next most popular options.
Also in the mix: Cody Hodgson, Craig Smith, Sean Couturier, Adam Larsson
Jack Adams Award
Description:The Jack Adams Award is an annual award presented to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.
Runners-Up: Alain Vigneault, Kevin Dineen (T-3rd), Ken Hitchcock (T-3rd)
The turnaround of the Ottawa Senators has drawn a lot of eyes to their rookie head coach, Paul MacLean, who was previously part of one of the league’s most respected coaching groups under Mike Babcock in Detroit. Ottawa entered the year largely viewed as a rebuilding team; today they sit four points out of first in the entire NHL. There’s no question that MacLean’s team has exceeded the expectations of the vast majority of people.
Kevin Dineen is on this list for similar reasons. Dale Tallon aggressively pursued options for the Florida Panthers in the off-season, adding talent but also overhauling the roster and bringing in a ton of new faces; Dineen has that group working cohesively enough for his team to be in the playoffs right now. Meanwhile, Alain Vigneault once again gets a nod for his work in Vancouver. The Canucks’ bench boss employs tactics unseen elsewhere in the league, employing lines in specific zones like no other coach in hockey – allowing the Sedins to rack up scoring totals in prime areas of the ice and tossing defensive specialists like Manny Malhotra to the wolves in their own end. It’s a radical style that’s been consistently successful for him.
Ken Hitchcock is the most interesting name on the list. He hadn’t had a lot of time in St. Louis when this poll was done, and that likely worked against him, but when the award is handed out at the end of the year he’ll have had more time with the group. If he continues as he’s begun in St. Louis, it will be difficult to imagine him not winning.
Also in the mix: Claude Julien, Dan Bylsma, Claude Noel
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Description:The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.
Runners-Up: Brian Campbell, Jordan Eberle
The ‘lots of points, no penalty minutes’ award goes to… a guy with a surprising number of penalty minutes.
The Byng has become something of a joke at the NHL Awards ceremony, the award that nobody cares about, probably because the description above in unfortunately often accurate. It shouldn’t be that way; it really should go to a guy like Teemu Selanne, who has shown over a long career that he’s a superb player and someone who has exhibited exceptional sportsmanship throughout his career. The NHL is full of those sorts of players, and that – rather than PIM totals – is what should be recognized.
But then there is the counter-argument: players without a lot of penalty minutes typically end up without a lot of penalty minutes because they play the game cleanly. Florida defenseman Brian Campbell has taken just two penalties this season, and has repaid the faith Dale Tallon showed in him by putting together a superb season. Oilers’ youngster Jordan Eberle has been a lethal sniper for the team, and can rarely be accused of lacking sportsmanship either.
This was one of the toughest awards because the candidates were so numerous, and our voters submitted a list of 15 names – by far the most of any category in this poll.
Also in the mix: Martin St. Louis, Matt Cooke, Phil Kessel, Kyle Wellwood, Tomas Kaberle, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk