The NHL Awards are tonight, and people are super excited! Well, kind of. The league expects to shock us all with news of expansion to Las Vegas (which we already knew about), Tony X is going to present trophies for some reason, and Bronson Shabaham is going to be there representing the Leafs, as is Frederik Andersen as he collects the Jennings Trophy for the first of six consecutive seasons.
But those aren’t the only awards up for grabs tonight. We have a few to give of our own. Join us, will you?
The Almost Calder Trophy
The Leafs had a lot of rookies join them on the roster this year, but not a lot of them burning their Calder eligibility as a result of their short stays. Of course, next year will involve 2 or 3 Leafs fighting each other for the real Rookie of the Year award, but in the meantime, the Almost Calder Trophy goes to William Nylander. Nylander had 56 points in 52 regular season and playoff games for the Toronto Marlies this year and in his 22-game stint with the Leafs had a very respectable 6 goals and 7 assists; a 50 point pace on a gutted out team.
Next year, if all goes to plan, he’ll be playing regular top six minutes, be it at centre or right wing. That’s when the magic will start to happen.
The Regression Award
The regression award goes to the player who had the odds go most significantly for or against their favour, resulting in a much different season than we expected at the start.
For a while, this appeared to be Jonathan Bernier’s trophy to lose, but his late season performances brought him a little closer (though still a ways away) from expectation. Our winner, as a result, is Nazem Kadri. Kadri still had a relatively decent year, scoring 17 goals and adding 28 assists for 45 points in 76 games. That was enough to lead the Leafs in scoring, even. But one can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he wasn’t dealing with a cold stick throughout the season.
There might be some validity to the idea that Kadri was taking “worse’ shots this year as his minutes increased, but even with that considered, he nearly halved his career shooting percentage of 12.5%, shooting at just 6.5%. This was made most evident at the start of the year when he scored just one goal in his first 19 games. Shooting at his prior career rate would have given him 32 goals on the year; even shooting at 10% would have led to a career-high 26. For his sake, I hope the odds land in his favour next year.
The Corsi Norris Trophy
The Corsi Norris trophy goes to the Leafs defenceman who appears to be most analytically sound while being eternally frustrating to the untrained, casual eye. Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner had made a dynasty out of this over the past few years, but you have to go with Martin Marincin this season.
Marincin is one of the single least rewarding players to watch in the entire sport from an entertainment perspective. His skating patterns are goofy, he doesn’t contribute much offensively, and he oh so often looks like the guy who has been burned on a play.
He also led Toronto defencemen in Corsi-For percentage and allowed the fewest shot attempts per 60 minutes on the team. He was making some sort of positive impact on the ice, even when he looked lost. The 200-foot game is weird that way, though I’m sure sheltering helped. He’s probably still a third pairing guy at best, but he probably makes a more positive impact than the impression that he leaves when you watch him.
The Jack Adamed Trophy
This trophy goes to the player who most improved by following the direction his coach put in place. Mike Babcock radically changed Toronto’s systems and philosophies this year, and while everyone seemed to benefit from it, Tyler Bozak seemed to get the most out of it.
I went into more detail about this back in March, but as much as he was the weak link in the JVR-Bozak-Kessel line of the past, Bozak may still have benefitted from leaving them and playing in a system that emphasized his strengths. Bozak got to spend time as the puck carrier as the team entered the zone, which allowed him to actually show some of the two-way responsibility that people claimed that he had for so long. He’s shooting more, and while his percentages dipped a bit, it because he’s taking opportunities other than tap ins and rebounds. He proved that while he probably isn’t a first-line centre, he’s certainly one who can fit into a role with most teams and keep up if allowed to play, well, like a centre.
The Cliff Fletcher Memorial Trophy
Wait, Cliff Fletcher is still alive? Wait, HE STILL WORKS FOR THE LEAFS? Oh, well, that’s cool. Anyway, this one goes to the best trade of the season.
It was a neck and neck race because the Polak and Spaling trade was such a hilarious haul, but the move that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators takes the cake. Toronto put Phaneuf in a position to succeed, let him bounce back a bit, and promptly parachuted out of his long-term deal. They didn’t retain salary, they dumped a few prospect contracts they didn’t want, got a decent prospect in Tobias Lindberg, a second round pick to do whatever they wanted with, and while they ate some contracts in return, all of them are short term concerns.
Plus, Colin Greening looks pretty good after all. He may end up being a positive get when push comes to shove. Milan Michalek might be the same if he ends up healthy. Or they might both move by the end of the week, which would be great too.
The Biggest Shithead Award
…nah. Not worth it.
The Only Trophy That Matters
Last, but not least, we have our nameless season MVP award. This goes to the person who made the biggest positive impact on the Leafs this season.
As we all know, the Leafs finished one point behind the Edmonton Oilers in the standings this year, giving themselves the highest odds of winning the Draft Lottery, which they did. On January 27th, the Leafs took on the Tampa Bay lightning at Amalie Arena. Five minutes into the game.
Steven Stamkos blasts a one-timer home from the hash marks in trademark fashion. It could be said about many other goals, but the lone goal in this game prevented the Leafs from getting a single point, let alone two. Looking back, it got the Leafs Auston Matthews. Looking forward, we’re about nine days away from finding out if playing with Matthews will be enough to put Stamkos’ mind over the top and commit to Toronto.
Wouldn’t it be something if Stamkos scoring a routine goal on the Leafs is the reason that he ends up here? Plus, between the tweet favouriting, the speculation about the Leafs dumping all this cap space to make room available for him, and all of the debates that have come since, his “what if” factor has been entertainment enough, even without him being on the roster.
Besides, who else am I going to give this to? It was him or giving it to Phil Kessel for making May and June bearable.