The Los Angeles Kings may still be chasing a playoff spot, but individually, goalie Jonathan Quick is also going after a Vezina Trophy.
With 10 games left in the season, most discussion around the Staples Center will be focused on the Kings' playoff hopes. Currently level on points (82) with divisional rival San Jose for the final spot in the West and only one point behind Dallas in the Pacific Division, the Kings are well within the realm of potentially entering the postseason as the No. 3 seed.
However, it is still fun to evaluate the players on an individual level and see where they stack up in terms of awards.
In a league that dishes out more honors than any other professional organization, it is somewhat discouraging to think that Quick will be the only L.A. player in the discussion for awards.
Here is how the Kings stack up in each individual category.
The league’s MVP is probably the last thing on any of the Kings players' minds. With near perfect seasons being put together by the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos and the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin, there is not even an outside chance of the award coming to the City of Angels.
Los Angeles has had some good teams over the years, but it has never really had the kind of superstar talent to bring in the Hart Trophy. Even Wayne Gretzky was only able to win it once in 1989, the first and only winner in the franchise’s history.
Anze Kopitar has been the team’s top player in terms of pure numbers, but with only 62 points, he would have to find a way to get some 30 points over the next 10 games to even enter the discussion. Even then, like most MVP awards, where the team places is important.
Let’s not hold our collective breath on this one and hope for next year.
Probability: Keep dreamin’
The Kings player with the best chance of taking home any hardware of his own this season is between the pipes.
Jonathan Quick has been exceptional this season, posting career bests in all statistical categories. He is in the top 10 in the league in GAA (2.00), wins (30), save percentage (.928) and shutouts (7). He is quite easily the team’s most valuable player, as the Kings' inept attack has been saved countless times by the 26-year-old's stellar form.
This is a hard trophy to judge.
On the one hand, Quick has clearly been the most consistent and reliable netminder on the season, with the least amount of support in front of him. His 1,532 saves is far more than any other player currently in the hunt, and if he had the kind of attack Henrik Lundqvist or Marc-Andre Fleury had in front of him, then he would surely have more wins than either.
Age has never been a big determinant to the prize. In 1984, Buffalo Sabre Tom Barasso won it in his rookie year at 18 years old. On the other end, Boston’s Tim Thomas at 37 is the most recent recipient.
Similarly, where a candidate finishes is not all that important either.
Thomas also won it in 2009 as the top seed in the East, but Jose Theodore won in 2002 as the Canadiens finished eighth in the East. However, no goalie has won without making the playoffs in the modern voting system, established in 1982.
Quick may be the most deserving player for the award, but ironically enough, he could potentially not win because his own team can’t score.
The best defender in the league is probably the most debated award that’s given. There are so many factors that go into what makes a good player at the position.
Do you give it to Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, whose 72 points make him as much of an offensive threat—but with the 74 goals opponents have scored when he was on the ice, he is far from a shutdown force?
Or should it go to Detroit’s Ian White, who at plus-24, is one of the position's most efficient players?
The truth is that name recognition plays more into the award than anything. Voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, it is one of the more biased awards out there. Just take a look at the list of past winners. It is like taking a trip to the Hall of Fame.
So, while Willie Mitchell has been superb all year on one of the league’s top defenses, he is still Willie Mitchell. It is going to be hard to match his name against the likes of Zdeno Chara, Nicolas Lidstrom and Karlsson.
Being the league’s Rookie of the Year award, there is of course the prerequisite that no player could have played in 25 or more games before this season. Lu Robitaille was the only Los Angeles player to ever win it, back in 1987.
The Kings have a handful of players that fulfill this requirement now, but only Slava Voynov has had enough playing time this season to have any kind of significance.
However, despite playing in 44 games, his mere 10 points does not stack up well against favorites like Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Henrique who have 45 and 46 points respectively.
With a lot of young prospects on the way, there may be a Calder award down the road, but for now Robitaille will remain their only winner.
The Kings have had more Lady Byng winners than in any other individual category, mostly thanks to Wayne Gretzky, who earned three between 1991 and 1994.
The award is often disregarded by goons who want players to bash their heads into one another until both are brain dead, but the trophy is given to the player who exhibits the most sportsmanship in his play, having him joining a list of all-time legends.
Dustin Brown has generally been revered as one of the most respectable names in the game. He always plays with the utmost integrity and his 52 penalty minutes is among the lowest in the league given his amount of playing time.
However, much like the Norris Trophy, it’s a name game, and Brown’s is just not big enough. It will probably end up back with the Lightning’s Martin St. Louis for the third straight year.
Probability: outside chance
The Kings have never had forwards known for their defensive duties, hence never winning a Selke Award.
However, with such an impressive defensive record on the season, it is hard to imagine that only the blue line players and goalie contributed to it. Add in the fact that their forwards have been unable to produce in the offensive zone, and you have to assume they think defense first.
Brown would be the obvious choice to pick as a name who could challenge to bring the first Selke to Los Angeles. He works harder than anyone and is the leader of that team.
But ultimately, it is more of a group effort than anything, and no single player jumps out the way Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings does. He is the current favorite and is much more likely to take home his fourth in five years than any King.
Probability: Outside chance
Not as much notoriety is given to the player who wins the award for showing the most dedication to the sport on and off the ice as the other awards, but it is an honor nonetheless.
The Kings have nominated fourth-line center Colin Fraser as their representative.
Fraser was originally at the center of a controversial trade last summer when the team claims it was misled by Edmonton about his foot injury. But he has worked through it all, rehabbing hard and becoming a fixture of the team.
According to LAKingsInsider.com, “His hard work, humility and good nature have made him a popular teammate.”
Considering how he gained a negative representation through no fault of his own, it would be fitting for him to win the award for how well he has handled the situation. He truly embodies the award's ideals of a player who “exhibited, to a high degree, the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
The MVP as voted by the players usually goes beyond the numbers and is the player who is most dominant in the game.
The Kings, of course, have talent, but even the most adamant fan would be hard-pressed to say any one player is truly a dominant force. No one can make the kind of plays Evgeni Malkin has or produce goals like Steven Stamkos.
Jonathan Quick is by far the one player on the team that can most frustrate opponents, but no goalie has won since Dominik Hasek did back-to-back in 1998 and 1997. He is also the only netminder to ever win.
Probability: Not gonna happen
These three awards are given purely based on stats, with Richard going to the leading goal scorer, Ross to the player with the most points and Jennings to the goalie(s) on the team that conceded the least amount of goals.
The first two are not even within the realm of thought, as Anze Kopitar’s 23 goals and 62 points are nowhere near what the winning totals will be.
But Quick has a good chance at the Jennings Award.
Right now, it is going to Brain Elliott and Jaroslav Halak of the St. Louis Blues, who have let in 142 goals. But if Quick (158) gets hot, and the Kings drop off down the stretch, there is a good chance he could make up the difference.
Obviously, the playoffs are the only thing on the minds of the players and most of the fans, but personal accomplishments are in the back of players' minds no matter how many times they tell you it is all about the team.
Jonathan Quick is the most likely to come away with something, but even that depends on the team making the postseason.
What awards do you think will end up in Los Angeles?
As always, please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading!
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