B/R Experts' NHL Awards for the 1st Half of the 2015-16 Season
The NHL's All-Star break is the best opportunity we have to pause for a moment and look back at the first half of the campaign. Once again, we've decided to take advantage of the interlude to look at the front-runners for each of the NHL's major awards.
To do this, we've convened Bleacher Report's hockey panel. We asked Adrian Dater, Steve Macfarlane, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram and Jonathan Willis to vote on which players were most deserving of the Hart, Selke, Calder and other primary trophies. Each writer submitted a ranked list of five names; a first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote was worth four points and so on. The winner was the player with the highest point total when the votes were tabulated.
Read on to see who the panel likes for the Hart, Calder, Vezina and the other major hardware handed out each summer.
Vezina Trophy: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Why he wins: Holtby was the unanimous selection of our panel, but Chicago's Corey Crawford finished second on five of six ballots, so that perhaps overstates the extent to which Holtby ran away with this one. He is currently tied for fourth in save percentage (0.929) among NHL goalies with more than 25 games played after a mini-slump over his last four starts.
His record is still easily the best in the game, a resplendent 30-5-3, and with the Capitals walking away with the East, Holtby may receive a few more nights off in the second half to keep him fresh for the postseason.
Final voting: Braden Holtby (30), Corey Crawford (23), Cory Schneider (15), Roberto Luongo (11), Jonathan Quick (5), Petr Mrazek (3), Semyon Varlamov (3)
Jack Adams Award: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
Why he wins: It's a peculiarity of the Jack Adams Award that most years it goes to a coach who oversees a comeback rather than one who runs a consistently dominant team. Trotz is a little bit of both this season.
The Capitals were a strong team last year, managing 101 points, but given that the Bruins missed the playoffs in the East with 96 points, it isn't like Washington was dominant. This year, it is. The Caps sit four points ahead of second-place Chicago in the overall NHL standings and also have the benefit of six games in hand on the Blackhawks.
Joel Quenneville of those same 'Hawks got some support for this award after helping the team overcome summer salary-cap sacrifices, while Florida's Gerard Gallant finished second thanks to his team's surprisingly strong performance.
Final voting: Barry Trotz (27), Gerard Gallant (16), Joel Quenneville (11), Lindy Ruff (9), Mike Babcock (7), John Hynes (7), Dave Tippett (5), Ken Hitchcock (3), Patrick Roy (3), Jeff Blashill (2)
Norris Trophy: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Why he wins: The NHL's top-scoring centre is Tyler Seguin with 53 points. Karlsson has 52. No other defenceman is even close; he's nine points up on Brent Burns and 12 up on John Klingberg (who finished fourth in this poll). Karlsson is also averaging a whopping 28 minutes, 51 seconds per game, the highest figure in the league.
It's no wonder the Senators play him so much. When Karlsson is on the ice, Ottawa manages four more Corsi events per hour against its opponents. When he is off the ice, the Senators average 16 fewer. That's a 20-point shift in shot attempts over the average hour. Any other coach would be equally tempted to play Karlsson for half of the game if he saw such a dramatic shift in the flow of play.
Final voting: Erik Karlsson (30), Drew Doughty (17), Duncan Keith (11), John Klingberg (10), Ryan Suter (7), Roman Josi (6), T.J. Brodie (5), Aaron Ekblad (2), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (2)
Calder Trophy: Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
Why he wins: This one was neck-and-neck, with three panelists voting for Larkin first and three voting for Artemi Panarin. Everyone who voted Panarin first also voted Larkin second, while two out of three panelists who placed Larkin in first had Panarin in second place.
Larkin, 19, has a brilliant plus-24 rating, partially because of his own outstanding play and partially because of a ridiculous 106.7 PDO. He stepped in early in the year when Detroit had a void at centre and has carved out a role on a team that has historically been patient with its young prospects. His 33 points put him third in the rookie scoring race, behind Panarin (46) and Jack Eichel (34).
Final voting: Dylan Larkin (27), Artemi Panarin (25), Jack Eichel (16), Colton Parayko (7), John Gibson (7), Max Domi (4), Connor Hellebuyck (2), Shayne Gostisbehere (2)
Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Why he wins: Bergeron is that rarest of things: a legitimate offensive star who starts far more shifts in the defensive zone than he does in the offensive zone. He's more than 10 percent more likely to line up in front of Tuukka Rask than he is the opposition goaltender.
He does all the other things we expect of a top defensive centre, too. He wins faceoffs (56.8 percent of them), kills penalties (averaging 2:23 per night short-handed) and plays brutally tough competition.
All this, and the Bruins do a better job of out-shooting and out-chancing the opposition when he's on the ice. He also leads the Bruins in scoring and ranks 14th league-wide.
Final voting: Patrice Bergeron (29), Jonathan Toews (19), Anze Kopitar (15), Frans Nielsen (9), Ryan O'Reilly (7), Joe Pavelski (5), Sean Couturier (4), Blake Comeau (1), Jordan Staal (1)
Hart Trophy: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Why he wins: For better or worse, the Hart Trophy generally goes to a forward; when goalie Carey Price took the award last year, it was the first time since 2002 that a non-forward had won it. This year, the scoring race leaves no room for doubt as to who the winning forward would be.
With 73 points already, Patrick Kane is 15 clear of second-placed Jamie Benn, who also came in second in our voting. Kane leads the league in both goals and assists. There are 90 first-line players in the NHL, and more than half of them (50 of the 90) have less than half as many points as Chicago's leading scorer has.
Final voting: Patrick Kane (30), Jamie Benn (19), Braden Holtby (18), Erik Karlsson (7), Patrice Bergeron (6), Vladimir Tarasenko (5), Anze Kopitar (2), Joe Pavelski (1), Daniel Sedin (1), Tyler Seguin (1)