NHL Awards predictions for the 2016-2017 season

It’s understandable to devote all the attention to tonight’s expansion draft. Lest we not forget, however, that the NHL Awards are happening too.

Perhaps it is mostly because the Vegas Golden Knights’ selections occur during the presentation, but this year’s awards are must-see as a hockey fan. From a heated Norris race to multiple options for the best coach and general manager, the finalists well deserve the recognition. These were tough decisions, but there are very few choices where the voters could err.

The postseason stat awards are already apparent: Connor McDavid collects the Art Ross trophy for the most points, Sidney Crosby the Maurice Richard award for the most goals and Braden Holtby the William Jennings nomination for allowing the fewest tallies.

Off the ice, Columbus’ Nick Foligno bagged two awards: the Mark Messier Leadership Award and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders won the NHL Foundation Player Award.

Will these talented players receive more hardware than they already have? Find out below for the official predictions from The Game Haus.

Hart Trophy – Most Valuable Player

Connor McDavid is nominated for two NHL Awards.

Connor McDavid. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Nominees:

Oilers C Connor McDavid

Penguins C Sidney Crosby

Blue Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky

Crosby has history and hardware on his side in this race. The Pittsburgh star is a two-time Hart winner in 2007 and 2014 while collecting three Stanley Cups and two Conn Smythe Awards. McDavid and Bobrovsky are first-time nominees, with the latter reaching as high as fifth in the voting back in 2013.

The Columbus netminder had a phenomenal season, but this is a two-man race between McDavid and Crosby. McDavid bested Crosby in points even though he scored 14 less goals. The first 100-point season in Edmonton since 1995-96 is no small feat. Sid the Kid was still elite this season with 89 points.

In the end, the award is for the most valuable player. McDavid was absent on the score sheet for consecutive games just twice this year, registering points in 70 games. Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl enjoyed banner years, while Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle also performed well. McDavid’s 70 assists helped everyone’s cause, and his team reached the playoffs because of it.

Prediction: Connor McDavid

Ted Lindsay Award – NHLPA’s Most Outstanding Player

Nominees:

Oilers C Connor McDavid

Penguins C Sidney Crosby

Sharks D Brent Burns

This award seems redundant since it’s basically the MVP with a different voting pool. The only difference from the Hart is the addition of Burns, who had 76 points and 320 shots this season. Burns’ feats will be explained further in the Norris category, but he is undoubtedly worthy of a most outstanding player award. He makes this award tougher to choose.

As mentioned before, McDavid and Crosby each have worthy cases. Crosby is seeking his fourth Lindsay award, which would tie his fellow Penguin Mario Lemieux for second-most all-time. McDavid could be the third overall Oiler to win and the first since Mark Messier in 1990.

In the end, though, this is the same award as the Hart. It’s a difference of voter opinion, but it’s hard to say one clearly deserves one award while another does the other. With that in mind, this goes to the same player as the Hart, who overall was the best player this season.

Prediction: Connor McDavid

Norris Trophy – Best Defenseman

Nominees:

Lightning D Victor Hedman

Senators D Erik Karlsson

Sharks D Brent Burns

Finally, an award that McDavid can’t win! Instead, we get three players who were the backbone of their teams. Although the award technically is for the best defenseman, players over the years get more accolades for their offensive work as well. All three have played that part well this season.

Hedman has never made it to the top three in Norris voting. His 72 points this season and 53.4 percent Corsi rating have vaulted him there. Averaging 24:30 minutes of ice time is stellar. However, he’s not as talented offensively or defensively as Burns or Karlsson, so he likely won’t win.

From here’s it’s a matter of preference. Burns led the league in shots; Ray Bourque was the last defenseman to achieve that mark 22 years ago. Twenty-nine goals and almost 25 minutes of playing time per game are insane, too. He is an impressive shot blocker and a prime two-way talent.

If the award had voting through the postseason, Karlsson would win in a landslide. His postseason performance while injured was tremendous, and his 71 points, 26:50 TOI and 201 blocks are as well. However, the voting doesn’t include postseason performance. Therefore, based on a slightly better season, Karlsson will have to wait to grab his third Norris trophy.

Prediction: Brent Burns

Vezina Trophy – Best Goaltender

Nominees:

Canadiens G Carey Price

Captials G Braden Holtby

Blue Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky

This category features the top two netminders across most of the basic statistics and another who had a 10-game winning streak this season. This is the hardest player award to predict based on how close two nominees are.

First off, Carey Price will likely not win. That winning streak is impressive, and a 2.23 GAA and .923 save percentage are too. However, they dwarf in comparison to Holtby and Bobrovsky. While he carried his team to an Atlantic Division title, Washington and Columbus had better seasons. Price was great, his competition is better.

As for that competition, it’s difficult to firmly say one was better than the other. Consider Holtby’s stats: league-leading 42 wins and nine shutouts alongside a 2.07 GAA and .925 save percentage. Now, match them with Bobrovsky’s numbers: 41 wins and seven shutouts, with a league-leading 2.06 GAA and .931 save percentage. How do you decide who was better when the stats are so close?

The deciding factor may come down to the Bob’s 14-game winning streak in December. He had another seven-game unbeaten stretch. Holtby’s best was a 14-game stretch without losing in regulation. This isn’t the best tiebreaker, but voters may have put more weight.

Prediction: Sergei Bobrovsky

Calder Trophy – Best Rookie

Auston Matthews can win the first of what could be many NHL Awards

Auston Matthews. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Nominees:

Jets RW Patrik Laine

Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews

Blue Jackets D Zach Werenski

While the Hart and the Vezina are close, this one is more clear-cut. Matthews was the favorite the moment Toronto drafted him first overall in last year’s draft, but Laine and Werenski made it tougher for voters this season.

Laine scored 36 goals in his inaugural season with Winnipeg, leading the team and finishing second amongst rookies. He did it all at 18 years old. Werenski, meanwhile, was quietly the best rookie defenseman and a quality blue liner in general. He notched 47 points and was a +17 on the ice. He had more points his rookie season than Rick Nash. That’s insane to realize.

Unfortunately for both, Matthews had a special year in the NHL. This was apparent the moment he scored four times on Opening Night. He tallied 40 goals and 69 points on the season, leading the Leafs into the playoffs this season. This is an easy choice.

Prediction: Auston Matthews

Selke Award – Best Defensive Forward

Nominees:

Wild C Mikko Koivu

Bruins C Patrice Bergeron

Ducks C Ryan Kesler

There’s a mix of former nominees and newcomers for the Selke. Bergeron has won it three times and nominated three more times. Kesler won in 2011 and has finished in the top three in five total instances. Koivu is a first-time finalist who’s finished as high as fourth in voting.

Koivu had more blocked shots than points with 65 and 58 points. Kesler won over 57 percent of his faceoffs and ranked third in the NHL as a forward with an average time of 21:18 on the ice. He is likely the toughest one of the bunch to go against one-on-one.

The toughest out of all of them this year, however, as Bergeron, who did everything on the ice. He may have had fewer points, but he had more faceoff wins than Kesler (1,089 to be exact) and was more efficient in the circles. Bergeron goes up against many top lines and creates havoc on the ice. He can match Bob Gainey as the only four-time Selke winners.

Prediction: Patrice Bergeron

Other NHL Awards Predictions

Lady Byng Award for Most Gentlemanly Player – Wild C Mikael Granlund. Every nominee was a first-timer, so this is a toss-up. However, if you go 27 games without being called for a penalty, you need some kind of recognition.

Masterson Trophy for Dedication to Hockey – Senators G Craig Anderson. Easy money. His wife overcame cancer and he was lights out during her battle. The best story of the NHL this past year had a happy ending and follows up with a happy epilogue.

Jack Adams Award for Best Head Coach – Toronto’s Mike Babcock. All three candidates (Todd McLellan of Edmonton and John Tortorella of Columbus) turned around mediocre teams into playoff contenders. But did anyone expect the Leafs to go to the playoffs? Babcock created the right winning culture.

NHL General Manager of the Year – Nashville’s David Poile. His team’s run to its first Stanley Cup Final didn’t count in voting; it didn’t need to anyway. His offseason acquisition of P.K. Subban electrified the team.

 

Feature image courtesy of Cali Sports News

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Predators building exceptional hockey brand in Nashville

The city of Nashville is known as the country music capital of the United States. The Music City pays homage to its grassroots background with destinations such as the Honky Tonk Highway, the Johnny Cash Museum and the Grand Ole Opry.

While the city has made its name through the sounds of plucked guitars and southern twang, it’s the sound of sharpened wood hitting rubber pucks captivating the residents lately.

The Nashville Predators are the talk of the town as the team is in the midst of a historic postseason run. The Predators entered the Stanley Cup playoffs as the final wild card in the Western Conference. They lost six of their last eight games of the regular season. Plus, they squared off against the West’s top team, the Chicago Blackhawks. Virtually every hockey expert predicted a quiet series win for Chicago, who beat Nashville in the playoffs in 2015.

NHL: Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues

(Photo by of nj.com)

They ended up throttling the top seed, sweeping the Blackhawks in four games. It was the first time in 23 years the number one seed was swept under the current playoff format. That series win put the Predators on the national spotlight as more people took notice of the team. While their recent success is helping build the brand, the Nashville Predators already do well in that department.

The Predators and their fans have embraced one another in the past four years. Since the 2013-14 season, the average attendance at Bridgestone Arena has risen each year. They sold out every home game in the regular season for the first time in franchise history. Every home playoff game has reached full capacity as well. Bridgestone Arena has done its part to create a homely atmosphere.

The Predators’ goal horn has sounded 143 times and counting this season. Each time it plays, Bridgestone Arena reverberates with Tim McGraw’s peppy lyrics laced with the edgy jams of The Black Keys. It salutes the city’s country roots while pumping up the home crowd. It’s a unique bond that’s hard to replicate.

The atmosphere earns praise from visiting fans too. They commend its respectful fans and the sweet aroma of southern comfort food. This type of branding embeds the Predators even further into the expansive heart and soul of Nashville.

Even if fans don’t make it to the game, they’re still watching. Newschannel 5’s Steve Layman reported that Nashville’s Game 3 win over the Saint Louis Blues drew a 9.4 rating in Nashville homes, the team’s highest ever. That means that 60 percent of Nashville residents tuned in on a warm Sunday afternoon to watch hockey. The fans have been excited about the Predators for some time.  Now, it seems that their enthusiasm has reached a fever pitch.

General Manager David Poile deserves credit for spurring the Predators’ growth in Nashville as well. His defining moment came when he shipped captain Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for fellow defenseman P.K. Subban. Poile has looked like a swindler with the move, as Subban is enjoying a nice season with Nashville.

While he’s made a difference on the ice, he’s done even more impactful work for the city through his community service. His incredible work for charity has made him as beloved a person in Nashville as he still is in Montreal. It makes him and the team so easy to rally behind. Even citizens who aren’t into hockey can support Subban and the team through their philanthropy.

Nashville Predators P.K. Subban presents Gov. Gen. David Johnston with a team jersey during a ceremony, Wednesday, March 1, 2017 in Montreal. Subban received the Governor General Meritorious Service Decoration. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Photo by the Daily Herald/Photo by Paul Chiasson)

While the Predators have reached new heights in their popularity in the city, their hockey aspirations seek even greater goals. The franchise has yet to reach a conference final in 18 seasons of operations. They made a huge leap towards that on Tuesday night with a 2-1 win over the Blues to take a 3-1 series lead.

The full effect of Nashville hockey was on display. The Predators showed intense fights that put the smash in Smashville. After fighting through two periods, Ryan Ellis busted through with an absolute snipe on the power play at the five-minute mark. James Neal did the same eight minutes later. The crowd was in it down to the final second.

Nashville will always have country music as its main identity. However, for the foreseeable future, Nashville is the epicenter of playoff hockey. The Predators brand is growing exponentially, and they have plenty of room on the hype train.

 

 

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