The 2015 NHL season is pretty much over.
Yes, the final playoff spots still have to be decided and there is one more Saturday night where all 30 teams will take the ice, but outside of who will take home the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring, the final list of candidates for the rest of the regular season awards have been crafted and the time has come for us to hand out some hardware.
A couple months from now, when the NHL actually presents these awards, we’ll come back and see how smart or stupid we looked.
Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price should be taking home to shiny statues when the NHL hands out the actual trophies later this spring because he has not only been the top goalie in the league (that gets him the Vezina), but he’s also been “the player most valuable to his team.”
Replace him with an average NHL goalie and the Canadiens don’t make the playoffs. He’s collected 42 wins with a Goals Against Average (GAA) under 2.00 behind what isn’t exactly a stout defensive group. They’re okay, but the Nashville Predators they are not.
The one thing that could work against Price is that the NHL hasn’t exactly been keen on declaring goaltenders the most valuable player in the league. It has only happened once this century, when Jose Theodore took home the double in 2001-02, which probably makes Canadiens fans leery of Price repeating the feat here.
Still, Price has been amazing all season. He’s a lock for the Vezina and should take home the Hart as well. If he doesn’t, it will probably go to Alexander Ovechkin.
Norris Trophy: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
If Mark Giordano didn’t get hurt, the Calgary Flames captain probably would have taken home the award for being the league’s top defenseman, but missing the final 20 games of the season scuttled his chances.
As a result, Karlsson will probably claim his second Norris Trophy because he’s turned in another 20-goal season, led all defensemen in scoring and logged a ton of minutes while turning in a positive plus/minus for the season. He has flaws on the defensive side of things, but he’s improved this season and is such an outstanding offensive talent that he’ll be in the Norris race for years to come.
Calder Trophy: Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
There aren’t a lot of 18-year-olds that make the transition to the NHL and become impact players right out of the chute. There are even fewer 18-year-old defensemen that make that move, but Ekblad, the first-overall pick in last year’s draft, has done that in Florida this season and should take home Rookie of the Year honours as a result.
Sure, he’s 19 now, but he was 18 when the season started and he’s been on the Panthers’ blue line from Game 1.
Ekblad being an All-Star and finishing in the Top 10 in rookie scoring isn’t what swings this award in his favour; it’s the fact that he’s logging 20+ minutes a night and helped Florida remain in the playoff hunt far longer than anyone expected them to be in the playoff hunt.
Instead of splitting hairs between Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Stone and Filip Forsberg, award the first-year defensemen.
Jack Adams Award: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
Mike Yeo is going to get a lot of votes for turning things around in Minnesota and Jack Capuano will get mentions for the job he’s done on Long Island, but what about Trotz turning an underachieving group in Washington into the fourth seed in the East and a much more accountable group defensively?
Yeo got a boost from Devan Dubnyk falling in his lap and finally figuring things out between the pipes and the Islanders’ success rests more with general manager Garth Snow than their coach. Meanwhile, Trotz has taken basically the same Capitals team that missed the playoffs last season and delivered home ice advantage in the opening round.
Having Alexander Ovechkin certainly helps, but this team has become much better in their own end and could be poised to make some noise in the playoffs this season.