Hickey on hockey: Habs Phillip Danault merits consideration for Selke
|Montreal Gazette 05 Apr 2019 at 15:28|
This is the time of year when the members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association fill out ballots for most of the trophies that will be handed out at the NHL awards show in Las Vegas at the end of June. While it’s going to take a few days to sort out the five players worthy of consideration for each award, I have a good idea of the players who are going to top my list.
During the past eight seasons, eight players have won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player and there will be a ninth player this season as Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov takes home the hardware. He ran away with the NHL scoring race this season and — while there are those who will argue Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby is still the best player in the game and Edmonton’s 2017 Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid is in the mix — nobody can match Kucherov’s play this year. And, as a bonus, he’s helped the Lightning compile the best record in the NHL.
Canadiens’ Phillip Danault carries the puck past centre ice against the Boston Bruins in Montreal on Dec. 17, 2018. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette
Another biggie is the Norris Trophy, which goes to the top defenceman. Many voters have always placed far too much emphasis on point totals to decide this award, which explains why San Jose’s Erik Karlsson won this award twice before he learned to play defence. The Sharks’ Brent Burns, the 2017 winner, leads all defencemen in points (81) and is a physical force, but my top vote this time goes to Mark Giordano, who is No. 2 among blue-liners in scoring (74) and is also the NHL plus/minus leader (plus-39). He also has helped Calgary post the best record in the Western Conference.
P.K. Subban, who has won the award, and Shea Weber , who has come close, don’t figure in the conversation this season because they have dealt with injuries. But it’s interesting to note we haven’t reached the point where the Canadiens are the clear losers in the trade with Nashville. Weber has played five fewer games, but has more goals and more points (14-19-33, plus-17) than Subban (9-21-30, plus-4) and has a much better plus/minus rating.
Vancouver centre Elias Pettersson is my choice for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the top rookie. He illustrates the difference between a 20-year-old and an 18-year-old like the Canadiens’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi . The two-year age difference is reflected in strength and overall maturity.
Boston’s Patrice Bergeron should win his fifth Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward. At 33, the Quebec City native is enjoying the most productive season of his career with 32 goals and a career-high 79 points. He has a plus-23 rating and he’s among the NHL leaders with a 56.6 per cent winning percentage in faceoffs. There aren’t any Canadiens in the running for any of the awards, but one of my five Selke votes will go to the Canadiens’ Phillip Danault , who says he has found his role model in Bergeron.
There are a couple of awards that are not decided by a vote of the writers, but I’ll share my choices in those categories.
The Vézina Trophy for best goaltender is voted on by the general managers and I suspect Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning will get the nod over fellow Russian Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets. Vasilevskiy has been the favourite for most of the season, but if Bobrovsky wins it will put Columbus in an interesting position. They had Bobrovsky on the block at the trade deadline because he’s coming up to unrestricted free agency. He’ll be looking for big money and a long term, but Columbus is looking to a future with Elvis Merzlikins, a Latvian playing with Lugano in the Swiss League. He is regarded as the best goaltender outside the NHL.
The broadcasters vote on the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year and it usually goes to the bench boss who has brought a team back from the dead, and not necessarily to the best coach. They broadcasters can check off both boxes by selecting Barry Trotz, who won the Stanley Cup last year with Washington, and has been performing miracles this season with the New York Islanders.