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2018 NHL Awards Preview: Taylor Hall & Brian Boyle Representing New Jersey Devils

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Tonight is the 2018 NHL Awards show. Who are the nominees? Who’s supposed to win? When/where can it be watched? All of these questions are answered in this helpful, if slightly long-winded, preview.

2018 NHL Awards – Nominee Media Availability Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Unlike recent years, Devils fans will actually have something to root for in the 2018 edition of the annual NHL Awards Show. The Devils have two players at the show and are nominated in 3 total categories — Hart, Lindsay, and Masterton — which is actually a big number. Only the expansion sensation Vegas Golden Knights had nominees in more categories (4) and the Devils are one of 6 teams with 3 (Colorado, LA, Nashville, Tampa, and Winnipeg). So when and where can fans tune in to root for our guys?

When: Tonight, July 20th at 8pm EST

Where: The event will be broadcast live on NBCSN and Sportsnet

Okay, now that we all know where to find it, below will be a key for how you can follow along with the awards whether or not a Devil is nominated. The Devils are up for three trophies, but a lot of the awards are being given to players with excellent seasons and stories so, if you’re interested, all of them are previewed below. Let’s start with the Devils!

Awards with Devil Nominees

I’m going to do a no nonsense start here, going straight for the biggest award of the night, the Hart Memorial Trophy.

Hart Trophy

The Hart Memorial Trophy — named after it’s donor, Dr. David Hart, father of longtime Habs coach, Cecil Hart — is given to the player “most valuable to his team” as judged by the PHWA (the Professional Hockey Writers Association). This exact phrasing has been picked apart in many different ways over the course of the this year due to the fact that, for the first time in a while, there are not very many truly distinct candidates. Some have lobbied for players like Connor McDavid to be the clear frontrunner due to the fact that his performance was likely worth the most from a GAR (goals above replacement) standpoint — he cumulative statistics are “worth” the most on paper — and he contributed to the largest proportion of his teams production. Others have pointed out that, while McDavid’s contributions may have value on paper, that value is empty due to the fact that Edmonton was out of the playoff race by the middle of November. As it turned out the latter group was the majority as the 3 nominees all made the playoffs — though 2 were by the skin of their teeth.

Nominees: Nathan MacKinnon (C, Col), Anze Kopitar (C, LAK), and Taylor Hall (LW, NJD)

Nathan MacKinnon missed 8 games, but in the 74 he played, he actually kept pace with Connor McDavid for the scoring title (MacKinnon 1.31 P/GP, McDavid 1.32 P/GP). After a Calder-winning rookie campaign, MacKinnon followed it up with 3 good-not-great seasons, before bursting onto the scene this year to drag the Avalanche to a wild card spot. His overall production and impact on the team are checks in his column. In the “con” section could be his also-good teammates, Mikko Rantanen (84 pts), Gabriel Landeskog (62 pts), and defender Ty Barrie (57 pts). He has less claim to “doing it all himself” than the next two.

Anze Kopitar recorded 92 points in 82 games, the lowest total and slowest pace of the three nominees. That will likely be a knock, as will the fact that his team, with Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, are perceived as having been good enough to make the playoffs without him, unlike his co-finalists. What helps him is his all-around game. He logged 22:05 minutes per game — the most among all forwards in the NHL, over 2 minutes more than MacKinnon, and almost 3 minutes more than Hall. A former Selke winner and three-time finalist, his all-around game is well-attested to, and this year, he had the offense to back it up.

And then there’s our boy, Taylor Hall.

Taylor Hall recorded 93 points in 76 games this year, every one of which John reviewed in his 8-part “Scoring with Hart” series. No, seriously. If you’re new to the blog, John is insane. And we love him for it. A big number people have been throwing around in support of Hall is 41. There is a 41-point gap between Hall and the 2nd highest scoring player on the Devils, Nico Hischier (52 points). That is the highest in the NHL, and significantly past the gaps of Kopitar (31-point gap) and MacKinnon (13-point gap). Hall dragged the Devils to the second wild card spot, and he did it without the support the other two nominees had. I don’t know what a player more valuable to his team’s race to the postseason could possibly look like. The other big number is 26. He scored in 26 consecutive games played — tied with Patrick Kane (2015-16) for the longest since Mats Sundins 30-game streak in 1992. He is only the 8th player in recorded NHL history to achieve that feat. It goes to show that not only was his cumulative impact on the team as evident as any player’s in the league, but he brought it night-in, night-out, and was a dependable force in a roller coaster of a season for the Devils. One of the biggest knocks on Hall is actually his position — many view winger as a less impactful position due to the added responsibilities of being a center (faceoffs, more rigorous defensive assignments, and more playmaking expectation). However, if voters can see past that, Hall certainly has as good a shot as any at taking home the trophy.

Ted Lindsay Award

Named for Robert Theodore Lindsay, Hockey Hall of Famer, 800-point-scorer, and NHLPA co-creator, the Lindsay Award is given to the “most outstanding player” as voted by the NHLPA (the Players Association). The nominees are Hall, MacKinnon, and McDavid.

The award is distinct from the Hart in two ways: 1) it is phrased as “most outstanding” rather than “most valuable,” and 2) it is voted on by the players rather than the writers. The phrasing is generally interpreted as being more straightforwardly the best player in the NHL that year. Many would say that this is likely to be Connor McDavid’s consolation prize. Then again, 67% of the Ted Lindsay awards given have gone to the Hart winner which cannot be McDavid, and it’s been 45 years since someone not nominated for the Hart won (according to BSB and Dobber contributor, Scott Maran), so perhaps this category is up for grabs as well.

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

The Masterton Trophy — named for Bill Masterton, the only player in league history to die as a direct result of injuries faced during a game — goes to the player best exemplifying perseverance, sportsmanship. It is typically given to a player who has had to endure some personal loss or struggle, and has dealt with the adversity admirably. It’s nominees this year are Panthers goalie, Roberto Luongo; Hurricanes forward, Jordan Staal; and Devils forward Brian Boyle.

As many Devils fans know, Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in the preseason. Boyle persevered through this news, that seemed career-threatening initially, to play 69 games for the Devils and record double-digit goals and assists for a total of 23 points. Boyle’s fire for the game shone even brighter in the wake of his personal hardship. Among the highlights were a 8-point 4-game stretch that started with a 2-goal 1-assist performance against the Stars that also included some heavy chirping at Klingberg and a 10-minute misconduct that fans considered well worth it. He also scored a goal on, I’m not kidding, Hockey Fights Cancer Night. On a scale of more league-wide recognition, after an injury to Hart-nominee Taylor Hall, Boyle was chosen as the Devils lone representative at the All-Star game where fans of his former team gave him a standing ovation. It was a magical and emotional season for Boyle who was a good player, and and even better person.

I’m sure most of that wasn’t news to Devils fans, and while Boyle is expected to win, the other two finalists deserve all the praise we can offer for the way they’ve handled their own personal tragedies.

Jordan Staal and his wife Heather shared the heartbreaking news that their baby, Hannah was delivered stillborn. Through what must have been a long, and impossibly difficult time, Staal co-captained the Hurricanes and led their forwards in ice time.

Roberto Luongo is the all-time leader in goalie point shares in NHL history. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the position, and he’s been active in the community playing in charity poker matches, and helping the Panthers kick off their Summer Reading Tour, but likely the reason he’s involved this year is for his role in helping his community cope with the tragedy that befell Parkland High School. On February 14th, just 5 days after being named the 3rd safest city in Florida, a school shooter took the lives of 17 people — 14 students and 3 staff members — while injuring 17 others, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history. Himself, a resident of Parkland, Luongo gave an impassioned speech calling for action (transcript). In the midst of such devastating loss, athletes can sometimes offer some modicum of stability for a community that they know best how to reach. It was done by David Ortiz after the 2013 Boston bombing , earlier this year by Deryk Engellend after the Vegas shooting before the first game in franchise history, and now by Luongo.

Brian Boyle likely will, and should, win this award for overcoming great personal strife to be a leader for an extremely young team. But all of the nominees in this category should be lauded for the tremendous courage they’ve shown this season.

Awards without Devil Nominees

Vezina Trophy - Best Goaltender:

Pekka Rinne (NSH), Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL)

As of the most recent odds I can find, which were pre-nomination, Rinne (42-13-4/.927/2.31) was the favorite at 4:9 (69.2%) to get nominated, Vasilevskiy (44-17-3/.920/2.62) was 9:4 (30.8%) and Hellebuyck (44-11-9/.924/2.32) was 2:15 (11.8%). Rinne had the best year statistically, Hellebuyck had the best record, and Vasilevsky was the favorite for most of the year. Assuming those ratios are transferable, probabilities are now 62% Rinne, 27% Vasilevskiy, and 11% Hellebuyck.

Norris Trophy - Best Defenseman:

Drew Doughty (LAK), Victor Hedman (TBL), P.K. Subban (NSH)

According to those same odds, Hedman (63pts / 25:51 ATOI /+32) was 5:13, Doughty (60pts / 26:50 ATOI /+23) was 2:9, and Subban (59pts / 24:07 ATOI /+18) was 2:13 would now have odds of 70% (Hedman), 17% (Doughty) and 13% (Subban) respectively. Hedman’s the favorite and has been for a little bit it seems based on the “His Turn” philosophy.

Selke Trophy - Best Defensive Forward:

Patrice Bergeron (BOS), Sean Couturier (PHI), Anze Kopitar (LAK)

There’s no more odds so just giving quick descriptions from here on out.

Bergeron has finished either 1st or 2nd in Selke voting every one of the last 6 years, winning 4 of them in the process. His sky-high faceoff numbers (career 58.4%), short-handed usage (100+ minutes all except lockout and rookie seasons), and point totals (normally in the 50-70 range) are trademarks of all Selke winners. Kopitar’s Hart-nominated season, as well as the fact that Bergeron only played 64 games due to injury, probably gives Anze the leg up over Perfect Patrice this go around. Couturier has had a very strong defensive game for a while, but this year put it all together playing with Giroux on the top line and scoring 76 points after getting 39, 37, 39, and 34 the past 4 years.

Lady Byng Trophy - Most Gentlemenly Player

Aleksander Barkov (FLA), William Karlsson (VGK), Ryan O’Reilly (BUF)

This award is generally given to a player with extremely low penalty minute totals. Specifically it’s normally a forward as well — Brian Campbell’s 2012 season in which he recorded 2200 minutes played and was given just 6 penalty minutes was the first time a defender had won since Red Kelly won 3 in 4 years from 1951-1954. Among the 66 forwards who have played at least 1400 minutes (yes that cutoff is arbitrary), these 3 have the lowest PIM/60 (ROR 0.07, WK 0.47, AB 0.48). O’Reilly, who won the award in 2014 will likely take home the award after remarkably being given just a single minor penalty in over 1600 minutes of ice time this season.

Calder Memorial Trophy - Best Rookie

Mathew Barzal (NYI), Brock Boeser (VAN), Clayton Keller (ARI)

Barzal is going to win this after finishing 13th in the NHL in scoring in his rookie year and establishing himself as already one of the best playmakers in the league with 63 assists — good for 5th in the league. Boeser and Keller were the best players on bad teams, but Barzal is looking at a transcendent career trajectory.

Jack Adams Award - Coach of the Year

Jared Bednar (COL), Bruce Cassidy (BOS), Gerard Gallant (VGK)

Gerard Gallant took an expansion team to the Stanley Cup Final. He’s winning this one. Bednar is John Hynes for the Avs and Cassidy presided over probably the most intimidating team coming into the playoffs.

General Manager of the Year

Kevin Cheveldayoff (WPG), George McPhee (VGK), Steve Yzerman (TBL)

The GM is tasked with the assembling of the team. Winnipeg and Tampa Bay likely have the most talented rosters this season and it’s a testament to the gameplan of Cheveldayoff and Yzerman. McPhee’s roster is less talented, because he created it as a freaking expansion team. McPhee created a Western Conference Champion roster, that will likely have around $30M in cap space next year, and 27 picks in the next 3 years — I’d say he should be the favorite.

Mark Messier Award - Leadership

Deryk Engelland (VGK), Wayne Simmonds (PHI), Blake Wheeler (WPG)

It’s unclear to me exactly how this is decided, but it surely has something to do with being a role model for your team I’d imagine. Since the award became exclusively an annual accolade, the winner every year has been not only a Captain for their team, but a Captain that was in at least his 3rd year of service in that role. Wheeler is in his 2nd season as the Jets’s captain, Simmonds is in his 4th as an alternate for the Flyers, and it’s Engelland has an “A” in first year as with any letter for any team. None fit the bill of a traditional winner of this award, but Engelland’s aforementioned leadership role in the wake of the Vegas tragedy makes him the choice IMO.

King Clancy Memorial Trophy - Leadership and Humanitarianism

Daniel & Henrik Sedin (VAN), P.K. Subban (NSH), Jason Zucker (MIN)

The Sedins had a legacy of humanitarianism, whether it’s donating $1.5M to a hospital, starting the Sedin Family Foundation, or generally exemplifying what it is to be a role model on and off the ice for fans. In this, the final year of their unprecedented careers, the trophy may serve as a lifetime achievement of sorts.

P.K. Subban donated $10M to a Montreal children’s hospital in an act of extreme generosity not at all out-of-character for P.K. who has a reputation for reaching out to the community in a variety of ways, whether its working with a program that sends underprivileged kids to Predators games with cops, or giving one of his annual Christmas treats to fans. In a sport for which roughly 93% of players and 92% of viewers are white, and having a player like P.K. be one of the best defenders in the game, one of the most philanthropic, and have an infectious personality to boot, is of incalculable importance for a league that has routinely struggled to prove Hockey is for Everyone.

Jason Zucker launched the #Give16 charity for the UM Masonic Children’s Hospital and teamed up with Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph to begin the tribute, “Tuckers Locker” — both as part of the greater “Team Tucker” movement, named for Tucker Helstrom, a brave 9-year-old who died from osteosarcoma in July of 2016. Zucker spoke often about what the experience meant to him and showed how to turn that affection into action.

Any of these players would be deserving winners and would do the NHL proud.

Your Thoughts

Who do you think should win the awards? Are you expecting Hall to take home something shiny? Is that something shiny the Hart trophy? If not, what is it?

Who are you rooting for to win the other trophies? Who are you rooting against?

Leave your thoughts below, and, as always, thanks for reading.