There three New Jersey Devils up for hardware at the 2023 NHL Awards this evening. Nico Hischier was a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, for the league’s best defensive forward. Lindy Ruff was a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy, for the league’s top coach. The most likely Devil to win tonight was Jack Hughes for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, for the league’s most sportsmanlike player. As indicated by the headline, none of them won. All three finished second for each award.
It must be noted that these are regular season awards and tonight only revealed who won those votes. A point system is used to weigh first place votes more than the lesser places. The Selke and the Lady Byng were voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The Jack Adams was voted on by the National Association of Broadcasters. Those are the people to be annoyed with as each Devil were the first runner-up in their respective awards. Thanks to Leo Scaglione Jr. for posting the top results of the voting.
Jack Adams - Lindy Ruff, 127 points; Jim Montgomery won with 404. Ruff got one (1) first place vote from the broadcasters and 35 second place votes. Montgomery got 79 first-place votes. This was not even remotely close. Ruff at least cleared Dave Hakstol of Seattle by 54 points. Clearly, Ruff would have been a shoe-in if Montgomery did coach arguably the most successful regular season in NHL history that set new records for wins and points. I did not expect Ruff to win this one for that reason.
Selke - Nico Hischier, 804 points; Patrice Bergeron won with 1914. That is not a typo. Bergeron nearly got all of the first place votes from the PHWA members that voted for this. He had 187. He was on every ballot, no lower than fourth place. What is notable is that Hischier’s 804 points - largely driven by 68 second place and 38 third place votes - cleared the field by at least 324 points. The third place spot that went to Mitch Marner was a little tighter as Jordan Staal and Anze Kopitar missed out by less than 100 points.
The Selke is one of the “reputation” driven awards as there is not a clear-cut method to define the best defensive forward. Bergeron won his sixth ever Selke and won it back-to-back. While Bergeron was not as dominant as in the past, his defensive work was on par with the others. That Hischier came in second by so much suggests that the PHWA may anoint Hischier with a Selke in the future. Assuming Hischier keeps up his awesome work from this past season. I did not expect Hischier to beat Bergeron and he did not. But I was pleasantly surprised that he was ahead of Marner, Staal, Kopitar, and the field.
Lady Byng - Jack Hughes, 934 points; Anze Kopitar won with 1175. This was the best chance for a Devil to bring a trophy from Nashville to Newark. Alas, this is also a reputation award. Kopitar, who won this once before, won with 77 first place votes and appeared on a majority of ballots. Despite scoring more and taking even fewer penalties, The Big Deal had just 41 first place votes and the lead in second place votes with 45. Hughes did clear Brayden Point by 252 points and the top ten results from Scaglione show that Hischier ended up in ninth place with 103 points.
It was the closest margin of loss among the three and it was not that close. Kopitar has always had a well-deserved reputation for being a clean player throughout his career. But in this past season, Hughes was the better player. Alas, the PHWA went with reputation over substance. I wish Hughes got this one. He deserved something from enduring that short and awkward live interview with Paul Bissonette at the 2023 NHL Awards show.
As a quick aside, the 2023 NHL Awards show had all of the markers of a bad awards show. It ran long, a bit after 10 PM ET. It felt longer than a two-hour show should have. The host was awful. The humor was forced and fell flat. There was an excess of musical segments, all sounding the same because Nashville. No one needed to see PHWA President Frank Seravalli stuff his face with a hot chicken sandwich. No one needed Elliotte Friedman calling out GMs. Speaking of GMs, they skipped the GM of the Year award - which, OK, whatever. Tom Fitzgerald was bizarrely not a part of it anyway. Where was I? Right. No one needed the lame jokes and attempts at zingers. No needed the awkward conversations between the Hart Trophy Finalists and a kid. No one needed time for Mark Messier to ramble for an award that just had a winner. The NHL Awards show has never been must-see or maybe-see or even have-on-in-the-background TV. But this year was just a boring and awkward slog. This show was the definition of the post-meeting sentiment: “This could have been an e-mail.”
Speaking of emails, here are some notable “Others receiving votes” involving Devils that will probably be passed around at some point later.
- Per ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, Hughes finished 8th for the Hart and a point behind winner Connor McDavid’s teammate Leon Draisaitl.
- Also per Wyshynski, Dougie Hamilton came in 6th for the Norris.
- The full Selke results per Wyshynski show that Tomas Tatar got a third and a fifth place vote and Erik Haula received a fifth place vote. Tatar? Really?
- Wyshynski also had the full Lady Byng results and Jesper Bratt came in 12th with 47 points, tying him with Jack Eichel. Jesper Boqvist got a fourth place vote from someone to get on the board with 3 points. Yes, Boqvist.
Anyway, the true honor is in being a finalist after all. It is a sign that at least the media knows that the 2022-23 season in their respective categories went supremely well for them. I would like to think that outside of a historic season by Boston and PHWA-driven reputation, Ruff, Hischier, and Hughes would have absolutely earned these awards. It is what it is. Congratulations to all three for coming up in second place, for being there, and for the amazing campaign they had. Alas, it did not end with a trophy. Thank you for reading and I am sorry if you watched this show like I did.