Adam Pyde

NHL 2014 Preview: Preseason Awards Predictions

NHL 2014 Preview: Preseason Awards Predictions

Oh boy is it ever coming close to the start of the NHL season. That means that its time for lists and previews and predictions of course! So why not combine all of them into one ingenious article detailing who will win all the big trophies and awards in the NHL before a second of play has even been played?

You’re in the right place.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

VEZINA – Awarded to the league’s top goaltendervezina
Contenders: Pekka Rinne, Cory SchneiderTuuka Rask

After a weird season where many of the usual contenders had poor seasons or struggled with injuries, we saw the emergence of a new batch of goaltenders. Ben Bishop, Semyon Varlamov, Corey Schneider, and Tuuka Rask all established themselves as truly elite goaltenders.

Rinne should be healthy this season after losing most of last season to an E.coli infection in his hip. He’s the most dominant goaltender in the Western Conference when healthy and if the new look Predators are to make the playoffs once again he’ll have to play like the two-time Vezina nominee he’s known for.

Schneider is finally getting his chance to prove he’s the elite goaltender he’s looked like in split duty so far in his career. In fact, had he played more than 40 games last season, say 50, he likely would have been good enough to get the Devils not only into the playoffs, but second place in the division.

Rask has established himself as an incumbent nominee and if Boston is to maintain their status as a Cup contender without last seasons leading goal scorer Jarome Iginla, a lot of responsibility will fall on Rask. He’s proven he’s up to the task.
My pick: Tuuka Rask

NORRIS – Awarded to the defencemen who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the positionnorris
Contenders: Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, Drew Doughty

Karlsson is a one man breakout machine. People like to harp on his defensive play mainly because he doesn’t play “classic” defence, but he’s incredibly effective at stripping attackers of the puck and immediately turning up ice and entering the attacking zone. If you asked some German engineers to construct a one-man breakout machine, he is the result. If defence isn’t getting the puck out of your zone and keeping it at the other end, then I don’t know what is.

Hedman is the best kept secret that is only kinda secret and on an improved Tampa defence corps he’ll only be better. The defensive burden will be greater spread around and allow him to only play better.

Doughty finally seemed to have his real coming out party last season. After a few years of being arguably the best defenceman in the Western Conference, he finally got his due during last years playoffs when the eastern conference media, about 68% of the awards voters, had their minds blown at his level of play.

It seemed every day there were 8 new “IS DOUGHTY THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD?” articles from guys who usually go to bed before Western Conference games start, while most Western Conference fans/media were basically saying “Cute of you to catch up. He’s been this good for years.”
My pick: Drew Doughty

JACK ADAMS – Awarded to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success

Or whoever coaches a team that was supposed to be bad and didn’t be bad because coach voodoo and not because PDO wrecked last season.
adams
Contenders:  Willie Desjardins, Barry Trotz, Jack Capuano

I used to think that coaches of good teams would win this award, but it really doesn’t go that way. Good coaches of teams that are supposed to be good don’t get credit because they don’t use coach voodoo.

Coaches of teams that were bad but then get good only got good because of coach voodoo. Therefore, to predict this you should select a bad team that shouldn’t have been as bad as they were and looks like a bet to improve.

Desjardins is taking over a Vancouver team with lots of good veteran players and some solid additions. Last year, everything that could go wrong went wrong for the Canucks so if they “become” a good team again, their new coach will get all the credit.

If Trotz can get anything resembling a strong, structured playoff team in Washington then he’ll have the PWHA eating out of his hands. Heck, if the media even notices Ovechkin “improving defensively” then Trotz will be lauded as a god amongst coaches.

Capuano really has everything falling into place. He has a 14 player deep forward corps, improved defence and an actual NHL goaltender for the first time in an Islander sweater since Dwayne Roloson. That is a Jack Adams recipe.
My pick: Jack Capuano

CALDER – Awarded to the league’s most outstanding rookie player
calder

Contenders: Sam Reinhart, Jake AllenJohn Gibson

On the surface, it looks like a strong rookie crop this season. Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington) and Teuvo Teravainen (Chicago) are players that could make a decent impact as rookies, but all have a bit of the numbers game working against them finding a top roster spot out of camp. Same with Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay) who will miss part of the NHL season with an injury.

Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau deserves some serious consideration as well, but I’m unconvinced that he’s got enough in Calgary to truly get enough cushioning to help him. The season is long and the Flames are bad which will get him the minutes, but I just have a nagging feeling it won’t be enough.

It would take some crazy circumstances to keep Reinhart off the Sabres roster this season. He’ll likely slide into the number 2 centre spot and get chances on the powerplay, which needs exactly what he can provide. Also, Buffalo has some veteran options on the wing to support him nicely.

But it’ll likely come down to two goaltenders. First, Jake Allen in St.Louis as he’s all but guaranteed to split starts for the Blues. His competition is Brian Elliott, he of a Jeckyl and Hyde career. The Blues are such a strong defensive team and only surrender about 26 shots against a game which would bode well for an easy transition to a full time starter.

Likewise in Anaheim. Gibson has the starting goaltender job waiting for him after the Ducks are without two of their crease mainstays from last season in Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller. He’ll have his work cut out for him as the Ducks aren’t quite a defensive juggernaut though. The championship hopes for the Ducks will ride on his shoulders and any kind of season keeping them in contention should be good enough for a Calder Trophy.
My pick: John Gibson

SELKE – Awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the gameselke

Contenders: Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron

This trophy is a two horse race. Jonathan Toews will get some support and so will David Backes. But as analytics are more widely embraced, the voters should realize just how these two players are in a class of their own.

You’ve got the best in the west with Anze Kopitar and the best in the east with Patrice Bergeron. These two are so good and so even that it is really hard to pick.

bergkop

This is a graphic from last season, I have edited it slightly to make it easy to read. Original here

Kopitar gets scored on less, but Bergeron starts more shifts with immediate defensive responsibility. Bergeron plays more penalty kill time, but Kopitar is better at not taking penalties as well as drawing them. Both players are the premier possession driver’s on their team.

However, the quality that separates the two for me is that the Western Conference has so many more quality teams than the Eastern Conference. The East is 3, maybe 4 teams deep while the West is about 6 deep with ease.
My pick: Anze Kopitar

ART ROSS – Awarded to the point-scoring leader during the regular season
hart

Contenders: Steven Stamkos, Claude GirouxSidney Crosby, Tyler Seguin

So, uh… who’s gonna score a lot of points?

Stamkos will push 50+ goals like he usually does. Mix in 35-45 assists and he’ll be around 95 points which is the guessing minimum for this award.

Giroux basically took the first 6 weeks of last season off but still finished third in NHL scoring after breaking his opening slump. Philly’s playoff chances ride on him putting in a repeat performance.

Crosby is the most prolific point scorer of his generation. Last year was a down year (compare the first line under 5v5 stats to his previous years), for him, and he still ran away with the honour by 17 points. That was with a drought that saw him score only 1 goal in 18 games to close the regular season. He’s pretty dominant.

Tyler Seguin is going to have even more support in Dallas this season. The Stars were about as much of a one line team as you could find last season. Him and Jamie Benn will lead the way, but a supporting cast of Valeri Nichushkin, Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza could go a long way to freeing him up to keep scoring.
My pick: Sidney Crosby

HART – Awarded to the league’s most valuable playerart
Contenders: Steven Stamkos, Tyler Seguin, Sidney Crosby

This trophy almost seems to go hand in hand with the Art Ross. Six of the last nine winners of this trophy were also the scoring leader. So there is your short list for candidates.

With all the hype in Tampa Bay this season after all the off-season additions and emergent performances from last season, the team will still only go as far as Stamkos can take them. He’ll be the difference from another third place finish or taking the division crown and stands a chance to take home his first Hart Trophy.

Dallas is in a similar position and the player leading that team, at least offensively, and the guy the guy who has been the biggest difference maker for the Stars since his arrival is Seguin. He even generated some Hart chatter last season finishing 6th in voting. With big things expected in Dallas, expect big things from Seguin.

This conversation really can’t be had without Crosby. He’s finished 1st, 2nd, 5th, 3rd, 6th and 1st  any season in which he’s been predominantly healthy and likely would have been at the top of voting in the seasons where he was cut short by injury. With Pittsburgh poised to finish near the top of the league again you can expect Sid as a finalist, again.
My pick: Steven Stamkos

ROCKET RICHARD – Awarded to the goal-scoring leader during the regular seasonrocket
Contenders: Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Phil Kessel

Ovechkin is always going to be in the conversation until he gets really old and even then he’ll probably only be scoring 35 a season. It’s going to be interesting to see how much Barry Trotz’s new system affects his offensive numbers.

Stamkos was on pace for 55 goals last season had it not been for a broken shin that sidelined him for over half the season. He’s such a terrific shooter and scores on about 20% of his shots every season and no other players over the last 3 seasons comes close to burying as efficiently as him.

I put Kessel in here too. He’s the 4th leading goal scorer of the last three seasons combined. He’s a constant 35+ goal threat and you gotta figure at some point he’ll have a season where the percentages fall in his favour and he threatens 50, so why not next season?
My pick: Steven Stamkos

STANLEY CUP – awarded annually to the playoff winner after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finalsfinalfour
Contenders: Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay LightningPittsburgh Penguins

Really hard to leave New Jersey out of this. I think they stand one hell of a chance to surprise, but not this much surprise.

The Kings are the kings. Reigning champs and the best defensive juggernaut in the NHL. They’ve kept the whole team together, again, and have been so good that when the beat teams they send them into identity crises (Anaheim, Vancouver, San Jose).

The Blackhawks are every bit as good as the Kings, but they have a dash more speed and offence and a little less meat and potatoes. They’ve finally added an actual second line centre, for the first time since god knows when, in Brad Richards, on top of their already dominant team.

The Lightning look poised to take advantage of what looks to be a down year in Boston. Tampa has improved their defence with Stralman and Garrison, forward depth with incoming players Jonathon Drouin, Brian Boyle, Brendan Morrow and Bretty Connoly, and a real backup goaltender from either Kristers Gudlevskis or Evgeni Nabakov.

The Penguins are the cream of the Metropolitan Division. They’re the only team that would be a shock to miss the playoffs in that entire division and they’ve actually gotten better from last season. Christian Ehrhoff is an improvement over Matt Niskanen and their depth additions significantly improve them from last season.

But, no one repeats Cup wins these days.
But, Tampa’s incredibly young up front.
But, Pittsburgh still plays Marc-Andre Fleury.
My pick: Chicago Blackhawks

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @adam_pyde.

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