The Professional Hockey Writers Association decided this year that its members would withhold publishing their ballots for each award until after that unbearable smoldering train-wreck of a show was over, so enterprising fans couldn’t piece together who won through a small sample of the votes.
To be honest, it actually worked.
Without half the membership spilling the beans on their top picks and runners-up, the wins for Erik Karlsson (Norris), Aaron Ekblad (Calder) and Jiri Hudler (Byng) were surprises, albeit mild ones. So as much as I enjoy filling time with awards ballot debates leading up the show, I might agree that trading them in for a scintilla of suspense is beneficial.
The other issue, of course, is transparency, and that’s where I’m at odds with some of the PHWA membership.
Members can keep their ballots secret. I completely understand the idea that keeping ballots secret can be good for the process. Beat writers, for example, never have to feel pressure from the teams they cover to cast a vote a certain way, or harm relationships when they don’t.
(Remember, these things go beyond trophies: It’s also about bonus money, etc., and that’s a whole different kettle of monkeys when it comes to the media voting on these things.)
I also understand that it’s a giant hassle to have fans, in this social media age, nitpicking every vote you cast.
That said, we’re journalists. We spend more hours defending our work to critics than we do sleeping in a given week. Unless you’re approaching this honor with complete ennui, you should be able to defend the fact that you left Drew Doughty off your Norris ballot or didn’t cast a vote for Carey Price in the Hart race, which two voters didn’t, for some reason. (“GOALIES” probably.)
Anyway, I’m all for shedding light on the dark corners of the process. Here’s my ballot for the 2015 NHL Awards. (You can find Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy’s ballot here and here is Josh Cooper’s awards ballot as well.)
HART TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”)
1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
3. Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild
4. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
5. John Tavares, New York Islanders
“Goalie bias” is the only reason Price doesn’t win and, frankly, is the reason why Dubnyk wasn’t in the top three, because no one had a more transformative effect on his team other than Price. (Sample size is a reasonable counterargument, however.)
NORRIS TROPHY (“to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position”)
1. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
3. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
4. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
5. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Again, Karlsson is just on another level as far as offensive domination and his defensive game is improving every season. Does he make mistakes? Yes. Can he cover those mistakes with speed like no one other than Keith in the NHL? All game.
It’s funny: Some of the Blackhawks players I asked bristled when I inferred that Keith was underrated. He finished seventh in the voting. So, yeah…
CALDER TROPHY (“to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition”)
1. Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
2. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
3. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
4. Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators
5. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
Admittedly, I’d have flip-flopped Stone and Forsberg if I could do this again. I think part of this was the recency bias that I felt really tarnished the accomplishments of the Nashville Predators, because they had the nerve to be really, really good at the start of the season. (See also: Laviolette, Peter.)
But no rookie was more impressive than Ekblad, and no rookie was more dazzling than Johnny Hockey. This group went beyond the usual “rookie scoring leader means Calder winner” paradigm.
LADY BYNG TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”)
1. Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
2. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
3. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
4. Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado Avalanche
5. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
I went with the other boring guy on the Flames. I’m glad Hudler won. His speech was the only thing on the NHL Awards that resembled impromptu comedy.
SELKE TROPHY (“to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game”)
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
3. David Backes, St. Louis Blues
4. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
5. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks
This is going to be a Datsyukian run for Bergeron for this award. He’s just a shade better than Toews, who would win this award every season were it not for Bergeron. Backes ended up fourth in the voting. Hossa was seventh, actually finishing behind Max Pacioretty on the wing
NHL All-Star Team
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild
If you missed the All-Star Team results, they’re here. No one really cares about this thing unless the PHWA screws up and lists Ovechkin twice, but here are my votes.
NHL All-Rookie Team
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg Jets
So there’s my ballot. I take this stuff really seriously, as do the vast majority of PHWA members. It’s an honor to have a vote, and we want to get it right. And by that I mean not do things like give Randy Carlyle a vote for the Jack Adams. Silly broadcasters…