NHL Midseason Awards: Puck Daddy on best players, biggest disappointments

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Greg Wyshynski
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The actual midpoint of the 2016-17 NHL season passed recently, even as a handful of team have yet to play 41 games yet. That means we have a pretty large sample size to handicap some NHL Awards, and a fairly good idea on which players and teams surprised us so far, and which ones disappointed us.

Here’s how your friends at Puck Daddy saw the first half of the season:

GREG WYSHYNSKI, Editor

HART

1 – Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

2 – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

3 – Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings

At one point recently, the Penguins had Crosby leading the NHL in goals and Evgeni Malkin leading in points. Suffice it to say, McDavid isn’t afforded that kind of support on the Oilers, who would be counting lottery odds again were it not for his transformative effect on the team. As for Carter, I’ll take him over several goaltending candidates because he has the Kings in a playoff spot without Jonathan Quick, mostly without Marian Gaborik and with Anze Kopitar having his worst season as a pro. Through 42 games, Carter had nine more goals and 15 more points than any other Kings teammate.

NORRIS

1 – Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

2 – Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

3 – Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Burns is next up for the voters to give him a “lifetime achievement” Norris like the one they recently gave Drew Doughty. The good news is that Burns totally deserves consideration for best defenseman in the NHL this season with this offensive output, puck possession and increasingly effective defense. Hedman gets the nod for second, doing his best in a chaotic season. Karlsson might actually have a better Hart case.

VEZINA

1 – Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

2 – Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

3 – Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

Dubnyk has been absolutely brilliant for the Wild, and it’s stunning to still see his save percentage hovering at .940 this deep into the season and in back of a Bruce Boudreau team. Bobrovsky has been really good despite a heavy workload, and Holtby can claim the same.

CALDER

1 – Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

2 – Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

3 – Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

Matthews gets it by the slimmest of margins, despite trailing Laine by two points with three games in-hand. He’s had the biggest moments, and arguably the bigger impact on his team. Although by that measure, perhaps Werenski should have a stronger case.

JACK ADAMS

1 – John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

2 – Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild

3 – Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs

I detailed what, exactly, Tortorella’s done for the Blue Jackets here. Boudreau’s magic offensive pixie dust is so strong it resurrected Eric Staal, and Babcock isn’t getting nearly the credit for the job he’s done, as usual.

SELKE

1 – Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

2 – Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

3 – Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

Reports of Bergeron’s death as a Selke candidate have been greatly exaggerated. He’s still a faceoff machine, still a possession monster and still the best defensive forward in the game.

MOST SURPRISING (in a good way) PLAYER: Matthew Tkachuk. We all had expectations for other 19 year olds in the NHL this season, but the 40 games he’s give the Calgary Flames have been spectacular. He’s got 27 points, he’s their best possession player and he’s quickly risen up the ranks of the League’s biggest pains in the backside.

MOST SURPRISING (in a good way) TEAM: Anaheim Ducks. Look, the obvious answer is the Blue Jackets, but everyone’s going to say the Blue Jackets, so we’re go in a different direction. We all figured Boudreau would have an impact in Minnesota, but there was a lot of doom-saying about Randy Carlyle and the Ducks. Well, 44 games in, and they have a slim lead in the Pacific.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Andrew Ladd, New York Islanders. The seven-year deal for Ladd was a glaring mistake from the Islanders, but we didn’t know how glaring it was going to be. Ladd has eight goals and four assists in 39 games for them, statistically his worst season in the NHL since entering the League in 2005-06.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Nashville Predators. There were more than a few contenders here – the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars among them – but the Predators entered the season with championship hype and aren’t in a playoff seed at the 42-game mark. One assumes this will be rectified.

BOLD PREDICTIONS

– Columbus doesn’t win the Metro, does meet Pittsburgh in the first round and does eliminate them in seven.

– The Colorado Avalanche keep their core together until June.

– The NHL announces it will participate in the 2018 Olympics.

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 20: Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Kings on December 20, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH – DECEMBER 20: Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Kings on December 20, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

SEAN LEAHY, EDITOR

HART

1 – Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

2- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

3 – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

A healthy Sergei Bobrovsky is vital for the Blue Jackets’ success, as we’ve seen with this season and last season. As Columbus tries to figure out who their backup will be going forward, Bob has been excellent all season and a vital reason for their success this season. He’s started 34 of 40 games this season, recorded three shutouts and posted a .937 even strength save percentage, all while facing the fourth most shots at 5-on-5 (791).

NORRIS

1 – Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

2 – Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

3 – Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

Burns is on his way to potentially his best season yet. Offensively he’s top five in points among all players with 44 and has 17 goals already, with only 4 coming via the power play. He’s the only defenseman with at least 20 games player that’s averaging over a point per game. Lambert and Travis Yost have laid out good arguments for his inclusion.

VEZINA

1 -Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

2 – Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

3 – Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

While Bob might be more valuable, Dubnyk’s been on another level this season, reminding us of his run after he first arrived in Minnesota. A .946 ESSV over 780 EV shots faced and five shutouts. The Wild are threatening to win their second division title in franchise history and Dubnyk will be the difference maker.

CALDER

1 – Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

2 – Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

3 – Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

This is our new Sid vs. Ovi for the next decade. While Matthews has been putting up points and generating shots at a crazy rate, there’s still a chance Laine has some sort of wild second half goal scoring binge that gets him the Calder. Too bad for Werenski because he’s been outstanding for the CBJs averaging over 20 minutes a night and producing on the power play.

JACK ADAMS

1 – John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

2 – Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild

3 – Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

The Blue Jackets haven’t had a successful first half in spite of Torts. What he’s done from last year to this season is paying dividends and he’s earned the trust of his player and that’s showing with their results.

SELKE

1 – Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

2- Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames

3- Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

With Toews, Anze Kopitar and Patrice Bergeron having down first half, the door has swung open for some new faces to have a shot at the Selke. Marchand has the strong offensive numbers and great possession stats, but if these three keep up what they’re doing it’s going to be a tough call in April when the voting commences. Backlund’s been part of a great line in Calgary and Kesler is having a rebirth season with the Ducks.

MOST SURPRISING (in a good way): Eric Staal. Remember when it was looking like the end was near last season? Staal’s been a big part of the Wild’s success in 2016-17 and for all the “he’s done” talk, he’s only 32 years old. He’s in a spot where he doesn’t need to be The Man and the role he’s playing suits him well.

MOST SURPRISING (in a good way): Edmonton Oilers. The Blue Jackets are an easy pick but Connor McDavid makes Edmonton a must-watch team on Center Ice. Like Crosby did for the Penguins a decade ago, McDavid is slowly turning around that franchise. Now it’s important for Peter Chiarelli to properly build around their superstar.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks captain has never not had a 20-goal season in his NHL career, but this season it’s looking like that streak may end. Everything is down with Toews. He only has seven goals through 28 games; his shooting percentage is half (7.4%) of his career average (14.7%); and his points per game is at a career low (0.60). Maybe he’s just saving his magic for the playoffs where he really stands out?

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: New York Islanders. So, you make the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 23 years and then let Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin leave without adequate replacements? If you’re giving Andrew Ladd that money why couldn’t it have gone to Okposo? Garth Snow’s response to the Isles’ success last season is puzzling.

BOLD PREDICTIONS

– Patrik Laine goes on a goal scoring binge and finishes with 45, which will earn him the Calder

– Marc-Andre Fleury remains a Penguin through June.

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 20: Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at the Bell Centre on October 20, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC – OCTOBER 20: Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at the Bell Centre on October 20, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

JEN NEALE, EDITOR

HART

1 – Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

2 – Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

3 – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

NORRIS

1 – Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

2 – Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

3 – Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

VEZINA

1 – Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

2 – Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

3 – Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

CALDER

1 – Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

2 – Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

3 – Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

JACK ADAMS

1 – John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

2 – Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild

3 – Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals

SELKE

1 – Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

2 – Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

3 – Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

(Note: I wrote this before Carey Price gave up seven goals to Minnesota.)

I think we can all agree that Carey Price makes the Montreal Canadiens exponentially better and we’ve seen what life is like without him. That is the ultimate qualification for the MVP and the Vezina, too. If Joe Schmo backup goaltender can’t have the same sustained team success in net, then that’s the indication of a pretty darn good goalie.

I picked Laine because he’s just as outstanding of a scorer as Matthews but he has way more fun doing it (when not injured). It’s a toss up between the two.

Torts feels like a shoo-in for the Jack Adams unless the team goes into a tailspin in the second half. I look forward to speculating where he’ll land after he’s fired due to the trophy’s curse.

For the East Coasters that aren’t up to see Ryan Kesler play they’re missing a continued career renaissance. He’s still a jerk on the ice; that’s not new. But his two-way play (with shutdown linemates Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg) has been even better under Randy Carlyle. He’s leading the team in scoring and tied for first with 15 goals.

MOST SURPRISING (in a good way) PLAYER – Cam Atkinson. How many general managers are cursing themselves for not taking Atkinson when he was trade bait last year?

MOST SURPRISING (in a good way) TEAM – Toronto Maple Leafs. Expectations were loooooooow coming into the season. They’re one fun team. As I write this, they’re four points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic and have more games in hand than the rest of the revision.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER – Bobby Ryan. The guy has been injured, scratched, had off ice issues and just in a general funk this year. The man carries a heavy, heavy contract in an unforgiving Canadian market to only have 15 points.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM – Florida Panthers. Two words: CLUSTER F–K.

BOLD PREDICTION

– Gut feeling, the Leafs will make the playoffs.

– Premonition from the future: some team will overpay Justin Schultz this offseason

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 7: Mascot, SJ Sharkie and Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate the win after a NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at SAP Center at San Jose on January 7, 2017 in San Jose, California. The Sharks defeated the Red Wings 6-3. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA – JANUARY 7: Mascot, SJ Sharkie and Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate the win after a NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at SAP Center at San Jose on January 7, 2017 in San Jose, California. The Sharks defeated the Red Wings 6-3. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

JOSH COOPER, EDITOR

HART

1 – Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

2 – Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

3 – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

To me, Burns has been the most important player to his team this season. He is averaging almost 25 minutes of ice-time per-game, scoring at a point per-game clip and also getting some tough match-ups in the process. Because of Burns’ play, the Sharks have been able to overcome down years from some of their veterans and injuries to some of their core.

The Columbus Blue Jackets wouldn’t be the best team in the NHL without Sergei Bobrovsky, and Sidney Crosby has once again proved himself to be the most talented player in the league. But for me, Burns does it all for the Sharks and impacts more parts of the game for his team than any other player in the league. Jeff Carter also gets an honorable mention.

NORRIS

1 – Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

2 – Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

3 – Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

The Norris Trophy is supposed to go to the best all-around defenseman, and to me, Burns has proved himself an all-situations blue liner. I love the season that Victor Hedman is having, but it’s hard to see him winning this award if his team doesn’t make the playoffs.

Duncan Keith is back to being the Chicago Blackhawks’ maestro and Erik Karlsson’s all-around play has taken a step in the right direction under first-year Senators coach Guy Boucher. Just missing the cut are Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, who I think are having solidly productive, and underrated, years for their teams.

VEZINA

1 – Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

2 – Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

3 – Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Dubnyk’s lights-out play has helped the Minnesota Wild to the best points percentage in the Western Conference over the first half of the season. He holds a 1.77 goal-against average and a .940 save percentage to go along with five shutouts. No goaltender has matched his excellence so far. Bobrovsky has been almost as good as Dubnyk, but his numbers aren’t quite the same, which puts him a slight notch below the Wild’s netminder. Still, Bobrovsky is a phenomenal 26-6-2 in 34 games and it’s hard to see Columbus having this type of success without him.

Rask has been one of the more underrated netminders this season with a 1.95 goal-against average and .926 save percentage. His 21-9-3 record this season is way better than the 1-8-2 combined mark for backups Anton Khudobin and Zane McIntyre.

CALDER

1 – Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

2 – Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

3 – Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

Matthews and Laine are almost equal statistically, but I’ll take the Toronto Maple Leafs center simply because his position he impacts more parts of the game. This is mostly a two-person race, though Werenski has been an important part of the Blue Jackets’ success.

He has played top pairing minutes and been the second-best defenseman on a team loaded on the blue line.

JACK ADAMS

1 – John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

2 – Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild

3 – Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks

This award is Tortorella’s to lose. He has turned the Blue Jackets from the fourth-worst team in the NHL to the best team in one season. Tortorella’s influence has helped Columbus also become one of the top defensive (2.23 goals allowed per-game) and offensive (3.33 goals scored per-game) teams in the league.

Boudreau has done an almost equally excellent job with the Wild and under his tutelage some of the team’s younger players, such as Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, have finally arrived as top-tier NHL producers. He has also coaxed a nice rebound season from Eric Staal.

DeBoer has been able get another solid year out of the Sharks after an exhilarating, but ultimately disappointing, run through the 2016 playoffs. That team has showed little Cup Final hangover and DeBoer’s ability to have his pulse on the group is a big reason why.

SELKE

1 – Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

2 – Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild

3 – Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

Kesler has been dominant in shutting down the opposition’s top players. He has also been the Anaheim Ducks’ top offensive player and his line with Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano has been the team’s most potent. Koivu is having arguably his finest year in the NHL and he’s a big reason why the Wild have the NHL’s second-best defense, allowing 2.10 goals per-game.

Backstrom has never been rewarded for his steady all-around play with a Selke nod, but he should this season. Though Alexander Ovechkin often gets all the praise as the team’s best forward, Backstrom does a lot defensively to make sure Ovechkin can contribute offensively.

MOST SURPRISING (in a good way) PLAYER: Eric Staal. His 38 points in 40 games this season are one less than the 39 he had all of 2015-16 over 83 games. Staal has been the offseason’s best pickup and given the Minnesota Wild a legit first-line center.

MOST SURPRISING (in a good way) TEAM: Columbus Blue Jackets. Normally a team doesn’t go from terrible to excellent in one season. The Blue Jackets somehow did this and have created a major buzz around the organization. The fans in Columbus have dealt with so much mediocrity over the years, and it’s nice to see the faith of the diehards rewarded.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Filip Forsberg. I expected so much more from Forsberg this season. At the end of last year, he looked like a young Marian Hossa, but this year, his season has been marked by major inconsistencies. He’s on pace for around 20 goals, which would be a drop-off from the 33 he scored a year ago.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Tampa Bay Lightning. Even without Steven Stamkos this team is better than a .500 group. I still believe Tampa will turn it on, make the playoffs and go on a run, but until that happens questions will continue to linger about why the Lightning has underperformed.

BOLD PREDICTION

– The Toronto Maple Leafs will make the playoffs. It’s just a gut feeling.

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 27: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins concentrates on the faceoff in an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on December 27, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Penguins won 5-2. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 27: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins concentrates on the faceoff in an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on December 27, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Penguins won 5-2. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

RYAN LAMBERT, Columnist

HART

1 – Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

2 – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

3 – Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

NORRIS

1 – Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

2 – Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

3 – Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

VEZINA

1 -Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

2 – Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

3 – Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

CALDER

1 – Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

2 – Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

3 – Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

JACK ADAMS

1 – Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins

2 – Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs

3 – John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

SELKE

1 – Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames

2 – Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

3 – Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

The Oilers without Connor McDavid go from decent playoff team to one of the worse teams in the league, full stop. Crosby’s great and everything obviously but he has multiple All-Stars on his team. McDavid has a bunch of guys who aren’t close to his talent level and can barely keep up with him.

Brent Burns is far and away the Norris favorite right now, and I’d expect most people’s ballots to reflect that. Unlike Drew Doughty, he’s due because he’s been one of the two or three best defensemen in the league for years and he’s actually having his best season right now.

The only reason the Wild are where they are is because Dubnyk has stood on his head to this point. Does it last? Probably not, but there’s currently no reason not to give it to him.

Matthews is the irrefutable choice for Rookie of the Year. Teenagers just don’t do this sort of thing in the NHL today.

Unlike John Tortorella, who everyone is going to pick in keeping with the Bad Coach Of Bad Team With Huge PDO corollary, Mike Sullivan actually just has the best team in hockey, and he has it humming along the way it has for 100 games at this point.

I wrote about it last week but Backlund and his line have been incredible this year. Everyone else takes a back seat.

MOST SUPRRISING (in a good way) PLAYER: Auston Matthews.

MOST SUPRRISING (in a good way) TEAM: Minnesota Wild.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Jonathan Toews.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Tampa Bay Lightning.

I think we can all agree Matthews was going to be a good player right away, but if he finishes in the 40-goals-and-75-points range he seems to be approaching right now, that’s beyond all expectations. Huge reason the Leafs are as good as they’ve been.

I kinda thought the Wild would be mediocre, and I was a little bummed for Bruce Boudreau that he probably wasn’t going to keep up the streak of winning his division. But right now? They’re eight points up on St. Louis with two fewer games played, and only four back of Chicago with FIVE games in hand. I’m not convinced they’re going to end up coming all that close, but that’d be something.

Toews doesn’t really drive possession like he used to. He only has seven goals and 21 points this season. He’s on pace for his worst season ever. Which is weird because he’s only 28.

Yeah didn’t we all have them going back to the Eastern Conference Final? What happened there? It’s not just injuries. It can’t be.

BOLD PREDICTION FOR SECOND HALF

– Columbus falls apart around Game 65 and loses 10 of their last 17, and people act like they’re totally shocked and can’t believe this team didn’t shoot 11 percent all season.

– And I still think the Cup Final is a repeat of last year.

Here’s how our voting looks in table form:

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