Trophies are true representatives of success, whether earned via scoring the most points or by being voted by league members to be the most valuable player. Trophies can also represent a truer team stat, though some goalies deserve nods for being the reason behind their teams’ success.
Below is the second installment of updates tracking various accolades throughout the NHL. The previous article within this series analyzed the following trophies: Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Hart, and the Calder Trophy. This article diversifies from total point awards to more voter-driven nominations, delving into possible trophy selections for the following categories: James Norris (best defenceman), Vezina (top goaltender), Jack Adams (best coach), and the Selke (best two-way/defensive forward).
James Norris Memorial Trophy
The James Norris Trophy is awarded to the best all-around defenceman. Though recently it has generally been given to the defenceman who nets the most points, such as Cale Makar, it is a nomination again this season. Yet, the argument for Makar’s repeat, which generally rests on the laurels of point total, could be more substantial as he ranks fifth in points, but only 35% of points have come at even strength.
Josh Morrissey, or “Norrisey” as he has been proclaimed, is having a breakout season, but the underlying metrics do not strongly support Morrissey’s argument. Although Morrissey has sustained success with above-average goal production at even strength, other statistics reveal he needs to control the quality and quantity of shots better to receive more significant consideration.
The top three in the Norris race are Adam Fox, Rasmus Dahlin, and the current favourite, Erik Karlsson. Though the race between two and three is reasonably competitive, and both do and will continue to push Karlsson for the award, Karlsson’s career resurgence nominates him as the favourite. Fox and Dahlin hold a slight edge in individual wins generated (Point Share), and supporting metrics indicate Fox may be marginally better in a few categories.
Still, Karlsson is too essential to San Jose’s success. Not only does Karlsson hold a ten-point lead in the scoring race, but two-thirds of the points come at 5v5, indicating that Karlsson’s production is independent of the power play. Furthermore, Karlsson posts above-league-average underlying statistics, found within the top 25 of most offensive and defensive categories, and significantly controls the number of high-danger chances for and against.
The Vezina Trophy generally goes to the league’s top goaltender. Although Jake Oettinger and Juuse Saros are within the top five of the Vezina rankings, the two place as honourable mentions behind the three-headed monster of Linus Ullmark, Connor Hellebuyck, and Ilya Sorokin. The consideration for including Oettinger is his continued strong performance in most conventional and underlying metrics, placing him in the top five of each category.
Saros, on the other hand, is willing the Nashville Predators to the playoffs through his play. Although his save percentage is low considered to the rest of the field, Saros’ goalie point share measuring the number of wins generated through individual play is a top-three mark in the league.
Hellebuyck and Sorokin should be strongly considered due to two reasons. Including the workhorse load each shoulder’s for their respective teams, alongside placing within the top three goalie point shares. These netminders are also within the top three of most categories, including save percentage (SV%), goals saved above expected (GSAx), and goals saved above average (GSAA).
However, Ullmark should be considered the favourite to win this award at this point of the season. Like Karlsson’s career resurgence, Ullmark has posted league and career-best statistics. Ullmark has won a staggering 82% of his starts and leads the league in goals-against average, SV%, GSAX, and GSAA. The argument against Ullmark may be due to goalie win shares or five fewer starts than Hellebuyck or Sorokin. Still, the level of Ullmark’s play exceeded that of the rest of the league’s netminders, proving he should be a primary candidate to receive the award.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
|Ranking||Player||GP||+/-||Tk||CF% (Lge Rk)||SCF% (Lge Rk)||DPS|
|1||Patrice Bergeron||42||18||23||60.61% (10th)||65.63% (2nd)||1.4|
|2||Mark Stone||43||11||47||52.59% (109th)||53.59% (91st)||1.4|
|3||Mikael Backlund||44||9||31||61.95% (3rd)||60.35% (15th)||1.2|
|4||Roope Hintz||40||23||12||55.28% (41st)||58.67% (27th)||1.5|
|5||Tomas Tatar||42||26||15||60.09 (12th)||63.84 (4th)||1.6|
Admittedly, finding candidates to quantify Selke nominations for the best defensive/two-way forward proved more difficult than initially thought. Though not known as the strongest two-way players, Tomas Tatar and Roope Hintz should receive consideration for this trophy.
Hintz provides reasoning through his high plus-minus, indicating that he generates offensively while being defensively responsible and is also within the top ten of forward defensive point shares, a measurement of the number of points/wins contributed by their defensive play. Tatar’s strong play, including the third-best plus-minus for forwards, is supported by his ability to excel and place within the top 15 forwards league-wide at controlling shot quantity and quality.
Mark Stone and Mikael Backlund are notoriously strong defensive forwards, excelling at either takeaways or, similar to Tatar, the ability to control the opposition’s shot quality and quantity. Unfortunately for Stone, he is currently listed as week to week, and recognition for the award may fall the longer the injury timeline extends. Therefore, Backlund will likely be considered the runner-up to Patrice Bergeron, the five-time Selke winner.
Bergeron is the league’s best centreman, winning 63% of his draws, a statistic that implies the Boston Bruins immediately gain puck possession on roughly two-thirds of the draws Bergeron takes. Additionally, Bergeron ranks second among forwards in his ability to control puck possession, tenth in generating scoring chances for/mitigating scoring chances against, and ranks sixth among forwards in plus-minus.
Jack Adams Award
|Ranking||Coach||Team||Record||W%||CF% Tm Rk||XGF% Tm Rk||SCF% Tm Rk|
|1||Rod Brind’Amour||Carolina Hurricanes||27–9–8||.705||1||1||2|
|2||Jim Montgomery||Boston Bruins||34–5–4||.837||7||3||3|
|3||Lindy Ruff||New Jersey Devils||29–12–3||.693||3||2||1|
|4||Rick Bowness||Winnipeg Jets||29–14–1||.670||19||20||19|
|5||Dave Hakstol||Seattle Kraken||26–13–4||.651||13||19||9|
The Jack Adams Award rewards the league’s best coach. Although it is difficult to avoid being involved in narratives built around specific NHL teams, each coach can explain why they are the most deserving of the Jack Adams.
For example, the inclusion of Rick Bowness and Dave Hakstol is due to the impact the two coaches have had by taking their respective teams. Bowness from taking a Winnipeg Jets team that missed the playoffs last year to now leading the Central Division. Hakstol has turned around the expansion Seattle Kraken from a lottery pick team to rolling out a seven-game win streak through Canada to challenging Vegas for the top of the Pacific Division.
Although the two coaches mentioned above provide reasoning for a worst-to-first narrative, they do not give the supporting measurements of Lindy Ruff, Jim Montgomery, and Rod Brind’Amour. Ruff has also turned around the New Jersey Devils and deserves consideration on this list. His team ranks among the top three in the following categories: puck possession, shot quality generation, and has the most significant ratio of scoring chances for compared to scoring chances against.
Likewise, Montgomery deserves a nod for his work in his first year with the Bruins, pacing the league with an 0. 837 win percentage. However, where Montgomery falters compared to Brind’Amour and possibly Ruff is due to the underlying statistics. Brind’Amour lost his number one goalie early in the season and yet has still posted a .705 win percentage. He also either leads the league or ranks second in the following underlying statistical categories: puck possession, shot quality generation, and the second best ratio of scoring chances for compared to scoring chances against, sitting behind the Devils mentioned above.
Due to the league’s tendency to award Jack Adams to the league’s winningest coach, Montgomery may receive the nod. But the cases provided by the team’s success in controlling the play and mitigating chances against offer compelling arguments for Brind’Amour or Ruff receiving the trophy.
Although this is the second installment within this series, covering the first round of Norris, Selke, Vezina, and Jack Adam’s trophies. The following update will revise awards previously covered in the first installment, including the Hart, Rocket Richard, Art Ross, and Calder. Further updates on the trophy races covered in this article will be reviewed in a month’s time.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire