Everything Else

Make sure I got that one right, as a real horse-racing fan should. Anyway, there’s really less than a quarter of the season left, but now’s as good of a time as any to see who should rack up the hardware at the end of the year, though most probably won’t. As always, a metric-look is usually involved here.

Hart Trophy (MVP) – Nikita Kucherov

Yes, I know. Patrick Kane has a case. He’s playing with worse players and his numbers aren’t all that far off from Kucherov’s. He is single-handedly keeping a dogshit team barely relevant, and without him the Hawks would be a shoe-in for top spot in the lottery and the Hawks would be a monolith to sadness and confusion (most of these arguments also apply to Connor McDavid, but let’s leave that for a second. And the Oilers are that monolith). That’s all well and good and if you say that I won’t tell you you’re wrong. But like we said at every other checkpoint on this, 130 points is 130 points like a football in the groin is a football in the groin. Kucherov is more a reason those other players are really good than vice versa. These things just don’t have to be that hard.

Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie) – John Gibson

Next week, this won’t be the case and you’ll probably have to give it Vasilevskiy. That is unless Gibson returns and kills it for the season’s last month. But no one was facing more attempts and better chances than Gibson, and until recently no one was turning more of them away at a better rate than he should have been, according to expected-save-percentage. He dropped off the last month, crumbling under the weight of a fucking quarry that Carlyle and the Ducks put on him, but if he can put up a good last month it should be his. It won’t be, and the Lightning will add this to the haul of trophies they’re likely to get. Gibson should get it because the Ducks will have actually killed him by April 1st and it’ll make a nice marker for his grave.

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman) – Erik Karlsson
This is going to be Mark Giordano‘s Lifetime Achievement Award, and I don’t really have a problem with that. And Karlsson’s recent bout of ouchiness would probably preclude him anyway. But on a good possession team to begin with, Karlsson stands out over everyone with how much more he pushes his team forward than they do without him. It’s basically him and Dougie Hamilton. Karlsson can’t buy a bucket for himself, shooting less than 1% somehow at even-strength. But he’s still in all the right places and in fact he’s getting more shots for himself than he has before. He’s going to drag this team with its shitty goaltending to a conference final at least by the dick, and everyone will probably shrug because we’re so accustomed. He’s a goddamn treasure.

Rod Langway Award (Best defensive defenseman, doesn’t actually exist) – Niklas Hjalmarsson

Boy, that hurts. But no one gets buried in their zone more to start than Hammer and OEL and according to the metrics, no one does a better job of limiting chances at a rate above their team’s than Hjalmarsson. Even though you’ve won half the battle against them by starting in the right end, they’re not allowing you any chances. So this didn’t go according to plan at all.

Calder Trophy (Rookie) – WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?!

Again, I only put this in so my one Canucks fan friend doesn’t yell at me, because otherwise I don’t care.

Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) – Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Yep, a fucking teenager. But no forward limits expected goals and attempts against at less of a rate than any of his teammates than this kid. They’re still going to give it to Patrice Bergeron, which like, fine, but at some point you have to find someone new. And it’s going to be Kotkaniemi. In two years you just watch, every Canadiens fan and media is going to stamp their feet and wet themselves until he gets the recognition that Bergeron does simply because they can’t have the Bruins having that over them, and everyone will go along with it just to get them to shut up. Except this time they’ll be right.

Everything Else

Time to check in on what the NHL individual awards should be. If you’re new, first of all what are you doing here this place is nuts!, and second every so often I like to look at what the NHL awards should be if voters actually paid attention to what matters. There isn’t as much deviation as you’d think from how it will go, but there is some. So let’s get in up to the elbow.

Hart Trophy – Nikita Kucherov

This will seem simple. Again, an MVP award always settles into an annoying debate about whether it’s simply a “Player Of The Year” award, which it should be, or a “Most Valuable To His Team” as if you could somehow measure that. To me, it’s the former. And even that can end in debate, because in hockey it’s hard to separate what a player is doing himself from what linemates might be helping him with.

And then you see Kucherov is on pace for 135 points this year and the whole discussion seems kind of dumb.

Sure, he’s on a line with Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, and that doesn’t hurt. It would also be the problem with handing it to Mikko Rantanen or Nathan MacKinnon, who play with each other. Johnny Gaudreau has Sean Monahan. I’m not sure any of this matters, as the production is the production.

Again, 135 points. Seems pretty clear.

Honorable Mentions – Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane

I have this feeling that before the year is out, Run CMD is going to make some insane run to try and drag his scrapyard-constructed Oilers team into the playoffs, and might end up with 130 points himself. And he probably won’t have nearly the help that the others do, unless Leon Draisaitl ends up on his line again. And that didn’t prevent his first Hart Trophy. If you need someone who’s doing it by himself, and we’ll write about this more tomorrow, it’s the local option. Kane has spent most of his year playing with either Nick Schmaltz, who was royally fucking up his free agent year, or Dylan Strome who is still below 80 NHL games and is very much finding his way, or the totem pole that is Artem Anisimov. And he’s sixth in scoring on his way to 100 points. So he has a serious case.

Calder Trophy – Elias Pettersson

I’m only putting this in here because the only Canucks fan in my life hasn’t stopped bitching that I didn’t include this in our quarter season assessment, and I’m hoping doing it now will get him off my goddamn back. Also, there isn’t any debate here and this is easy. Everyone gets to walk with this Elias, although I suppose if Collin Delia maintains a .940 SV% the rest of the season, maybe we’ll be assholes and try and build him up.

Also Elias allows for even more jokes besides wrestling ones…no seriously, Dude, he’s a Pettersson with a record.

Honorable Mention – fuck off, there’s no one else

Selke Trophy – Anthony Cirelli

Yes, this is where we get weird. This is where we try and find our Jacob deGrom/Felix Hernandez Cy Young, where a victory for the metrics punches through the old guard. It won’t ever happen, and Patrice Bergeron is going to win this again especially as he’s been a point-per-game, and you can’t win this award without scoring. Which is annoyingly dumb, because nowhere is scoring mentioned in the term, “Best Defensive Forward.” The idea is to play defense.

So we’re opting for Cirelli, who is top-five in relative attempts-against, shots-against, and scoring-chances against, and that’s relative to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who don’t give up any chances and shots anyway. So he’s basically muzzling everything across from him to the point of zesting it. Sure, he’s not taking the hardest assignments and his zone starts have him kind of in the middle of the pack, but no one gets anything going against him and his line.

And he’ll be no closer to winning this award than I am.

Honorable Mention – Fredric Gaudreau, David Kampf

Totally serious on the last one. All the Hawks do is bleed high-danger chances against, and Kampf somehow prevents them. He’s in the top five in relative high-danger chances against.

Norris Trophy – Erik Karlsson

There are plenty of reasons that E.K. is wonderful, and one of them is that he sits comfortably at the nexus of crusty hockey thinking and forward hockey thinking, as oxymoronic of a term as that might be. Generally this goes to the d-man who scores the most, and Karlsson is currently fifth in the league in that and has been zooming up the charts. Don’t be shocked if he ends up leading before too long. He also has glowing metrics, in the top five in attempts-share and shots-share and chance-share. He’s utterly dominating play, but you wouldn’t know it from all the people bitching about the Sharks perceived lack of success because their goaltending sucks. You don’t have to overthink this. He’s the best d-man on the planet and he’s who the Hawks should be planning to throw a monster truck of money at this summer instead of Artemi “I’ll Wait Over Here” Panarin.

Honorable Mention – Dougie Hamilton

Rod Langway Award – Niklas Hjalmarsson

This is what the award would be if it was just about defense, which I don’t think it has to be but if you were to split it. And it hurts to put this, because Connor Murphy has been good here this year with little help. But Hammer starts more shifts than just about anyone in his own zone, and is far and away getting the play up the ice more than anyone who starts as often in his own end than he does. Sure, it helps to play with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but let’s not punish.

Honorable Mention – Josh Manson

Vezina Trophy – John Gibson

The Ducks are just as terrible of a defensive team as the Hawks. They give up just about the same amount of scoring chances and high-danger chances per game. Whereas the Hawks have already broken two goalies, Gibson is carrying a .923. The Ducks suck on the penalty kill too, and Gibson is maintaining a .904 SV% there. He’s somehow kept a decrepit Ducks squad being piloted by an actual undercooked ham around the playoff picture. It’s his to lose.

Honorable Mention – Ben Bishop, Freddie Andersen

Everything Else

Something I like to do at the landmarks of every season. Most of these are the players that should win certain awards on analytic bases. But they probably won’t. And remember, the “quarter-pole” is when there’s a quarter of the race or season left, and you’ll hear plenty make this mistake. Including Pat Foley on Sunday night, which should never happen considering who is broadcast partner is. Anyway…

Hart Trophy – MVP: Conor McDavid or Patrice Bergeron

The problem with MVP debates in every sport in this country is that they split between “Player Of The Year” candidates, which is what the award should be, and some nebulous, indefinable “What This Player Means To His Team” connotation. And no one is going to hear the other side, and I’m one of them. As it seems to me, “most valuable” means “has the most value,” it’s simple. And you’ll never be able to define what would happen if you remove a player from a team without any doubt. Call me a lunatic, but removing the best player from any team is probably going to irreparably damage it.

Anyway, Connor McDavid is the best player in the league. So you don’t have to overthink it. Yes, a section of Avalanche fans (ones with names like “Anthrax”) are going to come running with weaponry in hand about Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, who should have won it last year. They have each other and Gabriel ThreeYaksAndADog. McDavid has been playing with Nugent-Hopkins and a various sculptures made of boogers.

You could also give this to Patrice Bergeron, and it will be the only time you can as he’s going to miss the next month. The Bruins have half of a roster and are still near the top of the Atlantic because Bergeron has kept their one line humming. See what happens to Brad Marchand now.

Vezina – Best Goalie: Pekka Rinne

I don’t like it any more than you, but he’s been the best goalie. He’s got the best overall SV% of any starter, the best SV% at even-strength of any starter, and the best difference between his expected save-percentage and his actual save-percentage at evens. That’s a clean sweep.

Selke – Best Defensive Forward: Jonathan Marchessault

Ah, here’s where the fun begins. Normally, the Selke goes to whatever forward scores a lot and everyone knows wins a lot of draws, or it just goes to Patrice Bergeron. And Bergeron is never a wrong choice, but we can do better this year. If you’re looking for best defensive forward, then you want someone who keeps attempts down, keeps chances down, keeps scoring down. And Marchessault, and his linemates William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, are doing that better than anyone right now.

Marchessault leads all forwards in Corsi-against per 60, shots-against per 60, and expected goals-against per 60. Karlsson and Smith aren’t far behind him, so you can claim that’s all the line’s work. But any defensive forward is going to be hard to separate from the rest of his line. Marchessault is starting 51% of his shifts in the offensive zone, which is one of the lower marks in the league among forwards who have amassed 300 minutes of even-strength time. Anze Kopitar actually starts the least amount of shifts in the offensive zone, and his metrics aren’t that far behind Marchessault’s, so if you want to make a case for him I’d listen. Actually, I won’t, because Kings fans have spent so much time spilling out their bladders about how they get no award attention that they should all be punted into the ocean.

This award never goes to a winger though, otherwise Marian Hossa would have at least one. But if hockey voting is going to catch up to the rest of the world, it should. Marchessault is your clubhouse leader.

Norris Trophy – Best D-man: Justin Faulk

Yeah, that’s fucking right. I’m gonna hand this to a guy with just eight points. Because I’m fucking crazy. TALK TO ME WHN YOU’RE ON MY BLOCK.

The Norris suffers from a lack of definition as well. It almost always goes to the blue-liner who scores the most. And then there’s a nutcase faction that wants it to be the Rod Langway Award (James Mirtle’s term), which means figuring out who the best defensive defenseman is. And we can do that, but stick with me.

So you basically have to synthesize the two. A d-man’s job is over all 200 feet of the ice these days, so they have to be able to do both. And Faulk is doing it better than anyone.

Faulk has the league’s best Corsi-percentage and expected-goals percentage. He has the lowest Corsi, shots, and expected goals against per 60. While he plays on a possession monster of a team, he’s still well above the team-rate in all of this.

The knock is going to be the eight points. Fine. Faulk is shooting 1.7%, and he’s a career 6% shooter. That goals-total is going to shoot up. Faulk’s major problem is that his team is only shooting 6.8% while he’s on the ice, and given the lack of front-line scoring on the Canes, that might not improve that much to vault his assist totals to where anyone will notice him for this award.

But that’s out of Faulk’s hands. The things he can control, he’s dominated. And if we’re forward thinking and living in a world where Jacob deGrom wins a Cy Young with 10 wins and everyone is like, “Well of course he did because he was the best pitcher and the Mets are a Soviet era cartoon,” then we can do better with hockey’s awards.

 

Everything Else

Time to get down again. For those who are new to our deranged family, every so often I like to delve into what the end-of-season awards would look like if everyone actually paid attention to what was really going on during the NHL season. This will always remain my wish, but hey, it’s fun to dream and hope. So let’s get to it.

Hart – This one’s pretty simple. You hand it to Nathan MacKinnon, or Nikita Kucherov if you’re feeling spicy. I don’t think either is a wrong choice. You could even make a case for Phil Kessel, who has kept the Penguins afloat while they try and figure shit out and kick through some fatigue. MVP is still kind of easy to measure. Goals are how games are won, and whoever is scoring and creating most of them, with the least help, probably should get the award.

Vezina – Easy as well. Hand it to Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s got the league’s highest save-percentage, and the second biggest difference between his actual save-percentage and his expected. So he’s not benefitting hugely from a great defense in front of him.

Calder – Again, this isn’t hard. Mathew Barzal. He’s on pace to have the greatest rookie scoring total in over a decade. He’s made the Islanders relevant, and even interesting even though they can’t play defense worth a shit.

Selke – Ok, this is where the rubber meets the road. As we’ve previously stated, this award always goes to a center that everyone knows, who wins a lot of draws and scores a lot too and has developed a reputation as a defensive center simply because everyone says so. And that center is always Patrice Bergeron. And that’s not entirely wrong. You can make a solid case for him every year. You can for this one. When we looked at this in mid-December, we were actually making a case for Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry. Let’s see if that’s still the case.

For best defensive forward, we should really look at who is holding down attempts against and limiting chances against. When it comes to the top five in attempts against per 60, it’s still Lowry, Bergeron, Tanev, Backes, and Marchand. Strange that they all play on the same lines, eh? (except for Backes). When it comes to types of chances against, the top five in expected goals against per 60 at evens is Mikko Koivu, Lowry, Granlund, Tanev, and Jason Zucker. Again, all linemates. So let’s try and suss it out from who’s benefitting from playing on a great defensive team. Let’s get relative.

When it comes to best relative marks to their team in attempts against per 60, Lowry leads the pack again. He’s followed by Andrew Ladd, Koivu, Brandon Martinook (huh?) and Tanev. When it comes to relative xGA/60, your leaders are Lowry, Hagelin, Kase, Martinook, and Koivu. Again, it looks like Adam Lowry should be getting some votes here. As far as context, Bergeron plays much harder competition than Lowry, but Lowry starts in the offensive zone much less than Bergeron (40% to 60% for Bergeron, though that could be that the Bruins and Bergeron in particular are always driving the play into the offensive zone). Whatever, get original and give it to Lowry.

Norris – This one’s harder. You can’t just give it to the best defensive d-man because driving the play from the back has become so important in today’s game. But it’s gotta be more complicated than just handing it to the d-man with the most points, which would be John Klingberg. If you were going simply by who let up the least chances and attempts, you’d be handing this thing to Dan Hamhuis. Do you really want to do that? No, of course you don’t. If you were going by relative marks to their team in those categories, Hampus Lindholm would have that claim.

When it comes to total contribution, possession-wise, because that’s the entire job description, the leaders in CF/60 relative to their teams are HAMPUS! HAMPUS!, Giordano, Hamilton, Karlsson and Werenski. When it comes to relative xGF%, the only names you’ll see on both lists HAMPUS! HAMPUS! and Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton faces slightly tougher competition than Hampus, and both start in the donkey end the overwhelming majority of the time.

But neither are anywhere near the top of the scoring charts, so you can forget that.

 

Everything Else

Been doing this every so often throughout the season, as we try and get a handle on who really should be taking home the baubles come June. Of course, almost none of these awards will actually go this way, because as expert as hockey people like to think they are most of them don’t look beyond “points” in any of these categories. The only caveat being when it comes to the Selke award, where they’ll also look at faceoff percentage and then points. But we can do better, and one day dorks like me will have their “King Felix Winning The Cy Young With 13 Wins” day. Until then, we’ll remain in the shadows, plotting our revenge (our next trip to Five Guys, really).

So, without further ado…whatever the hell ado is…

Everything Else

I did this a little while ago, and we’ve got a couple days here with not much to talk about. So now that the Hawks are exactly two-thirds of the way through the season, thought we’d check back in on the awards chases. And once again we’ll try and look at these things more logically than the actual voters will.

Hart – Connor McDavid

Earlier in the year, this would have been Sidney Crosby no question. But Sid’s scoring rate has slowed just a touch, and the Penguins are kinda good when Sid isn’t on the ice. When McJesus isn’t on the ice for the Oilers, they are straight up bad. Patrick Maroon already has seven more goals this season than he’s ever scored in a season. Leon Draisaitl is straight up clocking chumps. He leads the league in points. You don’t have to overthink this one much.