The Canucks saw some major NHL awards on the ice on Wednesday night. As part of the Sedins’ jersey retirement, the NHL brought out the awards the Sedins won during their careers: the Art Ross, Hart, Ted Lindsay and King Clancy. The Sedins even brought their 2006 gold medals along.
The sight of so much hardware should be inspirational to the current Canucks: could any of them hoist some hardware of their own at the end of the season?
Quinn Hughes is one of the favourites for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Jacob Markstrom has worked his way into the Vezina conversation as one of the NHL’s top goaltenders.
This week, Colby Armstrong even said that Markstrom should be in contention for the Hart trophy, while Troy Stecher suggested that Hughes is a Norris candidate. Those are bold takes, but they’re not as outlandish as they might sound.
As suggested by an email from a longtime Bulie, is there a way the Canucks can win every single NHL Award this year? This may sound impossible — insane, even — but I think there is a way the Canucks can sweep the NHL Awards. Let’s break it down.
Calder Memorial Trophy - Rookie of the Year
We’re going to start with the most easily attainable of the major awards: the Calder. If Quinn Hughes can keep ahead of Cale Makar in points, he should have the Calder in the bag, though you should keep an eye on 25-year-old Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets as he tries to Jordan Binnington his way to the Calder with a shortened run of goaltending brilliance.
Vezina Trophy - Top Goaltender
“Markstrom” and “Vezina” are showing up in the same sentences more and more lately, so he’s in contention. For those who pay attention to the fancier side of stats, Markstrom shouldn’t just be in the Vezina conversation — he should be the frontrunner.
Checking on Jacob Markstrom’s updated #s @csahockey after record-setting, 49-save shutout on Sedin night: leads NHL with +22.06 goal differential (ie. how many he’s saved Canucks based on quality and number of shots), ahead of Rask (15.22), Lehner (14.06) and Hellebuyck (13.76)— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) February 14, 2020
In order to sew up the Vezina, which is voted on by the general managers of all 31 NHL teams, he’ll likely need to move up the ranks in the more traditional statistics like save percentage, wins, and goals against average. That likely means moving north of .920 in save percentage, with Ben Bishop and Connor Hellebuyck faltering.
Hart Trophy - MVP
This is where it starts to get tough. The wording of the Hart, that it is given to “the player judged to be the most valuable to his team,” means it’s not just a “best player” award, though that’s typically how it’s treated.
Jacob Markstrom has an argument for being the most valuable player for the Canucks, as they wouldn’t be atop the Pacific Division without his brilliant goaltending this season. Is that enough for voters to look past 100-plus point seasons for the likes of Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon?
What if the Oilers miss the playoffs and Draisaitl and McDavid’s impressive individual seasons are judged to be less valuable because of it? What if voters look at Pastrnak’s linemates and question just how valuable he’d be without Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand? What if Nathan MacKinnon contracts the mumps?
Maybe, just maybe, Markstrom could become just the eighth goaltender ever to win the Hart.
James Norris Memorial Trophy - Top Defenceman
As crazy as it seems, Hughes ought to be considered a legitimate contender for the Norris as a 20-year-old rookie. He’s fifth among defencemen in scoring and is already the NHL’s best defenceman in the transition game, according to statistics tracked by Corey Sznajder.
Defensemen leaderboard— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) February 13, 2020
Crazy, unbelievable year for young defensemen: Hughes leads *everyone* and Makar, Fox, and Marino are here too.
Lots of usual suspects along with those youngsters. pic.twitter.com/MWYW7eIP26
In order to actually win, however, Hughes will likely need to catch John Carlson and Roman Josi in scoring. That means he’ll need 25 points over the final 24 games, while Carlson stops scoring entirely and Josi cuts his scoring rate in half. Completely feasible.
Art Ross Trophy - Top Point Scorer
With 24 games remaining, Elias Pettersson or J.T. Miller — but let’s be honest, probably Pettersson — will have to go on a monstrous run to be in the running for the Art Ross.
Pettersson and Miller are tied for 18th in the NHL at 57 points; Leon Draisaitl leads the league with 90 points.
Let’s say that Draisaitl slows down a bit in his team’s final 25 games, but still puts up a point-per-game, while everyone else behind him — other than Pettersson and/or Miller — also slows down. That gives Draisaitl 115 points, which is perfectly respectable.
That means Pettersson and/or Miller would need 58 points in 25 games to catch Draisaitl, which is totally doable. Consider this: in Pettersson’s first two games as a rookie, he had five points. That works out to 62.5 points over 25 games. Pettersson, with an extra year of experience under his belt, can match that easily.
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy - Top Goal Scorer
You’ll note that I only said that Pettersson or Miller would need 58 points, which would theoretically tie Draisaitl. That’s because the person that does so — Pettersson — will also be winning the Rocket Richard with the most goals.
Pettersson leads the Canucks in goals with 23, just ahead of Miller’s 22. Currently, David Pastrnak and Auston Matthews are tied for the league lead with 41 goals.
Let’s assume that Pastrnak and Matthews stop scoring — because, let’s admit it, they’ve both been extraordinarily lucky. Pettersson would just need 18 goals to catch them and 19 to pass them. Easy.
You don’t think Pettersson, who started off his career with 10 goals in 10 games, can’t score 19 goals in 25 games? It’s almost too easy. In fact, let’s look at how many goals it has taken in recent years to win: over the last ten years, the average Rocket Richard winner has scored 49 goals.
All it will take for Pettersson to score 49 goals is to go a goal-per-game — as he’s already done before in his career — and then score an extra goal somewhere along the line. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy - Gentlemanly Conduct
This award typically goes to the player that scores the most while simultaneously taking the fewest penalties, which is a weird definition of “gentleman.” Wouldn’t you rather have the player who, in extreme good-sportsman-like fashion, calls penalties on himself? Elias Pettersson, come on down.
Besides, Pettersson already takes so few penalties and can frequently be seen apologizing to people on the ice that he’s knocked down, even by accident.
If not Pettersson, who perhaps is too fiercely competitive to be considered, how about Brock Boeser or Bo Horvat? Both of them have just 14 minutes in penalties, while still on-pace for 60-plus points. Considering the frontrunner for the award might be Auston Matthews with his six penalty minutes, don’t you believe the NHL would rather give an award for gentlemanly conduct to a prince like Boeser instead of someone who was accused of assault and public sexual indecency this summer?
Better give it to a Canuck, just to be safe.
Ted Lindsay Award - Most Outstanding Player
This award is voted on by the players and it’s hard for a goaltender to win, likely because in order to be outstanding, you have to really, really frustrate a huge portion of your voting base.
So, let’s look instead to Pettersson, who will already be winning the Art Ross and the Rocket Richard. You don’t think the players won’t vote for Pettersson to win the Ted Lindsay after that kind of performance?
William M. Jennings Trophy - Goalie(s) with Fewest Goals Against
OK, this one gets tough. As good as Markstrom has been — and Demko as well — the Canucks are still middle-of-the-road in goals against. They’re currently 12th best in goals against per game, at 2.98.
They’ll have to bring that way down to catch the Boston Bruins at 2.36 goals against per game. Let’s assume the Bruins hold strong at that number: how many goals can the Canucks allow over their final 25 games to bring their goals against average down to 2.35?
With some simple algebra, we can find that the goals against over 82 games for a team with a 2.35 goals against average is 192.7, but we can bump that up to 193 and get by with rounding.
The Canucks have allowed 173 goals so far this season. That means they can only allow 20 more goals over their final 25 games, so they’ll need some shutouts along the way. Fortunately, that will also boost Markstrom’s save percentage and help his argument for the Vezina and Hart, so it’s win-win, really.
Mark Messier Leadership Award - Blah, blah, blah
This isn’t a real award.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy - Qualities of Perseverance and Sportsmanship
In my books, this award should be Markstrom’s. Markstrom has an amazing story of perseverance, working his way through years of disappointment to finally become not just an NHL starter, but one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Markstrom is also having the best season of his career while simultaneously dealing with the loss of his father to cancer. Markstrom is the most inspirational figure in the NHL this season. Period.
King Clancy Memorial Trophy - Leadership and Humanitarian Contribution
The Sedins set the standard in Vancouver for humanitarian contributions. For a Canuck to win it this year will likely require some sort of grand gesture in the form of a sizeable charitable donation from someone with a hefty salary. Look, I don’t mean to point fingers, Loui Eriksson, but…
Frank J. Selke Trophy - Top Defensive Forward
As strange as it may seem, this may be the toughest award for a Canuck to win this year. We can joke about Pettersson rattling off goals and points to finish the season or Markstrom posting a dozen shutouts over 25 games, but in order to win the Selke, you basically already have to be considered a top defensive forward, and none of the Canucks have earned that reputation.
That’s why the trick will be to trade for Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers. For this to work, the Flyers will have to crash down the standings in the next ten days, which would only be a four-game losing streak. In the hyper-competitive Eastern Conference, however, that might be enough to drop them out of contention to the point they become sellers at the deadline.
Then the Canucks have to convince the Flyers to trade Couturier somehow, without trading one of their key award winners. That means Eriksson is out, as he has to win the King Clancy.
I’m not sure how to make it work, but that’s for Jim Benning to figure out, because I don’t see another way to get a Selke winner on this roster.
Presidents’ Trophy - Best Overall Record
We’re almost there. The Canucks currently have the 11th best record in the NHL. The Bruins are on-pace for 116 points. If the Canucks run the table — perfectly reasonable if they’re getting a dozen shutouts from Markstrom, 26 goals from Pettersson and Norris-caliber defence from Hughes — they’ll finish the season with 119 points.
Jack Adams Award - Coach of the Year
You better believe that Travis Green is winning Coach of the Year if he takes a team that missed the playoffs in four-straight years and wins the Presidents’ Trophy. This one’s a lock.
Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award - Self Explanatory
Same as above. If the Canucks finish the regular season atop the NHL, there’s no way that Jim Benning doesn’t win GM of the Year, especially after pulling off an incredible trade to get Sean Couturier at the deadline.
Stanley Cup - NHL Playoff Champion
With the Canucks the hottest team in the league with the NHL’s best forward, defenceman, and goaltender, not to mention an outstanding defensive forward in Couturier, you have to believe they’ll be favourites to win the Stanley Cup. I say they do it.
Conn Smythe - MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
If the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, there’s no doubt that a Canuck will also win the Conn Smythe. My money’s on Markstrom, but don’t discount Pettersson, Hughes, Miller, or Couturier. Then again, perhaps Horvat will turn it on in the playoffs and go on a captainly run to spread out the awards a little.
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl - Playoff Champion of the Western Conference
Obviously, if they win the Stanley Cup, the Canucks will have to be Western Conference Champions. That’s it, folks, a clear path to the Canucks winning every single NHL Award this season…
Prince of Wales Trophy - Playoff Champion of the Eastern Conference
... Ah, crap.