Every year the NHL awards showcase the great talent in the game. These awards were, when first devised, meant to be awarded to very specific players with a very clear definition.
Over time this has changed. The Hart award is, by definition, supposed to be given to the player most valuable to his team. In the modern NHL is it usually given to the best offensive player on a playoff team. The Norris, was originally supposed to be for the best defenseman. In the modern NHL it is awarded to be the best offensive defenseman. Defensive skills are secondary as demonstrated with wins by players like PK Subban and Brent Burns.
Using the original criteria, here are the players, coaches, and management that deserve the awards this year.
Hart Trophy: Taylor Hall
Is there any single player more important to his team than Taylor Hall this year? His 72 points are 31 more than the next leading player, Nico Hischier. He has put the team on his back and is single-handedly willing them into the playoffs. His 25 straight games (and counting) with at least one point is among the longest runs in the league in the last 20 years.
Hall has historically been a huge driven of even strength point production but this year has added the threat of scoring with the man advantage as well. After years of injuries and being burdened by playing on an incredibly badly constructed team in Edmonton, his elite abilities are now on full display.
Norris Trophy: Victor Hedman
This award is long overdue and should be an easy win for the big Swede this year. Year after year Hedman seemed to suffer from the injury bug while slowed down his development a bit but he is now the best defenseman in the league and it is not really that close. Since the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, Hedman is second in scoring with 121 points in 140 games. The only defenseman ahead of him is Brent Burns who scored 128 points in 148 games.
Hedman drives possession and plays in all situations. His defensive abilities are unmatched by any other Norris candidate.
Hedman is also the closest competitor behind Taylor Hall for the Hart. This value to his team was demonstrated by the struggles the Lightning had when Hedman was out of the line up with an injury earlier this year.
Calder Memorial Trophy: Matthew Barzal
The Calder race this year has been incredibly entertaining. A red-hot start for Clayton Keller had pundits awarding him this trophy in October. As he cooled off, Brock Boeser shot to the top of the list. While Barzal was doing well, Boeser showed off his elite shot and hockey IQ and looked to be the easy choice through the first half of the season.
In December, however, the Canucks cooled and Barzal exploded. Numerous multi-point games and quality players on his wings have boosted him to the top of the rookie scoring list.
While looking like a lock, Barzal is quite streaky and the Islanders have begun a terrible slide. Boeser could easily close the gap with a hot streak to throw a wrench into this prediction.
Vezina Trophy: Pekka Rinne
With everyone saying this is the year of Andrei Vasilevski, I believe the award should go to Pekka Rinne. Statistically, he has been the better goalie, although it has been close. A huge factor in my mind is that, while both goalies play behind very good defensive cores, Vasilevski also has the benefit of playing behind the best offense in the league. No team has scored more than Tampa Bay which allows Vasilevski to play with a lead more often.
This is taking nothing away from the outstanding young Tamp Goalie. He will certainly win the Vezina in his career but this year, his stats are slightly below Rinne. That should allow the veteran to take home the hardware.
Jack Adams Award: Gerard Gallant
Expansion team leading their division and currently in 3rd place in league standings. This is not a prediction this is a 100% airtight guarantee. Mortgage your home and bet on it. (Just joking… never gamble your home for any reason!)
GM Of The Year: Joe Sakic
While it is almost certainly going to be either George McPhee or Steve Yzerman who wins this award I believe it is the much beleaguered Joe Sakic who earned it this year. His patience during the Matt Duchene experience netted his team a wealth of assets that will improve his team dramatically in very short order. It is true that this was only possible with a perfect storm of a three-team deal, it is still a great accomplishment.
George McPhee deserves credit for the team he put together and they play a good style of hockey but they have a goalie playing well above his career numbers which will correct next year. This off season could net McPhee the award net year if they pursue and land John Carlson and John Tavares.
Steve Yzerman is an incredible GM but, in my opinion, he dropped the ball this year. When you are offered an elite defenseman like Erik Karlsson and you make your second line center an “untouchable asset” to kill the deal, you disqualify yourself from GM of the year contention.