The nominees for the NHL’s most coveted regular season awards are trickling in.
And we won’t argue with many of the inclusions.
In the Vezina category, Montreal’s Carey Price, Washington’s Braden Holtby and Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky are all in the running. We concur, wholeheartedly.
The Rookie of the Year and Calder Trophy looks like Auston Matthews’ to lose, however, Patrik Laine of Winnipeg and Zach Werenski of Columbus are worthy inclusions.
It’s a good bet Connor McDavid is the front-runner for the Hart as Most Valuable Player, as he has already wrapped on his first Art Ross as the league’s highest scorer.
Thinking of these type of players make fans all warm and fuzzy inside and provide for hearty debate on social media.
But, the cloud to that type of silver lining are always the players, coaches and teams that fail to provide any kind of value in a given season.
Therefore, we have come up with a worst of compilation, based on factors like poor stats, poor sportsmanship, poor leadership and overall lousy play. Here are 10, based loosely on the real awards given out in June.
10. Sean Avery Award – Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
The Ted Lindsay award is given out every season for the MVP in the league, as picked by members of the NHL Players association. Patrick Kane won last year and a safe bet would be Connor McDavid this season. So, we came up with an anti-Ted Lindsay award and named it after the league’s most hated player and it goes to Brad Marchand. Why? Because for every small step forward he takes in becoming a better hockey player, he takes a couple giant leaps back being dirty backstabber. He did have his finest season, scoring 39 goals and 46 assists, finishing fifth overall. While that was admirable, he washed away all that goodwill by being a meathead away from the puck. On Jan. 26, the repeat guest of the NHL’s department of player safety got away with only a $10,000 fine for a dangerous slew foot of Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall. Then, he ended any debate as to whether he’d be a serious Hart Trophy contender by spearing Tampa’s Jake Dotchin where the sun doesn’t shine, earning a two-game suspension. Dishonorable mention: Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators and Antoine Vermette, Anaheim Ducks.
9. Giant Sieve Award – All Colorado Avalanche Goalies
Every year, the goaltending tandem or single goalie surrendering the fewest goals against (in 25 or more games) wins the Jennings Trophy. Braden Holtby wins it this year, based on the fact he allowed just 127 goals against in 63 games and his team a league low 182 overall. Holtby is and will be for a while one of the best in the game. But, there is no award for the Swiss Cheesers out there and for that, we give the Giant Sieve award to the quartet in Colorado of: Calvin Pickard, Semyon Varlamov, Jeremy Smith and Spencer Martin. These four horsemen of a last-place apocalypse surrendered a league high 278 goals against. Varlamov gets to accept it, based on the fact he made nearly $6 million this season to allow 76 goals against in just 24 games. Calvin Pickard gets a bit of a pass, considering his salary was just $1 million. He was the starter for much of the season and let 140 pucks get past him in 50 games. The two other pylons, Jeremy Smith and Spencer Martin, will both likely be in the minors next year.
8. Ilya “Need A Map To The Defensive Zone” Kovalchuk Award – Matt Duchene, Coloarado Avalanche
Not many players who score a point-per-game in their career have bad-plus minus ratings. Except if they’re named Ilya Kovalchuk. A gifted scorer and playmaker, he killed more than one coach by being a half-assed backchecker for much of his 816 game career, logging an egregious -116 overall. That’s why we have our anti-Selke award for Worst Defensive Forward and this year it goes to Colorado’s Matt Duchene. Yes, the Avs were lousy and finished last overall with 278 goals against. But, Duchene, who was a collective -27 in seven previous seasons, completely embarrassed himself this year by posting a league worst -34 rating. This, while having his worst offensive season (41 points) since 2011-12, when he had 28 points in 58 games.
7. Anti-Masterton Trophy For Mailing It In – Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres
For $6 million per year, the Buffalo Sabres should be getting a whole lot more out of Evander Kane. Chastised often for being a selfish, cash-waving party boy, his reputation is well-earned. And that is the reason we are awarding him the Anti-Masterson, for not proving the critics wrong and dedicating himself wholeheartedly to hockey. The Sabres, who were expected to be a playoff team this year, got their GM and coach fired and while Kane was not solely responsible, he didn’t push his game to the next level. Yes, he scored 28 goals, two shy of his personal best with Atlanta/Winnipeg, however he logged a personal worst plus-minus of -17 and threw far fewer body checks per game than anytime in his eight-year career. When Buffalo limped out to a 4-5-3 record in the first 12 games, he had all of four assists and was -5. Then when his team needed his scoring the most down the stretch, Kane scored three goals in his last 13 contests (the Sabres went 5-8 to fall out of contention).
6. Tom McVie Award For Worst Coach – Darryl Sutter, L.A. Kings
Officially, Jared Bednar had the worst record in the NHL this season, but he had a whole lot less to work with than two-time Stanley Cup winning coach Darryl Sutter. So, Sutter, who was fired after the Kings missed the playoffs this year gets to wear the goat horns as this season’s worst coach. There were a few problems with the Kings this season, for sure, one being the absence of Jonathan Quick for other than 17 games. But, Sutter still had a big and fairly talented team to work with and should have squeaked them in. There were many so-so stretches this season, but Sutter gets singled out for his team failing to take advantage of lesser squads like Arizona (2-2-1 record), Dallas (1-1-1), Vancouver (2-2) and less-than-stellar marks against heated rivals Anaheim (2-2-1) and San Jose (2-3). Dishonorable mention: Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars; Dan Bylsma, Buffalo Sabres.
5. Alexandre Daigle Award For Worst Rookie – Lawson Crouse, Arizona Coyotes
This was perhaps one of the best seasons in recent memory for amazing rookie performances. Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, both Calder nominees, duked it out all season. They were closely followed by Matthews teammates in Toronto, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. But, someone forgot to tell Lawson Crouse that in order to have a long-lasting career, you need a good first impression. The former 11th overall pick of the Florida Panthers (2015) was dealt to Arizona before the 2016-17 season and played 72 games. He obviously didn’t do much to ingratiate himself, scoring just five goals and seven assists and recording a -20 in nearly 12 minutes of ice time per game. And it wasn’t like he was playing on a veteran-laden team, as the Coyotes were counting on the big kid and a few other young guns (just like in Toronto) to shoulder a lot of the offensive load. Putting a finer point on it, Crouse was surpassed by 12 points by the 2015 28th overall pick, Anthony Beauvillier of the Islanders (among others).
4. The Dead Presidents Trophy For Worst Team – Dallas Stars
How does a team that has Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin fail to make the playoffs, much less finish fourth last in the Western Conference? Let us count the ways. The Stars, who finished with a measly 79 points and a -39 goal differential, were expected to be a contender, not a disappointing pretender. They went into the second round of the playoffs last season, giving the fan base hope, only to sputter out of the gate this season. They got awful goaltending from veterans Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, played porous defence and other than Benn and Seguin, got little in the way of secondary scoring. So, instead of loading up at the deadline, it was a fire sale in Big D, with five players including Patrick Eaves, Jordie Benn and Johnny Oduya all joining playoff bound clubs. And in the end, it cost Lindy Ruff his job.
3. Happy Gilmore Award For Worst Defenceman – Zach Bogosian, Buffalo Sabres
Little wonder that Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray was handed his walking papers after his team’s dismal failure this season. He is the man that orchestrated the 2015 trade that brought in our Anti-Masterston winner Evander Kane and our pick for worst defenceman Zach Bogosian for Tyler Myers, Joel Armia, Drew Stafford, Brendan Lemieux and a 2015 first round pick who turned into Jack Roslovic. Bogosian gets singled out here for soaking up the 35th highest salary among defencemen and delivering one of the worst performances and his own worst campaign ever. He was paid $5.25 million this season and scored all of two goals and nine assists in 56 games, while being on the wrong side of the plus-minus ledger at -17. Bogosian was also given plenty of ice-time to work with at just over 20 minutes. He didn’t hit much (just 59, his lowest total ever) and gave the puck away 20 more times than he stole it (11 takeaways vs. 31 giveaways).
2. Denis Lemieux Award For Worst Goalie – Antti Niemi, Dallas Stars
Ostensibly a back-up in Big D, Antti Niemi is paid like a starter and played like a chump this season. And, the Stars are stuck with Niemi for another year at $4.5 million (23rd highest goaltender salary) for the 2017-18 season. Worse yet, they are stuck with dishonorable mention in this category, Kari Lehtonen, for another season at $5 million. Niemi gets to wear the toilet seat lei here, given that he played in 37 games and logged the worst goals against average (3.30), won just 12 games and had the worst save percentage (.892). Niemi had some truly horrible starts this season too, including a three-shot, three goals against stinker in a 5-4 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 14. He lasted all of four minutes before being yanked. That was closely followed by a one-period monstrosity against visiting Buffalo on Jan. 26 when he was pulled after surrendering two goals on five shots. Niemi closed out his deplorable season by losing three of four starts, including another early hook.
1. No Heart Trophy For Least Valuable Player – Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche
We have tended to harp on a few players here for the money they earn in a season and the deplorable return on said bucks, but if the shoe fits. You see, Connor McDavid will most likely win the Hart Trophy for the first time in his career, all for the fairly modest sum of $3.775 million (he is the 132nd highest paid forward in the league). On the flip side of the NHL coin, there are several players being paid like all-stars who played like fourth-line journeymen. Therefore, we picked Colorado’s Carl Soderberg for least valuable player. We based this on his salary and the return on investment. In the summer of 2015, the Swedish playmaker inked a five-year, $23.75 million deal with the Avs after being acquired from the Boston Bruins. He rewarded Colorado with his finest season in three, scoring 51 points. But, in 80 games this season, the Malmo native mustered just six goals and eight assists and a -26 rating in 80 games. Soderberg makes as much as fellow countryman Patric Hornqvist at $4.75 million (94th best among forwards) and scored 30 fewer points.