Columnists, Sports

Dropping the Gloves: Hollywood’s award season is over, but the NHL’s is just getting started

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov leads his team and the NHL in points with 88. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Stanley Cup playoffs are less than one month away. The greatest prize of the season will be hoisted when the playoffs end, but there are some individual awards that are also sought after.

It’s no surprise that the Tampa Bay Lightning has players and executives that are frontrunners for three awards. The Lightning are solid from players all the way up to management. They’re bound to have a significant playoff run, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them in the finals.

Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player)

Nikita Kucherov has been a front-runner for the Hart all season. His MVP-caliber playing style has kept Tampa Bay at the top of the Atlantic Division.

This season might be the first time he’s really eligible for this award, but he’s been a staple of the team since his first full season in 2014. Kucherov leads his team and the league in points, and he’s going to be a major help for the Lightning in the playoffs.

Calder Memorial Trophy (Best Rookie)

Brock Boeser has had a phenomenal rookie season for the Vancouver Canucks, something the franchise certainly needed on a team bereft of talent. He even scored a hat-trick against the Pittsburgh Penguins just one month after the season began.

Boeser had a scary fall last week in a game against the New York Islanders, most likely ending his rookie season. The last month of play could be the difference for New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal to skate ahead in the rankings and take home the Calder.

The team announced Boeser will make a full recovery in four to six weeks, but the skill he’s already shown on the ice for the Canucks this season speaks for itself.

Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)

Pekka Rinne may have lost in the Stanley Cup Finals last year, but his playing style this season doesn’t read runner-up goalie.

This may be the tightest race of any between Rinne and Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. They’ve both been at the top of the leaderboard all season and nearly unstoppable, but Rinne will come out on top.

Vasilevskiy is on top right now for wins with three more than Rinne. However, it hasn’t been that way all season. Rinne has mostly been in first for wins, and he’s consistently been in the top five for goal save percentage.

James Norris Memorial Trophy (Best Defenseman)

Another star on the Lightning, Victor Hedman, is just a monster on the ice. He’s playing like Drew Doughty when he won the Norris Trophy in 2016. Doughty is still in the running for the top defenseman this year, but Hedman will most likely win out.

Aside from his dominance on defense, Hedman has always been a help on offense. A first line defenseman and a key to Tampa Bay’s 23.8 percent power play success rate, Hedman is the perfect fit for the Norris Trophy.

Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)

Anze Kopitar won the Selke Trophy two seasons ago, and he’s fighting with another previous winner for the title. Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins has won it four times since 2012.

Since their Stanley Cup in 2014, the Los Angeles Kings haven’t had the best playoff experience. Kopitar is helping the Kings get back into their playoff groove. They have a chance to at least make it to the second round, a feat they haven’t accomplished since their most recent Stanley Cup victory.

Jack Adams Award (Best Coach)

It’s impossible to not give this one to Gerard Gallant of the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Gallant had a lot to prove when he started as coach of the newest expansion team. This season will go down in history as the most successful start to any expansion team’s existence.  

Las Vegas will finish not only with a winning record, but at the first spot in the Pacific Division and potentially the Western Conference. A lot of front office staff contributed to this massive success, but Gallant has led this team to tremendous heights.  

General Manager of the Year

Steve Yzerman is still regarded as one of the best players the Detroit Red Wings and the NHL have ever seen. He won the Frank J. Selke Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and three Stanley Cups as a player.

His experience building a gold medal winning Team Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics proved his skill at building a team. That team made Yzerman very sought after for a different front office job and taking the Tampa Bay General Manager job later that year turned out to be a great fit.

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