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Do any Colorado Avalanche players have a shot at a major NHL award?

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Can MacKinnon and Makar finish this season with some bling?

2014 NHL Awards - Inside
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 24: Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche speaks to the crowd after winning the Calder Memorial Trophy during the 2014 NHL Awards at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on June 24, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

With the NHL regular season officially concluded and the playoffs on the horizon, regular season awards are now in the process of being handed out. Nominations for various awards were released last week and a couple Colorado Avalanche players have been announced as finalists.

Defenseman Cale Makar is up for the NHL’s Rookie of the Year after a stellar opening season with the team following a breakout playoffs a year ago. He’s come in an been a #1 right away and has the counting stats to back it up. The 21-year-old Makar scored 12 goals and 50 points in 57 games, the best ppg (point per game) of any rookie this year while averaging 21 minutes a night. And on top of all that, he was an analytics darling in terms of offensive and defensive contributions.

Center Nathan MacKinnon is up for three awards this year, the Hart (MVP), Ted Lindsay (Best Player), and the Lady Byng (Most Gentlemanly). Centering arguably the league’s most dominant line and doing so on a very injured team, MacKinnon practically carried the Avs offense on his back when the likes of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nazem Kadri were out with injury. The 24-year-old scored 35 goals and 93 points in 69 games, missing only one game all season.

That’s the rundown on the two Avalanche superstars, now what are the chances they actually win an award?

Calder - Cale Makar

Yes. Makar absolutely deserves to win the Calder this year and there’s a very good chance the votes back it up. Often when the PHWA votes on awards, the most deserving player isn’t rewarded. There’s a lot of narrativization and politics and hype-trains that go on during the season, and especially in the last 20 games (half of which didn’t happen) that sway the voters that tend to only cover their local teams.

But Makar has an incredible resume this year having jumped into the NHL right out of college. He earned/was given power play minutes so his counting stats are high, his most common defense partner was Ryan Graves so he wasn’t perceived to be carried by his partner, and he played over 20 minutes a night on a good team. That’s generally how the PHWA thinks, it’s lucky that when you look into his actual play on the ice all those things are obvious as well. He’s an x-factor in the offensive zone with the team getting lots of high-quality shots while he’s on the ice, he transitions the puck at a high rate and does so with his skating and passing, and in the defensive zone he works hard and plays the system well. He’s very good around the boards and covering opponents in the dangerous zones.

His competitors this year are Dominik Kubalik and Quinn Hughes. Kubalik had a high-scoring season, but considering he’s the same age as MacKinnon and played with Jonathan Toews for most of the season, the narrative around him is that earning finalist recognition is good enough. Hughes had a similar season to Makar. He played on a good team in the Vancouver Canucks, who were carried by their young talent despite older vets weighing them down. Hughes got more total points than Makar, but at a lower ppg than Makar. It’ll be close between the two, I assume they largely went 1-2 on most members’ ballots.

Poll

Does Makar win the Calder? Where does he finish?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    1st
    (426 votes)
  • 10%
    2nd
    (50 votes)
  • 0%
    3rd
    (2 votes)
478 votes total Vote Now

Hart - Nathan MacKinnon

To put it harshly, no. He’s not going to win MVP this year because the narrative’s just not there for him. The Edmonton Oilers radicalized their top line this year, giving them every opportunity to score the hope of winning out against all the goals that line gave back. Draisaitl’s defensive numbers were awful this year, he was only a +7 in terms of goal differential at 5v5 in 71 games. His and McDavid’s shot numbers were awful, both in the 47-48% range. But despite all of that, he scored 43 goals and 110 points on 20% shooting so the PHWA is going to run him to the podium.

Nathan MacKinnon is among several players I think had more valuable years to their team than Draisaitl. They scored on offense, they played defense, they took on the tough minutes on both sides of the ice and came out on top. Leaving all the defensive zone starts for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the bottom-six isn’t MVP quality play. It’s a worthwhile tactic to win games but the players on Edmonton’s first line aren’t doing as much as other top players in the league. If Toews and Kubalik shut them down in the Play-In in a couple weeks, adios in three games, Edmonton.

Artemi Panarin has the case to win the Hart this year, he’s had the case for a few years now. He lifted every single player on the poorly New York Rangers up and keep them above water and in the Wild Card fight into the last week of the shortened season. The Rangers are genuinely terrible without Panarin. For context, Anthony DeAngelo’s goal differential went up 21 points from 46% to 67% playing with and without Panarin. He and the rest of the team were genuinely nothing without Panarin on the ice. Panarin played everywhere, against every opponent, and his offensive and defensive shot metrics are elite. I would give Panarin the Hart if I didn’t really want MacKinnon to get it.

So at the end of the day, MacKinnon is likely going to finish third when he should’ve finished second with a real shot at first. The crown was given to Draisaitl in November, might as well anoint him in November, or whenever the Awards are going to take place (actually it’s going to be during the Conference Finals).

Poll

Does MacKinnon win the Hart? Where does he finish?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    1st
    (153 votes)
  • 47%
    2nd
    (192 votes)
  • 15%
    3rd
    (63 votes)
408 votes total Vote Now

Ted Lindsay - Nathan MacKinnon

Maybe? I honestly have no idea of how the NHL Players Association is going to determine a winner for Best Player in the NHL as voted on by the players. And I think that’s a good thing. There’s no obvious recipe the players are using to determine their votes, it mostly comes from experiences playing against each other and conversations about who was the hardest to beat (or not beat). I put a lot more weight into the Ted Lindsay winners than I do the Hart because it’s simple; best player, not most valuable to their team (that had to be kinda bad but also make the playoffs).

MacKinnon is going up against Panarin and Draisaitl again, so it’s going to be very interesting to see how the players and PHWA differ. I don’t think Draisaitl’s going to win it here, he plays next to Connor Freaking McDavid for crying out loud. Panarin might pip him to the title, but MacKinnon has a genuine shot, especially with the voting bloc in the west. All the players in the Western Conference know how good MacKinnon is. I hope he gets it.

Poll

Does MacKinnon win the Ted Lindsay? Where does he finish?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    1st
    (281 votes)
  • 19%
    2nd
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    3rd
    (14 votes)
365 votes total Vote Now

Lady Byng - Nathan MacKinnon

But if he doesn’t get the Hart or the Ted Lindsay, the Lady Byng or Selke is usually the consolation prize for “best player that we like but didn’t talk about at golf on Sunday”. MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, and Ryan O’Reilly are all in the 3-5 range for the Hart according to the PHWA (I assume) so obviously they were the top three here.

I wrote at great lengths to describe how problematic the PHWA is in their voting and how the finalists for this award are a symptom of that. As I said in the article, Matthews hasn’t been gentlemanly on or off the ice this year, so I really hope he doesn’t win. It’ll probably come down to MacKinnon or O’Reilly. I really don’t know which of the two take it, but if MacKinnon wins anything, it’ll probably be this idea of a consolation prize according to the PHWA.

Do you think they’ll let me vote next year?

Poll

Does MacKinnon win the Lady Byng? Where does he finish?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    1st
    (227 votes)
  • 23%
    2nd
    (78 votes)
  • 10%
    3rd
    (34 votes)
339 votes total Vote Now