2021 NHL Awards: Who Should Win vs Who Will Win?- Part 2

On Wednesday, I began my end-of-season NHL awards predictions. I covered five of the ten NHL awards that are voted on in that article, which you can find here. Now, it’s time to do the other five NHL awards, so without further ado, here they are.

Calder Trophy

Who Should Win: Kirill Kaprizov
Who Will Win: Kirill Kaprizov

This is Kaprizov’s trophy to lose. Chicago’s Kevin Lankinen started the season scorching hot but has since faded. Dallas’ Jason Robertson started cold, but is now scorching hot and making quite a case for the trophy. However, unlike the other finalists, Kaprizov has been consistently good all season. He leads all rookies in goals with 19 and points with 38, although Robertson leads in assists with 22 and is closing in on points with 36. So, they’re both having Calder-worthy seasons. 

One thing that could give Robertson the edge in some people’s eyes is age and experience. Kaprizov is 23, which is old for a rookie. He also played nearly 300 professional games in the KHL before coming over to North America. So, some voters could look at that and say he was always supposed to be better than most rookies off the bat. However, I don’t think his age and experience should be used against him. A rookie is a rookie. It shouldn’t matter how old they are or if they’ve played professionally in other leagues. We’ve seen numerous players excel in the KHL but flounder in the NHL. They’re very different leagues, and the transition can be difficult. So, it’s impressive that Kaprizov has been as good as he has been right off the bat.

All in all, this is sure to be an incredibly close race for the Calder. It feels like it could be the closest out of all the NHL awards races. However, I believe the consistency of “Kirill the Thrill” should win out here, and I think it will.

The Bruin With the Best Case: Jeremy Swayman

As for which Bruin has the best case to win the Calder, that’s easily Jeremy Swayman. He has been excellent when called upon this season. He currently leads all rookie goalies with a 1.65 goals-against average (GAA) and is second in save percentage (SV%) with a 0.943 SV%, which is just 0.003% behind Ottawa’s Filip Gustavsson for the lead. He’s also 5-1-0 on the season and has not looked his age in the net, particularly in terms of composure. Nothing seems to rattle him. However, he has only played six games. That’s not his fault, but it’s also not Calder-worthy. So, while he has the best shot of any Bruin to win, it’s not exactly a good chance. If anything, look for him to be in the running next year if he’s Tuukka Rask’s full-time backup.

Jack Adams Award

Who Should Win: Joel Quenneville
Who Will Win: Joel Quenneville

The Florida Panthers are currently in second place behind only the Carolina Hurricanes in the incredibly top-heavy Central Division. They’re also fourth overall in the league. However, if you asked around at the beginning of the season, most people would’ve told you they wouldn’t even make the playoffs. They were expected to be as they were the past few years: not very good, but also not terrible. However, they have been excellent, as the standings show. Most of the credit for that should belong to Joel Quenneville.

Quenneville is one of the NHL’s best coaches. He has made a massive difference in Florida. Ever since he’s gotten comfortable, the Panthers have played close to or above their potential after inexplicably underachieving for years. Without him, they would not be in the position they are this season. He’s not afraid to do what needs to be done to get a win. To give an example, he’s allowing whichever goalies play the best to play the most. It doesn’t matter if it’s Chris Driedger or $10 million Sergei Bobrovsky (or now even rookie Spencer Knight). Whoever gives them the best chance to win will play. Most coaches would not have the guts to make a goalie as expensive as Bobrovsky a backup, or even a healthy scratch. But Quenneville does. That to me sticks out as something that sets Quenneville ahead of the pack.

There are a lot of smart coaches in the league, but few that are as smart as Quenneville and have the guts to do whatever is necessary. For that reason, he should and likely will win the Jack Awards Award this year. Quenneville’s only possible challenger is the Wild’s Dean Evason, as he too is at the helm of a team that has played well above expectations. However, the Panthers are a much better team than the Wild, and Quenneville has a long resume of success, so this is absolutely his award to lose.

The Bruin With the Best Case: Bruce Cassidy

I didn’t exactly have many options here. After all, there is only one head coach of each team. That being said, Cassidy is the reigning Jack Adams Award winner and has shown why again this season. He’s steered the Bruins through a brutal stretch of injuries and scoring struggles with a decent amount of success. Those who have called for his job this season are beyond stupid. He’s an excellent coach, and perfect for the Bruins right now. He’s not more deserving of the award than the likes of Quenneville or Evason this season, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he’s still an excellent coach. You can’t be the best every year.

Bill Masterton Trophy

Who Should Win: Oskar Lindblom
Who Will Win: Oskar Lindblom

Much like the Hart, this award has (or at least it should have) an obvious winner this year. In December 2019, Philadelphia’s Oskar Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He would then undergo several months of treatment, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Thankfully, on July 9th, 2020, Lindblom rang the bell, signifying that he had completed treatment, and he’s been cancer-free ever since.

Through all the treatments, Lindblom stayed positive, and always focused on the light at the end of the tunnel: getting to return to hockey. During the playoff bubble last season, that became a reality, as he played in two games in the third round before the Flyers got eliminated. His triumphant return has continued this season, as he’s appeared in 40 of the Flyers’ 46 games (the six he missed were due to COVID-19 protocols) and notched 11 points. 

Given all he has gone through, there is absolutely no one more deserving of the Masterton Trophy this season. This and the Hart Trophy should be the two biggest landslide victories out of all the end-of-season NHL awards. He has had to overcome a lot this past year, and in doing so has never wavered in his dedication to the sport of hockey. If he doesn’t win the Masterton, I’ll want a word with the voters. He’s more than earned it, and I can’t imagine that he won’t get it.

The Bruin With the Best Case: Kevan Miller

If it weren’t for Lindblom, Miller might actually have a chance at the Masterton this year. After missing over a year and a half due to numerous knee surgeries, Miller finally made his return to the Bruins’ lineup at the beginning of this season. He has struggled with some residual effects in that knee, which has caused him to miss a significant chunk of time, but that shouldn’t take away from his comeback. When in the lineup, Miller has looked great and like he hasn’t missed a beat, which is really impressive.

While he won’t and shouldn’t win, I strongly believe that Miller should at least be a finalist for the Masterton this year. His dedication and love for the sport of hockey is undeniable and admirable, and he should get some recognition for all he has overcome to get back to playing the game he loves.

Lady Byng Trophy

Who Should Win: Aleksandar Barkov
Who Will Win: Auston Matthews

The Lady Byng is one of the most difficult awards to figure out as an outsider. It’s voted on by members of the PHWA, but it should be voted on by NHL referees. They’re the only ones who truly know how gentlemanly a player acts on the ice. The only thing other people have to go on is penalties and the eye test, which is just not enough. That’s why it’s so difficult to figure out who it should go to. Normally, it’s just given to the best player with the least amount of penalty minutes, but that’s really not a great way to do it.

But anyway, given the usual criteria for the award, if I had to pick someone to win the award, I think it should go to Florida’s Aleksandar Barkov. He has 48 points in 42 games on a very good Panthers team, and just 14 penalty minutes. He’s the team’s captain and is known as an overall good guy on and off the ice. He’s won the Lady Byng in the past, and in my opinion, he should again this season.

That being said, this award is likely going to Auston Matthews this season, and if it does, it should just be thrown away. I do not care that he is the best player with the least amount of penalty minutes, as he has 58 points in 43 games and just ten penalty minutes. His off-ice antics prove that he is anything but a gentleman. Harassing a woman (and then not taking her concerns seriously, leading to criminal charges) should be an automatic disqualification for the award, especially since he hasn’t shown any real remorse. End of story. But, that will likely be overlooked because of his on-ice performance, which is incredibly disappointing but unfortunately not shocking. I hope I’m wrong, but things are certainly not trending that way.

The Bruin With the Best Case: Patrice Bergeron

As for the Bruin with the best case for the award, there are few players in the league who are more gentlemanly than Patrice Bergeron. He has 41 points in 45 games this season and 14 penalty minutes. But, that doesn’t do him true justice. He’s an incredible person both on and off the ice. There are few players in the league who are more respected than him. He’s simply impossible to hate. It’s honestly surprising to me that he’s never really gotten Lady Byng attention in the past because he’s more than deserving of it. Will that change this year? I highly doubt it. But it probably should.

Jim Gregory Award (GM of the Year)

Who Should Win: Kyle Dubas? Joe Sakic? Bill Zito? Honestly no clue.
Who Will Win: See above

As you can see, I have absolutely no clue how this award is going to go. GM of the Year is perhaps the hardest of all the end-of-season NHL awards to predict before the season is actually over. It usually goes to whichever GM makes the most moves (primarily in the prior offseason and at the trade deadline) that have a huge impact on team success. Because trade deadline acquisitions can take time to settle in, you usually don’t know how much of an impact they’ll have until the end of the season, or even through the playoffs. So, this is a very difficult award to predict.

Kyle Dubas made a lot of smaller, veteran signings in Wayne Simmonds, Jason Spezza, and Joe Thornton that have been really impactful for the Leafs this season. He also acquired Nick Foligno at the trade deadline. So, I can see him winning the award.

However, Joe Sakic has a case for the award too. His excellent drafting is really having an impact on the Avalanche now, and they’re one of the favorites to win the Stanely Cup. He’s also utilized his available cap space incredibly well. The most notable move he made this offseason was acquiring Devon Toews from the Islanders in the offseason since they couldn’t afford him, and he’s been an excellent player for the Avs. So, he has a case for the award too. Bill Zito of the Panthers has a chance for it as well, as he made several strong signings and trades since taking over from Dale Tallon that really bolstered the Panthers lineup. 

As far as I’m concerned, these are the three GMs with the best cases to win, and I think they should be the finalists. However, I really don’t know who deserves it over the others, or who will win it. They all have strong cases for the award. It’s just such a difficult award to predict before the end of the season. So, I’m not even going to try. I’m just going to leave it at the three I think should be finalists, with the sentiment that whichever one wins (if one of them does) will be deserving of it. 

The Bruin With the Best Case: Don Sweeney

Like the Jack Adams, I didn’t exactly have many options for the Bruin with the best case for this award. There’s kind’ve only one GM for each team. That being said, while Sweeney has caught a lot of heat, he does have a case for the award. It’s not a particularly good one in the scheme of who he’s up against, but it’s not a terrible one either. His off-season signing of Craig Smith has turned out to be an excellent one, and he had the best trade deadline out of all GMs. 

Up until the deadline, Sweeney didn’t have a good case for the award, as the Bruins had holes in their lineup he could’ve filled in the off-season. But, he’s since made up for it, therefore bolstering his chances for it. They’re still not good, but they’re at least a little better than they were. Like I said about Cassidy, the people calling for Sweeney’s job aren’t the brightest, as he is still a good GM. They all make mistakes, and what matters is how they make up for it.

The 2021 NHL Awards Are Coming Up Fast

While more of these NHL awards races may come down to the wire than those in the previous post, the races are still really starting to take shape. It’s down to just a few candidates for most of them. So, it’s just a question of which ones finish the best now. Like I was in my previous article, I’m confident in my NHL awards picks and predictions (except for GM of the Year, of course). So, just like I said in that article, please feel free to come back and make fun of me if I get them horribly wrong. It’s more fun that way. What do you think of my predictions? Who should win each of these NHL awards? Who do you think will? Are there any players/staff that I’m forgetting about? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter!

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of NHL.com.

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