Recently, it was announced that the Bruins have some end of season award finalists. Bruce Cassidy is up for the Jack Adams Award, which is awarded annually to the league’s best coach. Tuukka Rask is up for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded annually to the league’s best goaltender. Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron is spending his ninth straight season (an all-time record) as a Selke Trophy finalist, which is given annually to the league’s best defensive forward. The winners of these awards (and all of the others) will be announced during the Conference Finals. The details of how that will look are still TBD.
If you follow hockey, you already know all of that. So, I won’t spend any more time on those details in this article. Instead, I want to take a look at each finalists’ chance to win the award.
Cassidy Has A Chance
Since taking over the Bruins bench after Claude Julien’s firing, Cassidy has been nothing short of spectacular. He is a huge reason the Bruins are as good as they right now. His willingness to shake things up if something isn’t working is a big reason for this. And, not only does he do this, he does it extremely well. He knows what he needs to do to get guys going, and he does just that. It’s truly amazing to watch. He also has a good pulse on the room and knows when and how to push guys to get the best out of them.
Cassidy’s systems are also perfect for the type of team the Bruins are right now. They’re not too strict, which gives players the freedom to read and react to plays without fear of the entire system breaking down. They’re also a good mix of offensively and defensively minded, which makes players happy to follow them. As an added bonus, it makes the Bruins are a fun team to watch.
In short, they’re the kind of systems players love to play in, and fans love to see because they’re extremely effective and still fun to watch. I could go on about Cassidy for a while, but I’ll stop there. You can read more about my thoughts on him here. In short, yes, the Bruins have a lot of talent, but they would not be where they are without Cassidy at the helm. That’s why he’s a Jack Adams Finalist, and he has a great chance to win.
Torts Was Excellent Too
However, there’s a good argument for John Tortorella, head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, as well. He got his team through losing their two stars this offseason and then a ridiculous run of injuries to key players. Were the Blue Jackets outstanding this season? No, but they were significantly better than anyone expected them to be. They were in the last Wild Card spot when the season went on pause, and are in the Stanely Cup Qualifiers as the ninth seed in the East when everyone expected them to be a basement team. A lot of that is due to Torts.
Vigneault Good, But Unlikely to Win
The third finalist this season is Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach Alain Vigneault. The Flyers were awful last season but really turned it around this year, to the point where they were second place in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division when the season went on pause. That’s a really impressive turn around in just one year. However, one can argue that last year was just a bad year, and they would’ve turned it around this season regardless. I honestly don’t know which side of that argument I fall on, because I see it both ways. I’m pretty the Flyers would’ve been a lot better this season regardless of who was behind the bench. But, I do think Vigneault had a decent role in their success, so it’s doubtful it would’ve been as dramatic.
My Pick: Bruce Cassidy. Overall, Cassidy was the best coach out of these three. He was just as integral to the Bruins’ success as Tortorella was to the Blue Jackets. But, the reason I give to him the edge is that the Bruins were significantly more successful this season. They were the best team in the league, and Cassidy was a big reason why. So, I think this is his year for to win the Jack Adams.
Toss-Up Between Rask and Hellebuyck
The finalists for the Vezina Trophy this season are Tuukka Rask, Connor Hellebuyck, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Rask has an excellent case to win this year. He had his best season since 2013-14, which is when he won the Vezina the first time. He appeared in 41 games for the Bruins this season, over which he held a 2.12 goals-against average (GAA) and a 0.929 save percentage (SV%). That was good for first and second in the league, respectively. Those numbers weren’t inflated by how good the Bruins were either. Rask stole a few games for the Bruins this season, and he kept them in even more than that until they found their legs. He deserves to win this year.
However, Hellebuyck Also Deserves To Win
Connor Hellebuyck certainly has a case to win the trophy this year too. He is basically the only reason the Jets were able to sneak into the 24 team return to play format. He stole a lot of games for a team that was horrible defensively and iffy offensively. Hellebuyck really didn’t have much help in any of the 58 games he started this season, but he still managed to hold a 2.57 GAA and 0.922 SV%. Those are great numbers for any goalie, but they’re simply jaw-dropping considering his situation. He arguable deserves to win more than Tuukka, but I’m not convinced that’ll happen.
Why Was Vasilevskiy Even Nominated?
Vasilevskiy, on the other hand, was a slightly above average goalie on a superteam. That’s not good. He should not have been nominated for the Vezina this season. Ben Bishop was far more worthy than he is. But, unfortunately, he didn’t get any recognition for it. But anyway, if Vasilevskiy actually wins the trophy, I’ll be shocked and say the voting is rigged.
My Pick: Tuukka Rask. Even though Hellebuyck probably deserves to win more than Tuukka given how much less help he had than him, I have a feeling that won’t happen. Tuukka was statistically the best goalie in the league this season, and that’s typically who gets rewarded. Even though Hellebuyck might be a little more deserving, Tuukka deserves to win as well, and given that and who historically wins, I think he’ll get it.
Bergeron Should Win, But Likely Won’t
The finalists for the Selke Trophy this season are Patrice Bergeron, Sean Couturier, and Ryan O’Reilly. Out of the bunch, Bergeron is easily the best defensive forward. He’s the best defensive forward in the league for that matter. There’s a reason he’s been a Selke finalist for a record-breaking nine straight seasons now. He’s also tied for the most wins of all time with four under his belt so far. He deserves to win the trophy this season.
However, I don’t think he will. Games played plays a stupidly big role in this decision, and since Bergeron played in eight or nine fewer games than the other two, which is a considerable amount given the shortened season. Games played shouldn’t matter in this decision, but they do, and so for that reason, I, unfortunately, don’t think he’ll win.
This Is Likely Couturier’s Year
Out of the other two finalists, I think Couturier will actually win the award. He’s an underrated defensive forward and has never won the trophy before, but I think this is finally his year. They had very similar offensive stats, as Couturier had 59 points in 69 games while O’Reilly had 61 points in 71 games, so that won’t play into the decision really. It’ll come down to who the better all-around forward is and from what I’ve seen of them, that’s Couturier.
My Pick: Sean Couturier. After being a finalist in a few different seasons but never winning, I think this is finally Couturier’s year. He’s a really underrated defensive forward, and even though I’m not a Flyers fan, I hope to see him finally get some recognition this season.
Bruins Should Have a Few Winners
All in all, the Bruins should come out of this season with a few award winners. At the very least, Bruce Cassidy should win the Jack Adams. We’ll probably see Tuukka get the Vezina as well. As for Bergeron, even though he deserves to win, I, unfortunately, don’t see it happening. I guess he’ll just have to get nominated for his tenth straight season so he can hold the all-time wins record all by himself too. At that point, they’ll just have to rename it the Bergeron-Selke (or just the Bergeron).
But anyway, the award winners will be announced at some point and in some fashion during the Conference Finals. There’s usually at least one curveball thrown into everyone’s prediction, so it’ll be interesting to see if that stays true this year. I think it will, but we’ll just have to wait until then to see how it all actually shakes out!
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)