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There Need to Be Changes to NHL Awards Voting

If you’ve been on hockey Twitter over the past week or so, chances are you’ve seen a lot of people yelling about the NHL awards. They’ve been a bigger disaster this year than normal, and the debate has gotten heated. There have been calls for numerous journalists’ jobs, excessively heated exchanges, long threads that just dig a deeper hole, and so much more. But, perhaps the worst part is that we still have arguably the biggest awards to go. 

While I think some people have taken it too far, I do agree that the voting was particularly bad this year. Part of that is likely due to the division-only play since all but the Vezina Trophy are voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA), and so they’ve only had to pay attention to six or seven other teams. But, it’s also never been very good. The voting process could be improved in a few different and simple ways. I doubt the NHL will actually change things, but it would make them more meaningful.

All NHL Awards Should Be Voted on at the Same Time

One easy change that should be made is they should all be voted on at the same time. Currently, all but the Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award are voted on at the end of the regular season. But, the GM of the Year Award voting takes place after the second round of the playoffs for some reason. That completely taints the process with playoff bias, which isn’t right. The best GM is not necessarily the one with the best or most surprising team in the playoffs. In fact, they often aren’t. Yet, that’s the person who tends to end up winning because of recency bias. It would make a lot more sense to move the voting of this award up so it’s done at the same time as the others. It’s also a very simple fix, so I don’t see why it can’t happen.

The PHWA Should Not Vote On Every NHL Award

The biggest change that I want to happen to the NHL Awards is who the voters are. I’m not sure why the PHWA votes on nearly every award. They aren’t the most knowledgeable people in the whole league. That’s not a knock on journalists either (trust me, I want to be one of these people one day), but it is reality. The majority of the writers are assigned to one team’s beat, and so of course they’re going to know that team best. That’s their job. But, there’s simply not enough time to cover one team in depth while also fully keeping up with all the others. So, many just end up voting based on reputation or very basic stats like points. That’s a terrible way to vote and it makes the awards lose a lot of meaning. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, if not the writers, who should vote? The answer is pro scouts. These are the people who know the entire league the best. The scouts know who they’ve paid extra attention to, and it’s their job to watch other teams. I know different scouts watch different teams, but they could easily come together, share their thoughts, and then cast a single vote.

If it’s not scouts voting, then it should at least be players, coaches, GMs, and other hockey operations people. Players know who has been really tough to play against in a given year. Coaches know who they’ve kept an extra eye on during film sessions and for matchups. GMs know which players they’ve watched and compared to their team to see if they have someone of that caliber. They also know who the scouts have told them about the most. The same is true for other hockey ops people such as the team president. Will they be perfect? Absolutely not. But they’d be better than writers, most of which just focus on one team.

This Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing

Now, I know changing who votes on every award seems dramatic. But, that’s not what I’m suggesting. This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Different NHL awards should be voted on by different groups. For example, why do journalists vote for Lady Byng? All they have to go off of really are penalty minutes. That’s a terrible stat for this award. Just because a player stays out of the box doesn’t mean they play like a gentleman. Referees and linesmen are the only ones who know how a player really acts on the ice. Therefore, it should be them voting on the award. 

It would be very easy to have different groups on different awards. Scouts, GMs or coaches should be the ones voting on the Hart, Vezina, Selke, and Norris. Those all go to players that are the best at something, and they know players around the league best. The PHWA should vote on the humanitarian awards like the King Clancy, and they’d be a good choice for the Masterton Trophy as well. They likely know the most about who players are off the ice. They may also be a good choice for GM of the Year and the Jack Adams since they’d be the least biased. These are seemingly small changes, but they’d make a huge difference.

Final Thoughts

All in all, there are a couple of very simple changes that could be made to the current NHL Awards voting system to improve it. Voting on all the awards at the same time and allowing the groups who know each area best to vote on each award are seemingly small things that are easy to change. Yet, they would make the awards so much more meaningful. I don’t normally join in on awards discourse since I frankly don’t see the point. But, this year has shown that the current system isn’t a good one.

I doubt the NHL would change anything since they’re not known for deviating from the status quo, but I really think they should. It would turn the awards from an agent for extreme discourse to a more meaningful thing that won’t end in as many people calling for others’ jobs. That’s a win-win for everyone.

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of media.nhl.com.

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