The annual NHL Awards show takes place on Tuesday, June 24, and the Colorado Avalanche are well represented with nominees in four different categories. Let’s take a look:
Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon was dazzling in his rookie campaign. He led all rookies with 63 points and 39 assists and tied Tyler Johnson for the rookie lead with 24 goals. He also had five game-winning goals, which was tied for the rookie league. A few factors help MacKinnon in this situation. First off, he’s only 18-years old while Johnson and Palat are 23. Being five years younger and playing at the same, and arguably a higher, level than his competition has to be a factor. Second, he was the #1 overall pick in the 2013 draft while Palat was a 7th round pick in 2011 and Johnson went undrafted. The pressure on any #1 overall pick is already higher, but there was a little extra pressure on MacKinnon as many pundits felt that the Avs should’ve drafted Seth Jones. Fair or not, it was up to MacKinnon to prove that he was the right choice for the Avs. Third, Johnson and Palat played in 14 NHL games in 2012-2013. While those 14 games didn’t make them rookie eligible, they at least had some NHL experience before opening night. Finally, being teammates, it’s possible that Johnson and Palat split votes.
All of those factors will likely come into play when voting, which is why MacKinnon is rightfully a heavy favorite in this category. Johnson and Palat had great seasons, but it’s tough to see MacKinnon losing this trophy. I’ll never say that any player is a 100% lock to win a trophy, but MacKinnon is definitely close.
MacKinnon’s Chances of Winning: 98%
Ryan O’Reilly only took one penalty in 80 games this season and that was for playing the puck with a broken stick, not exactly a “rough and tough” type penalty. O’Reilly finished with 64 points, 83 takeaways and 33 giveaways, meaning he was contributing offensively and getting his stick around the puck, stealing it, and not taking a penalty. Marleau and St. Louis are tough competition, though. Marleau was nominated for the Lady Byng trophy in 2007 while St. Louis has won the awards three times in the past four years. Marleau finished this season with 18 penalty minutes, 70 points, 50 takeaways, and 65 giveaways while St. Louis had 69 points, 10 penalty minutes, 65 takeaways, and 53 giveaways.
O’Reilly is the rightful favorite here and it’s tough to argue against his numbers. St. Louis is O’Reilly’s toughest competition here. You can’t overlook the fact that he’s won the award three times in the past four years and his numbers are very strong. That said, people could vote against him because he already has three awards and the way he handled being left off Team Canada and his exit from Tampa Bay. Marleau is a distant third to me.
O’Reilly’s Chances of Winning: 70%
Jack Awards Trophy (Top Head Coach): Patrick Roy vs. Jon Cooper (TBL) and Mike Babcock (DET)
Roy looked like a lock for this award for most of the season, but you can’t ignore the job Babcock did in Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg missed large portions of the season for Detroit, but Babcock still got them into the playoffs. Cooper took the Lightning from 40 points and 14th in the East in 2012-2013 to 101 points and third in the East this season. The job Roy did in Denver was nothing short of masterful though. He took the Avalanche, dead last in the West last year, to second place in the West this year in his rookie year behind the bench. He did it in the western conference as well, which was definitely the much tougher conference this season.
Roy is still a big favorite, but I expect Babcock to get a lot of votes because he managed to get Detroit into the playoffs despite all the injuries. You can’t ignore what Roy did in the West though. He helped turn the Avs from a last place franchise to Central Division Champions. It also has to be noted that the Central was the toughest division in the NHL as no team finished below 83 points. Being “Patrick Roy” and a rookie head coach will also give Roy a couple of extra advantages.
Roy’s Chances of Winning: 60%
By far the toughest award to call when it comes to Avalanche nominees. Varlamov led the league in wins with 41 and finished the season with a .927 SV% (3rd) and a 2.41 GAA (20th). No one faced more shots or made more saves than Varlamov. Rask and Bishop put up numbers just as strong though. Rask had 36 wins, finished second in SV% with .930 and fourth in GAA with 2.04. He also led the league in shutouts with seven. Bishop finished with 37 wins, a .924 SV%, a 2.23 GAA, and five shutouts. He ranked seventh in all three of the latter categories. If you’re looking at “team value” then it’s tough to argue against Varlamov. He stole a lot of games for the Avs this season while Rask benefitted from being on a good defensive team and Bishop didn’t face the pressure that Varlamov did on a game-t0-game basis. Of all the awards that will be presented on Tuesday night, expect the voting for the Vezina to be the closest.
If this were “most valuable to his team” award, I wouldn’t hesitate in picking Varlamov. But since it’s for the “top goaltender,” I think it’s tougher to make the case. His goals against average could be his downfall. If he got that number down and finished in the top 10, he would’ve been a lock, but finishing 20th will likely bite him.
Varlamov’s Chances of Winning: 30%
It’ll hopefully be a good night for Colorado Avalanche players and fans on Tuesday. Make sure to check back here Tuesday night for complete coverage.