Most teams have a skid or two over the course of a season.
Unfortunately for the Wild, its stumble came all at once over the span of the most recent month before awards ballots were e-mailed. That lasting memory very well could impress into the brains of voters who likely had Wild players — and a coach — stitched into their, of course, unofficial midseason ballots.
It’s funny how things change.
Devan Dubnyk probably played his way out of the Vezina conversation even though going into March he probably was on most every GM’s scorecard.
Will the Wild’s March cost Ryan Suter votes for the Norris, Bruce Boudreau votes for the Jack Adams and Mikko Koivu votes for the Selke? Very, very likely. Here’s the way I’m leaning when I cast my votes this week on five awards, and how I’d probably vote if I got to pick two others:
Hart Trophy (most valuable, to his TEAM): Sorry to yell. The problem with many league awards is they’ve morphed into something not originally intended, and the Hart is not intended to go to the best players in the NHL, although a case could be made Connor McDavid is quickly becoming that.
The McDavid vs. Sidney Crosby debate has been going on for some time, especially because Crosby, who has accomplished everything in the NHL, might actually be having his best season forever. But Evgeni Malkin’s outstanding season for Pittsburgh probably does — and should — hurt Crosby’s chances to win the Hart. We know the Penguins would still be good without Crosby. On the other hand, where would the Oilers be without young McDavid? The NHL’s leading scorer is flirting with a 100-points season and Edmonton — a perennial lottery pick and first overall champ — is in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. McDavid gets the hardware.
Runners-up: Crosby; Patrick Kane, Chicago; Nicklas Backstrom, Washington; Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus (Sorry, I refuse to award serial slew-footer/groin slasher Brad Marchand of Boston with a vote).
Norris Trophy (best defenseman): Honestly, like the Wild, a month ago this would have been a runaway for Brent Burns, but San Jose’s game has tanked to such a degree, one wonders if it will alter his chances, especially since without Erik Karlsson, there’s zero chance Ottawa makes the playoffs. Burns’ insane numbers and affable personality still may earn him the crown. Suter was in this talk a few months ago, although hand on the Bible, folks inside the Wild would tell you Jared Spurgeon has been the team’s best blue-liner. Winner: Tough call, but Karlsson.
Runners-up: Burns; Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay; Jared Spurgeon, Wild; Suter, Wild.
Calder Trophy (best rookie): This is a tough one. Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine was lights out good. An Alex Ovechkin clone — only blond and Finnish — Laine scored 36 goals as a teenager and meshed brilliantly with center Mark Scheifele. But Auston Matthews’ 40 goals with Toronto is the most ever by a U.S.-born rookie, and his 69 points set a Leafs rookie record. He makes everybody around him better and gets my vote.
Runners-up: Laine; Zach Werenski, Columbus; Mitch Marner, Toronto; William Nylander, Toronto (Sorry, I refuse to award serial diver/elbower Matt Tkachuk of Calgary with a vote).
Selke Trophy (best defensive forward): Too many voters get lazy with this and just revert to the same old guys, which is why I think it’s Koivu’s time.
Tied for third in the NHL with a plus-26, Koivu gets all the tough matchups, has taken the sixth-most faceoffs in the league and won the fifth-most, and where would the Wild be without Boudreau’s most trusted forward? He gets my vote.
Runners-up: Patrice Bergeron, Boston; Ryan Kesler, Anaheim; Backstrom, Washington; Jonathan Toews, Chicago.
Lady Byng Trophy (most gentlemanly): Since Spurgeon entered the NHL in 2010-11, no player has logged more minutes with fewer penalty minutes (68). This season, he has 38 points and 20 minutes penalty minutes while averaging 24 minutes a game. Watch him play, too. … He’s a gentleman and a scholar.
Runners-up: Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary; Mikael Granlund, Wild; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis; Oscar Klefbom, Edmonton.
Vezina Trophy (best goalie, voted by GMs):
No-brainer here. Winner: Bobrovsky. Runners-up: Cam Talbot, Edmonton; Braden Holtby, Washington; Dubnyk; Carey Price, Montreal.
Jack Adams (best coach, voted by broadcasters): This should be some race, and through half the season, I’d go Boudreau vs. Columbus’ John Tortorella. But with the Maple Leafs in the playoffs and using three rookies, Mike Babcock will contend heavily. I’d still give it to Torts. Who in their right mind would have predicted the Blue Jackets as a near President’s Trophy winner?
Runners-up: Boudreau; Babcock; Todd McLellan, Edmonton; Mike Yeo, St. Louis (heh).
• The biggest shame of the NHL cutting the cord on sending its players to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea — other than we all will miss out on a best-vs.-best tournament — is you can bet this will lead into another eventual labor dispute. The NHLPA can opt out in two years.
Players, already ticked about the amount of escrow withheld from their paychecks, are ticked. Even mild-mannered Wild forward Nino Niederreiter called it a “selfish” move by the NHL and hypocritical that the decision was made days after announcing there will be exhibition games in China and regular-season games in Sweden next season.
NHL Players’ Association Executive Director Donald Fehr told a Toronto radio station the players have long memories.
Owners don’t want to disrupt next year’s schedule, risk injury and — bottom line — don’t like that the International Olympic Committee won’t permit the league to show highlights on its network and website of its very own players.
The league will clearly need to come up with some sort of repercussions for players and teams if players go AWOL for the Olympics. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov already have said they’re going no matter what, and the league cannot be pleased that Capitals owner Ted Leonsis supports that breach of contract.
“I didn’t change my mind, and I won’t. It’s my country,” Ovechkin said.
• Reports out of Florida is that interim coach Tom Rowe won’t return behind the bench. The GM took over as coach earlier this season when Gerard Gallant was fired.
Others coaches potentially in trouble: Colorado’s Jared Bednar, Vancouver’s Willie Desjardins, Dallas’ Lindy Ruff and Los Angeles’ Darryl Sutter.
Michael Russo can be heard on 100.3-FM and seen on FSN Blog: startribune.com/russo Twitter: @russostrib E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org