Carey Price is probably going to run away with the Hart Trophy.
The Montreal Canadiens goalie’s level of consistency all season has been remarkable, leading the NHL in victories, goals-against average and save percentage. And the Habs would likely have had to scratch and claw for a playoff spot if not for Price.
But for the past couple of weeks, I have wrestled with what I will do when my ballot arrives. I have decided I’m going with the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk No. 1.
The definition of the Hart Trophy is “most valuable to his team,” and nobody has meant more to his team than Dubnyk has to the Wild. On Jan. 13, the Wild had a closed-door meeting after its latest in a string of humiliations.
In a game in which the Wild actually outplayed the Pittsburgh Penguins for large chunks, the Wild still got smoked because in a continuing trend, it couldn’t get a save. It had lost 12 of 14 at that point, was in 12th place, eight points out of a playoff spot and about to go belly-up.
In came Dubnyk, and the rest is history. The Wild went 28-9-3 since and soared into the postseason. He went 27-9-2, starting 38 consecutive games until Darcy Kuemper beat Nashville on Thursday, with a 1.78 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. He went 15-2-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average and .949 save percentage on the road and 5-0-1 in his past six second of back-to-back games with a 1.14 goals-against average and .968 save percentage.
This isn’t just a half-season thing for Dubnyk. Add Arizona, where he outplayed Mike Smith, and Dubnyk was sixth in the NHL with 36 wins (six more wins than Jose Theodore had when he won the Hart with Montreal in 2002) and second behind Price with a 2.07 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
Without Dubnyk, there is no doubt the Wild would be staring at another seventh or eighth pick and postseason absence. There was not a better trade in the NHL this season, and after witnessing firsthand just how much one person can save a season, Dubnyk’s getting my Hart vote. 2. Price; 3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington; 4. John Tavares, N.Y. Islanders; 5. Rick Nash, N.Y. Rangers.
On to the rest of the awards. First, those voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association:
Norris Trophy (best defenseman): A month ago, before Mark Giordano got hurt, I was likely voting for the Calgary defenseman. But besides the fact that Erik Karlsson has improved defensively, he led NHL defensemen in scoring on a feel-good Ottawa team. He is the most dynamic blue-liner in the game. 1. Karlsson; 2. P.K. Subban, Montreal; 3. Shea Weber, Nashville; 4. Roman Josi, Nashville; 5. Giordano.
Calder Trophy (best rookie): This was the year of the rookie. There were so many solid choices, from Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg to Ottawa’s rookie tandem of Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman and the Islanders’ Anders Lee. But defenseman Aaron Ekblad was awesome for Florida, and as a teenager. 1. Ekblad; 2. Stone; 3. Gaudreau; 4. Forsberg; 5. Hoffman.
Selke Trophy (best defensive forward): This is always hard to quantify. But it’s tough to come up with a better two-way forward right now than Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. He gets all the tough matchups, puts up points and leads the NHL by winning more than 60 percent of his faceoffs. 1. Bergeron; 2. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim; 3. Jonathan Toews, Chicago; 4. Zach Parise, Wild; 5. David Backes, St. Louis.
Lady Byng Trophy (most sportsmanlike with high level of play): There is not a player who has played more minutes and taken fewer penalties than the Wild’s Jonas Brodin (four penalties averaging 24 minutes, 10 seconds per game). He’s also plus-21, eighth among NHL defensemen. 1. Brodin; 2. Jared Spurgeon, Wild; 3. Duncan Keith, Chicago; 4. Martin St. Louis, N.Y. Rangers; 5. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis.
Vezina Trophy (best goalie, voted by general managers): Here’s where I believe Price’s consistency should win out. 1. Price; 2. Dubnyk; 3. Pekka Rinne, Nashville; 4. Braden Holtby, Washington; 5. Cam Talbot, N.Y. Rangers.
Jack Adams Trophy (coach of the year, voted by broadcasters): So many good candidates, such as the Rangers’ Alain Vigneault and Montreal’s Michel Therrien and Washington’s Barry Trotz for making Ovechkin buy in, but so many teams came out of nowhere. 1. Bob Hartley, Calgary; 2. Paul Maurice, Winnipeg; 3. Dave Cameron, Ottawa; 4. Mike Yeo, Wild; 4. Trotz.
GM of the Year (panel of voters): The trades Islanders GM Garth Snow made right before the season for Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk were outstanding. 1. Snow; 2. David Poile, Nashville; 3. Chuck Fletcher, Wild.
NHL Short Takes
Firing season is upon us
They say you’re hired to be fired, and that should especially prove true in the next couple of days. Ted Nolan is a goner in Buffalo. Todd McLellan could be out in San Jose, Claude Julien in Boston and Craig Berube in Philadelphia. Toronto will have an opening, and the same is likely with New Jersey. The big question is what happens in Detroit when the Red Wings’ season ends? Mike Babcock’s contract expires.
Failure at the highest level
The L.A. Kings became the first Stanley Cup champ not to make the playoffs the following year since the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes. “Depressing, embarrassing, unfulfilled, upset,” forward Justin Williams called it.
The truth from Big Buff
Give Dustin Byfuglien credit: At least he’s not a fibber. Asked if he meant to deliver a cross-check to the Rangers’ J.T. Miller that earned the Winnipeg defenseman a four-game suspension, Big Buff said, “Yeah. It’s right on tape.”