The NHL began announcing award winners this week, and I’ve got some bones to pick:
First, John Haferman of the Columbus Ice Hockey Club didn’t win the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. Now, I’m not really upset about this one since all three finalists were well qualified, and got lots of exposure just for getting this far. Hopefully if the NHL is serious about expanding diversity in hockey, they will rely on his expertise and experience in growing the game in Columbus to spread the game to underserved communities in other markets.
Next, John Tortorella not only did not win the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year, but he finished in third. If he didn’t win, I figured he’d lose to Alain Vigneault of the Philadelphia Flyers. Instead it was Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins who won. Is it that impressive that a team which won the Eastern Conference last season won the President’s Trophy this season? If you’re giving it to the coach of the best team, why didn’t John Cooper win last season? He finished second to Barry Trotz, who fit the more common description of the winner: the coach whose team saw the most improvement or most surpassed expectations. Torts managed to keep his team performing at the same level despite losing top players from last season. He also overcame a wave of injuries to the best remaining players. Now, that level is still just “Eastern Conference Wild Card” so I could understand losing to Vigneault (whose Flyers surpassed the Blue Jackets in the standings) or Jared Bednar (whose Colorado Avalanche remained near the top of the Western Conference despite injuries to their own key players). But Cassidy? Nah.
Even more surprising is Torts being omitted from over half the ballots. Is this bias due to his antagonistic approach to the media?
Finally, the Selke Trophy for the best defensive forward went to Sean Couturier of the Flyers. He’s a deserving winner, but my disappointment comes with Nick Foligno getting just six votes (all fifth place) and finishing 23rd. I outlined here why I thought he deserved more consideration. I’m also surprised that he’s the only Blue Jacket to get a vote. This was one of the best defensive teams all season, and that includes contributions from the forwards, not just the defensemen and goalies. Why not acknowledge Oliver Bjorkstrand, or Cam Atkinson, or even defense-only guys like Alexander Wennberg and Riley Nash?
Congratulations to Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers on winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the 2019-20 season.— PHWA (@ThePHWA) September 11, 2020
Here are the ballots from members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association: https://t.co/86HI0woyJL
And voting totals: pic.twitter.com/viKB3cYUvi
The biggest surprise to me was Auston Matthews getting a first place vote, one of just three votes total. That vote came from Columbus Dispatch writer Brian Hedger. To his credit, he offered a defense of the vote that I don’t entirely agree with, but is more convincing than I expected:
- 13th among all NHL fwds in blocked shots (more than Bergeron, O’Reilly, Toews and 34 more than Couturier)— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) September 11, 2020
- 55% overall FO win%
- Took a total of four penalties, all strengths
- I don’t subscribe to the typical Selke parameters. Otherwise, I’d vote for Bonino or Danault.
The weeks that were
The Cleveland Monsters are part of a Sports Alliance with the Cavaliers, Browns, and Indians which includes making Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse a polling location for November’s election. Elaine spoke to Communications Director Ben Adams about that and other community initiatives involving the Monsters staff and players.
Our series of player reviews continued with:
The Blue Jackets were well represented by former Ohio State tennis player J.J. Wolf:
Around the League
Anton Khudobin remains an unlikely hero, with the Dallas Stars winning another low-scoring game on Saturday to take a 3-1 series lead over the Vegas Golden Knights. I was hoping for a Vegas-Tampa Cup Final but the Stars have provided entertaining series so far. Game 5 is tonight.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are also one win away from advancing after the return of Brayden Point (injury) and Alex Killorn (suspension) got them back in the win column. They can close out the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
Ohio Sports Update
“Happy fans of winning football teams are all alike, but Browns fans on Week 1 each season are unhappy in their own way.” - Leo Tolstoy, probably. The Cleveland Browns delivered another disastrous opening game performance, despite hiring yet another new head coach. In Kevin Stefanski’s defense, he did not get the full number of in-person practices that a new coach gets in a typical offseason. Nonetheless, the sloppy play and lack of discipline that plagued the roster last year is still there, and that’s concerning.
Things went slightly better for the Cincinnati Bengals, but #1 overall pick Joe Burrow’s debut was a mixed bag and a missed field goal cost them a win. Shades of last year for the Bengals as well, doing just enough to keep it close, but unable to seal the deal.
Play me out
Over the weekend we lost a music pioneer. Toots Hibbert — who passed away Friday at the age of 77 — helped create and popularize the genre of reggae and even coined the term in one of his songs. He borrowed heavily from American soul artists like Otis Redding and James Brown while incorporating distinctive elements from his home country of Jamaica. The song here — about his arrest and incarceration in the mid-1960s — doesn’t start until the 2:50 mark of the video, but it’s worth watching the whole thing to admire his stage presence.