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PHWA Midseason Awards: I’ll show you hockey … Fight me.

It is All-Star Weekend for two sports. It should be a nice, relaxing time for everyone to watch the NHL All-Star Game and/or the Pro Bowl and laugh at both of them for various reasons. I ask two questions every year:

  1. Does anyone host a Pro Bowl party?
  2. Do you have any friends who are stewing in their basement on Sunday night over losing hundreds of dollars in bets on the Pro Bowl? If so, be a bro and call a gambling addiction hotline on his behalf.

Pensblog DX Traeger alerted us late Friday night to a jammed-up, unrelaxed hockey writer who got fired up defending the supposedly sacred, holy territory of professional hockey journalists.

I’ll show you hockey.” – the Professional Hockey Writers Association Colorado Chapter Chairman is mad online that lowly bloggers are mad online but wants to fight you offline, not on Twitter, in person.

On Friday morning, the PHWA released its set of 10 unofficial Midseason Awards. Pittsburgh’s own Seth Rorabaugh wrote the PHWA press release. Over 150 writers and broadcasters submitted ballots for the best in hockey up to the All-Star break.

There was a fan ballot that the PHWA administered and over 2,000 fans submitted votes. The fan vote broke a tie in the Jack Adams Award balloting. Imagine what that triggered in the minds of some hardened, anti-blog PHWA writers.

The following is this writer’s selections for 2017-18 Midseason Awards. The best part of filling out and disclosing a ballot is knowing the rage it will inflame. Penguins fans will be pissed off that [fill in the blank] was omitted. Other teams’ fans will be pissed off just because the Penguins exist.

Bring it. Are you mad, brother? Do you have a problem? Then come chirp to my face and I’ll show you hockey.

For all awards, the PHWA order of finish is shown in italics. This writer’s selections are shown in bold.

HART TROPHY

1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
3. John Tavares, New York Islanders

1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
3. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

Everyone was waiting in the first half for the Jets to nose-dive but they never did. Wheeler is the primary reason why Winnipeg has stayed on top of the Central Division. He has played more minutes than any right wing in the NHL thus far and while Kucherov edges him on a per-game basis, Wheeler does hard time on the PK – something the other two MVP finalists do not do.

NORRIS TROPHY

1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
3. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

1. P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Subban is well on his way towards earning a second career Norris Trophy as best all-around defenseman. Riding a career-high 11.1 shooting percentage for 12 goals already, Subban should easily eclipse his career-best 15 goals scored in 2014-15. Every time Subban scores, the statues in Montreal’s basilicas weep.

SELKE TROPHY

1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
3. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
3. Vincent Trocheck, Florida Panthers

The award for best defensive forward is Bergeron’s when the puck drops at the start of the season until someone can take it from him. He has four already.

CALDER TROPHY

1. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
2. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
3. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

1. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
2. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
3. Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils

Barzal’s skating and stickhandling is hands-down the best of any of the rookies. Watching him rip a new one to opposing defenses is something to behold. Boeser ripped the Pens a new one when he scored 5 of his freshmen-best 24 goals against Pittsburgh earlier this year. Charlie McAvoy gets a lot of love for being on the top pair with Zdeno Chara but Butcher has matched the Bruin blueliner’s offensive productivity more efficiently – more points, but six minutes less ice time per night.

LADY BYNG TROPHY

1. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
3. Ryan O’Reilly, Buffalo Sabres

1. Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
3. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

Kessel is basically the perfect hockey player. How many of you have shown up to work for 661 straight days without calling in sick? He consistently cranks out 25 to 30 goals per year, surges even more in the playoffs, all while his sportsmanlike character is assassinated by the media of a certain former team. None of the 10 minor penalties he was assessed this season were justified, by the way.

VEZINA TROPHY

1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
3. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

One of these years, Rinne will get his due. He is never mentioned as one of the elite goaltenders of this era, but he is consistently very good. If he didn’t soil himself at the worst possible time in Games 1 and 2 of last spring’s Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh when the Pens squirted 8 pucks by him on 36 shots, maybe we’re not circle jerking each other about a possible three-peat.

JACK ADAMS AWARD

1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets

1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators

The coach of the year traditionally tends to be the leader of the most improved team. I really detest that type of implicit criteria. However, you have to give a pile of credit to Double G for taking an unacquainted group of castoffs and not only icing a competitive team, but one that momentarily led the entire NHL standings a week ago. Gallant maintained control of his bench after clashing with, and ultimately losing Vadim Shipachyov to the KHL. And Gallant did all this against the backdrop of a city on edge after the late-summer concert shooting while most of his players were still struggling to acclimate to a new city.

GM OF THE YEAR AWARD

1. George McPhee, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils

1. George McPhee, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils

No disagreement here with the PHWA selections and order of finish. McPhee took maximum advantage of the generous expansion draft rules and shrewdly stockpiled draft picks with trades. Yzerman retooled his team and showed that last season’s playoff miss was a clear fluke. While New Jersey is trending downward after a hot start, Shero has the Devils in position to be a contender by the end of the decade with players like Butcher and Nico Hischier.

ROD LANGWAY AWARD

1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
2. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

1. Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings
2. Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild
3. Ron Hainsey, Toronto Maple Leafs

So the PHWA came up with this award for best defensive defenseman but much like Gold Gloves in baseball tend to go to players who are more noticed because of their offense, the PHWA’s selections show an analogous offensive bias. I went far off the board to select the ones who truly do the dirty work in their own zone: blueliners who block shots, body bag opposing forwards in front of the net, and stay back while their partner pinches in the offensive zone.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD

Another unofficial new award from the PHWA, which should really be named Comeback player of the first-half award.

1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Brian Boyle, New Jersey Devils
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Brian Boyle, New Jersey Devils

Stamkos was limited to just 17 games last season due to a terrible knee injury. The captain of the league-leading Lightning is healthy and on track for his sixth career 30 goal season while sitting in fourth in NHL point scoring at the All-Star break. Letang suffered a setback in his rehab from a neck injury just before the playoffs last season and had to have surgery. He watched as his teammates won another Cup. He is back and healthy as Pittsburgh’s #1 defenseman. Boyle was diagnosed with leukemia in the summer but has still been a solid veteran piece for New Jersey.

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