The NHL season is supposed to resume in August (Vancouver Canucks players are already taking part in training camp at Rogers Arena) with an admittedly weird postseason format, but there’s still the matter of celebrating what was.
For the 69 (nice) games the Vancouver Canucks played this season were, quite plainly, the best run of action the club has given fans in years.
With the NHL set to reveal its award finalists over the next several days (the players up for the Ted Lindsay Award were announced today), it’s as good a time as any to reminisce about the “season” that was and see if any Vancouver Canucks might find themselves at what we’re going to assume will be a very awkward awards ceremony held over Zoom sometime after the Stanley Cup is awarded.
(Because you know what that event really needed? More stilted speeches!)
With the reminder that three players will be nominated for each of the below honours, let’s begin.
The Sure Thing
Quinn Hughes - Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year)
For months, the main mystery surrounding the 2020 Calder Trophy was which defenceman, Hughes or Colorado’s Cale Makar, would take home the trophy. Right now, it feels like the dynamic Hughes will lose out by the slimmest of margins. But it really could go either way.
Regardless, the two will definitely be in contention, along with either Dominik Kubalik of the Chicago Blackhawks, Adam Fox of the New York Rangers and Mackenzie Blackwood of the New Jersey Devils.
The Good Bet
Jacob Markstrom - Bill Masterton Trophy (Perseverance, Sportsmanship, and Dedication to Ice Hockey)
This award is always hard to predict, as it almost turns into “who had the worst tragedy happen to them?” or “which long-suffering veteran player do we like the most?”
In the former category, it’s hard to ignore Markstrom, who lost his father in the midst of the best season of his career.
It’s also hard to predict in that some stories get more national play than others (Bobby Ryan’s triumphant return to play—against the Canucks no less—after taking part in the NHL’s substance abuse program is almost surely to win him the award).
But Markstrom’s stellar play put him in the spotlight (more on that in a bit) and his story seemed to have resonated with people around the league. We’d say he makes it into the top three.
The Long Shots
Elias Pettersson - Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player) /Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly Player)
The Canucks’ stud sophomore had a brilliant season, but it likely won’t be enough to garner major awards consideration. The Hart Trophy is jammed full of worthy candidates, even if it's missing an obvious frontrunner. He didn’t even win the team’s own Most Valuable Player Award (it went to Markstrom).
And while we would argue that he is, in fact, a perfect gentleman worthy of the Lady Byng Award (he only had 18 penalty minutes in 68 games), it doesn’t feel like he’s garnered enough support there. Others, like Ryan O’Reilly, Teuvo Teravainen and Nathan MacKinnon, had similar or better point totals with less PIMs. And that’s essentially what the award recognizes these days.
Jacob Markstrom - Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)
Markstrom has some stellar numbers as noted earlier. They’re even stronger if you dig a bit deeper: he’s faced a remarkable amount of high-danger shots this season and has responded incredibly well.
Alas, he’s not generating the hype netminders around the league like Connor Hellebuyck, Tuuka Rask and Ben Bishop are seeing. NHL.com’s so-called experts didn’t even throw him a single vote in a midseason poll.
Travis Green - Jack Adams Award (Best Coach)
This would normally be in the realm of possibility, actually. As mentioned off the top, Green has led the Canucks, who weren’t predicted to do much at the start of the year, to their best season in a long while. That’s usually considered enough to get a nod for the Jack Adams.
But this season, the competition is fierce. Hilariously, two former Canucks bench bosses are legitimate frontrunners in Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella. There’s also former Canucks assistant coach Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston’s Bruce Cassidy. At any rate, it’s a beyond-crowded field.
Loui Eriksson - Mark Messier Leadership Award
This is a joke. The award itself, that is.