Every weekday from 12pm-1pm, Greg Linnelli and I host "Power Lunch" on Lightning Power Play, the team's 24/7 station. Over the past week, Greg has brought up two subjects for debate that we've discussed on the show.
Greg feels strongly that Andrei Vasilevskiy should earn consideration for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's Regular Season MVP. He also believes that the Jack Adams Award, given to the Coach of the Year, should not be decided by vote. Instead, the award would automatically go to the Head Coach of the eventual Stanley Cup champion.
Before digging into these topics, here are a few points that may not be known to all hockey fans. The PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) votes for the Hart Trophy (along with several other year-end awards). The broadcasters vote for the Jack Adams. Votes must be submitted prior to the start of the playoffs.
Personally, I'd love to see Vasilevskiy be in the running for the Hart Trophy. But goalies rarely win it. Going back to the 1967 expansion, there have been 52 seasons in which the Hart Trophy was awarded (there was no award in the lockout year of 2004-05). In only four of those 52 years has a goalie captured the Hart. Dominik Hasek won it in back-to-back seasons in the late 90s. Jose Theodore was the winner in 2001-02. And Carey Price finished first in voting in 2014-15.
I suppose we would need to ask PHWA members why goalies so infrequently nab the top spot on ballets. It's certainly not because goalies aren't valuable to their teams. After all, goalies win the Conn Smythe, given to the playoff MVP, with much more regularity.
If I had to wager a guess, though, I'd say that many writers don't put goalies at the top of their list because, quite simply, goalies have their own year-end award - the Vezina Trophy.
Instead, the Hart Trophy often goes to the league's leading scorer, although that player also receives an award - the Art Ross - for finishing as the top point producer.
When the Hart isn't given to the league's leading scorer, it sometimes goes to a player whose point production greatly surpassed any other skater on his team. For example, in 2017-18, New Jersey's Taylor Hall won the award after finishing the regular season with 93 points. The next closest player on the Devils was Nico Hischier, who had 52.
So Vasilevskiy has two potential elements working against him. First, history has shown that when it comes to the Hart Trophy, there seems to be an inherent bias against goalies. Second, will PHWA members view Vasilevskiy, who plays on a star-studded roster, as 'Most Valuable'? But nothing is etched in stone just yet. While voting doesn't take place until the end of the regular season, chatter about various awards happens throughout a season. And if Vasilevskiy keeps producing eye-popping statistics, he will put himself into the conversation.
As an NHL broadcaster, I do get a vote for the Jack Adams. On the various ballots for the PHWA, writers can, in order of preference, list up to five names. We only are allowed to make three selections for the Jack Adams. Of course, there are fewer coaches in the league than players, but it doesn't make the decision any easier. I find that coaches earning consideration generally fall into one of three categories, which sometimes overlap. First, their team reached a standard of excellence and maintained it throughout the season. Second, their team greatly exceeded expectations. Third, their club persevered through great adversity.
Greg's point is that, no matter how impressive a coach's performance may have been during the regular season, a coach does his best - and toughest - work during the Stanley Cup playoffs. So therefore, the coach of the Stanley Cup Champion should get the award.
Dan Rosen, who covers the league for NHL.com, came on our show a couple of weeks ago and interestingly, he took the opposite view. Dan feels that a coach's best work does happen during the regular season. Navigating one's team through (typically) 82 games, travel, injuries, back-to-backs, slumps, and a new opponent each night is more challenging.
I confess I'm ambivalent on this one. I enjoy having a vote for this award. And I like the idea of giving every coach an opportunity to win it. Dan's correct that the regular season presents its own specific challenges that differ from the playoffs. But in all of sports, little compares to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The tension, drama, attrition, grind, and intensity is unique. And it is no small accomplishment for a coach to guide his team through four grueling rounds against excellent opposition, not only in terms of the Xs and Os, but also by keeping his players even-keeled and focused on the task at hand through the emotional rollercoaster of each win and each loss.
So I suppose I can be persuaded. But if the broadcasters lose the Jack Adams, at least give us the vote for one of the other awards. The Selke, maybe?