The Professional Hockey Writer’s Association continued its new tradition of voting for midseason awards this month and released the results ahead of the 2019-20 All-Star weekend. There is no official hardware for winning any of this, as it is just something to create some talking points during a slow time of the regular season and maybe get a look at who might be the frontrunners for the actual individual awards at the end of the season.
The only member of the Penguins to finish in the top-three of any of the awards is head coach Mike Sullivan, who finished in the top spot of the PHWA midseason results.
It is worth noting that the PHWA does NOT vote for the Jack Awards Award at the end of the season. That award is voted on by broadcasters.
The Vezina Trophy is voted on by the general managers.
All other awards are voted on by the PHWA.
My midseason ballot had a couple of Penguins on it, including Teddy Blueger for Selke Trophy, Mike Sullivan for coach of the year and Jim Rutherford for general manager of the year.
For now, here are a few thoughts on individual Penguins, their current standing in the eyes of voters, and their chances.
Mike Sullivan would be an outlier in coach of the year voting
The Jack Adams Award rarely, if ever, goes to the actual best coach or the coach that does the best job. Look at the winners over the past decade and it usually follows a similar script:
- Team that was not particularly good the year before or entered the season with low expectations
- Better than expected results that are almost always driven by an amazing goaltending performances
- Coaches that have teams with high expectations and a lot of talent are almost always excluded from winning
Then within two years they get fired and eventually re-hired by another team.
All of that would seem to point to Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella being the winner this season, and he did come in second in the PHWA midseason voting. If Columbus ends up making the playoffs, I would be willing almost guarantee that he wins it. That is just how these things go. As the Penguins get key players back in the lineup I can see voters forgetting about the injury situation early in the year and continuing to look at Columbus exceeding expectations after watching Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel leave in free agency (and Columbus has definitely had its share of injuries this season, too).
Even so, Sullivan is probably the Penguins’ best chance at an individual award winner at this point.
The superstars have not played enough games to get much attention for the MVP or Norris
Based on what they have done this season when healthy I think there are strong arguments to be made for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to at least be considered for the MVP award, likewise for Kris Letang when it comes to the Norris Trophy. But all three have missed too many games to really factor in at this point. No surprise there. There is also the fact that I think there are a handful of players for both awards that have stood out more. Nothing wrong here. They can still be great, valuable players without winning individual awards. They are exactly that.
John Marino is really not on the national radar
Marino has not only been one of the most impactful defensive rookies in the NHL, he has had one of the biggest defensive impacts of ANY player in the NHL regardless of experience or position. But for as good as he has been for the Penguins, and for as much as he has helped transform the Penguins’ defense, he is not even a blip on the radar for the Calder Trophy.
I sort of get it.
For one, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes are simply better. They just are. They are going to be superstars in this league for the next decade. One of them is going to win the Calder Trophy, and for damn good reason.
After that, things get a little weird.
Over at NBC I did a rookie Power Rankings a week ago and had Marino fourth on the list and let me tell you, a lot of people were very confused by that. Now, it is tough to get take public reaction to rankings seriously because people are going to support the player they watch most. But it is staggering to see just how little attention Marino is getting outside of Pittsburgh. With Elvis Merzlikins carrying Columbus to a playoff spot, and Dominik Kubalik being on roll offensively for the Chicago Blackhawks, it is going to be even easier for Marino to slide under the radar.
Defenseman always have a tough fight in the Calder Trophy race, especially when point production is not a big part of their game, and we are seeing that with Marino.
I would not put him at the very top of my ballot. But he should certainly be in the top-five.
Not sure he will even get that result.
On Jim Rutherford
Before this season I was very critical of the job Rutherford had done the past two years, but his offseason performance (and really even going back to the middle of the 2018-19 season) has helped make up for it in a big way. The Phil Kessel trade has not worked out, but getting John Marino and Domink Kahun for Olli Maatta and a sixth-round pick has been a huge steal, while the Brandon Tanev signing has worked out far better than pretty much anyone (even the supporter of the signing) could have expected. Even more important than any individual roster move — or series of roster moves — is the philosophical change Rutherford and the Penguins have made. They are back to being and playing like the Penguins. That is the biggest change.
Teddy Blueger needs more attention