A.K.A. 6 NHL Awards We’d Like to See
The 2018 NHL Awards take place tonight. Seeing the same great players over and over win trophies and make boring speeches is fine and all, but what hockey needs is a little variety to its awards. So here are six all-new and exciting trophies that the NHL should give out to these six unique and interesting players. But the NHL is more likely to give Quebec its next expansion franchise than to acknowledge the feats of these guys. I guess that leaves it to me. So I present to you the First Annual Puck Junk Awards!
The Chris Kontos Trophy
For the player you never heard of that came out of nowhere and surprised everyone — kind of like the way Chris Kontos did when he scored four goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the team’s first-ever game back in 1992.
And the winner is…William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights.Why? Really, who else but Karlsson should win this award? The dude scored a total of 16 goals in his first 165 NHL games, and the Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Knights a first round and a second round pick if they took Karlsson off of their hands. “Wild Bill” then surprised everyone with 43 goals in 82 regular season games and led Vegas in goals and points. Surprise players like Karlsson make the NHL more exciting and should be rewarded.
The Boomerang Award
For the player that went away for a little while, but came back, only to go away again. Had this award existed a decade ago, past recipients would have included Peter Forsberg and Claude Lemieux.
And the winner is…Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators.Why? Fisher retired on August 3, 2017, but then un-retired on January 31, 2018, to try and help the Nashville Predators win the Stanley Cup. Considering that the Predators made it to the Finals last year, you can’t blame Fisher for wanting to give it another go, but without the rigors of a full regular season. However, maybe playing the full season would have kept Fisher sharp; he only scored two goals and two assists in 16 regular season games, then a single goal in 12 playoff games. He re-retired in May after the Preds were eliminated by the Winnipeg Jets. But hey — he tried!
The Len Broderick Trophy
For the goalie least likely to play in an NHL game who actually got to play in an NHL game. The award is named in honor of Len Broderick, who was a “standby” goalie that suited up for the Montreal Canadiens for one game in 1957 to fill in for Jacques Plante.
And the winner is…Scott Foster, Chicago Blackhawks.Why? Dylan Fergusson of the Golden Knights was 5th on the team’s depth chart and played one period of one game, but even that gets topped by emergency backup goaltender Scott Foster, who saw 14 minutes of action for the Blackhawks against the Jets. EBUGs always make for a great story — the Average Joe who gets to ride the pine for a game, but almost never set foot on the ice or see any real action. Foster was pressed into service when both Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia went down with injuries. He stopped all seven shots he faced in 14 minutes of game play, including a slap shot by Dustin Byfuglien and a goalmouth chance by Paul Stastny. The 36-year old accountant’s unlikely turn as an NHL goalie even made waves in non-hockey circles and was lauded by everyone from NPR to BBC to Accounting Today.
The Bob Probert Bowl
For being a tough mofo that can fight and contribute offensively.
And the winner is…Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals.Why? Washington’s Tom Wilson was tied for second in the NHL in regular season fighting majors with 13 fights. But unlike the Panthers’ Michael Haley (22 fights) or the Rangers’ Cody MacLeod (also 13 fights), Wilson can score. He registered 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points in 78 regular season games. Wilson then kicked it up two notches in the playoffs, netting five goals — including two in the Finals — and 10 assists in 21 playoff games. He also got into one fight during the Conference Finals. Had Wilson not been suspended three games for a reckless hit to the head of Penguins’ forward Zach Aston-Resse, he probably would have scored a few more points in the playoffs.
The Kessel Kup
For being the Stanley Cup MVP who was not given Stanley Cup MVP award because his more popular teammate was voted as Stanley Cup MVP. Named in honor of Penguins’ forward Phil Kessel, who should have won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2016 as the playoff MVP, only to lose to Sidney Crosby.
And the winner is…Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals.Why? Alex Ovechkin led the Capitals with 15 postseason goals to Kuznetsov’s 12, but Kuznetsov scored eight more assists than Ovechkin and led the Caps with 32 points. He scored five more points than Ovie, but Ovie was named MVP. Maybe it was because Ovechkin scored three goals in the Finals to Kuznetsov’s one –and Conn Smythe voters many times fixate on the final round — or maybe it was because he’s Alexander freakin’ Ovehckin. Still, Kuznetsov led in second-place votes, so give the man the Kessel Kup already!
The Claude Lemieux Award
For being the guy that everyone wants to punch in the face.
And the winner is…Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins.Why? Seriously, is anyone in the NHL more loathsome than Brad Marchand? Sure, he could kick my ass eight ways to Sunday, but he still reminds me of the twerpy third grader who waves his hand in your face while exclaiming “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” Only replace “waves” with “licks” and “hand” with “tongue” and you’ve got Marchand. Look, it’s one thing to get a guy off his game with a little trash talk or even the occasional slash or jab behind the play. But Marchand licking Ryan Callahan was as gross as it was disrespectful. I am honestly surprised that neither Callahan nor any of this Lightning teammates popped one in Marchand’s kisser after pulling that stunt.
And that wraps up the First Annual Puck Junk Awards. Maybe next year I’ll be ambitious enough to Photoshop some fake trophies. Until then, I’d love to know who you think should have won these awards — or what award you’d like to see given next year. Leave a comment and let me know. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.