A.K.A. 6 NHL Awards We Still Want to See
Another NHL season is in the books, meaning it’s time for the annual postseason awards. Each year, the NHL gives its award to the best goalie, best defenseman, most
(popular) valuable player, yada, yada, yada. What the NHL really needs is some fun awards, so last year I came up with the Puck Junk Awards, to recognize this year’s surprise goalie, toughest mofo and best (worst?) boomerang player, among others. Here are the winners of the 2019 Puck Junk Awards.
The Chris Kontos Trophy
For the player you never heard of that came out of nowhere and surprised everyone — 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…Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues!
Why? Binnington’s sum total of NHL experience prior to the season was 13 minutes of one game back in 2015-16, where he allowed one goal on four shots. So, not many knew about him when he was called up from the minors at the end of 2018, and took over as the Blues’ starter in January. Binnington helped the Blues turn their fortunes around, going from a last-place team to a Stanley Cup Champion. He went 24-5-0-1 during the regular season, posting a stellar 1.89 GAA, and then was in net for all 16 of the Blues’ wins in the playoffs.
Past Winner: William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights (2018)
The Boomerang of the Year Award
For the player that went away, and then 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…Ilya Kovalchuk of the Los Angeles Kings!
Why? Kovalchuk “retired” from the NHL in 2013, which was the subject of much controversy. (How does a player “retire” when he then continues to play the same game professionally elsewhere?) He spent the next five seasons playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, then returned to the NHL with the Kings for the 2018-19 season. And though it isn’t official yet, it is safe to assume that the Kings will make Kovalchuk “go away” before the start of next season. Kovalchuk played well for the Kings early in the season, scoring 14 points in 14 games. Then an injury and a coaching change screwed up his season, with Kovalchuk scoring 34 points in 64 games. That sucks for a guy making $6.25 million a season. The Kings can’t buy him out, since he’s over 35, but they can put him on waivers and hope another team takes him, or “assign” him back to a team in Russia and then “trade” his contract to the Arizona Coyotes.
Past Winner: Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators (2018)
The Len Broderick Trophy
For the goalie least likely to play in an NHL game, but actually got to play in an NHL game. The award is named after 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…Hunter Miska, briefly of the Arizona Coyotes!
Why? Hunter Miska was literally the Coyotes’ fifth-string goalie in 2018-19, and let me tell you, a lot of dominoes have to fall in order for a fifth-string goalie to get their shot. Ahead of Miska were starter Darcy Kuemper, backup Antti Raanta, journeyman goalie Calvin Pickard, and fellow AHLer Adin Hill. So, Miska had very long odds of playing in the NHL this year, but it happened on November 13, 2018, when he was put in to relieve Kuemper, who had allowed five goals on 17 shots. Miska allowed one goal on nine shots, and was sent back to the minors 10 days later.
Past Winner: Scott Foster, Chicago Blackhawks (2018)
The Bob Probert Punchbowl*
(* – Formerly known as the Bob Probert Bowl.)
For being a tough mofo that can fight and contribute offensively.
And the winner is…Micheal Ferland of the Carolina
Why? Ten players had six fighting majors during the 2018-19 season. Of the ten, only Michael Ferland (Carolina) and Tom Wilson (Washington) made significant offensive contributions to their teams. Both players scored 40 points during the season, so they are tied in fights and in points. But looking at Ferland’s fights and Wilson’s fights from the 2018-19 season, Ferland fought against willing combatants in his own weight class, while Wilson has no problem picking fights with non-fighters for the easy win. That makes Ferlund this year’s winner of the Bob Probert Punchbowl.
Past Winner: Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals (2018)
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...Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues!
Why? Binnington is getting two Puck Junk Awards this year because he had an amazing season. But let me ask you this: since the Stanley Cup Final this year came down to Game 7, who was the most valuable player in that game? The answer is clearly Binnington, who weathered the storm early until his teammates got their act together. Binnington also killed off the game’s only power play — and the Bruins were deadly with the man advantage. He stopped 12 shots in the first period alone, and 32 out of 33 shots total; the only Bruins goal came when the game was out of reach for them. True, Ryan O’Reilly did lead the Blues in scoring, including four goals in the last four Stanley Cup Finals Games. And really, it’s a no-brainer to give the Conn Smythe Trophy to the guy who scores the most points for the team that wins. But after putting some brains into it, we all know who the real MVP should have been.
Past Winner: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (2018)
The Claude Lemieux Award
For being the guy that everyone wants to punch in the face.
And the winner is…Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. Just kidding! The winner is Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, for the second year in a row.
Why? Yes, Marchand won this award last year. So what? No other NHLer was as dickish as Marchand throughout the 2018-19 season. In fact, in the very first game of the season, Marchand was up to his old tricks. He jumped Lars Eller of the Capitals because Eller celebrated his goal, which put the Bruins down 7-0. Marchand thought Eller being happy about scoring a goal warranted an ass beating. When Eller challenged him to a rematch a few months later, Marchand — surprise, surprise — declined because Marchand doesn’t fight fair. Marchand has no problem punching an opponent in the back of his head or stepping on their stick to break it during a face-off — even joking that it dulled his skate. But when Kyle Bukauskas of CBC jokingly asked Marchand if he got his skate sharpened afterward, Marchand ended the interview, like a three-year old having a tantrum. He was then rude to Bukauskas in a subsequent interview, giving two-word answers, like a sulking three-year old, because Marchand can dish it out, but he can’t take it. Marchand is an agitator, but he is also a talented player, so his teammates will put up with his bullshit, while Bruins fans will continue to make excuses for him. It would not be surprising if he three-peated and won this award again next year.
Past Winner: Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (2018)
Do you think anyone different should have won these awards this year? What new award would you like to see us give out next year? Leave your suggestion below, or hit me up on Twitter. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.