While it seems like everyone voting for the NHL Awards seems to go to bed the second a Pacific Division hockey game starts, there’s a chance that the Sharks could be so loud this year, the rest of the league can’t ignore them anymore. If all goes well, some Sharks could see themselves in a position to get recognized for work they’ve been quietly doing for years.
Here’s a small sample of trophies that could belong to one of the men in teal next summer:
James Norris Memorial Trophy
Contender(s): Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic
The thing about the Norris is that is almost always goes to the highest scoring defenseman. So in reality, is Vlasic a contender for this trophy? Probably not. But I’d like to live in a word where an award for “best all around defenseman” meant someone who is literally the best defender in the league, without also being offensively inept.
But if the league insists that the best defender is someone who racks up points like a mother, might I interest them in the two highest-scoring defensemen of the last decade, both of whom inhabit the Sharks’ blueline?
I think in this case, Karlsson gets the edge, if for no reason other than the narrative and also probably the fact that he’s going to out-score Burns. After a horrible year in Ottawa and surrounded by trade talks for months until it finally happened, what a story for him to clown all over the rest of the league’s defensemen and win his third Norris.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
Contenders: Logan Couture, Joe Thornton
Being a two-way player has been something the Sharks have emphasized from everyone, but in particular, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture have proven themselves to be more than just defensively responsible, yet they’re consistently underrated.
With this award about a decade out from being renamed the Patrice Bergeron Trophy (sorry Anze Kopitar and also Mikko Koivu), there’s an uphill battle to get anywhere close to nominated. But I think Joe Thornton needs to add to his list of hardware before he makes it into the Hall of Fame.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Contenders: Logan Couture
The Lady Byng is a weird combination of points vs penalty minutes. Logan Couture is an elite 2C, but that does work against him in that many of the previous winners played on their team’s top line.
However, since his second full season (because boy howdy, did he make some rookie mistakes with 41 penalty minutes) he has never totaled more than 20 penalty minutes in a season, which is a general cut off point in the modern era for the Lady Byng (Joe Sakic won it with 30 in 2001, but the vast majority of winners had 20 or fewer penalty minutes over the last 20 years). He’s also averaged .75 points per game over his career. Removing his heavily penalized rookie season, and Couture has settle in to .21 penalty minutes per game over the rest of his career.
It’s hard to say what would finally put him on the radar for this award. Scoring more? Taking even fewer penalties? Probably the latter, as the closest he came was fifth in voting in 2013 with only 4 penalty minutes and 37 points in 48 games. But even then, he lost to Martin St. Louis, who totaled 14 penalty minutes and put up 60 points in those same 48 games, so a combination of both couldn’t hurt his chances.
General Manager of the Year Award
Contender: Doug Wilson
Is there any way that Doug Wilson doesn’t get this nomination?
(Actually, the answer there is if the Sharks got Karlsson and still somehow miss the playoffs, but who wants to put that energy out into the world?)
Doug Wilson is so sneaky good. On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman revealed a few different nicknames for Wilson around the league, including “the closer” and “the dentist,” because he works you over whenever he’s got you.
Part of what makes him so good is that he very genuinely believes in San Jose and what they are building. He also believes in the value of the players he’s trading away — and why wouldn’t he? He signed them or drafted them for a reason and he’s very proud of the work he’s done. Wilson’s authenticity is his greatest strength as a GM because it’s easy to believe you aren’t being fleeced when the person fleecing you also thinks you’re getting a good deal.
Though the Evander Kane trade was last season, it set of a tidal wave of unbelievably smart moves that culminated in Erik Karlsson landing in San Jose without risking any of this team’s current core and ability to compete now. If the rumors are true and he’s still looking to add someone up front, that deal could finally get the league to notice the house that Doug Wilson built.
Lord Stanley’s Cup
Contenders: The 2019 San Jose Sharks
The Pacific is wide open, folks.