As the season ends let’s take a look at the best Oilers of the season using the NHL Awards as a basis. Let me know what you think, and if you disagree, let us know who you would nominate instead. I’ll start with the easy ones.
Art Ross Trophy (Most Points): Jordan Eberle ran away with this one with 76 points.
Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy (Most Goals): Once again Eberle with 34 goals.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (Most Sportsmanly while also a really good player): Eberle again. With 76 points and only 10 penalty minutes he should be one of the finalists for the NHL as well. After him there isn’t really much, RNH had 52 points and only 16 PIM’s, which isn’t bad, but not the same league as Eberle.
Calder Memorial Trophy (Best Rookie): RNH obviously. Like Eberle with the Lady Bing, RNH has a good chance of actually winning this award for the NHL. I hope he does, but I admit I think it will be Landeskog.
Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender): I think this is fairly obvious as well. While Khabby looked great to start the season he faltered when it mattered. Dubnyk on the other hand didn’t start too well, but he turned it up and looks like a legit number one goalie down the stretch. Dubnyk wins in a landslide.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (Best Defenseman): The first one that wasn’t as obvious, at least not to me. Before the trade deadline I would have said Gilbert, but since he got traded… With the exception of a few bad games Petry has been great this season, solidifying his place in the top 4, and I think he could be a legit number 1 d-man in the future. In 73 games played he had 2 goals, 23 assists, 126 hits and 126 blocked shots, so I would say he does it all. Down the stretch he played big minutes at evens, on the power play and shorthanded, often leading the team in minutes. As I see it the only other option is Ladislav Smid. He has been a rock all year, getting 5 goals, and 10 assists to go along with 186 hits and 184 blocked shots in 78 games played. He’s faced the toughest competition all year and emerged as a solid top 4 shut down d-man. If he continues to improve he will be a fantastic top pairing option, in the Jason Smith type role. He hasn’t had any PP time (less than 5 minutes total for the season), but was the go to option for the PK. Despite his lack of PP time he still put up decent points, especially when you consider his shut down role. So while he may not be as complete a player as Petry, I would say he is better at what he does. The league seems to put more weight on offense when it comes to this award, so they would likely pick Petry, and I can’t say I fault that decision. I think both are deserving, but since I have to decide between the two I pick… Smid. No, Petry. No, Smid. No, I don’t know, what do you think…
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Most Dedicated, and unwilling to give up even when it would have been easy): The Oilers nominated Corey Potter for the award, and he surely hasn’t given up even though it might have been easy. However he may not be in the NHL next season, and although that shouldn’t disqualify him it is a bit of a knock against him. But who else? The obvious player would be Taylor Fedun, but while his recovery has been remarkable he hasn’t made it back yet. If he plays in the NHL next year he will likely be the Oilers nomination next season. Not playing didn’t stop them from giving the award to Ian Laperriere last season, but I think that was a different case as he’s not likely to ever play again due to age and other factors. So who’s next? Taylor Hall? He played all season with a shoulder injury sustained years ago. As much as I think Hall is an incredible talent and super dedicated I would put that decision under unintelligent rather than dedicated, but maybe that’s just me. What about Lennart Petrell, who finally made the NHL at the age of 27? Probably not. My vote is actually for Shawn Horcoff (I’m just waiting for the comments asking for me to be run out of town). Yes he’s well past his prime, and yes he’s severely over paid, but to me that adds a bit to why I would nominate him. I would be willing to wager that he knows those two facts, and still he gives it his all every game, knowing that a huge chunk of the fanbase wishes he were gone on the next train out of town. Jonathan Willis wrote a fantastic article over at Oilers Nation about Horcoff’s skills as captain. I’ll provide one quote from his article which I feel says it well as to why Horcoff would be my choice for this award:
"Night after night, on a team built to lose hockey games, Horcoff’s the guy that has to answer the questions of why they didn’t show up, why they weren’t competitive. He’s done it without tossing his teammates under the bus; he’s also done it without absolving himself of blame (predecessor Ethan Moreau, in a one-goal loss where the powerplay went 1-for-4 and the penalty-kill went 1-for-4, blamed the power play for the loss despite the fact that he’d been directly involved with the goal against on the penalty kill). He’s done it on nights where he’s the only veteran volunteering to go out to answer questions."
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward): I’m not much of an advanced stats guy, probably because with after a degree (or 2) in science I’ve seen too many numbers. That said to me the best defensive forward would be the forward who best shuts down the others teams best players. This would be the go to guy for the penalty kill, or for the last minute in a game where you have a one goal lead. If a center he’s the guy you want to take a big draw; if a winger he should be able to help win scrambled draws, and if the center gets waived out he’s the guy the coach want to step in for the draw. To me that player is Shawn Horcoff. I’m sure many would say Ryan Smyth, and I would say he’s one of the runners up, but to me he wore out faster than Horcoff did. I think that in two or three years (maybe even next year) this will be one of Eberle, Paajarvi, or Lander, but they aren’t there yet, so I say Horcoff.
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Eberle. Need I really say more?
Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP): I know, this is kind of like rubbing salt in the wound as there are no playoffs yet again, but I thought I would use this as a ‘last month of the season MVP’. I would offer Dubnyk as my winner. While he was inconsistent (at best) for most of the season, he was stellar to end things off. If the Stanley Cup winning Goalie plays as well as he has over the last month or so they have a good chance of winning this award, and on many nights we would not have won had Khabby been the goalie instead. Other games would have been a blowout (including the season finale against the Canucks). So while Eberle was the season long MVP, I would suggest that Dubnyk was our MVP over the last few weeks/months.
Jack Adams Award (Best Coach): This is one of the hardest. There really isn’t many to choose from. There’s Renney who most want let go. Or maybe Kruger who was the acting head coach when Renney was suffering from a concussion. I think there are good points to both, but with the Oilers record neither would get a single vote if nominated in the league. Instead I’ll go with the popular choice and say Todd Nelson. Yes he had a (relatively speaking) much better team and so should have a better record, but his team had a fantastic record (not just a good one), and he was selected to coach for the AHL All Star Game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the Oilers head coach next year, though I don’t think he will be.
NHL General Manager of the Year Award (Best General Manager): And I thought the last one was hard. Do I go with the GM that appears to be so indecisive that he never does anything (Tambellini), or the assistant who can’t seem to understand the CBA even after 7 years (Olczyk)? Maybe the way to pick is to say ‘well so and so is worse, so by definition that makes the other guy the best.’ Nope, I still can’t do it…