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9 NHL awards that don’t exist but definitely should (and who should win them)

From the most improved player to finding ways to give defencemen more trophies, here are the NHL awards that ought to exist.
Chris Tanev of the Calgary Flames
Chris Tanev will never win a Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman but doesn't he deserve an award for actually playing defence?

The results for the 2022 NHL Awards have started to come in, with the results already announced for several awards, including the Jack Adams for coach of the year and the Selke for best defensive forward.

While a few more awards will come out this week, several major awards won’t be announced until an hour-long live show on June 21, including the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, Hart Trophy for most valuable player, Norris Trophy for best defencemen, Ted Lindsay for most outstanding player, and Vezina Trophy for best goaltender.

As a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, I had the honour of voting for five of the NHL awards — the Hart, Norris, Calder, Lady Byng, and Selke — as well as the All-Star and All-Rookie teams. In the interests of transparency, I will publish my ballot and my reasoning for my choices for each award when the winners are announced on June 21.

Before that happens, I’ll let you know my picks for winners of some awards that don’t exist.

There are a lot of NHL awards but there could stand to be a few more. Why? Because awards are fun, because sports are supposed to be fun, and because that’s the premise of this article.

In all seriousness, there are some awards that are missing. Here are nine awards the NHL should add to their annual awards ceremony and who should win them this year.

The William Karlsson Award for most improved player

The NBA has an award for the most improved player, given to a player who took a significant step forward from past seasons. Why doesn’t the NHL have the same?

It could be named after William Karlsson, who went from 6 goals and 25 points in the 2016-17 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets to suddenly scoring 43 goals and 78 points in his first season with the Vegas Golden Knights.

A few years ago, J.T. Miller could have been up for the award when he broke out as a point-per-game player with the Vancouver Canucks 

For this year, there are several great candidates, like Valeri Nichushkin, Ryan Hartman, and Troy Terry. My vote, however, would go to Chris Kreider, who suddenly scored 50+ goals for the New York Rangers at the age of 30 after never scoring even 30 goals in any of his previous seasons. 

The Rod Langway Award for best defensive defenceman

Forwards have all kinds of awards that they can win, with many of the awards that are technically open to all players typically defaulting to a forward. 

The Maurice Richard Trophy has always gone to a forward. The Art Ross has been won by a defenceman just twice and it was Bobby Orr both times. The Hart Trophy hasn’t been won by a defenceman in over 20 years and the Ted Lindsay has been won a defenceman just once — again, it was Bobby Orr.

Even the Lady Byng has only gone to a defenceman twice in the last 68 years. 

On top of that, forwards get an award all to themselves: the Selke.

Meanwhile, defencemen get one measly award: the Norris, which is given to the best all-around defenceman but, in practice, typically goes to the defencemen who scored the most points.

It’s not really fair to the defencemen that focus on the part of the game that is in their name: defence. Thus, it’s been suggested many times before that the NHL introduce an award for best defensive defenceman and name it for the best defensive defenceman in the Hockey Hall of Fame: Rod Langway.

It’s essentially the defenceman version of the Selke and the first winner of the Langway should be obvious to Canucks fans: Chris Tanev.

Tanev was a defensive beast for the Calgary Flames this past season while playing a full 82 games for the first time in his career. He’ll never get any Norris votes because he doesn’t put up a lot of points but he deserves an award anyway.

The Bobby Orr Award for top-scoring defenceman

The Art Ross might technically be for any player but, in practice, it’s just given to the top-scoring forward. So, why not introduce the equivalent for the top-scoring defenceman?

As an added bonus, the existence of this award might dissuade voters from just giving the Norris to the top-scoring defenceman each year and actually give it to the best all-around defenceman instead.

This year’s winner would be Roman Josi, who put up a stunning 96 points but — spoiler warning — wasn’t first on my Norris ballot or even second. Still, he deserves an award.

The Wayne Gretzky Award for best playmaker

The equivalent of the Rocket Richard trophy for the most goals, this award would go to the player with the most assists, because playmakers deserve an award too. 

The winner this year would be Jonathan Huberdeau, which would be the only hardware Huberdeau would take home for his 115-point season. His 85 assists topped the next best playmaker, Connor McDavid, by six assists.

The alternative to making this an Art Ross-style trophy would be to make it a judgement call on who the best playmaker is, but let's be real, anyone who votes on this award is just going to look at the assist totals and call it a day anyway.

The Mario Lemieux Trophy for most points in the playoffs

It seems exceedingly strange that the NHL has just one individual award for the postseason — the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP. Why isn’t there the equivalent of the Art Ross for the playoffs? 

Wayne Gretzky holds the award for most points in a single playoff run but I already named the assists award for him, so this one gets named for Mario Lemieux, who had the second-most points in a single playoffs with 44 points in 1991 and also had a stunning playoffs in 1992 when he put up 16 goals and 34 points in just 15 games — he missed five games of the Penguins’ playoff run and still led the playoffs in scoring by six points.

There have been some incredible performances in this year’s playoffs, with Connor McDavid leading the playoffs in scoring with a whopping 30 points in 15 games, nearly equalling Lemieux’s legendary 1992 run. 

It’s one of the best playoff performances in NHL history but it might be over soon, as the Colorado Avalanche are up 3-0 on the Edmonton Oilers. McDavid could be caught by Mika Zibanejad or Adam Fox, who have 24 and 23 points for the Rangers, or Nikita Kucherov, who has 20 points for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Kucherov would have won this award last year with 32 points and the year before with 34 points. 

The Dominik Hasek Award for most outstanding goaltender 

The Ted Lindsay Award is given out to the best player in the NHL as voted by the players themselves. While it could go to a player at any position, it almost always goes to a forward. That’s why I think there should be the equivalent of the Ted Lindsay Award for another position.

I already gave defencemen some love with two new awards, so let’s turn this one over to the goaltenders. Who better to vote on the league’s best goaltender than the players they infuriate so much by stopping all of their shots?

We’ll name it after Dominik Hasek, who ought to have an award named after him, since he is the best goaltender in NHL history. 

This year, the award would likely go to Andrei Vaseilevskiy. In the NHLPA’s player poll, “more than 500” players were asked which goalie they would want on their team if they needed to win one game and Vasilevskiy won 37.4% of the vote to finish first by a wide margin. 

Perhaps the result would be different since the Hasek would be about who had the best season and Vasilevskiy isn’t one of the three finalists for the Vezina. Perhaps not. At the very least, it would be intriguing to see who the players picked.

Goal of the Year and Save of the Year

The Swedish Hockey League gives out awards for the best goal and best save of the year. Why doesn’t the NHL do the same? It would liven up the awards ceremony with some absolutely incredible highlights.

In my books, the winner for Save of the Year should be obvious: Thatcher Demko’s blockerless scorpion kick save against the Rangers from back in November.

As for Goal of the Year, another Canuck would be in the running — J.T. Miller with his coast-to-coast goal against the Arizona Coyotes — but this one has to go to Sonny Milano’s goal off of Trevor Zegra’s mindblowing aerial pass over the back of the net. 

Because what in the world?

I saw someone call it the Dishigan, playing off the Michigan nickname for the lacrosse-style goal that Zegras has also scored a few times. Sure, the goal itself isn’t the amazing part, though Milano deserves credit for patiently waiting for the puck to get below the crossbar so it wasn’t high-sticking, but this definitely was the best goal of the year and I don't want to also have an Assist of the Year award.

This should be an award because we should be praising amazing moments.

The Guy Lafleur Award for best hockey hair

There’s a lot of uniformity in hockey, as players sacrifice their individuality for the sake of the team. One of the few ways a player can stand out from the rest of his team is through his hair, sticking out from under his helmet.

Hockey has long had a connection with hair, dating back to the days when players didn’t wear helmets and Guy Lafleur’s hair could be seen streaming behind him as he flew down the wing.

So, let’s celebrate hockey hair by giving out an award — an official NHL award — to the player with the best flow. 

There are some great candidates this year, from Cody Eakin’s neon orange mullet to William Karlsson’s flowing blonde locks, but the clear winner has to be Mika Zibanejad.

It doesn’t get much better than that.