HEART TROPHYGenerally, the Hart trophy goes to the guy whose team wouldn't have finished where it has without his contributions. For the Unheralded Awards, they go to the guy whose heart has propelled his team to new heights without getting a lot of attention. A lot of people had Mark Giordano as their run-away favorite for the Hart trophy a quarter of the way through the season, but Calgary has fallen back to earth as they sit in fifth-place in the Pacific Division. As a general rule, you're not the league's MVP if your team doesn't make the playoffs. This isn't baseball.
NO-RISK TROPHYDefencemen who win the Norris Trophy are the guys who put up a pile of points in helping their teams to a high finish in the NHL. While offence is an important part of the game, defence also plays a factor if you're a rearguard, so the No-Risk Trophy factors the defensive side of the game as evenly or, in some cases, more importantly than the offensive side. After all, defence wins championships, right?
AL ARBOUR TROPHYThe Jack Adams Award usually is given to the coach who has led his team to a vast improvement in points only. Generally, there's a regression seen in the following year as players begin to fall back into bad habits and the novelty of the "new sheriff in town" has worn off. The Al Arbour Award goes to the coach who has not only take over a team a year earlier, but actually seen them continue their strong play since his arrival in town. There's on one-season wonders here. This is an award that is handed out to a coach who has implemented systems and gotten the most out of his players in more than a season since his arrival.
JACQUES PLANTE TROPHYSince the Vezina Trophy is named after Georges Vezina, I thought it would only be appropriate to name my trophy after the guy who has won the most Vezina Trophies. After all, that should be the standard for this award where the best goaltender is picked, right? Coincidentally, this might be the only trophy that has the same winner for both the NHL voters and myself as one man has stood out on the blue paint where others have faltered.
SERGEI MAKAROV TROPHYThe Calder Trophy usually goes to the highest-scoring rookie, but I want to give an award to the guy who has had to overcome the most hardship to make it to the NHL before lighting the place up. Sergei Makarov made the NHL change the rule in terms of age of eligibility after he jumped from the Soviet Union to the Calgary Flames and won the award, but I care not for a player's age. Sergei Makarov was an incredible hockey player, but it took quite a struggle for him to reach the NHL. It's that kind of struggle in becoming a top rookie that should be highlighted with this award, giving kids who may not be the next Sidney Crosby or Nathan MacKinnon a hero to look up to in their quest to reach the NHL.
Filip Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau are making cases to the Calder Trophy winner, but I want to highlight a guy who has played 62 games as an NHL rookie already. Ottawa's Mike Hoffman has had quite the road to finding his NHL legs. He was cut from the OHL's Kitchener Rangers in 2007-08, picked up by the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques only to be cut again after 19 games, and then picked up by the last-place Drummondville Voltigeurs for the remainder of the season. He wasn't selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft - his first year of eligibility - but went to training camp with the Philadelphia Flyers who also cut him.
So why is he the Makarov Trophy winner? The 25 year-old is fourth in rookie scoring with 18 points, but is a +15 for a Senators team that is 15-14-7 and has a goal differential of -2. He was cut by two CHL teams in the same season, and an NHL team one season later. He was drafted at 19, and was sent back to his junior team by the team that drafted him after their training camp. Needless to say, Mike Hoffman has battled hard to get to where he is today, and he never let any of those cuts slow him down. His persistence in becoming a solid NHL player is the reason I'm tabbing Mike Hoffman as my unheralded rookie of the year.
So what say you, folks? Am I way off-base here? Remember, these are the UNHERALDED Mid-Season Awards - the guys who might get a vote or two in the final tally for the NHL's awards at the season's end, but they won't be a front-runner outside of Rinne. Thoughts? Likes? Dislikes? Do I need to be locked up in some asylum? Have your say below!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!