The ballot from NHL headquarters arrived in my inbox on March 29.
For the most part, it has sat there - unclicked - for the last two weeks because I haven’t exactly known what to do with it. As a voting member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the Hart, Norris, Calder, Selke, Lady Byng trophies and the All-Star teams, it is an honor I take seriously.
I put in at least three to four hours of research - carefully checking statistics, glossing over injury reports, reading through newspaper stories, just to make sure I’ve got the most complete picture possible.
But it’s always strange when a guy you cover on a daily basis could be up for an award.
As a journalist, you find yourself asking the question: am I inserting bias in my voting?
That’s what I’ve been wrangling with for the last two weeks with regards to Claude Giroux’s candidacy on the Hart Trophy ballot. Should Giroux be a finalist for the league’s top honor?
Evgeni Malkin is the hands down winner of the Hart. End of story. Tough to make an argument for anyone else. That might not be a popular opinion in Philadelphia this week. Just a hunch.
But what about everyone else?
For most of the season, I had Giroux pegged in the runner-up spot. Then, with a late season push by Steven Stamkos to 60 goals, I moved Giroux back to No. 4. This week, I had him at third at one point in my mind.
Does a goaltender belong in the Hart mix? Only 4 goaltenders have won the award in the last 47 years. Unbelievably, Jose “Five or More” Theodore was the last to win it, in 2001-02 with the Canadiens.
For me, that answer is yes. The actual criteria of the award is “the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” Without Jonathan Quick, I’m 99 percent certain the Los Angeles Kings do not make the playoffs. With such strong defensive play, the Rangers probably make it anyway, even if Marty Biron starts most of the season ahead of Henrik Lundqivst.
Ultimately, it was the letter of the law that convinced me Giroux was worthy of the No. 2 spot behind Malkin.
Without Giroux's emergence last season, Paul Holmgren likely does not have the courage to trade away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last offseason. With those moves, the keys to a franchise were handed over to a 23-year-old.
And the franchise could have gone two ways: to the cellar or to the top.
Instead, Giroux posted the Flyers’ best individual season since 1999 with 93 points. He made every player around him better, like Scott Hartnell. Somehow, the Flyers finished 5 goals better than they did last season and just 3 points off that pace in the standings.
Looking at their No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, it is easy to forget that the Flyers finished with the 6th most points in the NHL this season - 4 wins from a President’s Trophy. Is any of that remotely possible without Giroux?
Like a parent-coach who is tougher on his own son than any other player on the team, I make sure to put players I cover on a daily basis through a more stringent vetting process than any other vote to remove any hint of bias.
That’s why I feel comfortable sharing my ballot publicly. Giroux deserves to be in Las Vegas on June 20. Interestingly, I think a lot of players will feel the same way with voting for their own MVP in the Ted Lindsay Award.
HART TROPHY - most valuable player to his team
1. Evgeni Malkin (PIT)
2. Claude Giroux (PHI)
3. Jonathan Quick (LAK)
4. Steven Stamkos (TBL)
5. Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
NORRIS TROPHY - top defenseman
1. Erik Karlsson (OTT)
2. Shea Weber (NSH)
3. Zdeno Chara (BOS)
4. Alex Pietrangelo (STL)
5. Nicklas Lidstrom (DET)
LADY BYNG - gentlemanly conduct with high playing ability
1. Brian Campbell (FLA)
2. Matt Moulson (NYI)
3. Marty St. Louis (TBL)
4. Nicklas Lidstrom (DET)
5. Patrik Elias (NJD)
SELKE TROPHY - best defensive forward
1. Jonathan Toews (CHI)
2. Patrice Bergeron (BOS)
3. Pavel Datsyuk (DET)
4. David Backes (STL)
5. Ryan Kesler (VAN)
CALDER TROPHY - rookie of the year
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM)
2. Gabriel Landeskog (COL)
(note: both players tied for the lead in points with 52 but Nugent-Hopkins played 20 fewer games)
3. Matt Read (PHI)
4. Carl Hagelin (NYR)
5. Sean Couturier (PHI)
I do not vote on these awards, but here are my thoughts:
VEZINA TROPHY - top goaltender (voted by GMs)
1. Jonathan Quick (LAK)
2. Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
3. Mike Smith (PHX)
4. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
5. Brian Elliott (STL)
JACK ADAMS - coach of the year (voted by broadcasters)
1. Ken Hitchcock (STL)
2. Paul MacLean (OTT)
3. Kevin Dineen (FLA)
4. Dave Tippett (PHX)
5. John Tortorella (NYR)
GM OF THE YEAR - (voted by GMs, broadcasters, and select media)
1. Dale Tallon (FLA)
2. Paul Holmgren (PHI)
3. Doug Armstrong (STL)
4. David Poile (NSH)
5. Stan Bowman (CHI)
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