DALLAS — The NHL Awards are over, which means that the yelling could begin.
Every year, there are votes that boggle the mind, and this year was no exception. Some of them are egregious — like Mathew Barzal getting anything less than a first- or second-place vote for the Calder Trophy — and some of them are just curiously baffling, like putting Vladimir Tarasenko fifth on a Selke Trophy ballot in the hopes that he eventually plays defense, one assumes.
Fans see these votes, and start hurling bile at the voters for their malfeasance. For example: Who left Nathan MacKinnon off their Hart Trophy ballots completely, when the Colorado Avalanche center had one of the most rock-solid cases for either winning the award or finishing second?
Well, it turns out that Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette, Ansar Khan of MLive.com, Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle and Steve Zipay of Newsday did. None of them voted Taylor Hall of the Devils, who won the award, in first place either. Hickey had both Evgeni Malkin (first) and Sidney Crosby (fifth) on the same ballot.
We know this because, for the first time, all of the Professional Hockey Writers Association ballots have been released. You can read them here. (Emily Kaplan and I published ours here — along with explanations — after the awards show.)
The decision was made back in March, as 81.3 percent of members voted to make the ballots public. “As journalists we expect full transparency from the teams and people we cover,” said PHWA President Mark Spector. “Our Members are aware that the same is expected of us from our readers, and many voters have voluntarily revealed their ballots in the past. As a group, we have concluded that it is time to make full transparency part and parcel of voting on the NHL Awards.”
The results were … interesting. A couple of reactions to the dawn of transparency in voting:
Unexpected shame. I don’t think many of us put two and two together — hey, we’re doing these jobs to get away from math — that voters whose ballots were rejected would be mentioned in the release of the ballots. I thought maybe their names wouldn’t be included, and that would be that. Instead, we know that Ron MacLean (Hockey Night in Canada) and Mike Sawatzky (Winnipeg Free Press) didn’t submit ballots, Dave Feschuk (Toronto Star) submitted his late, that 12 voters had their All-Star selections invalidated because of bad ballots, and four more had all-rookie team selections invalidated for submitting an ineligible player. And we know all of their names, which led to solid pros like Mike Heika having to defend himself:
You have to respond in a specific e-mail, so I work out my ballot in a separate file and then cut and paste. When I did this with the all-star team portion, I accidentally cut off the goalies. That made it an incomplete ballot, and thus ineligible. https://t.co/3cXfXCjqiy
– Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) June 22, 2018
This sucks. Writers like Heika take this thing as seriously as anyone, and a cut-and-paste error gets them called out for ineptitude. Give me 1,000 cut-and-paste errors over someone who turns in a garbage ballot that makes it seem like they haven’t watched a game in seven years. I feel like there’s a better way to handle this aspect of the voting.
Again, an unintended consequence, but a good response, unlike …
Bad votes, worse reaction. David Shoalts of the Globe & Mail listed Taylor Hall as a center on his all-star team ballot, and Taylor Hall is not now nor has he ever been an NHL center. But Shoalts knows this, as he also voted Taylor Hall as his best left wing of the season as well. And why not? He had Taylor Hall feeding him passes all year, apparently.
It was embarrassing, on the level of Alex Ovechkin being voted an all-star at two different positions a few years back. How did Shoalts handle this?
Brain fart. For this heinous crime, to appease the Twitter lynch mob, I offer my PHWA resignation. I will then live under one of New Jersey’s most scenic freeway ramps and contemplate my sins against humanity. I suggest all those listed as having ineligible ballots do the same. https://t.co/0PhiAIMn2h
– David Shoalts (@dshoalts) June 21, 2018
Could have left it at “brain fart” and that would have been that.
Checks, balances. I was in favor of making the ballots public because I thought we couldn’t demand transparency from others if we didn’t offer it ourselves, and because I felt this would be the ultimate way to ensure everyone approaches the voting studiously. The first year of it was going to be rough, and I had one NHL official tell me it was embarrassing to see some of the mistakes laid bare like this.
But if the end result is writers only making picks that they can defend, and being extra careful to, like, note which position dudes play, the process is better for it. At the very least, it gets people talking.
Jersey Foul of the Week
From the Capitals’ Stanley Cup parade:
Double jersey foul!!! pic.twitter.com/cj3vT3wZfV
– itsnameisstanley �� 2018 edition (@2014_clary) June 12, 2018
Is it a Foul to wear a shirsey of one player with the jersey of another tied around one’s waist? We’re going to say “yes.” New Jersey Foul Regulation: In the shirt/kilt combo jersey, both players have to be on the same line, which Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie (for the most part) are not.
The 2018 NHL Draft All-Names Team
The NHL Draft is this weekend in Dallas. It’s one of my favorite events in sports, because there are literally six or seven people in hockey (including our Chris Peters) that actually know the prospects beyond the first few picks, and yet everyone in the world becomes an expert for the weekend. (“Grigori Denisenko of Yaroslavl at No. 15 for Florida? What a reach!”)
So yeah, most of us don’t know much about many of these prospects. But in scanning the draft-eligible players for 2018, it’s fairly obvious there are some memorable names in the mix. Here is the 2018 NHL Draft all-names team, keeping in mind that as someone who grew up as a Wyshynski, I understand the plight.
10. Samuel Bitten, C, Ottawa
The natural escalation of Brad Marchand‘s oral agitation tactics.
9. Oscar Back, C, Farjestad Jr.
The only player in the draft whose name on his jersey looks like a directional instruction for a seamstress.
8. Kyle Topping, C, Kelowna
If this guy’s nickname isn’t “Sprinkles” I don’t know what we’re even doing here. Although I’m sure it’s “Topper.” Because hockey, that’s why.
7. Martin Pospisil, C, Sioux City
Fans hang around the rink after victories in the hopes of getting handed the ultimate souvenir by a player: a Pospisil stick.
6. Ryan O’Reilly, RW, Madison
True story: Michael J. Fox went with that middle initial because there was already a Michael Fox working in Hollywood, so he was forced to change his name as to not confuse the marketplace. So, that established: Welcome to the NHL Draft, Ryan O. Reilly.
5. Semyon Der-Argugchintsev, C, Peterborough
I believe it was “SNL” hockey correspondent Chance The Rapper who said “That’s a ‘Der’ and a ‘Argugchintsev’ next to each other, so that’s a no.”
4. Jan Sir, C, Liberec Jr.
“What’s your name?”
“I appreciate your formality, but you can call me coach. What’s your full name?”
“First name, and then last name.”
“So just Jan? Like Rihanna?”
“No, Jan Sir.” (Continues for three hours.)
3. Otakar Sik, LW, Karlovy Vary Jr.
When every move you make is a Sik move, you’ve been moniker blessed.
2. Nando Eggenberger, LW, Davos
It’s like arriving at Nino Niederreiter, but they’re still just serving breakfast.
1. Jett Woo, D, Moose Jaw
You’re playing a game predicated on speed, in an attempt to entertain millions of fans to the point where they vocalize it with a euphoric sound. And your name is Jett Woo. Shut it down, we have a winner.
Listen To ESPN On Ice
Incredible podcast this week, as Emily and I cover the NHL Awards, the Barry Trotz hiring, Slava Voynov, trade rumors and all sorts of NHL things. Plus, interviews with Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators! Listen here.
Happy Anniversary, Expansion Draft
It’s incredible to think that about a year ago, there wasn’t a single NHL player in the roster of a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s also incredible for Steve Mayer, NHL Chief Content Officer, that the league was able to integrate the Vegas Golden Knights‘ expansion draft into the NHL Awards show, despite all the uncertainty that surrounded the picks.
“Looking back and watching it again recently, I think it worked,” he told ESPN in Vegas this week.
How did it work? Well, Mayer said he and GM George McPhee were in contact “every minute, it seemed like” in the days leading up to the draft. But it was a delicate dance.
“We had to build trust. I knew him, but I didn’t know him that well. I think he saw that he could trust us,” said Mayer.
At first, the Golden Knights clued the league in on the possibilities for the draft. “He gave us a pool of players that he had narrowed down pretty dramatically. That’s how we were able to do it. Instead of building graphics for 20 players [for each team], we were able to do it for five or three,” said Mayer.
Around midnight on the eve of the awards, the Golden Knights gave the NHL a few picks, to go along with the players it already knew were flying in for the big reveal, such as Marc-Andre Fleury. By the next morning, the full draft was submitted to the NHL and to the production team. “He was keeping us informed. When they made a pick, we had to react. We had to have highlights ready and graphics ready,” said Mayer.
It was a unique way to reveal the team. Although, admittedly, I still think the NHL should have tossed the thing on pay-per-view. Fans would have ante’d up.
Lozo takes down the NHL Awards show. “Did we really watch a seven-minute ‘is this your card’ trick? Is this because the show is in Vegas? Let those oiled-up dancing guys present an award if you want some Vegas flavor. Stopping the show for a rejected set piece from the Now You See Me 3 script isn’t something anyone wants.” [Vice Sports]
Dave Tippett said that the fun his old buddies had in the first-year run for the Vegas Golden Knights made him want in with the Seattle team. [ESPN 710]
Barry Trotz’s plans for the New York Islanders. [Lighthouse Hockey]
Katie Strang with a good primer on Slava Voynov and his potential return to the NHL. [The Athletic]
Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn’t read)
An inside look at China’s attempt at a hockey dynasty. [SB Nation]
In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN
Paul Lukas with a valentine to the NHL third jersey, which is making a comeback this season.