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Awards season has finally passed us by, and the Stanley Cup has been handed out, congrats Tampa Bay. Before the Kraken form a roster, players get drafted and free agents signed, let’s take a look back at this season’s awards. This year seemed to be the most correct year we’ve had in a while, Connor McDavid won the Hart, Fox won the Norris, Fleury the Vezina, and so on. But what about if we flipped the script? Gave recognition to those who were on the other end of the awards? We all know about the ‘Green Jacket’ given to the player with the lowest +/-, which was Rasmus Dahlin this season.
So that begs the question, who are the winners of the NHL’s Reverse Awards?
Hart Memorial Trophy
Least valuable player in the regular season.
Real Winner: Connor McDavid
Reverse Winner: Nate Thompson
Nate Thompson didn’t have as bad of a season as one would expect for someone who won the Reverse Hart. Winnipeg simply has a lot of bottom-six forwards at their disposal, whether that be Copp, Lowry, Appleton, or Lewis. They all have a similar style and similar goals every time they step on the ice. When looking at what they did as individuals, Thompson had the worst season of them all. He had 5Pts, that’s half of Trever Lewis who was 2nd last in team scoring. He also only played an average of 9:41 a night. In a high-scoring North Division, on an offensive team like the Jets, it’s amazing he couldn’t even luck into more than just 0.11Points per game. The good news for Nate Thompson is that 50% of his goals were game-winners, the issue being that he only scored twice.
James Norris Trophy
The defenseman who demonstrates the least ability to play an all-around game.
Real Winner: Adam Fox
Reverse Winner: Matt Benning
When I say ‘least ability I don’t necessarily mean worst. I’m sure there was a worse defenseman than Matt Benning, maybe even his teammate Erik Gudbranson. The reason he wins the Reverse Norris is because of how top-heavy the Nashville blueline is, with names like Josi, Ellis, and Ekholm, Benning just wasn’t called on enough to make a valuable impact. Playing in 53 games, he averaged some of the lowest ice time among defensemen with just 16:20 per game. In that time he managed just 4 points, and his only goal was in a 3-2 OT loss to Carolina early in the season. His point share was among the lowest in the league, only contributing to 1.3 Goals throughout the season. Benning also got a lot of defensive zone starts, which helps explain his low scoring rate and 42.5% Corsi. Regardless, he didn’t have a terrible season, he just wasn’t very impactful in any position for Nashville.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
Forward who has the most trouble with the defensive aspects of the game.
Real Winner: Aleksander Barkov
Reverse Winner: Jack Hughes
This season was supposed to be the redemption tour of Jack Hughes, offensively his sophomore season was better than his rookie. However, the defensive aspects of his game were not there. Jack Hughes leads the league in giveaways with 74, in just 56 games, not a great start. His faceoff percentage was just 35.4%, which was among the league’s worst, and helps explain why he started just 6.5% of his shifts in the defensive zone, and the majority were on the fly, 57.8%. His penalty differential was also 3rd worst in the league, at -32PIM. I won’t knock him too hard for that because he is a skilled and shifty player, and the other players in that range are superstars like Connor McDavid and Brayden Point, it’s just how the league calls games. Most of the knock for Hughes is that the defensive game wasn’t there early so he was deployed in offensive heavy situations and wasn’t given a chance to improve on his lackluster defensive game.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Given to the player who exhibited the least amount of gentlemanly conduct and playing ability.
Real Winner: Jaccob Slavin
Reverse Winner: Ryan Reaves
Think of the Reverse Lady Byng as the ‘biggest goon’ award, and there are lots of players who could be in the running for this. For example Tom Wilson, Barclay Goodrow, or either of the Tkachuk’s. The only issue is that those guys are good at hockey. Ryan Reaves has one job and does it well — get under the skin of the opponent. He isn’t afraid to go to the penalty box, and most of the time he takes an opponent with him. Reaves also loves to lay the body, averaging 3.8 hits per game, among the most in the league. That’s especially impressive when you realize he barely plays nine minutes a night. A lot of times he crosses the line, the hit is too heavy, too dirty, or just downright unnecessary. The Department of Player Safety tends to not discipline Reaves, unfortunately for Vegas’ that’s the worst punishment for Reaves because it means he will have to actually play hockey.
Worst starting goaltender.
Real Winner: Marc-Andre Fleury
Reverse Winner: Carter Hart
If I could put both Flyers goalies here I would. Both Hart and Elliot had terrible seasons, but Hart edges him out here slightly. Goals Saved Above Expected (GSVA) is a stat that I like to measure a goalie’s success. Hart was third last at -18.3 goals against, meaning he allowed 18 more goals than he was expected to, in just 27 games, that’s about an extra goal against that he shouldn’t have allowed in two-thirds of his starts. For the record, Martin Jones was 2nd last at -18.9, and Elliott was last at -19.3. So why did I give this Reverse Award to Carter Hart? Well, he was expected to be good, very good. This was the year he was supposed to take over the starter’s crease for the next decade in Philly, instead, his lackluster performance and .877SV% forced Elliott to start more games than he should’ve, and combined they were the contributing factor as to why the Flyers missed the playoffs. I’m sure Hart will be back in form next season, but for the 2020-2021 season, he wins the Reverse Vezina.
Calder Memorial Trophy
The player that was least proficient in his first year of competition.
Real Winner: Kirill Kaprisov
Reverse Winner: Trent Frederic
When the Boston Bruins drafted Trent Frederic 29th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, they knew he wouldn’t put up goals like others around him in the draft like Alex DeBrincat, Sam Steel, or Jordan Kyrou. What made Frederic so valuable to the Bruins at that time was his intangibles. Fast forward five years later to his rookie season, and those intangibles have finally paid off. Known for being one of the best trash talkers in the game, he managed four goals and one assist in his rookie season. Stepping on the ice at 6’2”, 203Ibs, Frederic managed to not get pushed around. Instead, he opted for constant defensive zone turnovers despite always getting offensive zone deployments. Frederic also lived up to the ‘big bad Bruins’ mantra by accumulating 65 PIM in 42 games, and a -12 PIM differential. Bruins fans love what he brings to the team, the only issue is that when he stopped chirping, opposing teams also loved what he brought to the Bruins.