The National Hockey League, along with all major and minor sporting events, is shut down. Shut down until further notice in an effort to contain a virus that has infiltrated our minds and altered our daily routines.
Islanders team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, in a conference call Monday with reporters, said the circumstances currently are a ‘learning experience’ and that while no player or staff has, to his knowledge, tested positive for the virus, they will be making plans over the next couple of days on where to ride out the situation.
Some have suggested a full-on play-in scenario where the teams currently out of the playoffs participate in a one-game elimination tournament, before moving onto a best-of-three against the teams on the ‘bubble’. That would give teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators, just to name two, a chance to win the Stanley Cup, devaluing, in my opinion, what has happened to date.
Players are seemingly responding through the NHLPA with a suggestion of their own. To hold a training camp in early July, finish the 2019-20 season in late July, have playoffs in August and September, followed by a delayed start to the 2020-21 season in November after a period of free agency and the annual entry draft in October.
Going by the assumption that the season is over, let’s hand out the 2019-20 NHL awards, as if only Islanders are eligible. You can argue with me on Twitter, as usual. Next week, we will do a mailbag, where I will take the best questions on social media and attempt to answer them with the same, limited knowledge everyone else has of how Lou Lamoriello operates.
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player): Brock Nelson. Yes, Mathew Barzal is the leading scorer, but Nelson has provided the most at both ends of the rink, leading the team with 26 goals and being sound in his own zone. His inconsistency mirrors that of the entire offensive unit.
Lady Byng (Sportsmanship and Gentlemanly Conduct): This could apply to the entire Islanders team, who generally play without much sandpaper to their game. Josh Bailey gets the nod, fourth in points with 43 and only 10 penalty minutes.
Vezina Trophy (Top goaltender): Neither goaltender has been stellar (both below NHL average save percentage) and in a two-horse race, Semyon Varlamov. But this is more of a fortunate matchup more than anything.
Calder Trophy (Top Rookie): Noah Dobson, again primarily on default, as Lou Lamoriello hasn’t given his rookies much of a shot to play.
Art Ross (Top Point-Getter): Barzal (19-41-60 in 68 games)
James Norris (Top Defenseman): Adam Pelech would be very much in the mix, but played only 38 games and was lost due to an Achilles injury. Ryan Pulock has had a few hiccups, but wins this award, showing enough improvement defensively and notching 10 goals and 35 points.
Frank Selke (Top defensive forward): Only 48 games, but Casey Cizikas must be shown some love here.