Sean McIndoe, also known as Down Goes Brown, wrote a very interesting article for SportsNet about the idea of splitting NHL awards by conference. While he doesn’t mention any Lightning players adding hardware to the trophy case, I could think of at least two awards right off the top of my head that the Bolts could take home.
McIndoe’s idea is that if the NHL followed MLB’s model of splitting awards by conference, it would have strengthened the legacy of several players. The MLB model would also create some multi-time winners for very good players. (For example, Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty could have both won Norris Trophies over the past couple seasons.)
McIndoe only reviewed the Calder for rookie of the year, Norris for defenseman of the year, Vezina for goaltender of the year, and Hart for MVP. I’ll also look at the Selke award for best defensive forward, just like the MLB splits the Golden Glove awards. I wanted to add the Jack Adams for coach of the year, since MLB also splits the manager of the year award by league. However I could not find a history of finalists for the Jack Adams. If they had split, though, Jon Cooper would easily have won in 2013-14, since he was beaten out by Patrick Roy in the West.
I’ll be using basically the same criteria as McIndoe did. Obviously voting could have been impacted by splitting the candidate pools into two. Since we can’t change the past voting results, we’ll just assume that players would have finished in the same order as the overall voting.
No Lightning player has ever won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Vincent Lecavalier finished 14th in the voting in his rookie year. However, Brad Richards would have become the first Bolt to win the trophy, finishing 2nd in 2001 to San Jose Shark (and future Lightning goalie) Evgeni Nabokov.
Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman both finished 9th in the Calder voting in their rookie seasons, so they would not have been helped by the split conference voting. Ondrej Palat would have picked up a Calder trophy for his 2013-14 performance when he finished 2nd to the west’s Nathan MacKinnon.
- 2001 - Brad Richards
- 2014 - Ondrej Palat
The Lightning have also never had a Norris trophy winner for best defenseman. After the 2006-07 season, Dan Boyle finished 4th in the voting behind three western conference players which would have given the Lightning their first Norris winner. Victor Hedman has yet to come all that close to a Norris trophy with a 7th and 9th place finish.
- 2007 - Dan Boyle
The Vezina is yet again an award the Lightning have never won, though Ben Bishop has come close as a finalist in two of the past three seasons. Darren Puppa did manage a 3rd place finish in 1996, but he had Washington goalie Jim Carey ahead of him who did win the Vezina that season. Nikolai Khabibuhlin managed to place 7th and 8th in voting, but he played during a time when Martin Brodeur dominated as a goalie.
Ben Bishop finished 3rd in 2013-14, but was behind Vezina winner Tuuka Rask from Boston. He also got a 2nd place finish in 2015-16, but again finished behind an Eastern Conference goalie, and Braden Holtby from Washington won the award.
The Lightning have rarely had a top end defensive center with which to tempt the Selke voters and have never won the award. Typically, wingers don’t get much love, and you also have to be a very capable offensive forward as well to get the attention of the voters. Brad Richards came close in 2001 with a 4th place finish, but John Madden, an Eastern Conference player, won the award.
Martin St. Louis also came close with his own 4th place finish in 2004, but again fell behind John Madden who was in 2nd place. Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have gotten some votes in recent years for the Selke, including an 8th and 9th finish together in 2015. Neither player came close enough to be in the conversation to win the award even with split conferences.
Oh hey look, we found an award that the Lightning have actually won in real life. Martin St. Louis won the Hart trophy in 2004 as MVP of the league. Lecavalier finished 4th in 2007 with two Eastern Conference players ahead of him. St. Louis would have received another MVP award in 2010-11 because the two players ahead of him were both from the West. Steven Stamkos managed a 2nd place finish for MVP in 2012, but unfortunately, Evgeni Malkin won the MVP award.
- 2011 - Martin St. Louis
If the NHL had split the major awards up by conference, the Lightning would be able to boast of having had a Calder winner and a Norris winner. They also would have added an MVP award to the list as well as St. Louis’ second title. In all, the Lightning would have gained four awards over the course of the franchise. In short: let’s do it, NHL.