The eighth installment of our August predictions for the 2016-17 San Jose Sharks concerns a run of 10 straight seasons without any individual NHL awards…
The San Jose Sharks have much to look forward to for the 2016-17 NHL season. Other predictions of the series defined in the first edition have been almost totally positive. However, the team’s representation at the NHL Awards has not matched its success.
The Sharks have not won an award since Joe Thornton won the Hart and Art Ross Trophies while helping Jonathan Cheechoo win the Maurice Richard in the 2005-06 NHL season. No one has won a major award since and few have even been finalists.
Brent Burns—who won the Foundation Player award in 2015—was San Jose’s first-ever finalist for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the league last season. That was eight years after the previous finalist for a performance-based award in a full season (Evgeni Nabokov, Vezina Trophy).
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Goalie Antti Niemi was a finalist for the Vezina in the condensed 2013 NHL season. Patrick Marleau was a Lady Byng Trophy finalist for gentlemanly play in 2014. Coach Todd McLellan was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award in 2009, his first at the helm in which he led the Sharks to a President’s Trophy.
That just does not fit with San Jose’s success since. There have been three Pacific Division titles, three Western Conference finals appearances, one Stanley Cup finals appearance and postseason qualification in eight of the nine seasons.
There is still a measure of recognition of the Sharks over that time beyond the almost meaningless All-Star selections. They have been notable in the Olympics and other international competitions. The upcoming World Cup of Hockey is the latest example.
CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz recently reported that Joe Pavelski is likely to be Team USA captain. Logan Couture was just named to the illustrious Team Canada to replace the injured Jamie Benn Tuesday, August 23. He joins teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic among San Jose’s five previously announced selections.
Still, NHL awards have always eluded the Sharks. They had no league-wide, performance-based awards prior to the 2005-06 NHL season. Nabokov’s 2001 Calder Trophy for rookie of the year was open to a small percentage of the league. The Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy Tony Granato won in 1997 was for perseverance and sportsmanship.
Even the NHL awards Thornton won were actually as a member of both San Jose and the Boston Bruins. That means the Sharks have Cheechoo’s Rocket Richard as their only exclusive league-wide, performance-based award. It is worth noting that it is earned by statistics rather than granted by a panel with a majority of its voting body that is already asleep by the time games end.
Prediction No. 8: San Jose’s absence of NHL Awards continues. It is too easy to just predict no one winning an award, so going a step further that there will be no more than one finalist gives the prediction some weight.
The Sharks have several candidates for NHL awards to be examined next month when this series is complete. However, East Coast bias is not the main reason they do not get more award recognition. There is stiff competition in a talented league.
Timo Meier certainly has the potential to win the Calder, but he has not even made the roster yet. The list of contenders has too many variables to be accurate. One thing we do know is most are not from teams with established talent at the top of the depth chart. The same is true for coaches winning the Adams, albeit for a different reason.
San Jose may have even more difficulty winning other awards. Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Richard are the three surest things in life. It is hard for anyone else to win the Hart, Ross and Lester Pearson (MVP voted by players) awards when Sidney Crosby is healthy.
Similarly, Erik Karlsson will take one of the finalist spots for the Norris. Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask are going to take up a Vezina spot or two between them. Pavel Datsyuk is finally off the list of Frank J. Selke contenders, but Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar probably have two of those spots locked up.
The Sharks have five or six contenders for one or more major league-wide, performance-based NHL awards. Still, they will finish without a winner and no more than one finalist for the 25th time in their 26 seasons.