NHL Saturday has been on a little break over the last few weeks during some holiday travel for the staff, but we’re back on Christmas Day with professional hockey in America and our 2002 awards analysis. We truly hope everyone out there has a happy holiday season: safe and warm with loved ones.
Now, let’s get down to it!
2002 Hart: Jose Theodore (original), Markus Näslund (revised)
Only two forwards finished in the league’s Top 10 for Point Shares, as Montréal Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore won the Hart vote at the time. Our two candidates here are Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla (14.36 PS) and Vancouver Canucks left wing Markus Näslund (11.39). In a really tough season in the Western Conference, the Flames missed the postseason by 15 points, however.
The Canucks, meanwhile, claimed the last playoff berth in the conference by just two points, showing us Näslund’s true value. We admit this is one of the more random turn of events in our Hart analytical history, but it is what it is. Without him, Vancouver would not have made the Stanley Cup playoffs, period.
His numbers: 40 goals, 50 assists, plus-22 rating, 50 PIMs, and a career-high 302 SOGs. This was Näslund’s age-28 season, so he was right in the wheelhouse of his prime, much to the benefit of the Canucks, of course.
2002 Norris: Nicklas Lidström (original), Rob Blake (revised)
Five defenseman cracked double digits for Point Shares, as Detroit Red Wings star Nicklas Lidström (10.5 PS) won the hardware at the time. But it was Colorado Avalanche blueliner Rob Blake who topped the position chart with 12.2 PS. The other three guys? Washington Capitals veteran Sergei Gonchar (10.4), St. Louis Blues phenom Chris Pronger (10.4), and Red Wings legend Chris Chelios (10.0).
Gonchar won this award from us last year; Lidström has never won it from us. We took away Blake’s Norris in 1998, although Pronger got to keep his award in 2000. Strangely, Chelios has never won this trophy from us—despite winning the vote three times (1989, 1993, 1996). This makes this whole process here a bit challenging, difficult, and painful.
The two Detroit defensemen are out, since they trigger our teammate rule, and the Caps missed the postseason by two points in the Eastern Conference. So it’s Blake or Pronger: The Avs finished with 99 points, while the Blues posted 98 points. With the Canucks snaring the final playoff spot in the West with just 94 points, you can see how tight it was. Blake’s PS mark was two points higher than Pronger’s mark.
In the end, we’re handing this award to Blake by the slimmest of margins (literally, one PS). His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet—16G, 40A, 58 PIMs, plus-16 rating—but his 6.6 Defensive Point Shares were third best in the NHL and helped provide the margin of value over Pronger in this case.
2002 Vezina: Jose Theodore (original, confirmed)
Seven goalies again cracked the league’s Top 10 in value: Theodore (17.40 PS), Tampa Bay Lightning rock Nikolai Khabibulin (14.49), San Jose Sharks youngster Evgeni Nabokov (13.34), Avs legend Patrick Roy (13.27), Phoenix Coyotes journeyman Sean Burke (12.93), Buffalo Sabres phenom Martin Biron (12.49), and Atlanta Thrashers backstop Milan Hnilicka (12.21). Theodore won the vote, of course.
For starters, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay all missed the playoffs. With the Habs claiming the final playoff spot in the East by just 2 points, Theodore is going to out-value Roy and Nabokov, guys who played for 99-point division winners in the West. The Coyotes claimed the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, with a three-point cushion. So this award definitely belongs to Theodore.
Considering his PS mark cleared the league by almost 3 points, too, it’s deserving on that level, as well. His statistical line—30-24-10, 2.11 GAA, .931 S%, and 7 shutouts—shows the worthiness on a team that was outscored by its opponents over the course of the season, and the save percentage was tops in the NHL.
2002 Calder: Dany Heatley (original), Nick Boynton (revised)
We have to dig deep here, as the top two rookies in the league played for the same team—and one that missed the playoffs at that: Atlanta RW Dany Heatley (6.8 PS) and his linemate, LW Ilya Kovalchuk (6.1). Heatley won the vote at the time, but he will not be getting the nod from us. Our other candidates are going to processed here until we find a winner.
Florida Panthers LW Kristian Huselius (5.1) couldn’t help his team to the postseason, either, but Boston Bruins defenseman Nick Boynton (4.9) could. Both New York Rangers goalie Dan Blackburn (4.8) and Columbus Jackets defenseman Rostislav Klesla (4.7) also missed the playoffs. Meanwhile, we know Colorado RW Radim Vrbata (4.4) and Sharks goalie Miikka Kiprusoff (3.6) didn’t make a difference.
So, the award goes to Boynton for his 18 points, plus-18 rating, and 107 PIMs on a playoff team. Pretty strange how this can work out sometimes, isn’t it?
2002 Conn Smythe: Nicklas Lidström (original, confirmed)
Detroit won the Stanley Cup Finals in 5 games over the Carolina Hurricanes as Lidström won the Conn Smythe vote for posting 16 points in 23 games while averaging over 31 minutes on the ice—which is insane, in truth. Center Steve Yzerman posted 23 points in 23 games to lead the Red Wings skaters, while goalie Dominik Hasek went 16-7 with a 1.86 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
Hasek also posted 6 shutouts, which is crazy. But with Lidström on the ice so much, we can see why the GAA is so low despite the relatively average save percentage. Hasek was brilliant, of course, but he didn’t need to carry this team defensively with Lidström in front of him for more than half of each game. Also, the star blueliner scored only 5 goals in the playoffs—but two of them were game winners.
We confirm this award, and truthfully, we did not expect to do so, but the ATOI factor is huge.