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NHL Rejected Awards 2021-22

Welcome to the Second Annual Rejected Awards, my excuse for spending hours rummaging through the NHL database. This year we have three old and four new Awards to freshen up the conversation, allowing stale awards named after stale men to bite the dust. I believe it to be good ceremony hygiene to rotate awards in and out, as this not only allows the inclusion of more players but also avoids devaluing our Event with lousy winners.


Antti Aalto Alphabet Award

It only feels rights to start off with the Aalto Award, named after our beloved alphabetically superior Finnish netminder. To jog memories, this Award is all about the name on the back - does it come before all the others? - if yes then they are the winner. It should also be noted that the Award’s namesake is like the 1986 action movie Highlander - ‘There can only be one’. Should a player come along with a last name of ‘Aak…’ or Aals…’, Antti will fall from our good graces and a new messiah will be born. In a weird twist of fate, this year’s group features two new names, yet the same four teams from the 2021 list.


Finalists:

  • Noel Acciari (FLA, C): Another year come and gone with another player jumping Acciari, so my advice to him is to fall in love with an ‘Ab’ and take their last name. There’s no point in finishing second especially not when it comes to the Aalto.

  • Calen Addison (MIN, D): Finalists for the Aalto are practically honorable mentions, since they don’t have a shot at winning, especially not an ‘Ad’ like Addison; Abbison might though.

  • Andrew Agozzino (OTT, LW): Last year this spot came down to the fourth letter in the last name. This time around, the Ottawa forward was able to overcome the two z’s in his name a grab a spot on the loser podium.


Winner:

  • Nic Abruzzese (TOR, C): What looked like the start of a promising dynasty crumbled last year as Vitaly Abramov signed back in Russia after a meagre couple of seasons with the Senators. Now it is learned man and Harvard Captain, Nic Abruzzese’s, chance to make a name for himself.


Wayne Gretzky Trophy - Most Secondary Assists with the Empty Net

The Great One doesn’t get enough love from the NHL awards ceremony. His name is graffitied across the top of most stat categories and yet, zero awards are named after him. In recognition of him and his underratedness, this second Award goes to the player who topped a stats category in which Wayne’s greatness is never mentioned – secondary assists, passing to the guys who pass to the goal scorer - a true blue-collar apple. Now you may be suspicious of this trophy’s validity, and if you are you should know that the two previous years’ winners were Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon.


Winner:

  • John Carlson (WSH, D): In 31 ½ minutes on the ice against no Goalie, he was able to set-up the player who set-up the goal scorer on the empty net six times, WOW! This former Norris candidate, thought to be over the hump, still clearly has great ability within him.


The Scott Stevens Recipient Award - Most Hits Taken

Hockey is a physical sport and those that dole out said physicality are subject to much praise, and Scott Stevens is one such player. Every athlete of any ilk gets a nickname, but whether it spreads or not is up to its quality. Stevens was dubbed Captain Crunch - 3/10 - for the devastating checks he delivered. The Defenseman left a mark, not just on the game, but on individual players themselves, playing a key role in derailing a least two, and as many as five, players’ careers. The winner of this Award is the player who had to endure the most body contact throughout the regular season, putting up with the Scott Stevens acolytes.


Winner:

  • Justin Holl (TOR, D): The Toronto defenseman struggled this year, and the 207 bumps he took this year might have had something to do with it. While not at all-time mark taking 200+ hits, more than two a game, in a season is definitely not healthy for your body and wholly deserving of being the recipient.


Hendrik Sedin Award - Most Minor Penalties without taking a Higher One

This Award’s namesake has the most penalty minutes in NHL history without receiving a major or higher - 680 minutes, good for 740th all time. While his career is slightly tainted by a double minor, he is much closer to perfection than say … his twin brother. Daniel, while committing 60 fewer infractions, was twice given a game misconduct, so I guess we know who the evil one is. This year we have three winners tied for most PIMs; while only taking minor infractions, these boys managed to stay in the shallow end of the naughty pool.


Winner(s):

  • 33 Minor Penalties

  • Alex Killorn (TBL, LW): Under stricter criteria, Killorn would be the sole winner, as he finished his season a perfect 66 minutes. While his most penalized season, this may be a sign the 32-year-old is slowing down, as it was also his fifth clean season.

  • Matthew Tkachuk (CGY, LW): Quite possibly the most shocking feat of the season that a Tkachuk, who finished his Rookie season with 105 PIMs, managed to avoid a single penalty over 4 minutes. The 2021-22 regular season was also his first over the 100-point mark.

  • Rasmus Dahlin (BUF, D): What a fall from grace! The fourth-year former first overall pick was perfect in his career until December 16th, 2021, when he drew Minnesota Forward Joel Eriksson Ek’s blood, his only blemish on his penalty resume.


Terry Sawchuk Award - Best Goalie on Zero Days Rest

Very few Goalies have worked as hard as Terry Sawchuk. Luckily with modern body science no one has to; of the 971 games ‘Uke’ played, 277 were on zero days rest. His accomplishment alone deserves an award but he didn’t play this season so we can’t give him one. Given out in the style of the Vezina, while objective criteria can be determined, subjectivity helps weed out the finalists.


Finalists:

  • Elvis Merzlikins (CBJ, G): He may have played the best, posting a .924 Sv% on zero days rest to his season average of .907 Sv%, but my heart doesn’t lie in Columbus.

  • Alex Nedeljkovic (DET, G): He did not live up to expectations in Detroit this season, and he barely lives up to the expectation of a Sawchuk nominee, but Nedeljkovic tied Montreal’s martyr with six zero-rest games and earns his spot on that basis.

  • Jake Oettinger (DAL, G): By far the least amount of zero-rest days of anyone considered, Otter is worthy of consideration because of his .929 Sv% in those three games, compared to a .914 Sv% season-long

Winner:

  • Sam Montembeault (MTL, G): While he may not meet the criteria of ‘best’ or even ‘good’, the Canadians threw this man out there to dry this season, hoping a last place finish would result. Of the 38 games Montembeault played, 6 were on zero days rest, which is almost 16% of games, as close to Sawchuk’s 28.5% a modern goalie can get.


Fast Award – The Player who did the Most with the Fewest

Truly a fan favourite, with a great namesake and interesting finalists does it get any better than our penultimate Award? Oops, I guess it does. Before we get to our four Fast-ers, a correction should be noted. Last year, enforcer Scott Sabourin won the award on the merit that he finished the season with the most PIMs per Time-On-Ice. That honour actually goes to Jonah Gadjovich, who was able to accumulate 17 PIMs in just under five minutes for a ludicrous ratio of 345.8; however, righting the books would mean the Rejected Awards holds themselves to a level of truth only required by suckers and fools.


Finalists:

  • Jeff Malott (WPG, LW): While no Sabourin or Gadjovich, the Winnipeg Left-Winger earned the honour of highest PIM/TOI with two in his one NHL game.

  • Seth Griffith (EDM, C)/ Cooper Marody (EDM, C): It is no mistake that Griffith and Marody are a joint candidate since, upon closer inspection, they played their lone game together spending 4 ½ minutes of their 5:37 and 6:04 respectively on the ice at the same time. Could a better candidate than Griffith be chosen, as it is hard to find evidence that the man even touched the puck? No not really, because the Fast’s nominee pool is rather quite small. Ideally, they play less than 10 minutes in their game and do something out of the ordinary with it. Only allowing one goal against or being even is not cool OR interesting. Every award must have a winner and three finalists, of all the rules we reject from the NHL awards this one we hold sacred.

Winner:

  • Dimitri Samorukov (EDM, D): Boy, was his 2 ½ minute season one to forget. In four total shifts, the 23-year-old was directly responsible for two goals against. Both Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou took him for a spin, literally. He got one more shift in First Period, then rode the pine the rest of the game.


The 99 Award - MVP Number

Finally, we’re here, the Rejected Awards’ Hart Trophy. It functions the same as the NHL’s MVP trophy with all the subjective, narrative-driven nominations to boot. While there may not have been four clear favourites this year, there were plenty of perfectly good digits to latch onto.

Finalists:

  • 13 (Gaudreau, Hischier, Barzal, etc): Their luck folded in on itself, though they finished the year with the most points they weren’t as impressive as the 9’s who had nine players more, ironically.

  • 97 (McDavid, Kaprizov): A two-man wrecking crew, the previous title holders lost their package and operate as a duo now. Unfortunately, their performances couldn’t grab them another trophy, but 97 will be in the conversation for years to come.

  • 18 (Hyman, Copp, Palat): When a final candidate isn’t clear, it is best to find a narrative to cling to. 18 was the most improved number from last year, they added 5 players to their ranks and 442 points as well.

Winner:

  • 9 (Miller, Forsberg, Keller, etc): Truly an ensemble class, 13 of the 14 players finished with 25 or more points. Number 9 has great historical prestige to it, although now the legacy acts as a hindrance as many teams have retired the last single digit. The number finished second place in total points, and first in goals, averaging 22.36 per player.


Were friends made, my hours/your minutes wasted, knowledge gleaned, respect found? Inconclusive, so come back next year to get to the bottom of this pressing matter . . .

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