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The NHL 2020-21 Rejected Awards

Each and every year, the NHL hands out the same awards: best player, best defenseman, best goalie, most gentlemanly - with fans and media alike engaging in the same conversation, but with different names. The National Hockey League, however, is much more than just these elite individuals. There are literally dozens of player and team performances each season that are easily forgotten because they are not rewarded.

Now is the time to start recognizing them.

That was the essence of an email sent to NHL head offices, pleading with them to expand their awards. Since I have yet to hear back, I’m forced to release these on my own. Here are the 2020-21 NHL season rejected awards - the Re-Wards, if you will.

Gary Bettman Team of the Year – awarded to the team that earns the most overtime loss points

No Presidents’ trophy here - the venerable commissioner Bettman bravely instituted the overtime loss point, which some rudely call the ‘loser’ point, to create greater parity amongst the teams in his league. It is about time he and those that utilize the point to the greatest benefit are honoured.

Winner - Dallas Stars: After going to the Stanley Cup final and losing last season, the Stars came back and played more of those great low scoring 2-1 defensive hockey games. Dallas may have missed the playoffs, but they used the OTL point to get within four points of the Nashville Predators, a team which boasted nine more regulation wins than the Stars.

Now that’s some parity. As a added bonus, they’re a sun belt team. The Stars epitomize what Commissioner Bettman has been trying to transform the NHL into, so it only seems right that they are the first recipients of this trophy.

Antti Aalto Alphabet Award – alphabetically speaking, the top player in the league

Awards deserve to be distributed to those that are at top: from top of the league, to top of their position or even top of the alphabet. Only one man can claim the title of first all-time and that is Finnish centre Antti Aalto, the only player in NHL history whose last name starts with two A’s. While his NHL career may have only lasted parts of four seasons in the late 90’s, his legacy lives on through grammatical infamy. The finalists and winner can only hope to replicate his alphabetic superiority.

Before we reveal the finalists, one honorable mention must be made. This is the first season following the Justin Abdelkader dynasty, and while he never got to win the Aalto, Abdelkader represented everything it symbolizes. During his 13-year NHL career, he finished first alphabetically 11 times. This kind of dominance is rarely seen in sports these days. The trophy might have borne his name (had he preceded Aalto, alphabetically), but as we all know ‘ab’ is lower than ‘aa’. With prior greatness acknowledged, it is time to get to the 2020-21 NHL Aalto Trophy nominees.

Finalists -

Noel Acciari (FLA): In his 6th NHL season he has consistently finished top five alphabetically but never first

Calen Addison (MIN): The Wild defenceman had a strong rookie season finishing 3rd in the league ... alphabetically - unfortunately, ‘ad’ is most likely never going to be high enough to earn him an Aalto

Kenny Agostino (TOR): Agostino narrowly edged out Anaheim Ducks forward Andrew Agozzino for the last finalist spot - it would come down to the fourth letter in their names, one of the tighter races in recent memory

Winner - Vitaly Abramov (OTT): From the time his name first appeared in the lineup of the Ottawa Senators three years ago, there was no question about Abramov’s potential. The only thing left to see was if he could outwait the Abdelkader dynasty. This year, he checked that box, finishing first alphabetically - and he looks to be in a good position to become a repeat winner next year.

Ebbie Goodfellow Trophy – awarded to the player who misses the most penalty shots

The penalty shot was introduced in the 1934-35 season, giving players who had been obstructed a redo at their prime scoring chance. The referee would place the puck 38 feet from the goal and the shooter could move freely with the puck inside a 5-foot radius. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that the rules have changed a little since then.

Ebbie Goodfellow was both the 7th and 9th captain of the Detroit Red Wings, a Hall-of-Famer, a Hart Trophy Winner, a three-time Stanley cup champion, and a part-time player-coach for the champion 1943 Detroit Red Wings. He is also the record holder for most penalty shot misses in a season. That first year Goodfellow missed five of his six attempts, including two in a single game.

Much like the Rocket Richard trophy, the Goodfellow goes to the player who finished with the most - in this case, the most penalty shots missed in a season

Winner - Joel Farabee (PHI): Farabee was awarded his first two career penalty shot attempts this year. On both occasions, he walked in, made his move and went home with a participation medal. Though he may not make it as a solo artist, he seems right at home in the Philadelphia Flyers band of scrappy young players.

These next two awards both go to goalies who rarely are in the Vezina and Jennings conversation; whether that is because they are a rare breed or perhaps stuck in the role of an understudy

First the Vokoun: Named after the retired Czech goalie who spent 15 NHL seasons stopping pucks, Thomas Vokoun was never an award winner, but quite often received the odds and ends votes for hardware. So what exactly is this award, you ask? Fair question.

Vokoun was different from most goalies and everyone knew it. He wore his catcher on his right hand, which roughly only 12% of goalies in NHL history have done.

Vokoun Trophy – awarded to the best right catching goalie

This award goes to the best right-catching goalie. The list of eligible candidates was enough to be a crowd, but sadly too few to be a barbershop quartet

Finalists -

Logan Thompson (VGK): Thompson only played in one game this season, saving both shots he faced in the 8:15 minutes of relief duty. Still, he did enjoy an amazing AHL season and looks like a solid future NHL backstop

Michael Hutchinson (TOR): With Frederik Andersen’s return to the Toronto Maple Leafs line-up, ‘Hutch’, as the locals call him, is back to the role that suits him best, a fourth string goalie behind a cabal of mediocre NHL goalie talent

Winner - Calvin Petersen (LAK): Peterson has become the heir to Jonathan Quick’s throne in Los Angeles. Petersen snared the crown as the starter this season, but couldn’t do much to help his team as they try to rebuild their kingdom

Brian Elliott Trophy – awarded to the best goalie in relief appearances

Our next underappreciated goalie award is the Brian Elliott Trophy. Its namesake holds the best relief record in NHL history, 10-5 in 45 appearances. Wins don’t normally mean much, however earning a win in relief means you must have at least put a band-aid on the situation. Ironically, Elliott isn’t among the nominees because he was quite terrible in relief this season, registering a save percentage of .860 in such appearances

(Perhaps a more clever name would have been the Mariano Rivera Trophy, but alas, no one was creative enough to think of that

Finalists -

Jake Oettinger (DAL): After making a couple appearances in the Stanley cup playoffs last season, Oettinger confirmed his back-up pedigree this year with a .938 Sv% in five relief appearances

Kaapo Kahkonen (MIN): In his first full season in the NHL, the young goalie proved to be a more than competent back-up to Cam Talbot - in his lone relief appearance, Kahkonen recorded the win, stopping all 17 shots faced

Colin Delia (CHI): Similar to Kahkonen, the 26-year-old had one relief appearance, making 19 saves on 19 shots

Winner - Thomas Griess (DET): Greiss had the most relief appearances in the league, with six, and also the most victories in relief (2), all while helping to relieve his non-playoff bound Red Wings team from even more suffering

The 99 Award – presented the best number

Hockey culture is built around the idea that you play for the logo on the front of your jersey, not the name on the back - but what about the number on the back? The 99 award is named for the most famous number in NHL history, one that was shared by the greats of the game: Wayne Gretzky, Wilf Paiement, and Joe Lamb (Montreal Canadiens - 1934-1935)

This trophy seeks to honour those numbers which displayed greatness over the season, whether that be through accumulating notable stats, or simply by virtue of being attached to the backs of some of the games brightest stars

Finalist -

29: No less than 18 players were adorned with the old 2-9er during the 2020-21 NHL campaign, the most prominent of which included reigning MVP Leon Draisaitl, Vegas Golden Knights netminder and Vezina hopeful Marc-Andre Fleury, as well as Colorado Avalanche point leader Nathan MacKinnon

21: Twenty-time might be the Carolina Hurricanes of hockey numbers; it may not have the biggest names, but it has depth. It only makes sense then that the Canes own Nino Niederreiter helps to headline this group, joined by Tampa Bay Lightning young gun Brayden Point, in addition to probable Calder finalist Jason Robertson of the Dallas Stars. To top it off, 11 other players donning this number registered more than 10 points this season

13: While hockey players can be some of the more superstitious athletes around, they apparently throw caution to the wind when it comes to numbers - given that 13 was the most worn this season. While players like Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Johnny Gaudreau and Alexis Lafreniere certainly grab your attention, the list is littered with other great young talent. In total, the 24 players that wore the unluckiest number combined for 216 goals, 259 assists and 475 points.

Winner - 97: Connor McDavid and Kirill Kaprizov - what else is there to say. Though two other players did wear it, with future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton being one, they are not the ones doing the heavy lifting here. Both McDavid and Kaprizov are set to fill empty hardware cabinet space this off-season - and deservedly so. McDavid sets the league on fire every time he steps on the ice, while Kaprizov is clearly the Calder favourite. Great seasons bundled up in one number is why we created the 99 award in the first place

Fast Trophy – to the player who made the most out of their ultra short season

For the likes of Connor McDavid, 60 minutes is more than enough time to display your true talent - all while remaining small enough to blend in comfortably with all the other season highlights. For many more, 60 minutes was their entire taste of life in the NHL. This award celebrates those whose NHL careers lasted exactly one game. It is named after Brad Fast, who made the most of his 21:24 minute cameo at the highest level of hockey, finding the back of the net in his one and only game. Remarkably, his goal was the final one in a contest that ended in a 6-6 tie.

Fast laced up for the final game of the Carolina Hurricanes 2003-04 season. Both they and their opponents, the Florida Panthers, were well out of playoff contention - and yet still they found a way to stage a very entertaining game. The Hurricanes scored four times in the first, before the Panthers countered with six straight markers. The Canes got those last two back, with Fast scoring the game-tying goal with 2:26 left in the third, sending the encounter to overtime. Neither team could find the back of the net in OT, and with the shootout still a year away from implementation, the 6-6 draw would stand - with only Brad Fast heading home happy.

This is exactly the type of impact the winner of the Fast Trophy should make. They don’t have to score an important goal, or even register a point; they simply have to have imprinted themselves into the story of their only NHL game of the season.

Finalists -

Justin Richards (NYR): The 23-year-old had a memorable debut in the final game of the Rangers season, one that everyone else on the team would like to forget. Logging an assist and two shots in 10:11 minutes of Ice-time, he looks to be a one-time finalist, perhaps just starting a decent career.

Arthur Kaliyev (LAK): Looking even more promising than Richards, Kailyev was the only one-gamer to score a goal. His 14:42 of total NHL ice-time this season will surely be surpassed next year

Jean-Sebastien Dea BUF): Dea has bounced around in his NHL career, reaching a his plateau as a fringe NHLer, sliding in for the occasional call-up. While seeing the ice for only five and a half minutes on March 27th, Dea left a mark on the game - and the game responded in kind. He fired two shots at the Boston Bruins net before the puck exacted some revenge, striking him in the face after a Charlie Coyle shot rang off the post

Winner - Scott Sabourin (TOR): Each of the finalists may have added their names to the stats sheet, but the contribution of our winning entry sticks out like a bruised fist. Scott Sabourin is of a dying breed, one of the last enforcers in a game in which he now rarely gets called into action. On April 13th however, it was go time - well, more like sit on the bench time

He only played 4:29, but did get a chance to move around a little, spending five minutes of the game in the penalty box following a fight with Milan Lucic. Sabourin finished the season as the only player who had more penalty minutes than total ice-time.

Jeff Beukeboom Trophy - awarded to the best defender with a cool name

Scanning the current NHL awards, the fact remains that few are oriented towards defenders. While defencemen are not forbidden from receiving the Hart, the Calder or the Lady Byng, those are mostly doled out to forwards. The majority of the time blueliners win awards, it’s typically for their offensive performance. Until now, there simply were not enough awards for the big guy on the back end who didn't put up Norris Trophy numbers.

Enter the Beukeboom (BOO-kuh-boom), named for retired NHL tough guy Jeff Beukeboom. He played just over 800 games split between the Oilers and Rangers, and aside from three Stanley Cups rings, got limited recognition. Now he gets to celebrate a trophy that encompasses everything that he stood for: a consistent NHL defenseman with a really cool name.

To shorten the list of candidates, a minimum of 25 games played this season were required.

Finalists -

Nikolai Knyzhov (NIH-koh-ligh NEE-zhahv): Knyzhov suited up in 55 games for the San Jose Sharks in his first full season. While he looks to make his name spoken throughout the hockey world, the silent ‘K’ better not be

Artem Zub (AR-them ZOOB): His last name may be short and sweet, but Artem Zub is anything but, with the 6’2” rearguard finishing 6th on his team (Ottawa Senators) in hits

Carson Soucy (KAHR-suhn SOO-see): This Minnesota Wild d-man simply has very enjoyable name to say: Soucy, SOO-see, SOO-see, SOO-see - it’s a chant waiting to happen

Winner - Filip Hronek (FIHL-ihp H’ROH-nehk): Hronek embodies the Beukeboom spirit, having been a mainstay in the Red Wings line-up since cracking in three years ago. Hronek set a career high in points-per-game, topping the Red Wings in scoring in this shortened season. And he also has a very cool last name - need I say more.

And there you have it: the inaugural NHL Re-Wards. Hopefully you have learned some new names and had fun along the way. At the end of the day, maybe the real Re-Wards were the friends we made along the way.


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