FanPost

Awards: Talent or Performance?

The question is simple: should the end-of-season awards be based on "true talent," that season's "performance" and results, or a combination of the two? If the latter, how much weight should go to the lucky components of that player's performance?

 

I really think it depends on the award. As a bonus, I included who I'd give each award to at this point.

For the Hart Trophy, well, I'm of two minds. On the one hand, should a player be penalized for having crappy luck? Not really. Luck is out of his control. On the other hand, isn't getting immensely lucky, skill or not, immensely valuable over the course of the games during which it is present

 

When Derek was writing "Dave Bolland for Conn Smythe" last season I could not tell whether he was being facetious and serious...being put into a position to fail and not failing on the scoreboard has value, and it was centered around Bolland; for all we know Antti Niemi played so well in front of Bolland because he lost a substantial bet to the Finnish netminder over the Eastern Conference Finals and had to give the guy Japanese candy which makes him superhuman when in Bolland's vicinity.

 

After all, can't some luck be created, even if on, by definition, an inconsistent basis? I'm of the mind that part of the immense variation we see is part of hourly planning and adjusting done by players and coaches. Hence, a "hot streak" may just conclude when a guy gets "figured out" by the opposition (the sophomore slump, for example), but was created because of the guy's good play in the first place.

 

I think we need to take a good hard look at the underlying numbers. If the player has solid underlying numbers and luck boosts them, so what? Even if the guy isn't the best by underlying numbers, if he's close to the top and near the top with raw "boxcars," then I think give that guy good consideration and a possible first place vote. That is to say, earlier this season, when Steven Stamkos was leading the pack with Sidney Crosby close behind, given Crosby's impressive boxcars and elite underlying numbers, I'd have given him the nod over Stamkos, even though it appears that Crosby has had some great luck in his points-per-goal numbers. So did Stamkos, after all.

 

Hmm, maybe Thomas had such a kick-ass start he deserved it (I'm not against goalies winning the Hart, but they'd better have something special going on). If he had gotten those numbers with more games played, then sure. Since quantity of value is relevant to the Hart, in my mind. Sid all the way.

 

Now allow me to bleach my fingers throw my laptop into a fire on the Caspian Sea, and get my sister's Macbook.

 

Ah, back.

 

For the Norris, I think marginal luck should be given much less consideration. If you're a guy like Mike Green this season (who ranks 2nd, 4th, 4th, and 1st among Caps rearguards in QoC, QoT, OZonestart, and Corsi Rel, respectively), if you're playing with Brian Fahey, well, there's a good chance a lot of pucks will end up in your net.

 

I suppose on offense everyone contributes to every goal, essentially. You can win the puck behind the net, protect to the half-wall, and put a beautiful spinorama pass right onto the tape of your high-profile captain for a one-timer game-tying goal in a gold-medal game, or even just, by virtue of position, draw a defender to you and thus away from the play. Meanwhile, defensively, you cannot cover everyone. Your D partner may not cover his assignment and screw up the plus-minus and other numbers for the other four of you. While I can't leave an offense and its players completely blameless during a cold stretch (bad luck), because offense is a bit more individual-driven than defense, I think we can leave defensemen blameless sometimes for bad luck. My soccer coach told me (a right fullback) that it's easy for the offensive players because they can try skills and mess up. But it's hard for you because if you mess up, the ball is in the back of our net. And my mistake would make everyone else look bad.

 

I suppose where I'm going with this is I'd only discount luck entirely if it's within a reasonable range (like PDOs from .970 to 1.030). A generational talent on defense will still rise to the top each and every season, and that's the way it should be. Like Nicklas Lidstrom. But Kris Letang has outdueled him thus far. I'm not liking Lidstrom's negative relative Corsi. He isn't the player he once was, it looks like, the guy who would singlehandedly boost your team, regardless of who else was on the ice.

 

For the Selke, it has to be underlying numbers driven. If you don't have an obscenely low or obscenely high on-ice save percentage, you're in the game (though if your sv% is high, but underlying numbers look good too, then you're still in contention). QoC, QoT, zone starts, and Corsi/Fenwick, all relative to team is the way to go.

 

For the Vezina, with such large sample sizes needed to properly differentiate between the various above-average goalies, I have to think you might as well include most, if not all, luck in there. Wins of course are bullshit, as is GAA. For ESsv%, sometimes the top goalies have slight down years (like Roberto Luongo last year), and others rise to the top briefly or to stay, like Ryan Miller, Jaroslav Halak, and Tuukka Rask (and Semyon Varlamov). I guess the Vezina choice should be someone who posts a near-the-top ESsv% and has a very high overall save percentage as well. For a tiebreaker, perhaps using shootout success could help as well (because the goalie did guess right, after all).

 

Because Don Cherry would have a fit if Dominik Hasek won 10 straight Vezinas. On second thought, maybe that's a good thing. I'm running out of eyedrops.

 

For the Adams, I think it's so tough to tell that we might as well nominate the coach who turned around his team and helped a team with a roster that looked like, well, bad stuff, exceed preseason expectations by quite a bit, the coach of the best team in the league, and the coach of the top team in the league (like last season, Dave Tippett, Joel Quenneville, and Bruce Boudreau or Todd McLellan, respectively). Perhaps this award is best given after the playoffs have been played, to the coach whose team pulled the biggest upset. Since Jacques Martin's strategy worked for all of one and a half games, and right at the start at that, but that's all the initial sway in luck the Habs needed before getting Halak hot.

 

So, hmm...Guy Boucher, Guy Boucher, and Alain Vignealt? His team's spot in the standings coupled with his team's league-leading shot differential per game and adjusted Fenwick% makes me think this should go to the hotshot Guy Boucher, so hot his goalies can't stop him. Or anything else, for that matter. Except Twitter accounts.

 

For the Calder, I think luck should more-or-less be discounted entirely. This may seem a bit hypocritical given what I've written above, but bear with me. I wrote above that one theory I have about the "sophomore slump" is that high profile players are eventually "figured out" and need to re-adjust their games. It may go beyond that, like losing a D partner to free agency. Regardless, with adjustments coming, it's all luck and will disappear eventually. The rookies with the strong underlying numbers as well as boxcars I'd bet are the ones that have the least trouble with "getting figured out" and so on. They are the ones that are proving that only are they good, but that they will continue to be good. That in my mind is important--looking at a list of Calder winners makes me cringe at times. Bryan Berard, Barrett Jackman, Andrew Raycroft? It's littered with good players and "huh?" players alike (granted, Raycroft could suddenly have turned good this season, I guess).

 

I guess, in short, Logan Couture has good numbers and has shown he can hang with the toughs when given the chance, and kills the easies (though as a homer pick, John Carlson has had a nice little campaign for himself, and by Corsi, it even appears like he's carrying Karl Alzner; Jordan Eberle is kicking ass too).

 

The next awards no one really cares about, so feel free to skip to the comments.

 

For the Byng, well, lots of hits with few PIMs sounds like a guy who plays hard but clean. Especially in low TOI, like Cal Clutterbuck. A guy who plays the toughs with little help, has good underlying numbers, and has few minors taken as well, like Nicklas Lidstrom, would be appropriate as well.

 

For the Masterton (because my guy won it last season) luck should absolutely be included. I mean, to have your son die in front of you, and then perform as well at evens as Martin Brodeur? I don't have the heart (hah, get it?) to say "bullshit, Theo, that was a lucky season for you, now stop your crying and give that trophy to Kurtis Foster/Jed Ortmeyer." This is the one award where I think you should vote with the heart and stop looking at Corsi and other slightly-more-advanced stats. Ditto for the Messier Leadership Award. Though voting with my heart I'd go Ryan Miller there. For a pick that makes a bit more sense...not really got anything, sorry. Can't bring myself to pick Sid.

 

I'd really like to hear what you guys think. Should awards be given out based on "true talent" or "performance" (that is, results, in goals for and against)?

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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