The Reverse Awards
Which team was sabotaged by the GM or Owner?
Brigstew: I would have said the Panthers if they wound up missing the playoffs, so I’ll say the Canucks because what a tire fire they’ve been in almost every possible way. The off-ice stuff, the ownership legal drama, the on-ice poor performance and the sometimes bizarre moves they’ve made. Also, lol Canucks.
Cathy: The Flames. Everything Brad Treliving has done in the last few years has led to this moment. He's a darling of the Canadian media for some reason, but he's destroyed this team after years of mediocrity when they should have been real contenders in the last two seasons.
Adam: This is a good debate between the Canucks and Flames. Solid cases for the award each. Nosy owners are a detriment to every team in every sport. However, it's the fruit that's hanging so low the branch is touching the ground. It's the bar that's so low it's buried in the dirt. It's everyone's favourite dead horse to beat, the Arizona Coyotes. Cheap owners who won't pay their bills and got them kicked out of their major league arena. It doesn't get more sabotaged than that. I'm sure seeing a game in the Mullett arena is a blast for fans but, that's putting lipstick on a pig that's already been roasted. It's done. It's over. There's no chance for success on or off the ice.
Hardev: Pierre Dorian and the Senators. They had a chance to be a playoff team and sell to both their fans and their players that they’re a real team. Dorian got DeBrincat and Giroux, but completely fell flat with the supporting cast. They had poor forward depth, especially defensive forwards, but more importantly the defense they constructed was total garbage. Only Zub was above 50% in goals for, both Hamonic and Chabot were above 3 in GA/60, and Zaitsev was awful for all 28 games he played. That group was never going to be good enough and Dorian needed to have addressed that. He didn’t and now look at what's happening.
Catch-67: I was trying to come up with someone who hasn’t been said yet, but I think everyone else has had the main bases covered generally. I wondered about the Flyers or the Penguins for a bit; the Pens still have Crosby playing very well and made some questionable moves, and the Flyers are just all around a tire fire (but that’s sort of the point). Of the options above, for me it’s the Canucks or Arizona. That said, the Canucks are more notable in my books because they were so bad despite much ado about turning a corner with their good young core. They did finally deal an older core player in Horvat and avoided making the JT Miller mistake again, but of those players they kept the one they shouldn’t have and they turfed the one who’s better. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.
Which team was torpedoed by the coach?
Brigstew: Gonna pick the Flyers, even if they were trying to be bad, just out of pure spite.
Cathy: For me the Flyers are just a bad team whose badness caught up with them. But St. Louis is my pick. There was enough there there before the deadline that they should have been a playoff team in the west, but their Rod Brind'Amour lite coach just hasn't got it.
Hardev: Seems like the Flames and Darryl Sutter didn’t mix, or Sutter has seen the game go past him. The Flames were definitely doused by team save %, but it’s also a result of good offensive teams learning to shoot from closer to the net and understanding the importance of xG. Teams like Vegas, Boston, Toronto, and New Jersey have better xGF% than CF%, while Calgary was down at the bottom with Montreal, Buffalo, and Anaheim as teams who didn’t make the most of the shots they got. The Flames were second in the league in limiting shots against, but fell to ninth in xGA. This feels like a team that either had a lot of bad luck, or the coach wasn’t getting the most out of the players. The Flames making the “who’s your daddy now” move to sign Sutter for multiple years hasn’t done anyone any good.
Catch-67: I’m going to shout out Maurice and the Panthers here. I think there’s an argument that a lot of their struggles this year are to do with percentages and the unsustainability of career years, but getting rid of a coach who wins you the Presidents' trophy one year and the next getting a coach who has, at best, a record of sustained mediocrity and then becoming a team that just barely makes the playoffs certainly seems like a coaching issue to me.
Which defender was supposed to be great, but is the un-Norris?
Brigstew: Trying and struggling to think of who the pre/early season favourites for the Norris were going to be heading into this season. Looking through the top paid defenseman and thinking who seems to have had disappointing seasons relative to their cap hits, I guess I’ll go with Seth Jones?
Cathy: painful to say, but Morgan Rielly. He's never been a real Norris kind of guy, even when he gets a lot of points, but this has to be his worst season. Let's hope it's injury related and he has a strong playoffs.
Hardev: Rielly has had a bad year, I agree there, but so has Victor Hedman. A guy who’s been consistently mid-50s in CF% and xGF% and most years in the 60s in GF% has been barely breaking even at 5v5. Those categories, as well as the lack of power play points has been a result of Mikhail Sergachev being given a bigger role, especially offensively (zone starts and forward pairings have not changed), but the Lightning also needed Hedman to be Hedman. Without him at his best, and Ryan McDonagh a cap casualty, their defense is a shell of the past.
Catch-67: Sadly, I have to agree with Cathy here. I can’t think of many others who have comparable failure to play up to the previous expectations they set for themselves on a team that’s actually competitive. Jones or maybe Klingberg are fun choices for defencemen who have previously been decent but have been declining for a while and are terrible now, but then nobody really expected them to be good this season. Anyway, I’m looking forward to playoff Rielly coming back.
Which forward is the un-Selke and un-Richard/Ross all in one?
Brigstew: Let’s say Johnny Gaudreau, a big season acquisition for Columbus who had a horrible season where they were bad, injured, bad, unlucky, and bad. He was just under a point per game, which isn’t that bad considering, but I’ll unfairly make him the face of their failure this year.
Cathy: I'm going with Jonathan Huberdeau out of spite for all those people who told me I was nuts for thinking Florida won that trade. Florida won that trade, and it don't matter if you don't like Matthew Tkachuk, he's an elite player.
Hardev: Gaudreau and Huberdeau are great picks, but mine is Ryan Strome. Ho boy did Ryan Strome have a bad season. He was the only player who played 1000 minutes at 5v5 with 4 xGA/60, which is double what Jesperi Kotkaniemi had, and he led the league in that category (surprise). Strome's 73 CA/60 also led the league. His saving grace is that he only finished third last in GA/60.
Catch-67: I think Huberdeau’s the obvious choice here, but Gaudreau and Strome are good ones too. I’d like to put forth Patrick Kane, partially because the whole build up to Chicago trading him was wildly annoying and partially because he’s been bad both on the tire fire that is the Blackhawks and since being traded to the much better Rangers.
Which goalie destroyed his team and gets the un-Vezina?
Brigstew: Jack Campbell tried his very best to tank the Oilers season, but I’m going to go with Jordan Binnington. He wasn’t the very worst goalie by GSAA this year, but he played 60 games and was mostly awful on a bad team that was supposed to be a playoff team and had some more on ice tantrums to add to his resume.
Cathy: It's tempting to say Markstrom, but that lets the Flames brain trust off the hook for keeping Wolf in the AHL until it didn't matter anymore. I am going with Jack Campbell. He's the worst goalie paid a serious starters salary on a good team. Elvis Merzlikins was worse, but he was helpfully worse.
Hardev: Jack Campbell, but the other nominees are Jonathan Quick, Kaapo Kahkonen, Martin Jones, and James Reimer, who should eat a stinky shoe. Quick might be my hipster pick, but Campbell has un-won it by a mile.
Catch-67: Campbell is the clear winner here, as everyone else has said. It was strange watching him nearly tank the Oilers’ season early on, because I really did wish him the best, but I was so very happy that Dubas didn’t sign him to a big contract.
What annoyed you most about the Leafs this year?
Brigstew: The length of the regular season we had to wait through.
Cathy: Those stretches of games where no one remembered how to play hockey. The first western road trip, and then some games in the spring. "The pass didn't connect" games.
Adam The fans? Do they count? It's a joke, but damn, some of us really do live or die based on the score, minute by minute. I'm guilty of overreacting too, we all need to be more chill.
Hardev: I agree with Adam, y’all need to chill, dear lord. There’s no need for indictments after every period, or litigations after two losses. They were top-five in the league basically all season. If the regular season didn’t matter then don’t worry about it, if it did matter then guess what they finished fourth out of 32. Kerfoot, Holl, Keefe, Rielly, Tavares, Murray. It was all way too much. I hope we didn’t feed into it because we try to share level-headed analysis as much as we can.
Catch-67: I agree with Cathy here. It might’ve been the fans, but I really tuned them out most of the time. I found, even moreso this year than other years, when the Leafs played poorly the games were just wildly unfun. I think it didn’t help that we knew our opponent was Tampa pretty much immediately so nothing really felt like it mattered which only made the poor stretches less exciting to watch.
What did you love?
Brigstew: Having our playoff opponent known since like the first month of the season during a regular season that already seemed annoyingly long to just get us to the playoffs. So fun!
Cathy: I really enjoyed Kyle Dubas this year. I realize this is a weird answer, but seeing him bear down on his evidence-based beliefs and go again for a tandem of goalies, go again for balancing the skill sets of the forwards, go again for adding, not subtracting from the core. That's hockey. If at first you don't score, shoot, shoot again.
Hardev: Honestly? The new site. I love it here. It feels fresh, familiar, full of possibilities, and most importantly, our own. Thank you times a thousand to Cathy for doing so much of the heavy lifting on it during the peak of my final teaching practicum (which I’ve completed and passed!!!). I definitely feel a sense of responsibility here that I lost with the old site a couple years ago when it was at times a drag of content creation for very little returns. I’m excited to see what we can do here. I want to be creative, so tell me what you want to see in the comments!
Catch-67: Great answers Cathy and Hardev! I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the team has been managed this year, particularly because it feels like a really effective distillation of Dubas’ methods. Dubas has made a whole bunch of pretty big splashes, but all in service of a team-building project that feels very stable and consistent. Believe in the process indeed. And to Hardev’s point, I’m loving the new site — it’s been a really smooth transition from a user-perspective which is a testament to how hard Cathy has worked to build it well.
Who was your favourite to watch?
Brigstew: Willy, and I would have included Lilly as well if it were not for his pretty big struggles since the deadline.
Cathy: He's blond, he's best, he'll see you in the west – Ny-lan-der. Doesn't quite scan, but that's my answer.
Hardev: More this season than any other, Mitch Marner. He’s magic and I love him. It might not have been his best year by his high standards, so if we’re being honest it was more me than him that had to come around.
Catch-67: I was going to say Willy or Lilly (except since the deadline), but Hardev’s answer reminded me that I have also enjoyed watching Mitch more this year than probably any year before. He’s had so many highlights this year that made me double-take. On another note, Järnkrok hasn’t been exceptional or anything, but I’ve really enjoyed seeing how well he’s meshed, particularly since joining the top-six.
Who did you despair of?
Brigstew: Murray, had so much promise early outside of all his injuries and struggles when returning after one of his many injuries in the second half.
Cathy: Michael Bunting. I want to like him, I really do, and he's got aspects to his game I want Matt Knies to learn, but he's smoking his own stash this season, and he can't seem to remember what brought him fame and glory.
Hardev: David Kämpf didn’t have the same year as last year. The other name that comes to mind is Jake Muzzin. I felt bad for Järnkrok during his early season struggles, but it was great to see him turn it on and hit 20 in the second half. I was worried Rasmus Sandin had peaked, and it was both surprising and not to hear Kyle Dubas felt the same way.
Catch-67: Probably Bunting or Kämpf, for me as well. I’d also throw Rielly in the mix, there have been lots of times where it just seems like nothing is going for him this year.
First round for the Leafs – how's that going to go?
Brigstew: Genuinely do not know and can’t even make myself guess.
Cathy: Not quite a hot knife through butter, but if the Leafs keep their heads, they should take this one.
Adam They'll win. It'll be six games, they'll lose games one and three making everyone panic. All games will be close. It's going to be stressful.
Hardev: 5 games.
Catch-67: I think they’ll win in round one. I don’t know how many games, but I agree with the general sentiment here that it won’t be easy, per-se, but it also won’t be a seven game thriller.
Who is going to flame out?
Brigstew: Carolina. They always seem to not get that far and they’re missing some important pieces.
Cathy: Simply because they remind me so very much of the Leafs in that 2017-2018 season, I'm saying New Jersey.
Adam The Oilers and it will be spectacular. Can't win a playoff round with two forwards and Jack Campbell. Been there. Done that.
Hardev: Oh yeah, the Oilers are totally getting goalie’d by Quick despite him having a worse season than Campbell.
Catch-67: I like all the answers here. I’m going to go with the Oilers as well.
Who is going to surprise?
Brigstew: Seattle, based solely on a vague memory that they’re one of the top 5v5 teams in the league.
Cathy: I'm supposed to say Dallas, because they're out from under the yoke of bad coaching, but I think Seattle or LA.
Adam Los Angeles will be the plucky team they were in 2012 and shock everyone by going on a run. They won't win the cup but I see a Seattle / LA conference final waiting for us.
Hardev: The Leafs, because it’ll be a shock to everyone when they finally get out of the first round.
Catch-67: I like Hardev’s answer. I also think that Florida might be able to surprise, simply because they can play much better than their record suggests and shooting and save percentages can vary wildly in such a short series.