The Colorado Avalanche practically made out like bandits at this year's NHL Awards in Las Vegas. Head Coach Patrick Roy won the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year, Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year, and Ryan O'Reilly won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy awarded to the player who best exemplifies "sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability", per the official description. The only Avalanche nominee who did not win a trophy was goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who came in second in the voting for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the league's top goaltender.
Don't let the fact that Varlamov didn't win the Vezina fool you though. Perhaps even more impressively than coming in second for that award, he came in fourth in the voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy awarded to the overall league MVP, ahead of Tuuka Rask who actually did win the Vezina. Way ahead as a matter of fact. Unsurprisingly, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins took home the Hart Trophy.
Think about this for minute. Even though "Varly" didn't win an award, he was second for the Vezina Trophy and fourth for the Hart Trophy awarded to the most valuable player in the entire league, regardless of position. Clearly, the Avalanche netminder had a spectacular season, and it's a shame he doesn't get to have any hardware to show for it. Colorado fans, meanwhile, know exactly how good Varlamov is, and his nickname will continue to be chanted from the Pepsi Center seats for many years to come.
Patrick Roy winning the Jack Adams Award should surprise no one. The season before he arrived, the Avalanche finished 29th out of 30 teams in league standings. After Roy took over as head coach, and with mostly the same roster, the Avalanche jumped to 3rd in league standings. 29th to 3rd in one year is the biggest single-season jump in NHL history, and Roy had plenty to do with it. A legendary former goaltender has had a legendary beginning to his NHL coaching career.
Also coming as a surprise to absolutely nobody is Nathan MacKinnon winning the Calder Memorial Trophy. He led all rookies in goals (24), assists (39), points (63), game-winning goals (5), power-play goals (8) and shots on goal (241). The skill, speed and intelligence of last year's first overall draft pick made him a nearly unanimous choice to win the Calder.
Ryan O'Reilly rounds out the list of Avalanche trophy winners, claiming the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. He led Colorado with 28 goals, and also had 36 assists for a total of 64 points. He was assessed only one minor penalty all season long (for playing with a broken stick of all things), and became only the second player in NHL history to play in at least 80 games while taking only one penalty. But the statistic that put O'Reilly over the top was the fact that he led the NHL with 83 takeaways. A player has to get physical to take the puck away from another player, and even though O'Reilly did that successfully more than anyone else, he still only had the one penalty. All this made him a runaway choice to win the Lady Byng.
Overall, the entire Avalanche team was honored today, as none of those awards would have been possible without the relentlessly hard work of everyone on the team. The recognition that comes with the NHL Awards appropriately symbolizes what a great season it was for Colorado.Tags: Calder Memorial Trophy, Colorado, Colorado Avalanche, Hart Memorial Trophy, Hockey, Jack Adams Award, Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, Nathan MacKinnon, NHL, Patrick Roy, Ryan O'Reilly, Semyon Varlamov, Vezina Trophy
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