It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? Probably because any perspectives from the cheap seats were effectively wiped out on March 11. That 3-2 win over their draft lottery buddy Ottawa Senators served as the Kings’ last game until at least December. When the dust settled, the Kings ended the season on a seven-game winning streak as the hottest team in hockey by a wide margin.
With the league set to include all but a handful of teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs and play-in mini tournament, the Kings were left out in the cold. They were left with nothing to do except get a jumpstart on trading with the other teams left out (don’t hold your breath) and planning their draft strategy... and giving out their annual awards.
Yes, the Kings Booster Club and the Kings Media were on the ready naming the top players in multiple categories. Some I agree with. Others? Well, others were just plain puzzling.
Without further ado, here is the rundown:
Bill Libby Memorial Award for Team MVP (voted on by the media)
Ace Bailey Memorial Award for Most Inspirational (voted on by the LA Kings Players)
Reaction: With the exception of Jonathan Quick in 2011-12 and maybe the combo platter of Peter Budaj and Jeff Carter in 2016-17, no other player can ever lay claim to Team MVP over Anze Kopitar. He is always the best player in a Kings uniform and most of the time the best on either team. It’s also nice to see his teammates embracing him, and that there’s no ill will lingering as rumored after Kopitar took over the captaincy from Dustin Brown. Kopitar continues his march to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Mark Bavis Memorial Award for Best Newcomer (voted on by the media)
Outstanding Defenseman (voted on by the media)
Defensive Player of the Year (voted on by the media)
Unsung Hero Award (voted on by the LA Kings Players)
Reaction I: It’s hard to argue with the selection of Matt Roy. After a little bit of a rocky start watching pucks carom off of him and past Quick and not-so-smart penalties, he rebounded as a top-four defenseman shining on many nights. He was one of only four NHL rookies to play in every game (70 games), scoring four goals and adding 14 assists. One could argue that Sean Walker deserved some consideration as Outstanding Defenseman, but few can debate this is a not-so-subtle message to Drew Doughty that he needs to be better in the last seven years of his $88 million contract (some of which I broke down at what proved to be the midseason mark of this season.)
Reaction II: The Unsung Hero Award is typically reserved for Trevor Lewis. Does this further signal his departure?
Jim Fox Community Service Award (voted on by the Kings Care Foundation)
Reaction: The Cheetah might have hands of stone on the ice, but he’s always willing to lend a hand off the ice. The Kings have made a strong effort in recent years to only employ players of high character. Wagner is another win in that team-building strategy.
Daryl Evans Youth Hockey Service Award (voted on by the Kings Hockey Development Department)
Reaction: Lil Kings will miss Lewis next season.
Most Popular (voted on by the LA Kings Booster Club)
Reaction: Yeah, on a team with Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Quick and Kopitar, a-third liner with six goals is the most popular. I’m not buying it. You’re not buying it. No one is buying it. In 15 years, you’ll look back on this and say, “Who?”...
Player of the Year
Reaction: Who voted on this one? No one is owning up on this. In 2012, when Jonathan Quick was jobbed out of the Vezina, we showed it was East Coast Bias. But how to justify this one? Anze Kopitar as the primary reason Iafallo is as productive on offense as he is, and Iafallo doesn’t bring the defense and penalty killing the captain brings every night. Perhaps this was like the year Karl Malone won the MVP over Michael Jordan in an obvious case of sharing the wealth a little. Regardless of how unjust this voting turned out to be, it’s nice to see Iafallo blossoming and providing a left-wing partner who Kopitar truly likes playing with.