It has been an NHL season that has been bizarre to the nth degree.
For the Flyers, it started with a win over Chicago in the Czech Republic, and it was so long ago that it seems as if that game was played during the Obama administration.
It was a season that lasted five-plus months and then, assuming it resumes Aug. 1, went idle for nearly five months because of the coronavirus outbreak.
With all that time off, the games and accomplishments have started to fade. Before they do, here are my picks for the NHL’s major award winners for the regular season:
Jack Adams Award (coach of the year): Alain Vigneault, Flyers.
The Flyers were the NHL’s hottest team, had climbed to within one point of first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division, and seemed ready to pass the Capitals when the regular season was paused – and, eventually, declared finished.
No matter. Vigneault, in his first season as the Flyers’ coach, had already done enough to win the award, though Columbus’ John Tortorella is a strong candidate.
The Flyers (41-21-7), who played 69 games, were on pace to finish with 106 points in 82 games. That’s 24 more points than last year.
It was the biggest improvement in the NHL.
Their 106-point pace would have been the Flyers’ second-highest total in the last 33 seasons, topped only by their 107 points in 2002-03.
Calder Trophy (top rookie): Cale Makar, Colorado.
The puck-moving defenseman blossomed into the second-best player, behind Nathan MacKinnon, on a team that is a strong Stanley Cup contender. Makar finished with 50 points (12 goals, 38 points) and a plus-12 rating in 57 games.
From here, he should edge Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes (eight goals, 53 points, minus-10 in 68 games) for the award.
Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year: Chuck Fletcher, Flyers.
Fletcher, who figures to get strong competition from Colorado general manager Joe Sakic, did a masterful job turning around the Flyers.
Among his moves: acquiring center Kevin Hayes from Winnipeg and then signing him to a seven-year deal, and redoing the defense by trading for veterans Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. Adding Tyler Pitlick was another deal that worked.
Oh, and perhaps his biggest additions: hiring Vigneault and assistants Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien.
Fletcher also gets points for adding veteran centers Derek Grant and Nate Thompson at the trade deadline, and for re-signing Brian Elliott in the offseason.
Hart Trophy (MVP): Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton.
His numbers – a league-best (by far) 110 points and 43 goals -- were staggering and he steered the Oilers to a 17-point improvement if you prorate this season to 82 games.
It was a tough choice between Draisaitl and Boston’s David Pastrnak, who had 48 goals (tied for No. 1 in the NHL) for the league’s best overall team.
Lady Byng Trophy (best sportsmanship with high standard of play): Auston Matthews, Toronto.
Matthews had 47 goals (35 at even strength), 80 points, and a plus-19 rating while being accessed just eight penalty minutes. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon was a close second.
Norris Trophy (best defenseman): John Carlson, Washington.
Carlson scored 15 goals and had a plus-12 rating, and he led defensemen in assists (60), points (75), and game-winning goals (6). He was on pace for 89 points, the most by a defenseman since Ray Bourque had 91 in 1993-94.
Nashville’s Roman Josi (65 points, plus-22) will challenge Carlson for the award.
If Carlson wins it, it will sting Flyers fans because he could have been wearing orange and black. In 2008, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren desperately wanted a right-handed defenseman and he sent Washington a first-round pick (27th overall) for Steve Eminger and a third-round pick that turned out to be goalie Jacob DeSerres, who never reached the NHL.
The Capitals drafted Carlson with the pick they received from the Flyers.
Vezina Trophy (top goaltender): Tuukka Rask, Boston.
Among goalies who played at least half their teams’ games, Rask led the NHL in save percentage (.929) and goals-against average (2.12).
Runners-up: Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (2.57 GAA, .922 save percentage), who was outstanding even though the Jets lost a bulk of their best defensemen from last season and didn’t give their goalie a good support system.
Many voters may opt for Hellebuyck because he played 17 more games than Rask (58-41).
Selke Trophy (best defensive forward): Sean Couturier, Flyers.
Couturier, who for years has been one of the league’s premier defensive forwards, excelled in the advanced stats at both ends of the ice, and his teammates thrived whenever they were put on his line. That caused Vigneault to call him “Dr. Coots” because he cured an “ailing” teammate.
The 27-year-old-old center finished with 59 points and a plus-21 rating, and he led the NHL by winning 59.6% of his faceoffs.