NEW YORK - It was the best season no one talked about.
Perhaps because it is expected with a player of his stature and skill, Sidney Crosby posted the NHL's third 100-point season since 2010, and even the most hardcore hockey observers did little more than shrug their shoulders.
Free of drama or intrigue, adding to the malaise, Crosby had the scoring race locked up in December. This was Crosby's fifth career 100-point season in 9 years in the league.
How impressive was it? Crosby finished the season with 68 assists - more than 859 other players netted in points.
The fact that he did it without linemate Pascal Dupuis - who hasn't played since Dec. 23 because of a knee injury - and helped the Penguins cruise to the first Metropolitan Division title despite their barrage of injuries is even more impressive. He also scored 36 goals.
Ho-hum? I don't think so.
It is for those reasons that Crosby, 26, was my runaway winner on my Hart Trophy ballot. Crosby has not won the award since 2006-07, his second year in the league.
As a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association striving for transparency in the awards process, I have helped lead a push for writers to expose their ballot and reasoning. Votes were due from 150 writers around North America before the puck dropped on the playoffs on Wednesday.
The winners will be announced in Las Vegas in June after the Stanley Cup is awarded.
The much more intriguing discussion for the Hart, naturally, was who performed well enough to be Crosby's runners-up.
Ryan Getzlaf, who finished a distant second in the scoring race, was second on my ballot. Getzlaf and teammate Corey Perry (a former Hart winner) combined to score 169 points for Bruce Boudreau's Ducks, enough to win a tough Western Conference in the regular season.
The third choice was the toughest. Goaltender Ben Bishop is one of the main reasons Tampa Bay is in the playoffs. After his embarrassing departure from Boston, Tyler Seguin was excellent to get Dallas back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
As a journalist and voter, you never want to be considered a "homer," but it was impossible to ignore Claude Giroux carrying the Flyers to the playoffs. For a stretch from December through March, he led the NHL in scoring, even as Crosby piled on points in Pittsburgh. His guarantee from Oct. 21 didn't hurt, either.
Zdeno Chara had another incredibly underrated season in Boston, as the Bruins rallied to win the Presidents' Trophy for best regular season. Yet, he didn't do enough in my eyes to keep Shea Weber from winning his first Norris Trophy. The Predators might have been up for a top lottery pick if not for Weber.
Nathan MacKinnon (63 points) was an easy choice for the Calder Trophy as top rookie. Jacob Trouba should have gotten more recognition for playing against stiff competition on the blue line for the often overmatched Jets, but Ondrej Palat helped carry the Lightning when Steven Stamkos injured his leg.
The Selke and Lady Byng trophies are always toughest to call. For Lady Byng, a strange award in and of itself, I focus on players with a strong offensive season and few penalty minutes. Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly (64 points) and one (!!!) minor penalty fit that bill. Patrice Bergeron could win his second Selke Trophy as top defensive forward, but Sean Couturier now deserves to be in the conversation after another elite defensive campaign playing in a shutdown role.
Writers are not invited to participate in voting on the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, decided by broadcasters, but Colorado's Patrick Roy will be the winner. No one asked me, but Tampa Bay's Jon Cooper and the Flyers' Craig Berube would have finished second and third on my ballot.
HART TROPHY (Most Valuable Player)
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim
3. Claude Giroux, Flyers>
4. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay
5. Tyler Seguin, Dallas
NORRIS TROPHY (Top Defenseman)
1. Shea Weber, Nashville
2. Zdeno Chara, Boston
3. Ryan McDonagh, N.Y. Rangers
4. Ryan Suter, Minnesota
5. Duncan Keith, Chicago
CALDER TROPHY (Top Rookie)
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
2. Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay
3. Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg
4. Torey Krug, Boston
5. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay
LADY BYNG TROPHY (Gentlemanly Player)
1. Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado
2. Patrick Marleau, San Jose
3. Matt Duchene, Colorado
4. Martin St. Louis, N.Y. Rangers
5. Phil Kessel, Toronto
SELKE TROPHY (Top Defensive Forward)
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston
2. Sean Couturier, Flyers
3. Jonathan Toews, Chicago
4. David Backes, St. Louis
5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles