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Best and worst of the 2016 NHL Awards Show

Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe I'm softening in my old age. Maybe (probably) it's greatly diminished expectations. But so help me, this awards show tonight — and I can't believe I'm saying this — wasn't terrible. 

Don't get me wrong: It also was not good. There were still plenty of jokes that got less than nothing from the routinely dead crowd. There was a little too much filler. A little too much joke-explaining. Way too much going back to the well on jokes that didn't work.

But let's say we're grading on a curve here — like maybe the curve on a hockey stick!!!!!!! Hire me to write for this show next year I'm telling you I'm great at this — you have to say that if last year's best-in-recent-memory show was something like a C+, this was at least a B.

It really started to drag in the second half, which I guess isn't surprising because you can only work so much magic to inject actual entertainment into this show. There's no way you make it watchable for two straight hours.

So again, grading on a curve, man oh man. Anything that doesn't feel like a slog is a stunning coup for the producers, presenters, and writers of this show. Could it have been better? Of course. Could it have been worse?

Oh my, yes. A lot, lot, lot, lot, lot, lot worse.

I'm still sifting through my feelings on this. If the NHL awards show is borderline watchable, what does that mean for literally all other currently unproved theories? Can we make cold fusion happen this year? Time travel? If it's the latter, I can't wait to go back to 2010 and warn myself not to watch these shows.

(By the way, they did two segments of looking for St. Louis Blues superfan Tony X., who was #TonyMIA at the awards. I'm seriously concerned that some horrible tragedy befell young Anthony X., because we never did find out where he was. How do you tease that for an entire show, then cut it for time?)

But honestly, this could have been so much worse. I never thought I'd say this, but I rate this year's NHL awards show as “not objectionable.”

Mostly.

THE BEST

5. Actual celebrities

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22: Actor Michael Keaton speaks onstage to present the Hart Trophy during the 2016 NHL Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

This was something else. Usually you just get a handful of quirky friends from a semi-popular TBS sitcom, a reality star or two, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. That sort of thing. This year, we had not one but two Oscar nominees from the last two years (Michael Keaton and Jacob Tremblay).

There was also a guy (Anders Holm) who's on half the comedies on basic cable. Another guy (Jason Priestly) on both a classic show and a current one.

Like, you have heard of all these people. They didn't have to come out and say, “Hey well I am on a TNT show and also I like the Kings” or anything like that. They pronounced every name right, too. 

This is not-insignificant. If nothing else, it's a stepping stone to getting the Bazinga guy for 2017.

4. Jacob Tremblay

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22: Actor Jacob Tremblay attends the 2016 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Isn't it so nice that they let him wear his little Canucks jersey? And he presented the Calder to a rookie who was only 28 years older than him!

3. Michael Keaton

This is how you present an award. It's almost like having a charismatic real-life hockey fan be partisan in an entertaining way makes the show better.

Let's keep trying next year to find out for sure.

2. Going in on bad teams 

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22: Host Will Arnett speaks during the 2016 NHL Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

One of the hallmarks of the NHL Awards in the past has been, to put it kindly, intentional blandness.

No one in the past had any real interest in saying anything that was even remotely controversial. But in both the opening monologue from Will Arnett and the Calder presentation by Jacob Tremblay, there were jokes about Canadian teams being bad and missing the playoffs.

Now, the argument you might be able to make is that, perhaps, the terribleness of Canadian teams writ large is at this point so apparent to even the most unbiased of observers that saying so has been rendered non-controversial. Maybe.

This is, frankly, something this awards show needed more than anything else: Something that injects life into what has long been a dreary, hopelessly unfunny affair. Long may it continue.

(Until one crybaby owner complains to Gary Bettman and gets all this kind of stuff taken out posthaste.)

1. The In Memoriam

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks onstage to pay tribute to Gordie Howe and Ed Snider during the 2016 NHL Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

It took two major deaths in the NHL for the league to add this segment to finally the show, but it was extremely well-done. One wonders if it'll be back next year if, hopefully, fewer legendary figures of the sport will pass away.

THE WORST 

5. A sad reminder

NHL

Look, we all know what these awards are at this point. If you're a celebrity presenter, you're only there because you like hockey already and you probably get a few thousand bucks and a hotel room in Vegas for the weekend.

But maybe, when you're writing an opening skit, you don't go out of your way to draw attention to the fact that both Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien are too big to bother to show up.

Worse, though, was that they took a Jimmy Fallon segment — somehow it didn't involve playing musical chairs with Liam Neeson — from like three weeks ago and just replayed it again. Jimmy Fallon is so inexplicably famous and busy and too-good-for-this that he couldn't even have his writers bang out three more hack jokes about how weird Dustin Brown looks or whatever? Good lord.

This sport is never going to have as many fans, or fans as famous, as those of basketball or football. Let's not also draw arrows to the problem and then circle it and underline it and say, “We're bad at this, folks!”

4. Penn and Teller

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22: Magicians Penn & Teller speak onstage prior to presenting the General Manager of the Year award during the 2016 NHL Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you're looking for “worst comedy segment of the night,” a real trend is starting to develop: Look for the bit with the photoshops.

Last year it was host Rob Riggle talking about something or other and there were some bad photoshops behind him and the jokes fell insanely flat (one of them was making fun of Caitlyn Jenner, if I remember right). This year, it was Penn and Teller, and the only saving grace for the duo was that Teller didn't have to read any of these dreadful gags.

Once they got two or three jokes deep — and they were all jokes about the new Las Vegas expansion team, because like, haha Las Vegas has poker chips and betting and stuff — I bet they were wishing they could............ disappear.

(Because they're magicians? I'm telling you I could write for this show.)

3. X-Ambassadors

Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Usually, when there's a musical act on the awards show, their performances are limited to one (1) song. Unfortunately, not so with X-Ambassadors, a bad band that I have now definitively heard of. They played twice. That's fine. 

What, was Smashmouth booked?

2. Drew Doughty winning the Norris because he was totally due

Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty holds the Norris Trophy after winning the award at the NHL Awards show, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

In all, 93 as many people thought Drew Doughty was the best defenseman in the league. That's more than twice as many as the number who felt the same way about Erik Karlsson.

Honestly, this is Martin Scorsese winning what was essentially the lifetime achievement award he got for THE DEPARTED, but if he'd gotten it for, like, AFTER HOURS

There were some writers in the PHWA who basically campaigned for Doughty from January on. Lots of people — presumably those who watch maybe three Ottawa games a year, and it was one in which Karlsson had one turnover that they obsessed over all season — got in line behind  a few leaders on this front.

This very much reeks of “We're sick of giving it to the same guy every year.” Same with Bergeron failing to win the Selke for reasons otherwise inexplicable.

Someone left Karlsson off their ballot altogether. Inexcusable.

1. Whoever gave Patrick Kane a first-place Lady Byng vote

AP Photo/John Loche

I'm not going to spend time getting mad that Kane got the Hart. Morally, him winning is extraordinarily bad. But if we're going strictly on the ice, which we clearly are, it's tough to make the case that a 106-point player didn't deserve it. Fine. I don't like it but I get it. 

What I absolutely do not get is the idiot loser piece of garbage bozo who voted Kane first on his Lady Byng ballot. One imagines that we will never find out who submitted this ballot, because that guy (we can very very reasonably assume it's a man) would get a whole lot of angry tweets and emails about it, and the PHWA takes significant pains to protect the worst actors in their ranks.

But this guy should be outed by the PHWA. He should be subject to scorn. Because any argument you want to make in favor of Ryan O'Reilly being a worthy nominee is, like, several hundred orders of magnitude less capital-p Problematic. How you make that argument is unconscionable.

Kane is a great player, but that doesn't make him anything resembling a good person.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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