NHL Awards, the envelope please

- June 18th, 2011

We all know NHL trophy voting is tabulated before the playoffs start, which is an especially good thing this year.
Some players either faded in post-season play or their exploits were over-shadowed and forgotten in a two-month testimonial to endurance by those who grabbed the public’s attention evey second night on TV. But all regular season nominees did have outstading seasons and the Professional Hockey Writers Association has an excellent track record in recognizing these feats, judging the winners on merit, not geography.
How awards night in Las Vegas will likely break down:

Norris Trophy (best defenceman)
Zdeno Chara, Boston
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit
Shea Weber, Nashville

It took some digging to find Chara at 19th in scoring among degencemen, but his plus-33 was top of the heap. If he hadn’t won it once already (2009) it would be easier to forget that on the cusp of age 41, Lidstrom played every game and had 62 points. In what could be his last season, Lidstrom will get lots of votes, but not enough to edge Chara and third-place finisher Weber.

Calder Trophy (best rookie)
Logan Couture San Jose
Michael Grabner New York Islanders
Jeff Skinner Carolina
Skinner was by far the most exciting rookie to watch and he did finish with seven more points than Couture. But it’s not that cut and dried. Couture beat Skinner in five other categories, including goals, game-winning goals, shots and plus/minus. Grabner beat them both with 34 goals, six of them short-handed. Tnen again, Couture and Grabner had the benefit of 25 and 20 NHL games the previous year on respective good teams. Skinner was barely 18 when the season began and looked 14. Nod to Skinner.

Frank Selke Trophy (top defensive forward)
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit
Ryan Kesler Vancouver
Jonathan Toews Chicago
In the past 20 years, only two runners-up to the Selke later won the award. But Kesler, who lost last year to three-time winner Datsyuk should have his day at the podium. He was such a huge part of the Canucks’ Presidents’ Trophy drive in the dots and with his overall fierce play. Toews had 95 takeaways, but was otherwise closely matched with Kesler numbers-wise. Datsyuk was Datsyuk, impossible not to like, no matter where he finishes.

Vezina Trophy (top goalie)
Roberto Luongo Vancouver
Pekka Rinne Nashville
Tim Thomas Boston
This award, voted on by general managers, should unfold along the same close lines as the three teams’ playoff results. Luongo played a little more and thus had three more wins, but Thomas and his outstanding .938 save percentage, 2.00 goals-against average and nine shutouts stand taller. Rinne has enough credentials to win himself had there been no other competition.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (high standards/clean play)
Loui Eriksson Dallas
Nicklas Lidstrom Detroit
Martin St. Louis Tampa Bay
St. Louis could and should become the first Eastern Conference player since Mike Bossy to win this award in consecutive years. He has not accumulated 40 penalty minutes the past three seasons in total. Eriksson only had eight minutes to St. Louis’s 12, but the latter had 8.25 points for every penalty minute he was assessed.

Hart Trophy (MVP, voted by writers)
Daniel Sedin Vancouver
Corey Perry Anaheim
Martin St. Louis Tampa Bay

No runaway choices in a year when Sidney Crosby was erased and Alexander Ovechkin played subdued. It’s remarkable that Sedin was able to seamlessly switch places with brother Henrik atop the scoring race and set themselves up as the Hart’s first brother act. But Daniel was not first in any category other than power-play goals and basic points on a star-studded team. St. Louis had more assists, Perry had more shots and goals and played more than two minutes extra than Sedin a night. Most important, Perry’s late drive to 50 goals put the Ducks in the playoffs and should net him the trophy.

Ted Lindsay Award (MVP, voted by player)
Daniel Sedin Vancouver
Corey Perry Anaheim
Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay
Stamkos had a great year with just eight points less than St. Louis, but Perry will be tough here, too. On two occasions since 2006, including last year, the players have passed on the Hart winner and leading scorer for someone else, which could make Daniel the second straight Sedin to be a Lindsay bridesmaid.

General Manager of the Year Award
Mike Gillis Vancouver
David Poile Nashville
Steve Yzerman Tampa Bay
Sentimental choice among the GMs and a blue ribbon media panel would be the rookie Yzerman, but Gillis deserves kudos for a long rebuilding process that started with re-signing the Sedins, building a capable defence and putting the finishing touches on his third and fourth line. Unfortunately, the Presidents’ Trophy and Clarence Campbell Bowl are his only souvenirs this year.

Jack Adams Trophy (top coach)
Alain Vigneault Vancouver
Barry Trotz Nashville
Dan Bylsma Pittsburgh
At first glance, Bylsma’s juggling act to get Pittsburgh in the playoffs, sans Crosby and Malkin, is the feat most worthy of acclaim. They even reached 106 points. It’s also time to recognize Trotz for all those years of keeping a cap-challenged and sometime sinjury-plagued Preds’ roster in the fight. But the league’s broadcasters must also decide whether having Vezina-calibre goalies in Luongo and Rinne made the jobs of their coaches easier than Bylsma.

Categories: Hockey

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