Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Handicapping the NHL Awards

For this week’s Around the League, we will take a look at this evening’s NHL Awards Show. Live from Las Vegas tonight, the National Hockey League will host its annual glitzy production to hand out hardware from the 2010-11 regular season. Expect an evening full of not-funny hockey-related wisecracks, some semi-known Canadian musical performance(s), and players whose acceptance speeches exceed even Oscar and Grammy award winners in meaninglessness. But still, for diehard hockey fans like myself, it is a fun night, and for a few lucky players, it provides some extra bargaining clout in negotiating their next contract.

Below, we’ll review the awards that will be handed out tonight, predict who will win, but then also provide both a top 3 of un-nominated but deserving candidates, as well as a Canadiens award winner.

First, the trophies with no suspense behind them: the statistical awards.

1) ART ROSS TROPHY – Awarded to the player who leads the league in points
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks (104 points)
Canadiens Winner: Tomas Plekanec (57 points)

2) MAURICE "ROCKET" RICHARD TROPHY – Awarded to the player who leads the league in goals
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks (50 goals)
Canadiens Winner: Brian Gionta (29 goals)

3) WILLIAM M. JENNINGS TROPHY – Awarded to the goaltending tandem allowing the fewest goals
Roberto Luongo & Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks (185 goals)
Canadiens Winner: Carey Price & Alex Auld (209 goals)

And now, the fun and juicy ones.

4) VEZINA TROPHY – Awarded to the league’s top goaltender
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Predicted Winner: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Setting a modern era record with his sensational numbers over the course of the season, Thomas is a shoe-in for the award. Playoffs aren’t looked at when determining the winners, but Thomas’s Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup add a “See? He deserved it.” effect, as if it were necessary.
The Next 3:
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes
Canadiens Winner: Carey Price, naturally. But note that in the “Next 3,” a lot of other guys could have gotten consideration but didn’t play enough games to truly earn it (Jonas Hiller, Semyon Varlamov / Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider…).

5) FRANK J. SELKE TROPHY – Awarded to the league’s best defensive forward
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Predicted Winner: Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
While this award’s actual definition is “best defensive forward,” in reality that player must also have contributed significant offense to be considered. This is where Kesler has a big edge, since even though Toews had more points, Kesler had what must have been one of the “quietest” 40 goal seasons in NHL history.
The Next 3:
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
Canadiens Winner: Tomas Plekanec, whose 50 points keep him from major consideration, but plays a similar role in Montreal to what Toews brings the Blackhawks (at least in the regular season…).

6) LADY BYNG MEMORIAL TROPHY – Awarded to a player demonstrating sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct
Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

Predicted Winner: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Remarkably only 12 penalty minutes while scoring 99 points this season should make St. Louis a lock. This award is typically Pavel Datsyuk’s territory, but he actually dropped the gloves this season which likely ruled him out (along with his being limited to 56 games on the year). Nice to see Eriksson get recognized for finishing the season with less PIMs than even St. Louis (8), but the NHL’s second leading scorer still gets the nod.
The Next 3:
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Canadiens Winner: Brian Gionta, who scored 46 points while taking only 24 minutes in penalties, but difficult to choose a player from the team that led the league in minor penalties. Notably, he’s the only player to play a full 82 games for the Habs this season.

7) CALDER MEMORIAL TROPHY – Awarded to the league’s top rookie
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
Michael Grabner, New York Islanders
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes

Predicted Winner: Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
Habs fans will clearly remember P.K. Subban taking Skinner’s jersey and wearing it to earn the support of the home crowd during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, and Skinner is certainly deserving of being a fan favourite. The NHL’s youngest player led all rookies with 63 points.
The Next 3:
Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Canadiens Winner: P.K. Subban, who is well on his way to becoming an NHL superstar

8) JAMES NORRIS MEMORIAL TROPHY – Awarded to the league’s best defenseman
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Predicted Winner: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
The Norris is a bit of a toss-up this year, with three worthy candidates and arguably three equally worthy in the Next 3 below. Despite incredible offensive numbers (especially given his age), Lidstrom was a minus player for the first time in his NHL career. Weber and Chara had similar numbers, but Chara leads all nominees in time on ice per game, and led all defensemen league-wide with a +33.
The Next 3:
Lubomir Visnovsky, Anaheim Ducks
Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Canadiens Winner: James Wisniewski, in a tight race over both Roman Hamrlik and P.K. Subban. Since joining the Habs, the Wizz resurrected a sputtering Montreal powerplay, and scored 30 points in 43 games, all the while maintaining a +4 rating. Outside of Andrei Markov who played only 7 games, Wisniewski led all Canadiens players in average time on ice per game (22:42).

9) BILL MASTERTON MEMORIAL TROPHY – Awarded to a player demonstrating perseverance & dedication to Hockey
Ray Emery, Anaheim Ducks
Daymond Langkow, Calgary Flames
Ian Laperriere, Philadelphia Flyers

Predicted Winner: Ray Emery, Anaheim Ducks
A nice story, as the guy who was chased out of Ottawa following their Stanley Cup Finals collapse, went to Russia, battled injuries and surgeries, and then reappeared to help the Ducks’ playoff drive after starter Jonas Hiller went down.
The Next 3:
Erik Cole, Carolina Hurricanes
Kris Draper, Detroit Red Wings
Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota Wild
Canadiens Winner: Mathieu Darche was the Canadiens submitted nominee for the award, and the way he has battled through a lengthy career of bouncing around from team to team and league to league to now earn a one-way contract with the Habs is a great story.

10) JACK ADAMS AWARD – Awarded to the league’s best head coach
Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins
Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators
Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks

Predicted Winner: Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators
How Nashville competes and earns playoff spots year after year with the rosters they have is a true testament to Trotz’s abilities as a coach. Certainly they had starring performances from Shea Weber on defense and Pekka Rinne in nets this year, but Trotz has been the driving force behind the team’s success for a while now.
The Next 3:
Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals
Jacques Martin, Montreal Canadiens
Canadiens Winner: Jacques Martin, and he does deserve some credit for righting the ship and keeping things together as players began to fall like flies at different parts of the season.

11) HART MEMORIAL TROPHY – Awarded to the player deemed most valuable to his team; also considered the league MVP award
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

Predicted Winner: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
What’s a Daniel without a Henrik, or a Martin without a Steven? One might make the same argument for Ryan Getzlaf being critical to Corey Perry’s success, but unlike the other names mentioned above, each of whom played a full 82 games, Getzlaf missed 15 critical ones with an injury this year. And it was Perry alone who allowed the Ducks to go on a late-season surge that had them come out on top of the heap in the messy Western Conference lower seed playoff race.
The Next 3:
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Canadiens Winner: Carey Price, with all the injuries the team went through on defence this year, the only reason they remained competitive was the standout play of their star netminder. Jaroslav Ha-who?

12) TED LINDSAY AWARD (Formerly Lester B. Pearson Award) – Awarded to the league’s most valuable players, as voted upon by the NHLPA
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Predicted Winner: Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

13) GENERAL MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARD – Awarded to the league’s best general manager
Mike Gillis, Vancouver Canucks
David Poile, Nashville Predators
Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning

Predicted Winner: Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning
In his first year as a rookie GM, Yzerman did a phenomenal job stacking the Lightning with depth. This team has never lacked for star power, it was about rounding out the defense and the third and fourth lines, which Stevie Y did to allow the team to go on a deep run. Picking up Dwayne Roloson was undoubtedly one of the key moves league-wide this season.
The Next 3:
Peter Chiarelli, Boston Bruins
George McPhee, Washington Capitals
Pierre Gauthier, Montreal Canadiens
Canadiens Winner: Pierre Gauthier & Bob Gainey, because both of their work deserves some recognition

14) MARK MESSIER LEADERSHIP AWARD – Awarded to the player considered the top leader in the league
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

Predicted Winner: Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes
Wearing the C for the Canadian team at the IIHF World Hockey Championships on repeat occasions, Doan gets an edge here because of the circumstance in which he was placed. While Boston and Detroit are both popular, winning cities, the Coyotes had the ownership/moving question hanging over their heads all season long, yet with help from Doan’s leadership, were able to stay focused enough to earn the 6th seed in the cutthroat Western Conference.
The Next 3:
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Canadiens Winner: Hal Gill, even though Brian Gionta is the captain, Gill’s work with young players like Josh Gorges and now P.K. Subban deserves to be noticed. He earned the 1 year contract extension for next season. Plus, he’s so darn hilarious in those Get To Know Your Canadiens videos!

LW – Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
RW – Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
C – Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
D – Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
D – Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
G – Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

LW – Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
RW – Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
C – Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
D – Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
D – Lubomir Visnovsky, Anaheim Ducks
G – Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

LW – Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
RW – Michael Grabner, New York Islanders
C – Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
D – Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
D – P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
G – Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

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