Previewing the 2010-11 NHL Awards
Tonight marks the official end of the 2010-2011 NHL season with the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, then the 2011-2012 season starts Friday with the NHL Draft and free agency on July 1. The NHL does a great job of handing out awards and making a spectacle of it. In fact, I’m not sure that any other sport televises or organizes an event. Then again, the other three leagues don’t have so much history invested in their awards and such reverence for the sanctity of those awards. The Bruins could make a significant splash at tonight’s show with three nominations, one for Tim Thomas and two for Zdeno Chara. Keep in mind that all of the ballots were submitted before the playoffs.
The Hart Trophy awarded to the league’s most valuable player.
Whew. This is a tough one. Probably the toughest of the night which is weird because the Hart is the one trophy that SHOULD be clear cut. Let it be known that I am letting my seeing of these players in the postseason fog my judgment and alter my thinking.
I think the race comes down to Perry vs Sedin. St. Louis is and has been great but it was the emergence of Dwayne Roloson and continued improvement of Steven Stamkos that created such a large turnaround. Daniel Sedin led the league in points and was the catalyst for the wagon that was the Canucks. His team had such an easy run and was so deep that I find it hard to measure his brilliance. Corey Perry has been a part of the Ducks squad for some time now but has never put up nearly as many points as he did this year. His previous high was 76 points and he’d never scored more than 32 goals. It’s no coincidence that with his emergence the Ducks went from 11th to 4th in one year’s time.
Who should win: Corey Perry because he transformed a shallow Ducks team into a legit threat in the West.
Who will win: Daniel Sedin because voting ended before he disappeared in the playoffs.
The Vezina Trophy awarded to the league’s best goaltender.
In a complete contrast to the above, this figures to be least dramatic award of the night. Tim Thomas had the award all but sewn up half way through the year but strong showings by Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne made it an interesting race all the way through.
This race should come down to Tim Thomas and Pekka Rinne and Rinne isn’t getting as much respect as he should because of where he played. Luongo played great largely because he didn’t have to play great (if that makes sense). In the regular season opponents had to deal with the Sedins and with the Canucks largely playing in the offensive zone there were a lot of easy nights for Luongo. Rinne on the other hand had to stand on his head regularly. The Preds didn’t have much of an offense and Rinne essentially willed the team into the second round and kept the series tight as long as he could against the Nucks. Tim Thomas had one of the best seasons by a goaltender ever. He proved his Vezina wasn’t a fluke, and actually topped that season. He kept the Bruins afloat at times when the offense went cold and almost always made the big save.
Who should win: Tim Thomas because he had one of, if not the best season by a goalie in league history.
Who will win: Tim Thomas. Seriously, you guys saw how good this guy was, right?
The Norris Trophy awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability to play the position.
Another tough one, not because nobody seized the award but because all three were so good. Shea Weber showed that he’s more than a big shot by becoming a pseudo shutdown defenseman. Nick Lidstrom showed how good he still is despite being 40+. Chara rebounded from an off year to prove that he’s one of the best all around defensemen in the league.
Despite Weber being such a key cog in the Predators run I still see this as a race between Lidstrom and Chara. It seems like it’s between these two every year for the last 4-5 seasons. Depending on how much you buy into +/- the award could go either way. I’m a believer in +/- and as I mentioned before, hold a skewed view because of the playoffs. Chara shut down the line he needed to nearly every night and had good offensive numbers to boot. Lidstrom’s offensive numbers are amazing considering his age but his -2 is his worst of his storied career. That number indicates that his defensive wizardry was down a bunch this year and as a believer that the Norris should go to the best all-around d-man it’s an indictment I can’t get around. But some might, especially teary-eyed voters seeing a legend finishing his career looking like he’s still in his prime.
Who should win: Zdeno Chara because he’s a force on defense and is one of the few true shut down d-men in he game.
Who will win: Nicklas Lidstrom. The story is there and his numbers are damn impressive. Nick’s a legend and I don’t see how anyone could be mad at this pick.
The Calder Trophy awarded to the league’s most outstanding rookie player.
In a year where everyone was talking about Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin these three rookies exceeded expectations and were the heads of an impressive rookie class. Each scored 30+ goals and had more than 50 points this season. Each were called upon by their own teams and each were of the most important players on their team.
I see this race being between Grabner and Skinner, two players with very different paths to their rookie campaigns. Skinner was placed on a bad Hurricanes team which missed the playoffs on the last game of the season but had quite the turnaround anyways. Grabner came out of nowhere to finish in the top 10 in goals. Grabner’s team was terrible but his talent was electrifying. Skinner was helped out a lot by Eric Staal and Skinner was the youngest player in the league. Whoever wins it will deserve it and will be a great story.
Who will win it: Jeff Skinner because he came into the league and was a great player in all areas despite being 18.
Who should win it: Probably Jeff Skinner. Grabner is great but he’s had a while to get used to professional hockey. Skinner has not.
Jack Adams Award given to the coach who has contributed the most to his teams success.
Who should win: Dan Bylsma because of all the injuries he had to deal with.
Who will win: Dan Bylsma. Alain is a stiff and Trotz is good but Rinne/Weber were the reasons for success.
Lady Byng Trophy awarded to the player who most exemplified sportsmanship combined with a high level of play.
Who should win: Martin St. Louis. 99 points and only 12 PIMs.
Who will win: Nicklas Lidstrom because it’s one of the last chances to give him hardware.
The Selke Trophy awarded to the forward who best exemplifies the defensive aspects of the game.
Who should win: Pavel Datsyuk’s the best overall forward in hockey but probably didn’t play enough.
Who will win: Ryan Kesler because he had a breakthrough year and played good in all areas.
Mark Messier Leadership Award awarded to the player with the best leadership qualities.
Who should win: Zdeno Chara because he took a team who collapsed to the Cup by evolving into a true Captain.
Who will win: Nicklas Lidstrom because he’s Nicklas Lidstrom.