Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NHL Awards....Sweater Ted Style

**Note: We predict playoff series on who we think will win....We're giving these awards on who we think OUGHT to win. Big difference***

Vezina Trophy: Top goalie
Nominees: Matin Brodeur (NJD), Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Evgeni Nabokov (SJ)

--All three were absolute workhorses, appearing in at least 72 of the 82 games for their teams. Lundqvist has a mostly "no name" defensive core and an offensive unit that struggled early on in the season. Nabokov lead San Jose to another great year, winning the most games of any of the nominees. We're going for Martin Brodeur here. The two time Vezina winner was said to have been a product of New Jersey's defensive system, but seemingly every year retirement or free agency has taken about every piece of the puzzle away. Brodeur is the constant. Brodeur is the reason that NJ is in the hunt every single year, the numbers don't lie.

Lady Byng Trophy: Most Sportsmanlike
Nominees: Pavel Datsyuk (DET), Jason Pominville (BUF), Martin St. Louis (TB)

--This award should be re-named "player who scores a lot of points but doesn't rack up a lot of penalty minutes" because that's basically what it is. Datysuk had 97 points and 20 penalty minutes, Pominville had 80 points and 20 PIMs and San Louie had 83 points and 23 penalty minutes. So we're picking Pavel Datsyuk, he's dangerous in the offensive zone and mindful enough without the puck to be good, but gentlemanly. Whatever that means.

Masterton Trophy: Perseverance to the sport of hockey
Nominees: Chris Chelios (DET), Jason Blake (TOR), Fernando Pisani (EDM)

--Blake played through cancer this season, Pisani dropped a ton of weight and missed the beginning of the year with the disease colitis and Chelios has dedicated himself to hockey through 46 years of age. We think Jason Blake's condition was probably the toughest of the three to fight through, and statistically he had the best season (82 games, 15 goals, 37 assists). Despite being a disappointing free agent on a disappointing team, Blake showed up every night and that's pretty inspiring. The Masterton is a cool award because every team gets a nominee, and the stories that are around, be it through guys fighting through injury, illness or just dedication deserve the honor and recognition that goes with it. So, as corny as it sounds, there's always 30 winners of the Masterton every year if you think about it.

Frank Selke Trophy: Top defensive forward:
Nominees: Pavel Datsyuk (DET), Henrik Zetterberg (DET), John Madden (NJD)

--Votes are cast for these awards before the playoffs, but from watching the Stanley Cup finals, there's no doubt in our mind who the finest defensive forward in the league is. Collect your award Henrik Zetterberg.

Jack Adams Award: Best head coach
Nominees: Mike Babcock (DET), Bruce Boudreau (WAS), Guy Carbonneau (MTL)

--For the longest time we were leaning towards giving this award to Carbonneau. He's coaches in, after all, arguably hockey's hottest pressure cooker in Montreal and when not many experts predicted him to make the playoffs (and his GM traded his top goalie for a draft pick at the deadline) and the Habs ended up the #1 team in the East for the regular season. Babcock has a thankless job, if he wins it's expected due to the strength of his team, but if they lose it's his fault and all the "monday morning quarterbacks" come out of the woodwork to second guess his decisions. After significant thought, we're giving the award to Bruce Boudreau. He breathed life into essentially a dead team and they responded, going 37-17-7 and winning their division on the last night. A story that could have been written by the folks at Disney, the middle age coach finally getting a chance at the top level with a last place team who turns them into a success.

Norris Trophy: Top defensemen
Nominees: Zdeno Chara (BOS), Nicklas Lidstrom (DET), Dion Phaneuf (CGY)

--Lidstrom captained his team to a President's trophy (and Stanley Cup), Chara was the captain of an upstart Boston team that defied expectations and made the playoffs and at age 23 Phaneuf has the movie-star girlfriend, youtube highlight reels and all-around game to be at least a pretty constant nominee for this award for next decade plus. At the end of the day though this one is going to be a runaway for Nicklas Lidstrom, when it comes to the best defenseman in the game, he's clearly got to be #1 on everyone's list..

Calder Trophy: Most proficient rookie
Nominees: Nicklas Backstrom (WAS), Patrick Kane (CHI), Jonathan Toews (CHI)

--The key word is proficient. Backstrom had a great year, a player capable of keeping up with Ovechkin and feeding him sensational passes. Pat Kane, the youngest of the three at age 18, fired up a dormant city of Chicago with his offensive genius and ended up with the most points of the three. Toews suffered an injury and ended scoring fewer points (but more goals!) than any candidate. When Toews was out, coincidentally or not, the wind was taken out of the Blackhawks' sails and it took them out of playoff contention. Toews also scored what we feel is the goal of the year just two weeks into the season. That doesn't figure into consideration for this voting, but hey. We're picking Jonathan Toews for the Calder. While no one in the hunt would be a bad choice, he was just a little above the rest.

Hart Trophy: Most Valuable Player
Nominees: Alex Ovechkin (WAS), Evgeni Malkin (PIT), Jarome Iginla (CGY)

--Iginla is the classic captain; on a given shift he's just as likely to help his team by dishing a big check, scoring a goal, setting up a goal or dropping the gloves to stand up for a teammate. We've been talking for months about how Malkin put the Pens on his back when Sidney Crosby went down with injury and really became a true superstar. But you can't argue against 65 goals and 112 points. Alex Ovechkin was the man every night, his team counted on him every game down the stretch to produce and he answered the bell almost every night. He was simply the most forceful, explosive and tremendous player in the game...This year.

Lester B. Pearson Award: Most outstanding player (as voted by the players)
Nominees: Alex Ovechkin (WAS), Evgeni Malkin (PIT), Jarome Iginla (CGY)

--We're not an NHL player so we don't have a vote. But if we did it'd go to Alex Ovechkin for the same reasons as we listed in the Hart.

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