LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The NHL’s best players walk the red carpet at The Palms on Wednesday when the league holds its annual awards show. The Canadian Press takes a shot at handicapping the winners (all awards decided by a vote of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association prior to the post-season unless otherwise noted):
Hart Trophy (most valuable player to his team)
Nominees: Corey Perry (Anaheim), Daniel Sedin (Vancouver) and Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay).
Who will win: Perry.
Who should win: Tim Thomas.
Skinny: Perry’s strong surge at the end of the season—he scored 19 times in the final 16 games to finish with 50 goals—probably resonated strongest with reporters casting votes in April, but a record-breaking season from Thomas is most worthy of the honour. The Boston Bruins goaltender registered the highest save percentage in league history and was the main driving force behind his team’s success from October through June. Perhaps the biggest thing working against Thomas is the position he plays—a goalie hasn’t won the Hart since Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2002.
Ted Lindsay Award (outstanding player as voted by his peers)
Nominees: Corey Perry (Anaheim), Daniel Sedin (Vancouver) and Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay).
Who will win: Sedin.
Who should win: Perry.
Skinny: The players will find it tough to ignore Daniel Sedin’s league-leading point total of 104. Fair enough, it was an impressive accomplishment, especially coming one season after brother Henrik accomplished the same feat. The biggest factor working against Daniel is that he might not have been the most outstanding player on his own team—Ryan Kesler and Henrik have a case—and that can’t be said of Perry, the league’s only 50-goal man.
Vezina Trophy (outstanding goaltender)
Nominees: Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), Pekka Rinne (Nashville) and Tim Thomas (Boston).
Who will win: Luongo.
Who should win: Thomas.
Skinny: The NHL’s 30 general managers vote on this award and will likely be inclined to reward Luongo for helping the Canucks to a dominant regular season that included the Presidents’ Trophy. However, no goaltender was more outstanding than Thomas, who took a team with less skill than Vancouver and elevated them into a contender. The Canucks saw it firsthand during the Stanley Cup final.
Norris Trophy (outstanding all-around defenceman)
Nominees: Zdeno Chara (Boston), Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit) and Shea Weber (Nashville).
Who will win: Weber.
Who should win: Chara.
Skinny: There’s little doubt this award will sit on Weber’s mantle one day, but this is not the season. Somehow, the six-foot-nine Chara seemed to slip below the radar despite being at his dominant best—as evidenced by a league-leading plus-33 rating (Weber was plus-7, Lidstrom minus-2).
Calder Trophy (outstanding rookie)
Nominees: Logan Couture (San Jose), Michael Grabner (N.Y. Islanders) and Jeff Skinner (Carolina).
Who will win: Skinner.
Who should win: Skinner.
Skinny: It didn’t take long for the baby-faced Skinner to become a rock star in Raleigh. The NHL’s youngest player made a major impact on the Hurricanes just a few months after being drafted sixth overall, leading the rookie points race from beginning until end. Skinner’s final total of 63 was slightly ahead of Couture (56) and Grabner (52)—players who benefited from time in the American Hockey League before arriving in the NHL.
Jack Adams (outstanding coach)
Nominees: Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh), Barry Trotz (Nashville) and Alain Vigneault (Vancouver).
Who will win: Bylsma.
Who should win: Vigneault.
Skinny: The NHL Broadcasters Association votes on this award and traditionally recognizes the coach in charge of the league’s biggest overachiever. Bylsma fits the bill after leading Pittsburgh to 106 points in a season where Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal all missed significant time with an injury. However, Vigneault did an even more impressive job with the Canucks, who dealt with the weight of high expectations and put together the best season in franchise history.
Selke Trophy (top defensive forward)
Nominees: Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver) and Jonathan Toews (Chicago).
Who will win: Datsyuk.
Who should win: Toews.
Skinny: Like death and taxes, you can virtually count on Datsyuk winning this award for a fourth consecutive year. He’s established the gold standard for two-way play by a forward, but the time has come to recognize the next generation. We give the edge to Toews because he had the highest point total of the three (76), best plus-minus (plus-25) and was among the league leaders in faceoff percentage.
Lady Byng (most gentlemanly player)
Nominees: Loui Eriksson (Dallas), Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit) and Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay).
Who will win: Eriksson.
Who should win: Lidstrom.
Skinny: While it’s hard to argue against recognizing Eriksson after a season where he took just eight penalty minutes, Lidstrom’s time has come. The NHL hasn’t had a more gentlemanly player than him over the past two decades. Amazingly, the last defenceman to win this award was Red Kelly in 1954.