The NHL waits until June to hand out its annual awards but with a quarter of the season in the books, The Canadian Press takes a look at the early favourites for some of the league’s annual honours.
Hart Trophy: There are plenty of worthy candidates as is always the case. Reigning MVP Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins remains in the mix thanks to a 30-point start in 20 games, but we also offer up as candidates Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators, Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames, Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings.
Based solely on the first quarter of a season, it’s a two-way battle. Lecavalier has soared to new heights, leading the NHL in scoring with 34 points (14-20) while keeping his team in the playoff mix. Alfredsson surprisingly leads his team in scoring with 26 points (15-11) ahead of the dynamic duo of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.
Winner: Alfredsson. Determined to help his team avoid the hangover that so often follows a trip to the Stanley Cup final, the Sens captain is playing like it’s Game 7 of the championship series every single night. Clutch goals and great leadership, no one so far this season has meant more to his team than the Swedish star.
Vezina Trophy: Perhaps the most surprising development here in the first 20 games of the season are the names that can’t be considered as candidates: Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo haven’t played quite well enough yet to be in this mix. But it’s a safe bet that they will be there before the end of the season.
In the meantime, based on the first quarter of the season only, nominations go to Pascal Leclaire of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Evgeni Nabokov of the Sharks, Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes and Martin Gerber of the Senators.
Winner: Lundqvist. Perhaps an upset given all the much-deserved publicity Leclaire has garnered for his super start, but the fact remains that the Rangers would have been dead in the water given their offensive struggles in the first month of the season without their Swedish netminder.
Norris Trophy: Chris Phillips doesn’t have the offensive numbers that are normally required to get attention for this award but we still nominate the fine Ottawa blue-liner as a candidate. Phillips, who always seems to make the right decision with the puck, leads all NHL defencemen with a plus-15 rating.
Other candidates include Sergei Zubov of the Dallas Stars, Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings, Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens, Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks and Brian Rafalski of the Wings.
Winner: Phillips is a worthy winner for his fine defensive play, but the reality is that five-time Norris winner Lidstrom is still the man. Second in the NHL in both defencemen scoring with 19 points and in plus-minus (14), he’s still the best blue-liner in the NHL.
Calder Trophy: Odds are the winner of this award this season will be wearing a Chicago Blackhawks uniform. The question is, will it be Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews?
The teenagers are 1-2 in rookie scoring. Other candidates: Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers, Tobias Enstrom of the Atlanta Thrashers, Martin Hanzal of the Phoenix Coyotes, Devin Setoguchi of the Sharks, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and David Perron of the St. Louis Blues.
Winner: Kane. Simply put, he leads all rookies in scoring and he just turned 19 on Monday. Amazing.
Jack Adams Award: Always the toughest award to narrow down to a few nominees because you’ve got the first-place teams and the teams that overachieved.
We offer up as candidates Mike Babcock of the Wings and John Paddock of the Senators – because there’s no reason they should be penalized for having great teams. Others candidates include Ken Hitchcock of the Blue Jackets, Ted Nolan of the New York Islanders, Andy Murray of the St. Louis Blues, Peter Laviolette of the Carolina Hurricanes and Jacques Lemaire of the Minnesota Wild.
Winner: Hitchcock. Somehow he’s got this team over .500. That’s great coaching.
Selke Trophy: Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg seems a strange fit here given his offensive exploits but ask anyone in the Red Wings organization and they’ll tell you how valuable the forward is on the defensive side of the puck as well.
Two-time reigning Selke winner Rod Brind’Amour has continued his excellent two-way play. Other candidates are Mike Fisher of the Senators and Samuel Pahlsson of the Ducks.
Winner: Brind’Amour. He’s a big part of why the Hurricanes are back to their winning ways so far this season.