LAS VEGAS – The NHL is going for a little more glitz and glam by announcing its award winners at the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on Thursday night. The Canadian Press takes a shot at picking the winners.
Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player to his team): If voting for this award was conducted right now, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin would be the favourite after winning both the regular season and playoff scoring titles – not to mention the Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup. But this award is strictly for play between October and April, giving Alex Ovechkin the edge over Malkin and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk. Ovechkin was the most electrifying player in the league during the regular season and scored 10 more goals than anyone else. He’ll be the first repeat winner since Dominik Hasek in 1997 and 1998.
Lester B. Pearson Award (most outstanding player as voted by fellow players): Same three Russian finalists as the Hart. The players might see it a little different than the writers, giving Datsyuk the NHLPA’s MVP award because of his exceptional play at both ends of the ice. Datsyuk’s solid play is bound to be more valued by his peers.
Calder Memorial Trophy (outstanding rookie): While Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan and Chicago’s Kris Versteeg held their own this season, Steve Mason was the biggest reason the Columbus Blue Jackets came into their own. The Blue Jackets goalie led the NHL in shutouts with 10 – the first rookie to do so since Tony Esposito in 1970 – and guided his team to its first ever playoff berth. Give Ryan (31 goals, 58 points) and Versteeg (22 goals, 53 points) credit for having productive freshman seasons. However, Mason is the safest bet in Vegas this week.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (outstanding all-around defenceman): Will Nicklas Lidstrom get knocked off the pedestal? His bid for Norris No. 7 appears in doubt after Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Washington’s Mike Green each had remarkable regular seasons. Chara, in particular, seems to embody the “all-around” aspect of this award – 50 points, plus-23 rating, 169 hits and a team-leading 26:04 of ice time for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. A runner-up in 2004, Chara needs to make a little room in the trophy case.
Vezina Trophy (outstanding goaltender): It’s about time Tim Thomas earned some respect. The Boston Bruins journeyman had the best goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.933) in the NHL, which should give him the nod over Mason and Niklas Backstrom of Minnesota. Mason had a standout rookie season and Backstrom was the main reason the Wild stayed in a playoff race, but the numbers simply don’t lie. Thomas, Mason and Backstrom were 1-2-3 in GAA – so why not give it to No. 1?
Jack Adams Award (outstanding coach): Todd McLellan stepped into his first NHL head coaching job and guided the San Jose Sharks to their first Presidents’ Trophy. Claude Julien saw his up-and-coming Boston Bruins team take another big step, finishing first in the Eastern Conference. And Andy Murray’s St. Louis Blues were a league-best 25-9-7 in the second half of the season and grabbed an unlikely playoff berth in the West. All three of these men deserve to be recognized.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (outstanding defensive forward): Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks and Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers earn well-deserved first nominations, but this one is going back to a familiar face. Datsyuk had a plus-34 rating, finished second in the NHL with 89 takeaways and was fourth in league scoring. He’s a complete player and should be keeping the Selke in his possession.
Lady Byng Trophy (most gentlemanly player): This award has been Datsyuk’s domain for the past three seasons. He’s up against a familiar challenger in Tampa’s Martin St. Louis and a new one in New Jersey’s Zach Parise. St. Louis has been nominated the past two years and should finally win one after racking up just 14 penalty minutes – one of the lowest totals among guys who played the entire season. The total is especially impressive considering the edge St. Louis plays with.
Winner: St. Louis.