LAS VEGAS – In what was one of the most – perhaps the most – entertaining NHL Awards Show yet (how great was that Ryan Getzlaf-Bobby Ryan skit?) there were few surprises, but more than a few new faces.
A lot of heat was raised when THN’s Ken Campbell wrote why he didn’t think Henrik Sedin should win the Hart Trophy. And while it’s not surprising the Art Ross Trophy winner took away the MVP award as well, many considered Sidney Crosby – or even Alex Ovechkin – the favorite coming in.
“They’re the faces of the sport,” Sedin said. “When they said my name, I didn’t really think they said my name.”
Sedin, a first-time winner, is the first Swede to win the award since Peter Forsberg in 2003 and the first Vancouver Canuck to win in the history of the franchise.
But it wasn’t a cakewalk. Sedin garnered six more first-place votes than runner-up Alex Ovechkin and finished with 60 more points in the voting process overall. Surprisingly Crosby, who I would have picked for the award, finished with half as many first-place votes as Ovechkin.
The NHL has become a young man’s league since the lockout and the past few days have shown the changing of the guard along the blueline has taken over.
Rob Blake and Scott Niedermayer, two players this year’s Norris winner looked up to as a kid, retired recently, while Norris mainstays Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger weren’t in the top three of voting for the award. Instead, Duncan Keith, Mike Green and Drew Doughty finished 1-2-3.
“I grew up watching some of these guys,” Keith said of the veteran blueliners. “Lidstrom and Pronger and Niedermayer and Rob Blake, we all looked up to those guys as players and we tried to emulate. To me, Lidstrom he’s everything; to me he’s still the best. Watching him play, I’ve learned so much from him. Those guys to me are still the best and I still look up to them in a lot of ways.”
Not to mention another young stud defenseman, Tyler Myers, took home the Calder. These guys are now inspiring the next generation of award winners.
Pavel Datsyuk, the only mainstay to take home some major hardware, became the first player to win three Selke Trophies in a row since Bob Gainey took home four consecutively from 1978-81. When Datsyuk won the award, in fact, some media members quipped ‘Well, it is his award.’
Funny, considering how the award was originally made for Gainey.
Datsyuk’s considered a quiet individual around the media and his thick Russian accent can sometimes be difficult to decipher, but around his Detroit Red Wings teammates Datsyuk is considered somewhat of a jokester and every once in a while it shows up in public, just as it did at the NHL Awards when he was giving his acceptance speech.
“Thank you management for paying me,” the straight-faced Datsyuk said.
Datsyuk finished with one more first place vote than runner-up Ryan Kesler and won by the slimmest voting margin of this awards season.
And some feel he had a down year, accumulating “only” 70 points this season. Pfft.
When Tyler Myers slipped to 12th overall in a 2008 draft littered with stud defensemen, his skating was called into question and Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo and Luke Schenn were considered the can’t-miss blueliners.
Two seasons later and Myers is the only one of the five with a major piece of NHL hardware on his mantle.
“I would have laughed in their face,” a smiling Myers said when asked how he would have reacted if someone told him he would win the Calder prior to the 2009-10 season. “That’s it.”
Myers has become a force on Buffalo’s blueline and even in front of the net on the power play from time to time. While Doughty was a finalist for the Calder last season – and many believe he should have won over Steve Mason – Bogosian and Schenn have struggled to find consistency and Pietrangelo has yet to become a full-time NHLer.
But Myers? He is now the can’t-miss blueliner and he has the Calder Trophy to prove it.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
It wasn’t a shock Dave Tippett was named coach of the year and it showed in the voting: Tippett received all but two first place votes (which, for whatever reason, went to Mike Babcock who finished fourth in the race).
“It’s gratifying for our organization,” Tippett said. “We were a team nobody gave much of a chance at the start of the year…In the end we probably did a lot more than people thought.”
No kidding. Tippett was hired just days before the regular season started and the Coyotes improved by 28 points from last year’s total, getting unlucky in their first round playoff draw with the Detroit Red Wings. Even against the experienced Winged Wheel, though, the Coyotes battled hard and entertained fans with the most exciting, back-and-forth series of the opening round.
And when you consider the highest-scoring player who spent the entire season with Phoenix, Shane Doan, had only 55 points, the feat is even more amazing.
Ryan Miller and Ilya Bryzgalov both put up award-worthy seasons and it was expected to be a neck-and-neck race. But with the decisiveness Miller won the Vezina with, you have to think his Olympic performance – even though it shouldn’t – came into the equation.
Miller earned 23 of the 30 first-place ballots to win his first Vezina, while ‘Cool Bryz’ had just five. While Miller finished with a better save percentage and goals-against average than Bryzgalov, the Russian had Miller in wins and shutouts. William M. Jennings winner Martin Brodeur finished a distant third.
“I look up to Marty quite a bit and ‘Bryz’ and I came up through the American league at the same time so it’s neat to see him progress,” Miller said.
It’s impossible to argue against Miller winning the award, but it’s also easy to make a case for Bryzgalov.
The NHL also announced the first- and second-team all-stars.
First team all-stars: G – Ryan Miller. D – Duncan Keith. D – Mike Green. C – Henrik Sedin. RW – Patrick Kane. LW – Alex Ovechkin.
Second team all-stars: G – Ilya Bryzgalov. D – Drew Doughty. D – Nicklas Lidstrom. C – Sidney Crosby. RW – Martin St-Louis. LW – Daniel Sedin.
Other major award winners: Ted Lindsay: Alex Ovechkin. Lady Byng: Martin St-Louis. Masterton: Jose Theodore. Art Ross: Henrik Sedin. ‘Rocket’ Richard: Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby. Mark Messier Leadership: Sidney Crosby. William M. Jennings: Martin Brodeur. King Clancy: Shane Doan.
THN is in Las Vegas covering the NHL Awards.
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