Needless to say, I watched a lot of hockey this year. I mean, A LOT. Considering the regular season has 1,230 games, the post season was 86 games long (yes, that many!) and you can add an All Star Game in there too, the last nine months have been jam packed. Conservatively, between Philly (I missed ~4 games), NY, and NJ games that were my local channels, plus my bff’s addition of the NHL Network and Center Ice to the cable package, I’m going to say I watched about 350-400 games. This BY NO MEANS makes me an expert on the sport, but I like to think I’ve become well educated in the play/coaching of many of this years’ nominees for the NHL Awards. I don’t usually pick too well in these situations (in case you need a reminder… there was this) but I’m putting the past behind me. So, without further adieu, here are my picks for this year’s NHL Awards.
The Hart Memorial Trophy
Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos
All three proved to be imperative to their teams’ successes. Lundqvist was a solid goaltender, Malkin outscored all others in the league, and Stamkos had the most goals among players this year. When it comes down to it, one of these players stepped up when his team needed it the most. He held his team together when his captain couldn’t and when he was shut down by a young rookie in the first round of the playoffs, his team could not succeed. If he doesn’t win this MVP award, I would be shocked.
Predicted winner: Evgeni Malkin
The Vezina Trophy
Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Quick
It’s a shame only three could be nominated because Mike Smith deserves to receive a nod as well, however, these three were great netminders in their own rights. Lundqvist’s team finished #1 in the East which is in part due to his goaltending. Rinne had a less than stellar season but continued to show he deserved to be the force to be reckoned with on the Predators. Quick… well, his success speaks for itself, however, he piqued after these votes were tallied therefore making his post season shut down power null and void. For this reason, I feel the Swede has it in the bag.
Predicted Winner: Henrik Lundqvist
The James Norris Memorial Trophy
Nominees: Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber
All three had seasons worth envying and were major contributors to their teams making it to the playoffs. For years these men have been in the shadow of Nicklas Lidstrom and with his retirement prove to be the future of defense. Although last year’s cup winning Bruins team showcased Chara’s talent, Weber has played second fiddle to Lidstrom far too long. Where Chara is defensive and Karlsson is offensive, Weber has the perfect balance that most defensemen can only dream of possessing.
Predicted Winner: Shea Weber
The Calder Memorial Trophy
Nominees: Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Henrique showed his talent up until the Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup getting game-winning goals all over the place… but that was the post season. During the regular season he had 16 goals and 35 assists on his team’s top line. Landeskog played on his team’s top line straight off his 3rd overall pick from the Kitchener Rangers. He was so good, he created a goal celebration (Have YOU tried Landeskogging?). Let us not forget the golden child, Mr. #1 a.k.a. “The Nuge” who, like Landeskog, racked up 52 points and played on his team’s top line as with the likes of Taylor Hall (Last year’s Mr. #1) and Jordan Eberle. Now, Nuge should be running away with this trophy, however, a bad shoulder sidelined him for 20 games this season, making it difficult for him to lay on the scoring pain.
Predicted Winner: Gabe Landeskog (SIDE NOTE: I’m 1 for 1 in this category. I was yelling “Skinn for the Win” this time last year)
The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Nominees: Jordan Eberle, Brian Campbell, Matt Moulson
“The Nice Guy” award, this year’s nominees surprise me. With Loui Eriksson not being a repeat and the one-eighty Matt Cooke pulled this season, the choices seem out of place, however, in their defense, none of these players came across as anything but classy when strapping on the skates. My pick for this is strictly based on who seems to lead the best example for his teammates on a consistent basis.
Predicted Winner: Matt Moulson
The Frank J. Selke Trophy
Nominees: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk
Last year you couldn’t spell Selke without Kesler. This year it won’t be spelled with him. Datsyuk has won the award every other time since 2008 so it would be no surprise to see him win it again, but I like to think the league (and its sports writers) will mix it up a bit and crown the newly appointed captain of the St. Louis Blues. He brought his team the most success with his two way play and never backed down to anyone, Dustin Brown be damned. Let us not forget last year Backes was the guy at the All Star Draft who had gotten into a fight with more than half the guys he shared a stage with. He’s grown as a player and person in this last season and led his team to a playoff berth with the #2 spot in the West.
Predicted Winner: David Backes (Got this one right last year too!)
The Jack Adams Award
Nominees: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella
When looking at the award for the coach who contributed the most to his team’s success you have to look at what he was working with this year vs. past years. Tortorella built the Rangers into the shot blocking machines they were this year with a no-nonsense attitude that was colder than the disapproving look your mother gives you when she’s disappointed. He used the goaltending magic of Henrik Lundqvist, scoring prowess and speed of Marion Gaborik, and defensive beastiality of Dan Girardi to make it to the top spot in the East. MacLean coached his boys to the playoffs by harnessing the scoring power of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Erik Karlsson. Hitchcock, however, started off with young guns with no leadership (TJ Oshie, Patrik Berglund), an injured scoring sniper (David Perron), some old guys (Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott), and a decent goalie tandem in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot. What this team became was a team with chemistry that shotgunned to the top of their conference and held their own in arguably the toughest division in the league. Hitchcock gave this team the chance to be successful and, in my opinion, flourished in his role.
Predicted Winner: Ken Hitchcock
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
Nominees: Daniel Alfredsson, Joffrey Lupul, Max Pacioretty
Awarded to the guy who shows perseverance, sportsmanship and passion for hockey, winning this is one of the biggest compliments a player can receive. Alfredsson exemplifies this award; he bleeds it. However, Lupul grew up this season and was one of the leaders in a goal scoring pair with Phil Kessel and showed tenacity beyond his years. Then there was Max. Everyone witnessed the gruesome misfortune when Pacioretty’s face met a stantion in the ’10-’11 season and faught back this last season to be one of the scoring leaders of the Montreal Canadiens. “Patches” as he is affectionately referred to was beloved by Habs fans (which speaks volumes as he his a Connecticut native and not a French speaker) and, if this is not a farewell award for Alfie, should stand the greatest chance of winning this award.
Predicted Winner: Daniel Alfreddson (but I’m rooting for Max Pacioretty)
The Ted Lindsay Award
Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos
The MVP award voted on by the players, I don’t necessarily feel the players see each other the same way the writers see them. This award mirrors the Hart trophy and it shouldn’t. There were players who more deserved this nomination but in working with what we have, I think it will be consistent with the Hart winner. I would like to see Henrik Lundqvist win this, but I think the big bad Russian just was too much of a driving force.
Predicted Winner: Evgeni Malkin
The Bridgestone Messier Leadership Award
Nominees: Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Shane Doan
Given to the captain of all captains, it’s a little funny that one of the nominees is this year’s Stanley Cup captain, however, Dustin Brown’s post season success must be overlooked. Brown overlooked the trade rumors to lead his team to the playoffs through goals, hits, and heart. Callahan exemplified the shot blocking forward Tortorella looked to to lead his team and was one of the hardest working Rangers on the ice (which is saying a lot). Doan was and always has been the loyal captain a player looks to when needing leadership. Although he should be the outright choice, it is possible one of the youngins gets the hardware this year.
Predicted Winner: Shane Doan
The NHL Foundation Award
Mike Fisher, John-Michael Liles, Matt Moulson
This is the award that warms the hearts of millions because it is the work these men do off the ice that is noticed (for a list of their contributions to their communities, look no further). Based on the information in the previous link, Fisher, Liles, and Moulson have donated to and helped so many people and organizations, it’s going to be a doozy to pick a winner. Fisher worked along side his wife Carrie Underwood to improve music programs, the homeless, and Parkinson’s sufferers. Liles helped out the Canadian Military, education, autistic children, his former school by rebuilding their locker room, and rewarded kids who help out in their communities. Moulson raised awareness and money through the Movember movement, helped injured veterans, teh Islanders Children’s Foundation, Hockey Fights Cancer, and hopped on the You Can Play Project almost immediately. This is like picking Jesus, Mother Theresa, or Ghandi.
Predicted Winner: Probably Fisher but heck, I’d be happy for any one of them!
The General Manager of the Year
Nominees: Doug Armstrong (STL), Dave Poile (NSH), Dale Tallon (FLA)
I’m a bit bitter about this personally because a GM does not trade away over half his starting squad and make it to the playoffs AND build a superstar scorer without being recognized. (Maybe next year, Homer!). Also, how does a guy like Dean Lombardi put together a Stanley Cup winning team and not get a nod? This article articulates my frustrations. There are, however, some great choices up for this award. Poile is up for the award for the 2nd year in a row, joined by the voice in Hitchcock’s ear. Both did well with their choices this year in staff and players, however, their comrade in the deep south proved to be the top game changer. Tallon ripped his roster apart, put odd pieces into place and saw what happened. What happened was unlikely chemistry, top line excellence in scoring, and even some insurance for the future in an AHL affiliate. Tallon was able to mix and match with precision and should be a shoe-in for this award, but as the NHL proves, you just never know.
Predicted Winner: Dale Tallon
The EA Sports NHL 13 Cover
Nominees: Claude Giroux, Pekka Rinne
I say this not as a Flyers fan but as a hockey fan. Claude Giroux had a sensational year and grew as a person and a player. In the regular season he finished 3rd in points, 2nd in assists, was 53.7% in faceoffs, and deked, tripped, and fist pumped his way into the hearts of hockey fans with the fiery hair that was only 2nd to his fiery personality. Tied for the top number of goals this post season, 4th in points and was knocked out in the 2nd round. He deserves this cover.
Predicted Winner: Claude Giroux
So there are my picks, take ’em or leave ’em. I will be camped out in front of the tv hoping to improve my odds. Remember ladies and gents, preshow starts at 4 on the NHL Network, the awards, complete with Nickelback start at 7. Let the wild rumpus start!