One week into Lockout 2012, there's no indication that fans will be watching NHL hockey anytime soon.
Let's pass some time by thinking outside the box here—and hopefully start a conversation.
If the league and the players do settle in time to save the 2012-13 season, these are some under-the-radar candidates who could be in the running for each NHL award.
Do you have a favorite of your own? Sound off in the comments. We're all correct until they actually start playing the games!
2012 Winner: Evgeni Malkin
2013 Nicholas Goss Pick: Claude Giroux
2013 Sleeper Choice: Sidney Crosby
It's easy to forget about Sid after he missed more than a season with his concussion-related symptoms, but Crosby came back strong. His 37 points in 22 regular season games in 2011-12 were the best rate of production of his entire career.
The Penguins stumbled in the postseason, but the main culprits in that crazy series with the Flyers were defense and goaltending. Now that Crosby's healthy again and has to prove he deserves that big contract extension, look for him to come back with a vengeance and reclaim the MVP title in 2013.
2012 Winner: Evgeni Malkin
2012 Runners-Up: Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux
2013 Nicholas Goss Choice: Evgeni Malkin
2013 Sleeper Choice: Ilya Kovalchuk
Sure, Crosby could claim the scoring title. Or Malkin could repeat. Or Stamkos or Giroux could step up to the next level. But don't dismiss Ilya Kovalchuk too quickly.
He finished fifth in regular-season scoring in 2011-12 and third in the playoffs, just one point behind Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Under Peter DeBoer, the Devils' system is about much more than defense.
Kovalchuk is durable, having never missed more than six games in a season since his rookie year. At 29 years of age, he should also be in his offensive prime. Look for big numbers this season from the talented Russian.
2012 Winner: Steven Stamkos
2012 Runners-Up: Evgeni Malkin, Marian Gaborik
2013 Nicholas Goss Choice: Steven Stamkos
2013 Sleeper Choice: Alex Ovechkin
Steven Stamkos has been the NHL's dominant goal-scorer over the past three years. He won the Maurice Richard trophy by ten goals last year, came second to Corey Perry in 2010-11 and tied with Sidney Crosby in 2009-10.
If we're looking outside those winners and runners-up, let's look at Alex Ovechkin. He's the last player to win the trophy in consecutive years, in 2007-08 and '08-09. Even in his 'off' year with Washington last season, he still finished fifth in the league with 38 goals.
New coach Adam Oates is likely to bring a more exciting offensive system to Washington. Look for Ovi to be energized in 2012-13.
2012 Winner: Henrik Lundqvist
2013 Nicholas Goss Choice: Jonathan Quick
2013 Sleeper Choice: Cory Schneider
Assuming Cory Schneider does assume the No. 1 position in net in Vancouver, he'll be working behind one of the NHL's best defensive teams.
Schneider has put up stellar numbers during his two seasons backing up Roberto Luongo and set Canuck records for GAA and save percentage in 2011-12. His .937 save percentage is the fourth-best ever recorded in the NHL.
Schneider is the real deal, and he'll prove it in his first year as a starter.
2012 Winner: Erik Karlsson
2013 Nicholas Goss Choice: Shea Weber
2013 Sleeper Choice: Alex Pietrangelo
Whether right or wrong, the Norris Trophy is often awarded to one of the NHL's top-scoring defensemen, as was the case last year with Erik Karlsson.
After a breakout year with the Blues in 2011-12, Alex Pietrangelo is poised to step into the elite class next time he hits the ice. St. Louis' success last year was real, and their young core will develop together to the next level.
Pietrangelo is playing in a market that doesn't draw a lot of attention from the media, but his numbers should force the voters to take notice.
2012 Winner: Patrice Bergeron
2013 Nicholas Goss Choice: Patrice Bergeron
2013 Sleeper Choice: Gabriel Landeskog
Plus-minus is usually the strongest statistical indicator of the Selke winner. Bergeron led the league in 2011-12 and the top five finishers in plus-minus were all Boston Bruins.
A little further down the list, Gabriel Landeskog put up an impressive plus-20 in his rookie season on a defensively-challenged Colorado Avalanche team. It usually takes skilled forwards some time to learn to play in their own zone, but it looks like Landeskog already has the tools to bring it at both ends of the ice.
If Landeskog can hit 30 goals and a plus-30, the Avs' new captain will be in the Selke conversation at just 20 years old.
2012 Winner: Gabriel Landeskog
2013 Finalists: Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Henrique
2013 Nicholas Goss Choice: Mikael Granlund
2013 Sleeper Choice: Justin Schultz
Here's one trophy where you know you won't see a repeat winner.
Many are expecting Jonathan Huberdeau to make the jump for the Panthers this season, and Nail Yakupov has big hype behind him, but Justin Schultz will make more of an impact.
At 22, he's ready to step right into a significant NHL role, and with the Oilers' patchwork defense, he's virtually guaranteed big minutes and quality power play time. Expect to see him on the list of Calder finalists next spring.
2012 Winner: Brian Campbell
2013 Nicholas Goss Choice: Jordan Eberle
2013 Sleeper Choice: Kyle Wellwood
Can Kyle Wellwood turn his 'soft' reputation into an award-winning characteristic? Looks like it.
Last season, Kyle posted the best offensive output of his career with the Winnipeg Jets, logging 47 points in 77 games, while picking up just four penalty minutes. That earned him a raise from $700,000 to $1.6 million.
If Wellwood can build on his success last year with the Jets, he could be in the Byng conversation. Brian Campbell notwithstanding, the award typically goes to a skilled forward. The media love a good redemption story: don't we all want to see Kyle in a snappy suit at the 2013 NHL Awards?
2012 Winner: Ken Hitchcock
2012 Nominees: Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella
2013 Nicholas Goss Choice: Paul MacLean
2013 Sleeper Choice: Adam Oates
After a tumultuous 2011-12 season, the Washington Capitals had a strong finish to their season under Dale Hunter. After Hunter elected to return to his old job with the OHL London Knights, the Caps hired Adam Oates to be their new bench boss.
Oates' offensive style as a player should mean he'll give the green light to stars like Alex Ovechkin, while his tenure as an assistant with New Jersey has likely schooled him in defensive systems and strategies. Expect Oates to excel behind the bench with Washington.
Thanks for reading. Please share your sleeper picks in the comments below.
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