Unfortunately, it doesn't look like anyone I know will be going to the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas now that news of the ticket prices have come out. Let’s take a look at who, in my opinion, are the likely candidates for the various trophies awarded to NHL players at the end of the season:
Hart Memorial Trophy
The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.
I don’t envision a scenario in which any player other than these three would be the finalists for the MVP award. No players have been as integral to the successes of their respective teams, and all three teams are poised for deep playoff runs against one another:
Evgeni Malkin (33G, 72A, 105P, +19)
Alexander Ovechkin (50G, 44A, 94P, +10)
Zach Parise (41G, 47A, 88P, +30)
Of course, I made this same argument against Sidney Crosby in 2007 when he had the support of Malkin and Fleury's great seasons, while Luongo marched into playoff action with the Canucks squarely on his back. Then again, it takes a lot for a goaltender to win this award.
Malkin and Parise have both been truly amazing. But barring a huge shocker, Ovechkin will take this trophy home for the second year in a row. He has been in the middle of it all for his team and the NHL this season, and is really starting to separate himself from the pack in terms of superstardom.
The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper judged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs.
This is one of those awards which, depending on what part of the season is in question, the list for candidates could be 10 names long. However, award consideration is based on the entire season. For that reason, the following players can thank Martin Brodeur for tearing a bicep tendon and giving them the opportunity to win this award:
Steve Mason (30W, 2.23 GAA, .919 SV%)
Evgeni Nabokov (37W, 2.39 GAA, .912 SV%)
Tim Thomas (31W, 2.11 GAA, .931 SV%)
Niklas Backstrom was the first half favorite for this award, but his play of late has slipped, as has that of the entire Wild team. Mason edges him out in the second half of the season with his incredible play helping give the Blue Jackets their first taste of playoff action in franchise history.
I think Evgeni Nabokov deserves consideration, as there is no questsion he is a huge part of the Sharks’ success. They actually have struggled late in the season to score, but no one has noticed because Nabby has stepped up when his team needed him to, and stolen no less than a handful of games between the pipes.
Unfortunately for the first two, none of that matters. Tim Thomas has put up staggeringly impressive numbers for the breakthrough juggernaut Bruins in their '08-'09 campaign. He will take home this award.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
Even though the description clearly says, “greatest all-round ability,” it is historically evident that the finalists are always among the highest point producers at the position. With that in mind, here are my predictions for this years Norris Trophy finalists:
Mike Green (28G, 36A, 64P, +23)
Nicklas Lidstrom (13G, 37A, 50P, +29)
Mark Streit (15G, 38A, 53P, +8)
This is the toughest category this year. It will be a crime that Rafalski and Boyle don’t get nominated, but they may not, considering Boyle’s late season slump and Rafalski is still playing in Lidstrom’s shadow.
Though he had a down year, I just think that Lidstrom is still synonymous with Norris Trophy. He is among the leaders in both points and plus/minus, but not the leader as in years past.
What Mark Streit has done as a member of the last-place Islanders is so remarkable, he may just get a Norris nod for it, and deservedly so. As a team, they are an NHL worst minus-46. The fact that he is on the positive side and probably gets all the power play time is one of the most impressive feats by any player at any position this year.
Mike Green will take home this award. The fact that a defenseman in today’s era can set any kind of scoring record after the proliferation of Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey is astounding, and Mike Green broke the consecutive game goal-scoring record by a defenseman this year with eight. Chalk it up!
Calder Memorial Trophy
The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
This is another award in which the favorites have been varying all year. When the season comes to a close, the consensus on the finalists should be as follows:
Steve Mason (30W, 2.23 GAA, .919 SV%)
Pekka Rinne (24W, 2.26 GAA. .922 SV%)
Kris Versteeg (20G, 29A, 49P, +15)
I really thought my boy Drew Doughty had a shot at this, but with the Kings out of the playoff picture and the contributions by the aforementioned rookies, he will miss the boat. Not to worry, he may one day need the room on his mantle for Norris Trophies.
Versteeg has been the only consistent rookie forward, as Stamkos, the preseason favorite to take home the Calder, has been up and down all year.
Bobby Ryan came on strong late, and will only barely be edged by Versteeg.
Don’t forget about Derrick Brassard, who looked to have this locked up before he went down for the season with his shoulder injury.
But the freshmen that ran away with Calder consideration are both netminders. Both have been instrumental in their teams’ push to the playoffs, and they both might even see postseason action in their freshman campaigns.
Since Columbus is more of lock for the playoffs, and because he has been the clear-cut starter for longer, Mason will take home this award.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
This award is notoriously uninteresting, but perhaps necessary in promoting sportsmanship in a sport that is increasingly known for violence. Here are the favorites:
Brian Campbell (7G, 39A, +0, 20 PIM)
Pavel Datsyuk (30G, 59A, +33, 20 PIM)
Patrick Marleau (37G, 33A, +30, 18 PIM)
It took Brian Campbell 22 games to earn his first minor penalty. That is incredible in today’s NHL when all it takes sometimes to get a hooking call is a sneeze.
Through 72 games Marleau has only nine minor penalties received, and no majors.
But this award will most likely go to Datsyuk for the fourth year in a row.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
This one is kind of a toss-up every year; plus/minus is definitely taken into account strongly, as well has how often the player is relied on by his team in a defensive role.
Pavel Datsyuk (30G, 59A, +33)
Jaime Langenbrunner (25G, 38A, +27)
Mike Richards (28G, 46A, +22)
All of these players have been fantastic on the offensive side of the puck this year, but I am hoping that the three of them will be recognized for their defensive efforts by getting the nod for the Selke Trophy as well.
Datsyuk is the favorite as last year’s winner, but I love the way both Richards (leads the league in short-handed points) and Langenbrunner play on both ends of the ice. It is no coincidence that they are both the captains of their respective teams.
Jack Adams Award
The Jack Adams Award is an annual award presented by the National Hockey League Broadcasters' Association to the NHL coach judged to have contributed the most to his team's success. The winner is selected in a poll among members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association at the end of the regular season.
Throughout the season, there have been three teams a cut above the rest of the competition. It’s highly likely that the coaches of these teams will be the three finalists for this award:
Mike Babcock (Detroit's Record: 73GP, 48W 16L 9OTL = 105P)
Claude Julien (Boston's Record: 73GP, 46W 17L 10OTL = 102P)
Todd McLellan (San Jose's Record: 72GP, 48W 10L 10OTL = 106P)
I think whoever's team ends up with the President’s Trophy (team with the most points in the NHL in the Regular Season) will probably take home this award. Each of these teams has appeared to be far and away the best at different points in the season, and I don’t think a huge distinction can be made between the coaches.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.
The first name that came to mind was Phil Kessel, since he is having such a great season and has battled cancer, but he already won this award for that reason in 2007. I can’t really come up with a viable candidate, which is certainly not to say that there is not anyone deserving. Perhaps Claude Lemieux can come back strong from his current injury?
Lester B. Pearson Award
The Lester B. Pearson Award is presented annually to the "most outstanding player" in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players' Association.
Again, I don’t see how Ovechkin wouldn’t get this award, unless maybe more players than we thought took exception to his 50th goal celebration, they could campaign for Malkin.
The annual award to the club finishing the regular season with the best overall record.
Among the current top five teams in points, San Jose has the most (106) and most games to play (10). Barring a meltdown, they should take home this award for the first time in franchise history.
Art Ross Trophy
The Art Ross Trophy is an annual award given to the player who leads the League in scoring points at the end of the regular season.
With 105, 10 points more than his teammate Crosby, Evgeni Malkin is running away with this award.
Maurice Richard Trophy
The Maurice Richard Trophy is an annual award given to the National Hockey League’s top goal scorer by the NHL Board of Governors.
Speaking of running away, Ovechkin has this one locked up, and it will be his second of many.
William M. Jennings Trophy
The William M. Jennings Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.
With only nine games to play, Boston leads the NHL with only 171 goals against. Manny Fernandez needs just one more start to qualify them as a duo. Interestingly he won this with Niklas Backstrom while in Minnesota in 2007, and Backstrom is currently third with Minnesota giving up 180 goals against this season.
Evgeni Nabokov is in second, as San Jose has given up just 176.
Conn Smythe Trophy
The Conn Smythe Trophy is an annual award given to the most valuable player for his team in the playoffs. The winner is selected by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the conclusion of the final game in the Stanley Cup finals.
In my opinion, this is the most coveted of these awards among NHL players. It usually signifies that you won the Stanley Cup and if not, you certainly weren’t the reason that your team didn’t.
It is hard to say who will step up in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, mostly because it's somewhat of a crapshoot which teams will make it to the finals.
Certainly whoever wins the Hart Trophy would be the favorite to continue their success, but no one has won both trophies since The Great One in 1985.
Here are my top three likely to receive the award:
1) Marian Hossa
The cliché that has been overused so much this year is as annoying as it is accurate, “The road to Lord Stanley runs through Detroit.”
There was no clear choice for the Conn Smythe last year, as Datsyuk had a great playoffs along with Franzen, and of course Osgood was also stellar. This is by design. Detroit is a very well balanced team; no one is supposed to stand out.
But if they are to repeat again this year, it will be because Hossa pushes them to it. He was so phenomenal last year for the Penguins that his hunger to win a cup was palpable.
2) Marc Savard
I think Marc Savard is the most underrated player in the NHL, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do in this year’s playoffs. He has finally blossomed into a superstar now that he is on a team that has caught the national spotlight.
I’ve said in an article I wrote earlier this year that if the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup, Marc Savard will take home the Conn Smythe. I stand by that statement.
3) Zach Parise
No Devil has eclipsed 100 points in the regular season. Parise is currently 12 points away with nine games to play. It’s doable.
He has been electrifying this year in New Jersey, and is a huge reason why the Devils remain one of the top teams in the league despite being without the winningest goaltender of all-time for most of the season. His hunger to score is second only to Ovechkin, and his plus-30 is tied for sixth in the NHL, so he is defensively responsible as well.
I wish I could have made it to the Award Show this year, and maybe I'll go hang out in Vegas and try to sneak in. Crazier things have happened.
As always, please weigh in with your opinions.