Now that we know the 2012-13 season will be played, it's time for some NHL award predictions. Projecting who will win these awards is far more difficult in a season following a lockout because the atmosphere and intensity of the competition is quite different.
The games in the first few weeks of the season will likely be sloppy as players struggle to get into real hockey shape, which could result in poor defense and a lot of high scoring games.
This is going to be a wild season, which should make for an incredibly exciting trophy race this year. Let's predict who will win each major award in 2012-13.
Here are the awards included in this article, along with last season's winners.
|Hart||MVP||Evgeni Malkin (PIT)|
|Maurice Richard||Most Goals||Steven Stamkos (TB)|
|Art Ross||Top Scorer||Evgeni Malkin (PIT)|
|Norris||Top All-Around Defenseman||Erik Karlsson (OTT)|
|Vezina||Best Goaltender||Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)|
|Frank J. Selke||Best Defensive Forward||Patrice Bergeron (BOS)|
|Calder Trophy||Top Rookie||Gabriel Landeskog (COL)|
|Lady Byng||Sportsmanship||Brian Campbell (FLA)|
|Jack Adams||Best Head Coach||Ken Hitchcock (STL)|
Jonathan Toews was on pace to set career highs in goals and points last season before a concussion forced him to miss the last two months. He finished with 57 points (29 goals and 28 assists) in just 59 games.
The Chicago Blackhawks will be one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season, and Toews will have a major impact on their success because he performs at a very high level at both ends of the ice.
He plays Selke Trophy-caliber defense in addition to scoring a lot of goals and racking up a ton of assists. Having two elite wingers alongside him (a combination of Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp) will also help Toews finish among the leaders in points.
Toews probably won't lead the league in scoring, but when you combine his offensive production with the strong defense and high level of leadership he brings to the ice each game, he will be the top choice for the Hart Trophy.
When Toews is healthy, nobody in the NHL plays a better two-way game.
Sidney Crosby averaged 1.31 assists per game last season, and finished with 37 points in just 22 games following his comeback from concussion-like symptoms.
Since Crosby is healthy, he will be back to his old MVP-form for the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.
It would be shocking if Crosby doesn't perform at a high point-per-game level this season, and although he probably won't lead the NHL in goals scored, he will definitely have enough assists to lead the league in scoring.
Ron Francis led the NHL in assists (48) during the last lockout-shortened season in 1994-95, and it's possible that Crosby could reach 50 in 2012-13.
Pittsburgh led the NHL in goals scored per game last season, and having Crosby for a full year should help them finish atop the league in scoring once again.
Crosby has played in 63 games over the last two seasons with a 1.63 points per game average. If he plays anywhere close to that level this season, which is likely, Crosby will easily win the Art Ross.
Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos will win the Maurice Richard Trophy for the second straight season because he led the league with 60 goals in 2011-12, and his game is still improving.
If Stamkos scores at a 60-goal pace in the lockout-shortened season, he will score 35 goals (based on a 48-game schedule in 2012-13). Peter Bondra led the league with 34 goals during the shortened 1994-95 season.
The 22-year-old center improved his goal total by 15 last season compared to the 2010-11 season, and since the Lightning offense should be stronger with the summer additions that were made and other players returning from injury, Stamkos will have the talent around him needed to put up incredible offensive numbers again.
He will have plenty of competition for this award, but Stamkos is the clear favorite for the Maurice Richard Trophy going into the season.
Tuukka Rask is one of the best young goaltenders in the NHL, and playing in front of arguably the best blue line in the league will help him achieve Vezina-worthy numbers this season.
The Boston Bruins netminder led the NHL in goals against average (GAA) and save percentage during the 2009-10 season, which was his last season as a full-time starter.
He didn't play in enough games last season to appear on the stats leaderboards, but he did have an impressive 2.05 GAA and a .929 save percentage (same as 2012 Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick).
Rask should play most of the Bruins games this year with backup Anton Khudobin having little NHL experience, and will likely be among the league leaders in wins, GAA, save percentage and shutouts.
Motivating Rask to have a Vezina-caliber season will be his upcoming free agent status. Winning this trophy would help him quite a bit during contract negotiations this summer.
Shea Weber not winning the Norris Trophy last season was an embarrassment for the league. The Nashville Predators captain made a strong impact at both ends of the ice, and was the most complete defenseman in the NHL.
Unfortunately for Weber, he lost to Ottawa Senators star Erik Karlsson even though the 22-year-old's defense was average throughout the year. Karlsson's 78 points---which led all defensemen---was the primary reason why he won. Although, his margin of victory over Weber was just 12 votes.
With defense partner Ryan Suter leaving the Predators in the summer to join the Minnesota Wild, Weber's defensive abilities will be even more evident this season.
Weber is one of the toughest defensemen to play against because of his awareness, toughness and impressive offensive skills. Since the Predators can no longer rely on Suter's scoring ability, Weber should make a stronger impact on the team's offense this season, especially on the power-play.
If Weber has another great season, he will win the award.
St. Louis Blues captain David Backes is one of the most underrated players in the NHL, and one of the top defensive forwards.
He was a finalist for the Selke Trophy last season, but finished second behind Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. This year, Backes will receive the credit he deserves and win the award.
The Blues allowed the fewest goals in the league last season, and Backes was a major part of that success. He also led all forwards in ice time per game, and will likely lead that category again.
Backes also racked up 226 hits, blocked 72 shots and was fantastic on faceoffs. His defensive performances are consistently impressive, and playing in a defense-first system in St. Louis will help ensure that Backes continues to make a huge impact defensively for the Blues.
He will likely have to beat out several quality defensive forwards such as Bergeron and Toews. But going into this season, Backes is the favorite for the Selke Trophy.
Justin Schultz performed at a historic level in the AHL during the lockout, and has shown that he is ready to make a strong impact offensively in the NHL.
Schultz ranks second in the league among all skaters in scoring with 48 points (18 goals and 30 assists) in 34 games. His 18 goals are just two behind the AHL rookie record for a defenseman over an entire season.
Remarkably, the 22-year-old defenseman performed at a high level on a consistent basis for the Oklahoma City Barons, and rarely had a bad game.
Buffalo Sabres star Tyler Myers was the last defenseman to win the Calder Trophy (2010), and he scored 48 points in 82 games (0.58 points/game) that season.
Schultz is capable of scoring at that same rate, and if he helps Edmonton reach the playoffs---which is entirely possible---his chance of winning the Calder will improve even more.
Playing a lot of minutes for what should be one of the top scoring teams in the league next season will help Schultz become just the fourth defenseman to win Calder Trophy since 1990.
Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis has combined a high level of performance with a great amount of respect for the game over the last decade, so it's no surprise that he has won the Lady Byng Trophy twice in his career.
He wasn't able to win three straight awards last season when Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell won it, but St. Louis will be a top candidate again this year.
St. Louis plays the game hard and is one of the most competitive players on the ice each game. Also, he never plays dirty and is a respected veteran.
If he has another fantastic season offensively, St. Louis will definitely be a finalist for this award.
Mike Babcock has never won the Jack Adams award, which is surprising since his Detroit Red Wings have been a top contender in the Western Conference during his seven seasons with the team.
I'm not a fan of giving awards to players/coaches because they should have won in previous seasons or because they "deserve" it, but I have to make an exception in this case.
If the Red Wings make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season after losing two of their best defenseman (Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart) and a top-six caliber forward (Jiri Hudler) in the summer, Babcock should win the award.
If there's any coach who can get a team to the playoffs after losing that much talent in one offseason, it's Babcock. He's the best head coach in the NHL, and will prove it this season.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.