NHL Trophy Watch: Leading Candidates for Season's Awards
While it's never too early to submit NHL award predictions for consideration, with less than 10 games to go in the season, it's time for the talks to start heating up a bit. Especially with some serious questions hanging over players like Sidney Crosby.
While some seasons have seen clear winners pull away from the pack toward the end of the year, the lockout has compressed everything in 2013, and each award could deservedly go to any number of players or coaches.
We'll present our predicted finalists, pick a winner and then explain why we think he should take home the trophy.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild
Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens
Winner: Jonathan Huberdeau
A case can be made for all three of these talented youngsters. The Calder Trophy will be one of the hardest to select a winner for this season, and it was a tough call to make here.
Brodin has played remarkably well for a 19-year-old, slotting in next to Ryan Suter and playing some of the toughest minutes possible for a defenseman. His poise has been nearly unshakable, and the blue line is in good hands in Minnesota moving forward.
While Gallagher has stepped in and made an impact on a talented Montreal Canadiens team—outworking and out-hustling on nearly every shift—Huberdeau has been just too stellar on a banged up (and bad) Florida Panthers team.
He is a magician with the puck and has been one of the lone bright spots for the Panthers in 2013. It's a close race, but Huberdeau takes this one.
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
Winner: P.K. Subban
Until the NHL decides to create a defensive-defenseman trophy, the Norris will continue to go to blueliners who exhibit outstanding offensive skills as well as sound play in their own zone.
Had Suter started the way that he appears to be finishing out the season, he could have easily taken home his first Norris, while Beauchemin just might not have the offensive numbers to support his case (which stinks, since he's arguably the most deserving of the three).
Suter might receive credit for coming in for the Wild on a massive deal and handling the pressure well. Subban did the same thing in Montreal, except he had to win over his teammates after a holdout and was forced to adjust his on-ice attitude by new head coach Michel Therrien.
Subban did all this on the fly and has exploded on the offensive side of the puck. It'll be hard to take this one from him.
Ted Lindsay Award
Winner: Alexander Ovechkin
Who doesn't love a good comeback story? Even if the player in question is "coming back" from back-to-back 30-plus goal seasons.
Coming out of the 2005 edition of the lockout, there wasn't a more explosive player than Ovechkin. For several years after, he put on a show and scored goals by the bucket load. Then something weird happened.
He started only scoring goals by the pail full.
Now he's back and probably better than ever. Since the quarter mark of the 2013 season, Ovie has been one of the best players in hockey. Toss in an injury to Sidney Crosby, and there should be enough room for the Great Eight to return to the stand to pick up his shiny new Ted Lindsay Award.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Winner: Sidney Crosby
Stamkos could forever be remembered as a generational offensive talent who got stuck playing second fiddle to a once-in-a-lifetime center in Crosby.
The only reason not to hand the Hart to Sid is if he sits out the rest of the season with his busted jaw (since the Penguins have already secured their playoff spot)—if that happens, the trophy could go to any number of deserving guys.
But at the end of the day, they'd only be taking home the regular-season award because the Pens decided to rest their best player before a pivotal Stanley Cup run. Crosby knows which trophy he's playing for, and it isn't the Hart.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky
This completely unforeseen and totally realistic possibility could be the most interesting storyline heading into the NHL awards ceremonies.
Rask and Niemi were dueling to take home the award when the man they call Bob came out of nowhere and played the Blue Jackets into Stanley Cup playoff contention. It took him a handful of games to acclimate to Columbus, but once he was finally handed the starter job for good, he began to dominate.
While his record isn't quite as impressive as those of Rask and Niemi, he's been every bit as good (if not better) through the last half of the season. If the Jackets make the playoffs and Bobrovsky continues to put up outstanding numbers, he could take home the Vezina.
Have the Blue Jackets ever had a player win a voted-for award?
Jack Adams Award
Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks
Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators
Winner: Paul MacLean
You won't read a trophy prediction piece this season without seeing the phrase "yeoman's work" and Paul MacLean's name beside each other, and with good reason—the work that he's done behind the bench in Ottawa has been nothing short of supernatural.
While Babcock has had to deal with a bevy of injuries in Detroit and Quenneville was the beneficiary of a wicked and record-breaking start by his club, MacLean has coached circles around just about everyone in the business this year.
He's kept his team in the thick of the playoff race despite losing his three best position players in No. 1 center Jason Spezza, defending Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and starting netminder (and should-have-been Vezina nominee) Craig Anderson.
Then on the fly he taught his team to play without them, getting the best out of youngsters like Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg without losing much ground in the standings. Impressive.
Art Ross Trophy
Winner: Sidney Crosby
Crosby winning this award is totally contingent on him returning sometime before the playoffs. He hasn't played since March 30, but his 56 points are still six ahead of Steven Stamkos. Making this more impressive is the fact that Crosby had gone five games without recording a point before the jaw injury.
Crosby has spotted the rest of the league eight or nine games to catch up.
If he returns and plays a few games this season, eight or nine games might not be enough.
Rocket Richard Trophy
Winner: Alexander Ovechkin
Ovechkin is back to his old goal-scoring ways, and thank the Hockey Gods—the NHL is a much more entertaining place when he is setting goal sirens ablaze.
He's pulled into a 26-all goal-scoring tie with the electric Steven Stamkos, and he's done it in impressive fashion. Ovie has posted 17 goals over his last 15 games—Stamkos has eight over that same span.
While Stamkos has been mildly more consistent in 2013, once Ovechkin gets going like this, it usually takes awhile for him to cool off. Hockey is fun in Washington once more, and Ovie is not likely to relent anytime soon.
The goal-scoring crown is his to lose again.