Super Early Predictions for 2013-14 NHL Award Winners
The dust has barely settled from the 2013 season, and the Chicago Blackhawks players and coaches are still planning their days with the Stanley Cup.
However, the late-starting and late-finishing season means there is little down time in the NHL. The draft has already taken place, and the first phase of free agency is complete. A large majority of this year's class has already been signed, and the 2013-14 rosters of many teams have started to take shape.
With that in mind, it's not too early to start making predictions. Here's a first look at the major award winners for the 2013-14 season.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com, NHL.com and The Scouting Report, unless noted otherwise.
Hart Trophy: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
With a dramatic rally in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Chicago Blackhawks earned their second championship in four seasons.
Jonathan Toews, known as "Captain Serious," was the first player to hoist the Stanley Cup after the title was earned. Toews is not the most spectacular player in the league or the highest scorer. However, he may just be the most valuable player, and he should earn the Hart Trophy as a result.
Toews has an indomitable spirit on the ice, and that manifested itself in the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final when he took it to the Boston Bruins' hard-hitting defense. Toews, somehow, found a way to get the best of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference.
He excels on defense and faceoffs. He is one of the league's most opportunistic scorers, performing his best when the game is on the line.
Those characteristics should allow him to come home with the Hart Trophy, emblematic of the the NHL's MVP award.
Ross Trophy: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
The season didn't end the way Sidney Crosby wanted it to, as his Pittsburgh Penguins went down in four straight games to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final.
The regular season didn't end in ideal fashion either. Crosby missed the final 12 games after his jaw had been shattered by a deflected slap shot.
However, Crosby scored 56 points in 36 games last year. He was leading the league in scoring until the final days when Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning passed him and ended up with a league-high 60 points.
The scoring title won't get away from Crosby this year, barring another serious injury. Crosby is driven to be the best player in the league and to win championships. Look for at least 40 goals and 120 points as Crosby cruises to achieve Ross Trophy honors for the second time in his career.
Vezina Trophy: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup following the 2011-12 season. He was nearly as good in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, even though Los Angeles was eliminated in the Western Conference Final by the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, Quick got off to a relatively slow start in the regular season, and he had a 2.45 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. Look for a much more consistent regular season in 2013-14. Quick should end up as the best goalie in the NHL, and that will allow him to win the Vezina Trophy.
Norris Trophy: Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter appears ready to take over as the NHL's most dominant defenseman. He has excellent competition from P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, Kris Letang from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, but Suter is the best all-around defenseman in the NHL.
He can carry the puck, pass it and shoot it. When it comes to all-around defensive play, he excels at breaking up rushes, intercepting passes, blocking shots and thumping opponents. He's also one of the best conditioned athletes in the game, averaging an NHL-best 27:16 of ice time per game last year.
The combination of Suter and Zach Parise could help the Minnesota Wild take a big jump up in the standings in 2013-14.
Masterton Trophy: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson will be Ryan Suter's top competition for the Norris Trophy. While he may get edged out for that award by the Wild's defensive stud, nobody will top Karlsson for the Masterton Trophy.
Karlsson had his Achilles partially torn after a collision with Matt Cooke last year. Few thought Karlsson would return, but he came back for the final regular-season games and the playoffs. While he was a dynamic offensive force, he was not at his best.
Look for a complete return to form this year. He will be the NHL's best offensive defenseman, and he should be an easy winner of the Masterton Award, which is annually presented to the player who demonstrates perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport.
Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron is to the Boston Bruins what Jonathan Toews is to the Chicago Blackhawks. Bergeron is the smartest player on the ice, and he regularly puts himself and his teammates in a position to succeed.
Bergeron led the Bruins through three rounds of the playoffs and helped them build a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final before they lost to the Blackhawks. Bergeron can excel in the offensive end, but he is a dynamo on defense.
He dominates in the faceoff circle, and he finds a way to get in the passing lanes, intercept the puck and create possession time for his team. That's what excellent defensive play is all about. Bergeron's ability to play while injured puts him at a different level than most of his competitors. He has a plus-60 rating over the last two seasons.
Jack Adams Trophy: Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
Mike Babcock has a record of excellence as the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. His coaching ability was put to the test last year as the Detroit Red Wings went into the final week of the season without a playoff berth in hand.
That wasn't surprising, considering that the Red Wings had lost Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and the team did not have its usual firepower. But Babcock was not about to accept any excuses for failing to make the playoffs. He willed his team to play its best hockey of the season from that point forward.
The Wings went 4-0 in the final week of the season and made the playoffs. As the seventh seed, they defeated the No. 2 seed Anaheim Ducks in seven games and then extended the eventual-champion Chicago Blackhawks to seven games before succumbing in overtime.
The Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference this year, and they should be able to hold their own with the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers. Babcock will come home with the Jack Adams Trophy.
Lady Byng Trophy: John Tavares, New York Islanders
John Tavares was on the cusp of superstardom as the 2013 season started. He kicked the door down and announced his presence with a 28-goal, 47-point season.
Not only did Tavares put himself in contention for the major awards with his showing, he carried the Islanders on his back and led them to the playoffs, where they pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins hard before they fell in six games.
Tavares is no pushover, but he plays within the rules. He is likely to be in the hunt for both the scoring championship and the MVP award, and he should get additional recognition by winning the Lady Byng Trophy because of his sportsmanship, gentlemanly play and high talent level. Tavares has had just 44 penalty minutes total in the last two seasons.
Calder Trophy: Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
It's very difficult for any draft pick to make the jump to the NHL and become successful, but left wing Jonathan Drouin has the chance to become an explosive scorer from day one with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Drouin has elusiveness and skating speed, lightning reflexes and he should benefit from playing with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Both of those players will command maximum attention from opposing defenses, and that should give Drouin, the No. 3 pick in this year's draft, the room to operate and create scoring opportunities.
Drouin had remarkable numbers in 2012-13, scoring 41 goals and 64 assists for the Halifax Mooseheads and then closing the year with 12 goals and 23 assists in 17 postseason games.