With the NHL season coming to a close and the awards being handed out in June, I thought this would be a good time to give my predictions and thoughts on the hardware to be presented.
Before I get into the awards, let me just say that this season was pretty amazing in the sense that Martin Brodeur and Nicklas Lidstrom have officially involved themselves in "Greatest Ever" discussions for their respective positions.
It's hard to find two players that consistently put up highlight reel type of plays like Lindstrom and Brodeur do.
This season was Alex Oveckin's true coming-out party. Yes, everyone knew him before but this season he took the hockey world by the throat. He is the game's best and most exciting player and he's going to make more spectacular memories with the coming seasons.
Now, On to the Awards:
Jack Adams Trophy (Best Coach):
Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals
Guy Carbonneau, Montreal Canadiens
With all due respect to Babcock and Boudreau, no one did a better job behind the bench than Carbonneau in the regular season.
The Habs were a team on the fence of the playoff picture entering the year and by the time it was over, they were Northeast Division champs and the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Given only one true star-caliber player (Alexei Kovalev, who submitted arguably his finest season), Carbonneau made great use of the team's strongest point--it's skating. Combining its skating with a potent power play helped the Habs turn in a wonderful performance.
Calder Trophy (Top Rookie)
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Backstrom was quiet for the early part of his rookie campaign, but quickly showcased his play-making skills when he was made a linemate with all-world winger Ovechkin. He made a late run at the Calder, but more importantly he set himself up to have a breakout season in 2009.
Meanwhile,the dynamic Chicago duo of Jonathan Toews abd Patrick Kane exploded onto the scene this season, and are the reason the Hawks faithful are finally excited again about hockey in Chicago.
Toews' season was shortened by injury, but his impact was made as many people see him as a Steve Yzerman-type player.
Kane was the most consistent of the rookie crop and his offensive skills (21 goals, 51 assists) certainly show that he's capable of being an elite scorer. He's speedy and a bit feisty. Kane and Toews are without a doubt the future of Chicago hockey.
Lady Byng Trophy (Sportsmanship)
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres
Martin St.Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
This isn't close. Datsyuk was fourth in the league in points and rarely goes to the box, tallying just 20 penalty minutes this year. He is arguably the game's best two-way player and does it all without relying on illegal tactics.
Not that any of this matters, Datsyuk has a history of no-showing the awards shows, so he won't even be there to collect the hardware.
Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman)
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
It's a shame for Phaneuf that Lidstrom is still around because this is the year Dion put it all together and became one of the game's best defenders.
And that statement should explain Nicklas Lidstrom.
Technically flawless and a joy to watch even after 15 years of dominance. Lindstrom's all-around game is unmatched, as he still quarterbacks the power play and shuts opponents down in the Wings zone.
He's already got more than enough Norris Trophies to go around, but another one is on it's way as he solidifies himself as one of the all-time greats.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
John Madden, New Jersey Devils
Madden is a tremendous defensive forward, but in terms of overall two-way game, it's basically a race between Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Datsyuk is simply one of the finest two-way players on the planet, combining tremendous defensive responsibility with one of the game's best offensive repertoires.
Plus, if he has to collect two trophies, he's got to show up? Right..?
Vezina Trophy (Top Goalie)
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Evgeny Nabokov, San Jose Sharks
Lundqvist turned it on as the year went along but he will probably be the third place guy because of a slow start with the Rangers.
Nabokov and Brodeur are at the top of nearly every relevant statistical category, with Nabokov getting the edge in wins (47-44), shutouts (6-4) and GAA (2.14-2.17). Nabokov backed the obviously more talented Sharks while Brodeur held up a very average Devils team.
Brodeur simply is the best in the game at this time and is arguably the most consistent ever. He stepped his game up during a season when the Devils traditionally stout defense was less than such.
Hart Trophy (League MVP)
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Iginla's tremendous season (50 goals, 98 points) will go mostly forgotton and it's a shame. Few players play the game with more passion, grit, determination and skill than the Flames captain. Unfortunately, he's a distant third.
The true battle is between the Russian phenoms. Malkin thrived and carried the Penguins while prodigy Sidney Crosby was out with an ankle injury. He showed that all they hype was worth it and brought an offensive game with him that rivals anyone's.
Ovechkin carried a very average Capitals team to their first division title in years. He electrified audiences everywhere and captivated the hockey world. Not only that, his 65 goals became the standard for left wingers, breaking Luc Robitaille's record of 63.
With all due respect to Malkin, Ovechkin simply means more to his team than any other player in the league. Combine that with the effect he has on crowd's and defenders alike and there is no question who the MVP is.
Long live Alexander the Great.
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