From the moment a season starts, people wonder where everyone will be at the end.
Who'll be the break-out star? Who is going to be answering questions about retirement? Is anyone going to be out of the league?
And most importantly: Which superstars are taking home the hardware?
It's a question we can't help but ask because we're so caught up in the glory of the trophies, rings, and aura of professional sport.
But that doesn't change the fact that it's one of the most intriguing ongoing arguments in sports.
So with that, the Bleacher Report NHL writers got together and mulled over the award winners at the quarter mark.
A quick note before we begin: Awards based on performance (Art Ross, Maurice Richard) aren't included because you can just look at the league leaders for that, while the Masterton was also left off today's list.
Winner: Anze Kopitar—Los Angeles Kings (11 votes)
Marian Gaborik—New York Rangers (2 votes)
Chris Pronger—Philadelphia Flyers (1 vote)
Miikka Kiprusoff—Calgary Flames (1 vote)
Craig Anderson—Colorado Avalanche
Ryan Miller—Buffalo Sabres
This quarter-year's Hart winner has simply been dynamite.
While Marian Gaborik has done wonders for the New York Rangers' offense (and has stayed relatively healthy), Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson have been back-stopping their teams to important early-season wins, and Chris Pronger has been a rock for the Philadelphia Flyers, it's hard to argue against Kopitar.
He has a five-point lead on Alexander Ovechkin in the points-race, he's neck-and-neck with Ovie in goals with 14 and two ahead of Gaborik, and four assists behind Joe Thornton's 18 for the league lead in assists.
That and he's helped the Kings to the fourth-best point total in the West. His emergence has been nothing short of revolutionary.
Winner: Craig Anderson—Colorado Avalanche (6 votes)
Ilya Bryzgalov—Phoenix Coyotes (4 votes)
Ryan Miller—Buffalo Sabres (3 votes)
Evgeni Nabokov—San Jose Sharks (1 vote)
Marc-Andre Fleury—Pittsburgh Penguins (1 vote)
This was probably one of the more difficult awards to decide. From the vote dispersal you can tell that each of these goalies have made an impression this season.
Anderson, however, has probably had the biggest impact.
For a team that many expected to be rebuilding, Craig Anderson has come in and won games for the Avalanche, helping them to a Northwest Division lead.
As the Avs lead the Calgary Flames by three points in the division, Anderson is tops in the league with 11 wins, and second in save-percentage.
To put this in perspective however, Nabokov is tied with him in wins and Fleury is just one back at 10. Ryan Miller leads the league in goals-against average (1.89), but Nabokov is close behind, as is shutout leader Ilya Bryzgalov (Three on the season).
Almost as impressive is that Bryzgalov's Phoenix Coyotes are the only team from these five not in the top-three in their conference.
Anderson's surprise factor however gives him the edge here.
Winner: Michael Del Zotto—New York Rangers (9 votes)
Ryan O'Reilly—Colorado Avalanche (3 votes)
John Tavares—New York Islanders (1 vote)
James van Riemsdyk—Philadelphia Flyers (1 vote)
Evander Kane—Atlanta Thrashers (1 vote)
Tyler Myers—Buffalo Sabres
This one is hard to argue with.
While O'Reilly, van Riemsdyk, and Tavares are are one-through-three in rookie scoring, Del Zotto has been special for the Rangers.
The big knock against the team coming in to the season was the lack of an experienced puck-moving defender. While he's still pretty green, Del Zotto has looked like Mike Green, as he's tied for second in rookie points (13), second in goals (four), and is fifth in rookie ice time.
As the season moves along, it'll be interesting to monitor Del Zotto to see if this pace keeps up, or if van Riemsdyk, Tavares, or Reilly (or one of the rookie goalies) start to get the inside track.
Winner: Patrick Marleau—San Jose Sharks (6 votes)
Daniel Alfredsson—Ottawa Senators (3 votes)
Anze Kopitar—Los Angeles Kings (2 votes)
Pavel Datsyuk—Detroit Red Wings (1 vote)
Brad Richards—Dallas Stars (1 vote)
Very quietly, Patrick Marleau has snuck into third-place in the NHL's scoring race.
Once touted as a 'must-trade' commodity with it widely assumed that his career in San Jose over, the Sharks look all the wiser for holding on to the man who once wore the 'C.'
What gets Marleau the nod here is the fact that, of the top-10 scorers only he and Joe Thornton have taken a single minor penalty. That's right, 45 points and 38 games between them, and just four minutes in penalties.
Brad Richards is the only other player in the top-20 in scoring to sport a stat of that magnitude.
Winner: Jordan Staal—Pittsburgh Penguins (12 votes)
Wayne Simmonds—Los Angeles Kings (2 vote)
Ryan Callahan—New York Rangers (1 vote)
Dustin Penner—Edmonton Oilers (1 vote)
Jeff Halpern—Tampa Bay Lightning
Like Kopitar and the Hart, Staal was the runaway winner with the Selke.
Despite being a minus-three over his past five games, at the time of the voting Staal was one of the top-performers amongst forwards in short-handed time on ice (overall) as well as power-play goals allowed while on the ice.
Although Staal is known more as "the other guy" to non-Penguins fans as he's overshadowed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he's made a name for himself this year and should continue to do so.
Tie: Chris Pronger—Philadelphia Flyers and Dan Boyle—San Jose Sharks
5 votes a piece
Alex Goligoski—Pittsburgh Penguins (1 vote)
Drew Doughty—Los Angeles Kings (1 vote)
Duncan Keith—Chicago Blackhawks (1 vote)
For now at least, the names Niedermayer and Lidstrom have been left off this list.
Instead, while the Vezina was close, the Norris remains undecided as voters ended up in a split decision.
Pronger, as usual, is leading defensemen in time-on-ice this season just over 27:30, and is one of 17 defensemen (four of which from Philadelphia) to average over 30 shifts a game. Pronger is also third in plus/minus from the blueline at a +11.
Dan Boyle meanwhile, is second to Toronto's Tomas Kaberle in points with 18 (Kaberle was a nominee but didn't garner a vote), and is sixth in goal-scoring with four goals.
Boyle also sits in second in shots, but is one of just four defensemen to be top-ten in that category and have a shooting percentage over five.
Is it any coincidence that these two players also play on the top-two power play units in the league? Probably not.
This should be fun to watch as the season progresses.
UPDATE: We had one last voter come in late and ended up breaking the tie.
Congratulations to Chris Pronger, the 2009 Bleacher Report Quarter-Way Norris Trophy Winner!!!
Winner: Dave Tippett—Phoenix Coyotes (12 votes)
Joe Sacco—Colorado Avalanche (1 vote)
Dan Bylsma—Pittsburgh Penguins (1 vote)
Terry Murray—Los Angeles Kings (1 vote)
Lindy Ruff—Buffalo Sabres
What Tippett has done in Phoenix is simply unbelievable.
However you feel about Wayne Gretzky the coach, there's no denying that expectations were low for whomever was behind the bench in the desert this year—saddled with small expectations, big distractions, and a youthful core, many had the 'Yotes written off.
But Tippett has been able to turn this team into a sneaky playoff contender in the first quarter, and if Ilya Bryzgalov can keep up his play, he could tag-team with his coach to get them back to the playoffs since the 2001-02 season.
All of the coaches on this list are deserving, but I have to say: If Tippett is able to get this team to a top-ten finish in the conference or even a playoff birth, he has to be considered.