The end of the season is rapidly approaching, and while the playoff races are fascinating, it is time analyze who has had the largest impact on his team's performance so far this season.
Each of the trophy candidates have provided their respective teams with consistent performances that have contributed to their team's success (or lack thereof).
Let's open it up plain and simply: Tim Thomas will win the Vezina.
This point is not even up for discussion; who else would you give it to?
Ondrej Pavelec came roaring back from a fainting spell, to put on maybe the most impressive 30-game spree, but has since been one of the worst five goalies in the NHL.
In his last 18 NHL games, he has gone 4-10-4, while giving up at least four goals in nine of those games (nobody actually thought Atlanta could have a good goalie, right?).
Carey Price, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist have all had extremely successful years, and in a standard year, would all be legitimate candidates.
However, Thomas simply takes the cake. He is number one in SV%, GAA and Win% amongst all goalies who have played 45 games.
He is winning the goalie version of the Triple Crown and barring a Pavelec-esque collapse, (seriously, no pun intended), the trophy is his to lose.
1: Carey Price - You think he has made people forget about Halak? He did get outplayed pretty badly on Thursday night.
2: Henrik Lundqvist - How does he continue to do this year in and year out? Already nine shutouts.
3: Pekka Rinne - Plays in front of the most underrated defence in the NHL; otherwise, he is second on this list.
4: Jonathan Quick -Why does he always get rocked in the media for being a stopgap for Jonathan Bernier? He has simply been amazing this year, and looks to be a stud in this league for many years to come.
I think it is time this trophy was renamed the "good offensive player who has a defensive conscience" trophy.
I am not sure what has caused the prompt change, but the four winners before the lockout were Madden, Peca, Lehtinen and Draper. These four players were all defined by their defensive prowess.
How many players nowadays, do people say, wow, he is a stud shutdown forward? The market for the Shayne Corsons of the world seems to have dried up.
Since the lockout, two players have received the trophy: Rod Brind'Amour and Pavel Datsyuk. Not to take anything away from these players, but one must think that other players' defensive prowess has somewhat been ignored.
This year, Datsyuk has been injured, and his +/- is a little bit underwhelming (+10, on the third-best team in the NHL), and the most subjective trophy is ripe for the taking.
The general consensus is that the most important statistics for the Selke are Takeaways, Faceoff % and +/-. By analyzing these stats, we conclude with a clear winner: Jonathan Toews.
He is second in the NHL in takeaways (surprisingly behind Jumbo Joe Thornton, who deserves zero recognition as he is a -5 on one of the best teams in the NHL), top ten in the NHL in faceoff percentage amongst players that have taken at least 500 on the season, and fifth amongst forwards (first not including players from Boston and Vancouver) in +/-.
What is most important about Toews' faceoff percentage is that he is also in the top five on percentage of team faceoffs taken, which means that not only is he good at winning them, but he is taking important ones, too.
Maybe we are actually seeing a new wave of players in the NHL who are the most offensively gifted and possess the best defensive conscience.
1: Ryan Kesler - This guy consistently plays heavy minutes on the penalty kill.
2: Pavel Datsyuk - Remember, the award is mainly subjective.
3: Matt Cooke - He does have the most SH points, and he is consistently defending his personality.
571: Tyler Bozak - This guy has no defensive orientation, worst +/- amongst forwards in the NHL.
This should be called the Matt Cooke award, because he probably deserves it every single year. It is called by many to be the year of the headshots, and I figured maybe an award should be instituted in its honor.
The clear cut winner of this award is Trevor Gillies. He simply doesn't seem to get it.
After getting suspended for nine games for a brutal attack on Eric Tangradi, he goes and attacks Cal Clutterbuck (a really solid young power forward), and knocks him out with a concussion as well.
If this doesn't deserve to give him the award, maybe his dirty mustache puts him over the top.
Dirty Player Runners-Up
1: Matt Cooke - He is probably just as surprised that he is not first.
2: Sean Avery - Actions combined with verbal abuse puts him in the top five.
3: Brent Johnson - That was one dirty knockout, ask DiPietro.
4: Colin Campbell - Intentionally gives lenient punishments in order to keep his job.
This award goes to the best coach in the NHL, and along with the Vezina may be the most obvious of all the trophies.
Jacques Lemaire signed on to coach the NHL-worst Devils, and since he joined the team, they have been the best in the NHL.
While not all of their success can be attributed to his coaching (Kovalchuk finally remembered how to score), this sort of turnaround cannot be ignored.
Jack Adams Runners-Up
1: Dan Bylsma - He has Crosby and Malkin injured 30 games each and is still challenging for the conference title...that is simply amazing.
2: Barry Trotz - How does he do it every single season? The Predators may have the most anemic offence of all time, and they are still only one point out of a playoff spot. (Great trivia question: who is the only Predator ever to score more than 75 points?)
3: Brent Sutter - Realizing that his brother Darryl Sutter was the problem with the Flames, and getting him to finally resign.
4: Ron Wilson - For putting up with the Toronto media every single day.
This is an extremely competitive field this year with the emergence of a lot of new top-tier defencemen.
The popular pick is the ageless Nicklas Lidstrom, with his remarkable comeback season. However, I have a very difficult time giving the best defenceman trophy to a player with a minus rating.
While I am not advocating that a player like Andrej Meszaros or Adam McQuaid (who???) should receive it, the winner should at least have a token positive rating.
Which leads me to Kieth Yandle (a +1!). He is first amongst defenceman in points with 55, which is also tops on his team.
Yandle is a strong offensive defenceman who plays a ton of minutes and provides that necessary punch to a Coyotes team that has an extremely mediocre group of forwards.
1: Nicklas Lidstrom - Always playing against the opposing team's top line, and he has been a sparkplug on the power play this season.
2: Kris Letang - The favorite earlier in the season has slowed lately; look for him to be a contender for this award for years to come.
3: Tobias Enstrom - The engine that makes the Byfgulien train work.
4: Christian Ehrhoff - For not getting injured!
If someone predicted even three out of the nominees on this list, can they please contact the scouting department for the Toronto Maple Leafs and offer them their services?
All the favorites of the rookies on this list have come from absolutely nowhere.
While the Taylor/Tyler debate may have ended with the Oilers making the right decision, neither of them will win this award. If I would be running the show, I would give the trophy to all three men at the top of this list.
However, for the sake of this article, every category does need a winner and Corey Crawford has separated himself from the rest.
He has been a rock all season in goal for the Hawks, and after the Turco experiment worked out horribly, they have a lot to be thankful for.
1: Logan Couture - He came up huge early in the season when all of the big guns were faltering. With 25 goals and a +17 rating, he has been a real find for the Sharks.
2: Jeff Skinner - He was born in 1992 and is an All-Star! He has been having a fantastic season, leading all rookies in scoring.
3: Sergei Bobrovsky - Great season, slowing down lately, would be higher if Boucher did not have comparable numbers.
4: Taylor Hall - Might be the only player in history to get a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, and injure himself for the season in the process, well done!
(On behalf of Brian Burke, thank you, Tyler Seguin, for not being on this list)
The one that I am sure you have all been waiting for. It is difficult to decide who deserves this trophy for a number of reasons.
1) Steckel knocked out Crosby. I do not think that if he was healthy all season, we would be debating who deserves to win this. He was having an unbelievable season and if returned today, would still be my favorite for winning the Art Ross Trophy.
2) All good players have remarkable teammates. Stamkos has St. Louis, the Sedins have each other and Kesler, so how can you actually decide who to give it to?
3) Goalies have their own award, so we try not to give them this one.
His linemates are made up of has-beens (Tanguay and Brendan Morrison) and overrated players (that is what happens when you trade for the entire Leafs team) and he still has them in the Playoffs in the ultra competitive Western Conference.
He is ninth in the NHL in points and seventh in goals, after overcoming so much adversity.
The first two months of the season, he was subject to constant rumors. After that, his team had porous play and the general manager resigned.
Throughout all of this, Iggy has been as firm as a rock and should win his first Hart Trophy.
Hart Ranking Runners-Up
1: Daniel Sedin - The best player on the top team in the NHL does deserve some sort of recognition, even if he plays with a superstar sibling.
2: Tim Thomas - He has probably been the most dominant goaltender the NHL has seen since Dominik Hasek in the late '90s. If Theodore was able to win the Hart with the numbers he posted, no reason to believe Thomas is not in the running.
3: Steven Stamkos - I know I know, St. Louis is a very good player, but Stamkos is still the only player in the NHL who has a chance at breaking 50 goals this season, and that in itself is an impressive statistic.
4: Sidney Crosby - Even if he has missed so many games, he still deserves to be on this list for everything he accomplished until the Winter Classic.
Would love to hear comments and feedback!