NHL Awards 2011: An In-Depth Look at the Candidates

John Bain@John_BainCorrespondent IIMay 10, 2011

The 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs have gotten underway and with that, the regular season has taken a back seat in almost every aspect. The only thing keeping the regular season alive is the individual player accomplishments to be recognized June 22, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV at the annual NHL Awards.

Now the Williams Jennings, Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies were already decided at seasons end as they are purely statistic awards. The most anticipated awards are the Hart (MVP), Calder (RoY), and the Jack Adams Award (Coach). The Team Awards with the exception of the presidents trophy will be decided during and after the playoffs. Without further ado, let's break down the awards.

The President's Trophy (Team Award)

Vancouver Canucks (117 Points; Top NHL Team)

Art Ross Trophy (Points Leader)

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks - 104 points

Rocket Richard Trophy (Top Goal Scorer)

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks, 50 goals

William M. Jennings Trophy (Fewest Goals Allowed)

Cory Schneider & Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks, 185 goals allowed

Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender)

There are a few goaltenders up for the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the NHL this past regular season. These can be narrowed down to Pekka Rinne, Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo, and Carey Price.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Rinne firmly established himself as an elite NHL goaltender this season with a career year statistically. He finished the year with a 2.12 GAA, .930 save percentage, and 33 victories. Rinne was a integral part of the Nashville Predators this season in allowing them to vault into fifth place overall in the Western Conference standings. If this were an award for most valuable goalie to his team then Rinne would probably win this award, but it isn't so he's out of the equation.

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Roberto Luongo has already come out and said it; 2010/11 was his best season to date. He has again returned to his status as an elite goaltender. Luongo posted a 2.11 GAA, .928 save percentage and recorded a league leading 38 victories. Thanks to having a incredibly consistent season, Luongo has given the Canucks a big shot at making the Stanley Cup Finals, and helped the team to its first President's Trophy in the 40-year history of the team.

Luongo however, had plenty of offensive support this season as well, and didn't have to steal many games for the team, and for this reason as well as having a goalie be better than him, Luongo will not be winning his first Vezina Trophy.

Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Tim Thomas had a record-breaking season for the Boston Bruins and the NHL. He set a new all time best save percentage breaking Dominik Hasek's previous mark of .937 by posting a .938 percentage. He finished first in the league with a GAA of 2.00 and second in shutouts with nine. He also recorded 35 wins for the Bruins helping them to secure the Northeast Division title, and the third seed in the Eastern Conference. It is hard to argue that any goalie was better than Tim Thomas in the NHL this season.

Winner: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Frank J. Selke Trophy (Top Defensive Forward)

The Selke Trophy goes to the best defensive forward in the NHL. In each of the past three years, Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk has come out with the award, but that could change this year. Patrice Bergeron, Jonathon Toews and David Backes all displayed excellent defensive years, but this award belongs to one player.


Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks


Kesler been the runner up the past two seasons in the Selke Award race, is a shoe-in for the award this year. This has been Kesler's best season offensively and has somehow been able to still dominate the defensive end of the ice.  He put up a career high 41 goals this season (enough for fifth in the NHL), and kept an astounding +24 rating in doing so. Ryan Kesler has changed the standards for a start two way player after his 2009/10 and 2010/11 campaigns. This is why he is a deserving winner.


Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings


Pavel Datsyuk was a standout center both in the offensive and defensive zones this past season. Datsyuk finished the season with a overall face-off percentage of 54.6. Datsyuk is probably the best stickhandler in the league as well as the best forward at keeping possession of the puck. Datsyuk has displayed the past three years why he is deserving of another Selke nod, but he was not the best defensive forward in all the league this season.

Jonathon Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Jonathon Toews is a name you will be seeing on the Frank J. Selke trophy for many years to come. Toews, who is coming off a Stanley Cup Championship and Olympic Gold, recorded 95 takeaways this season. He is a force in the defensive zone and is able to shut down opposition offensive powers. The Selke award winner, however, tends to be a star at both ends of the ice, and Toews just couldn't quite get it going in the 2010/11 season in the offensive zone as compared to the other nominees.

Winner: Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

Jack Adams Trophy (Coach of the Year)

The Jack Adams Trophy is the biggest honor the NHL can bestow upon a coach for any given season. The majority of the time terrific seasons are attributed to the play of the team or specific players, but they would not accomplish this had they not followed to Coach in his leadership, teachings, and strategies. The Jack Adams Trophy has some tremendous, and deserving coaches as nominees this season. Keep in mind that the coach whose team has the best record is not always the coach who is recognized as the Jack Adams Trophy winner.

Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks

Alain Vigneault, head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, led the team to its first President's Trophy in franchise history as the top regular season team in the 2010/11 season. The Canucks finished with a league best 117 points and a record of 54-19-9. The Canucks also finished with a league best 185 goals allowed. Along with their defensive power, the Canucks were able to finish with three players in the NHL top 20 scorers list in the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler.


This directly displays the balance Vigneault is able to teach his team as they are both offensively responsible and deep behind the blueline. Though this was a year of firsts for the Canucks, this was also expected of the Stanley Cup favourites heading into the 2010/11 season and there were few surprises. This is one instance where success does not translate into victory.

Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins


Dan Bylsma has already coached the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup Championship in his tenure, and looked to be set for another run this season. That is until they lost superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby to season ending injuries. Any team that loses such star power is bound to lose, but Bylsma managed to straighten the ship and coach the team to a 49-25-8 season good enough for 106 points and fourth place in the Eastern Conference.


Bylsma was able to groom young call-ups and at the same time use veteran presence and experience to finish the season on a winning note. Despite missing their offensive leaders, the Pens were able to finish with eight wins and just two losses in their last 10 games of the season playing their way to home ice advantage for the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dan Bylsma was able to keep his team above .500 after the losses of the two superstars and as a result will most likely win the Jack Adams Trophy.


Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators


Barry Trotz, Head Coach of the Nashville Predators, is one of the more underrated bench bosses of arguably the most underrated team in the entire National Hockey League. Trotz led an extremely shut down defensive team to a 99-point season, which was good enough for the fifth best record in the Western Conference.


The Predators finished second in the league with 194 goals against and were able to win an astounding 44 games with no clear cut offensive leaders. To coach a team with so little offense and still finish with 99 points equates to good coaching. This is especially evident as the Predators are one of the youngest teams in the league and Trotz has shaped them into a contender. Trotz deserves the Jack Adams Award the most out of the candidates and should win, but it is more likely that the voters will choose Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins unfortunately.


Winner: Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins


GM of the Year Award


The GM of the Year Award is fairly self explanatory. This award is given to the General Manager who excels at building a winning team. Whether it be bringing in superstars or picking up grinders off the waiver wire to help your team push its way through the playoffs, GMs are able to pull of some pretty crazy moves that in turn create a winning franchise.  


Mike Gillis, Vancouver Canucks


When Mike Gillis came to the Canucks in 2008 to replace Dave Nonis as General Manager, fans were unsure as to what to expect. They now know to expect success. Since 2008, Gillis has reshaped the Vancouver Canucks. In the offseason prior to the 2010/11 season, Gillis made strides to create a total team. He recognized that in order to compete for the Stanley Cup, a team must have depth at all aspects of the game.


Gillis knew that he had to have four lines that the coach could roll at any time in a game. As a result, he went out and picked up Manny Malhotra to fill the void at the third line center position and Raffi Torres to add some grit to the lineup while still providing some offence. The signing of Malhotra proved to be huge as he finished second in the league in faceoff percentage at the end of the season. In addition to these two signings, Gillis added veteran and number one defenceman Dan Hamhuis as well as defenceman Keith Ballard during the off season to bolster and already deep defense core.


At the trade deadline, Gillis made two moves that are paying off. He acquired Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins for little to nothing. Both acquisitions have provided what they have been asked of. Over the past three seasons Mike Gillis has worked hard to build a Stanley Cup worthy team, and in the past season he has seemingly done that, but we will not know until the end of June if all his work has paid off.


Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning


In just his first season as a general manager in the NHL, Steve Yzerman has taken the 12th place 2009/10 Tampa Bay Lightning and transformed them into the 2010/11 5th place franchise that they are today. That's a big change. Yzerman built a team that made it into the playoffs for the first time since they won the Cup four seasons ago. In order to create a playoff team, Yzerman needed to complete his team.


Though they had Stamkos, Lecavlier, St. Louis and Downie in the 2009/10 campaign, they did not have many role players. Yzerman brought in Dominic Moore and Sean Bergenheim this season and they have worked wonders on the third line. The third line has provided some much needed offence from Tampa's depth players. In addition to the signings on the offensive side of the puck, Yzerman went out during the season to solve Tampa Bay's goaltending woes.


He went out and traded for veteran (try 41-year-old)  goalie Dwayne Roloson. Roloson came in and made an immediate impact and has helped to carry the team through the playoffs into the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite the fantastic coaching of Guy Boucher and the play of the team, Steve Yzerman deserves much of the credit when it comes to the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.

David Poile, Nashville Predators

David Poile could be well on his way to trumping Detroit GM Ken Holland as the league's best scout. David Poile has found players deep in the draft that have turned out to be diamonds in the rough. These players include, but are not limited to: Patrick Hornqvist (230th overall, 2005), Pekka Rinne (285th overall, 2004), and Joel Ward (undrafted).


In addition to his great eye for talent, Poile has constructed a team that has had 40 plus win seasons each of the past five seasons resulting in five consecutive trips to the postseason. Poile's biggest move this season, however, was the acquisition of forward Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators. Fisher will be a key piece in the offense of the Preds for seasons to come and was a huge acquisition for Poile. Despite all these moves and signings, Poile was unable to construct a complete team this season and for that reason he will not win the award.


Winner: Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning


James Norris Memorial Trophy (Top Defenceman)


The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL's best defenceman "who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position."


Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins


No one player instills the fear into opposition forwards like Zdeno Chara does. Chara had another excellent season for the Bruins racking up a plus/minus off +33 and 44 points. Now it is not hard to be a very good defenceman when you have Tim Thomas there to back you up, but nevertheless Chara had a great year.


Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings


No surprises here, Nick Lidstrom is up for yet another Norris Trophy. The six time Norris award winner finished second overall in scoring by a defenceman with 62 points, not too shabby for a player some analysts were expecting to retire at seasons end. 2010/11 was Lidstrom's first minus season ever and he was just a -2. He had another strong year leading the Red Wings to the Central Division title and the teams 20th consecutive playoff berth.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Coming off a great Olympic performance for Canada in 2010, Shea Weber entered the 2010/11 season with a renewed confidence. Weber finished the season in the top 10 defenceman for ice time per game with 25:19 and in the top 10 with 48 points. Without Shea Weber, the Nashville Predators are just Pekka Rinne. Weber is their leader in all aspects of the game. He also was among the league leaders in hits with 211 on the year. Weber had a good year, but until Lidstrom retires, it is going to be hard to top the future Hall-of-Famer.


Winner: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings


Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year)


The Calder Memorial Trophy is awarded annually "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL". Previous winners include Patrick Kane (2007/08), Alexander Ovechkin (2005/06), Pavel Bure (1991/92) among many other future superstars.


Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks


To most NHL hockey fans, Logan Couture's tremendous success this season came as a surprise. After a stellar junior career with the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League, Couture's first season back in junior after being drafted was a bit of a let down. He no longer was putting up points like he used to. So coming into the 2010/11 season, it was not expected that he would put up 32 goals (second among rookies) especially since he was only expected to crack the Sharks' third line at best. Couture proved all the doubters wrong in the 2010/11 season while playing big minutes on the Sharks second powerplay unit. Couture is a big reason why the San Jose finished the year second in the Western Conference.


Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes


Jeff Skinner was the player who was most often chosen (along with Taylor Hall) as the Rookie to look out for in the 2010/11 season. He put up an impressive 63 points which was tops among rookies for the season. Despite his tremendous performance throughout the year, it didn't amount to a playoff birth for his team.


Michael Grabner, New York Islanders


The one that got away. That's what Dale Talon is probably saying to himself right now. Grabner was placed on waivers by Talon and the Florida Panthers in October and picked up by the Islanders. He went on to put up an astounding 34 goals which was number one among all rookies this past season. What could potentially hurt Grabner is that some don't see him as a pure rookie as he has been in and out of the Vancouver Canucks farm system over the past couple of seasons, but he should do just fine.


Winner: Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks


Hart Memorial Trophy (NHL MVP)


The Hart Memorial Trophy is seen as the most prestigious individual award that can be bestowed upon a player. It is awarded annually to the player judged as most valuable to the success of his team in the NHL.


Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks


Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks had an unbelievable second half of the season to finish with an astounding 50 goals scored with 11 of those being game winners. He finished third in the league with 98 points. Perry single-handedly carried the Ducks into the playoffs. He averaged 1.2 ppg and just over 22 minutes in ice-time. In 2010/11 Perry returned to his point producing ways that he was drafted for. Corey Perry has a tremendous chance to win the Hart this season.


Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks


His brother Henrik won the award last year, and now it is Daniel's turn to take his shot. After being injured in the 2009/10 season, Daniel Sedin came back with a vengeance this season. Finishing first in the league with 104 points and tied with teammate Ryan Kesler for fourth with 41 goals, Daniel Sedin cemented himself as a superstar in the NHL. He also led the league with 18 powerplay goals. Sedin was a force on special teams, even strength and four on four. The Canucks this season however are very deep and it is hard to say that Daniel was the MVP to his team.


Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning


Marty St. Louis is a player who is nominated for his complimentary play. It wouldn't be easy for Steven Stamkos to have the year he did without St. Louis passing him the puck. Martin St. Louis finished the year with 68 assists and 99 points. His rapid pace and precision passing allowed both Steve Downie and Steven Stamkos lots of room to get open for shots this year. The veteran presence and good attitude also helped St. Louis in shaping the younger players on the squad this year. 2010/11 was a standout year for the Lightning vet.


Winner: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks


The 2010/11 season in the NHL was a fantastic one. It had lots of parity and plenty of entertainment. It also resulted in a diverse group of players, some out of the regular bunch, being nominated for individual NHL awards to be given out on June 22nd in Las Vegas. All in all, it is nice to see more and more players stepping up to become superstars in the league. There is one thing we all know and have no need to predict for however, and that is the fact that any one player in the league would be willing to trade any and all of these awards in for the holy grail: the Stanley Cup.


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