NHL Playoff Predictions 2011: Will Vancouver Win 10 of 14 Season Awards?
With the two finals opponents determined, two more trophies were handed out: Clarence Campbell to the Vancouver Canucks for winning the Western Conference and the Prince of Wales to the Boston Bruins for winning the Eastern Conference.
The President's Trophy also went to Vancouver, the most represented team in individual trophies won and finalists listed below, too. Their success is what could create a super-division with one suggested given in the wake of the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers forcing the league to look at realignment.
Some trophies are won during the regular season rather than voted on. The William Jennings goes to the goalies of the team that gives up the fewest goals, so Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider of Vancouver already won that. The Art Ross went to teammate Daniel Sedin for leading the league in scoring.
The other major award already known is the Rocket Richard, which went to Anaheim's Corey Perry for leading the league with 50 goals. But below are the finalists (those who finished top three in votes) for the rest of the trophies for performance, listed in order of how they finish in votes.
(Credentials: I predicted every award right in my only other such article during my first year on Bleacher Report. In this playoffs I am 11-3 in predicting playoff series and in the 96th percentile on NHL.com's Playoff Challenge.)
Hart Memorial Trophy
The most valuable player finalists according to the Professional Hockey Writers Association: Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis.
Because of the Lindsay Award (see next), we can see that St. Louis may be splitting votes with Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos.
The same could happen for Sedin, and he is nowhere near as irreplaceable nor quite as good as Perry, whose disruptive abilities toward the other team set him apart. However, this award favours scoring and his wide margin in points and the media momentum surrounding Vancouver will carry Sedin.
Ted Lindsay Award
The Lindsay was called the Lester B. Pearson Award until 2010 and goes to the most valuable player as voted by the NHL Players Association. Finalists in 2011 were Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry and Steven Stamkos.
Rarely does this award go to a different player than the Hart. While competing against Perry can give players a perspective of just how much harder that is from end-to-end, his frequent cross-the-line style will rightly hurt him...Sedin takes this one, too.
No position in all of sports is as important as goalie is in hockey. The trophy for the best goalie in the NHL is named after Montreal standout goalie Georges Vezina, who collapsed on the ice in 1925, just months before dying of tuberculosis.
While it used to go to the goalie(s) on the team that allowed the fewest goals, that is now the William Jennings Trophy. The Vezina now goes to the goalie deemed best by the league's 30 general managers.
This year, the finalists are Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne. The winner should and will be Thomas, whose numbers rival those of Dominik Hasek the year he won not only the Vezina but the Hart. Thomas has a save percentage eight points higher than Rinne and a goals-against average .11 goals better than Luongo.
While Thomas played fewer games than either of them, he was only three behind Luongo and seven behind Rinne. He and Luongo had similar winning and point percentages, but Thomas' were a fraction of a percent better.
James Norris Trophy
The best defenceman finalists, as voted by the PHWA, are Zdeno Chara, Niklas Lidstrom and Shea Weber. While there were sentimental votes cast for Lidstrom, and he had 30 percent more points than either of the other candidates, he also played on a more prolific scoring team.
His inferior plus-minus may be misleading because he is out against some of the other team's best scorers, but so is Chara, who led the league at plus-33. Because he is easily the league's best shut-down defender and a major threat on the offensive side, he is the right choice and should still edge out Lidstrom.
The finalists for rookie of the year, as voted by the PHWA, are Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture and Michael Grabner. This may see the biggest travesty among the awards. Couture is the only finalist to help his team reach the playoffs and the only one good enough defensively to kill penalties for a good team.
But because he played 25 games in 2009-10—the maximum allowed to be eligible for the award—and because Skinner was 18 during the season, he will garner protest votes from those who do not like the rules. Voters should make their selections based on the rules, not make up more of their own or be swayed by things that do not reflect on-ice performance like age. But they will be able to justify their choice because Skinner led the trio in points (third in goals), while Couture was only second in points and goals.
Lady Byng Trophy
The top three players in votes by the PHWA for most gentlemanly player exhibiting high skill are Niklas Lidstrom, Martin St. Louis and Loui Eriksson.
Lidstrom will win this one on sentiment even though no defenceman has won it in over 50 years. He has represented the qualities of this award throughout his career and has been a player achieving firsts—first European captain to hoist the Cup, first six-time Norris finalist since Bobby Orr and first over age 41...people want to honour that.
Frank J. Selke Award
The best defensive forward, as voted by PHWA, will be either Ryan Kesler, Pavel Datsyuk or Jonathan Toews. If the Calder is not the biggest travesty, this award will be. Kesler has a better plus-minus primarily because he was on a better team—they simply out-scored their opponents by more than Detroit or Chicago. He is also the most physical and certainly more of a pest than the others.
But anyone who watches Pavel Datsyuk regularly knows there is no better defensive forward in the league. Unfortunately, much like the Gold Glove in baseball, offence matters to voters of a defensive award. Kesler had better numbers than Datsyuk and more goals than Toews.
Jack Adams Award
The best coach award is selected by the National Hockey League Broadcaster's Association. This year's top three vote recipients were Dan Bylsma, Barry Trotz and Alain Vigneault.
Considering all the talent Vancouver has, as evidenced by their placement all over these awards, having their coach on here is a joke. Sure, Vigneault did a great job guiding a team to the best record through a lot of injuries on the blue line, but that was not their strength, anyway.
By contrast, Trotz has much less talent to work with, guiding a team that is always at the salary floor to the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons. Give him Vancouver's roster and he may have already won a Stanley Cup before this season.
But Bylsma deserves it this year, guiding a team without its two best players to the fourth-best record in the NHL.
Conn Smythe Award
The most outstanding player in the playoffs has always gone to a player from a team in the Stanley Cup Finals. Since it only goes to a player on the losing team if they really stand out, it will go to a player on a winning team—there are enough players in the running on both teams to say that if any sets himself apart form the others, their team will win.
I have had Vancouver winning the Cup since before the season started, only waffling for two days when it looked like they may choke a 3-0 series lead to Chicago. Ryan Kesler and teammate Henrik Sedin are neck-and-neck right now on the expected winner, but Zdeno Chara will be able to do what the great defencemen of Chicago and Nashville did: Shut down the Sedin line.
Vancouver has too much talent to expect Thomas to handle the other scorers all series long, making Kesler the most likely candidate to emerge as the hero.