NHL Awards Show 2011: Tim Thomas Gets the Vezina and 10 Other Predictions

Alan O'Sullivan@@rollingpucksContributor IIIJune 21, 2011

NHL Awards Show 2011: Tim Thomas Gets the Vezina and 10 Other Predictions

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    The NHL's elite will descend onto Las Vegas Wednesday night to celebrate the 2010-2011 NHL season, hand out the league's highest individual honors and watch Jay Mohr implode on national television.

    Of the 14 major awards that will be presented, 11 are still up for grabs entirely (The Art Ross, Rocket and Jennings already having been secured by Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry and Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider) and one is up for grabs specifically (as in Micheal Grabner, nominated for the Calder).

    Some of them are easy to predict, others are impossible and all will generate widespread disagreement and argument.

    We'll start, literally, from the ground up, with the NHL Foundation Award...

NHL Foundation Award

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    Awarded annually to the player "who applies the core values of (ice) hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community." (NHL.com)



    Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings

    Mike Green, Washington Capitals

    Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

    Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks


    Winner: Dustin Brown

    No team has ever been represented more than once with this award, and both the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals have already won it (Trevor Linden and Olaf Kolzig). Further, it's not clear whether Daniel and Henrik are being treated as separate candidates or a single amorphous blob.

    Due to the nature of the award (no clear criteria, everyone is literally a winner), the above reasoning (as flawed as it is) is as good as any to make a prediction.

Bridgestone Messier Leadership Award

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    Awarded "to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season." (NHL.com)



    Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

    Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes

    Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings


    Winner: Nicklas Lidstrom

    Another award which is definitively impossible to predict, this one because it's selected solely by Mark Messier on criteria he deems appropriate to himself and himself alone. He receives feedback, and presumably acts on it, but one man's winner here is another man's runner-up.

    That being said, Lidstrom is the easy, deserving and most feel-good choice amongst the three.

    He's grown from being the caveat to every "European's can't win/lead" argument to being the definitive example of a world-class leader and winner outright, regardless of birthplace or nationality (as if that was ever a sound starting place for such an argument anyways).

    He is this generation's active definition of a captain and a leader, and now, at the tail end of his career, he'll be rewarded as such.

Ted Lindsay Award (formerly Lester B. Pearson Award)

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    Presented annually to the "Most Outstanding Player" in the NHL, as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA. (NHL.com)


    Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

    Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

    Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning


    Winner: Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

    The fate of this award often gets tied in with that of the Hart, but the criteria for the Lindsay is more streamlined: most outstanding player as opposed to most valuable player, which takes some of the weight off.

    Daniel Sedin will lose out on the Hart because of the All-Star cast which surrounded him in Vancouver, but he's a good bet to take this one home as put he up monumental offensive numbers across the board and did so consistently all season long (contrast this with Corey Perry's late-season offensive surge).

    Forty-one goals, 63 assists and 104 points is impressive enough (at least in a world with Sidney Crosby), but his plus-30, 18 power-play goals, 10 game-winning goals and 12 "first goal of the game" goals (the highest in the league) made him a standout player on an already standout team.

    Factor in that he had the second-lowest ice time (18:33) of anyone else in the top 10 in scoring and you get an idea of just how standout he had to be.

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

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    Given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. (NHL.com)


    Ray Emery, Anaheim Ducks

    Daymond Langkow, Calgary Flames

    Ian Laperriere, Philadelphia Flyers


    Winner: Ian Laperriere

    Another award in which "they're all winners," usually for suffering unparalleled amounts of physical or emotional pain and suffering and persevering to return to hockey.

    It's almost pointless to predict a winner for this kind of award, but Ian Laperriere is as good a bet as any. He missed the entire 2010-2011 season due to post-concussion complications from two separate puck-to-the-face injuries the previous season.

    Over the course of those two separate injuries, he received upwards of 100 stitches, lost seven teeth, received an orbital injury and a concussion. Through it all, he only missed a period (the first time) and a seven-game series against the Boston Bruins (the second time).

    His early returns were the cost he had to pay, however, leading to the complications which kept him out for the last season and are more than likely going to force him to retire. Most Masterton Award winners are awarded the trophy for a heroic return to hockey on the heels of significant injury. In Laperriere's case, it's his heroic return which led to significant injury which is in danger of ending his career.

    Fully deserving.

Jack Adams Award

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    Presented by the National Hockey League Broadcasters' Association to the NHL coach judged to have contributed the most to his team's success. (NHL.com)


    Dan Bylsma,Pittsburgh Penguins 

    Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators

    Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks


    Winner: Dan Bylsma

    At this point, it's safe to say that Barry Trotz is some sort of modern-day wizard, churning out competitive team after competitive team no matter what, or who, is on his roster. And Alain Vigneault is no slouch either, putting the league's best team on the ice which also lays claim to the league's best offense, defense, power play and tied for second on the penalty kill.

    But Dan Bylsma steered the Pittsburgh Penguins through the lengthy losses of Sidney Crosby (played only 41 games), Evgeni Malkin (43 games) and Jordan Staal (42 games).

    And the reason they're blessed with three mind-numbingly valuable players like that to begin with? Because they gutted the rest of their roster to fit them each in under the cap. After them, it's Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang and a wide array of nothing spectacular. 

    At one point, they were jumbling a top-six forward group which included Maxime Talbot, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz.

    Which is just downright horrifying.

    Still, they finished fourth in the conference and with a plus-39 goals differential. And they didn't limp to it either, going 8-2-0 over their final 10 games of the season after losing both Crosby and Malkin at the halfway marks of the season.

Frank J. Selke Trophy

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    Given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. (NHL.com)



    Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

    Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

    Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks


    Winner: Ryan Kesler

    This has been Datsyuk's award to lose for a while now and that might just be what happens this season, as the talented Russian managed only 56 games in an injury-shortened season. He still put up fantastic numbers (23 G, 36 A, 56 P, plus-11) and was, once again, a solid two-way threat—but this year, the award belongs to Ryan Kesler.

    As the Canucks second-line center, charged with killing penalties and matching up against the opposing team's most dominating offensive players, Kesler still managed to pot 41 goals and 32 assists for 73 points.

    Not bad for a No. 2.

    He was also a plus-24, had three short-handed goals and won close to 60 percent of his faceoffs.

    He was, in short, Mr. Everything for the Vancouver Canucks this season, and he was often the best player on the ice at each task he was charged with.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

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    Given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. (NHL.com)



    Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars

    Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

    Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning


    Winner: Martin St. Louis

    Another one with murky criteria, all three candidates are known for their sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, but St. Louis takes it (for the second year in a row) on account of his league-wide respect, excellent reputation and incredibly high standard of play this season.

    He won't win the Hart or the Ted Lindsay, but he'll (somewhat) make up for their loss with the Lady Byng.

Calder Memorial Trophy

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    Given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. (NHL.com)


    Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks

    Micheal Grabner, New York Islanders

    Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes


    Winner: Jeff Skinner

    This one is tough; they each had fantastic offensive seasons and were each incredibly important aspects of their team's offensive machinery.

    All things being equal, minor differences must necessarily separate them.

    Couture and Grabner, while technically still rookies this season, did play 20 and 25 games with the Canucks and the Sharks the season prior, and this will work against them, however unfairly. 

    They're also four and five years older than Skinner, who was 18 at the start of the season, his first taste of NHL action ever.

    Despite his age and inexperience, Skinner potted 31 goals and 32 assists for 63 points. He was also plus-three and had 18 power-play points. Not only did he out-score Grabner and Couture, he did it younger and with less experience. Enough to take it.

James Norris Memorial Trophy

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    Given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. (NHL.com)


    Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

    Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

    Shea Weber, Nashville Predators


    Winner: Nicklas Lidstrom

    Timeless wonder and robot of the century, Nicklas Lidstrom is the prototype from which prototypes will be made for decades.

    The Norris is often difficult to nail down, because the position is one in which the numbers don't always tell the full picture, and this year is no different. Chara and Weber each had monster seasons, both statistically and literally, and Weber specifically is well on his way to being the new, or next, prototype of prototypes.

    But at the age of 41, Lidstrom posted 62 points in this, his 19th season. It was his highest total since the 2007-08 campaign (which is really saying something, given that those interim campaigns consisted of 59 and 49 point totals respectively) and it bested his previous season by 13. Rarefied numbers for a defenceman in today's NHL, let alone one at his age.

    He was a minus-two on the season, which hurts the Norris image, but his game was rock-solid on an injury-plagued team and his offensive numbers are too significant to dismiss in the face of it.

    His stature within the history of the game, and these being the farewell years of his career, will give him the edge over Weber, who has more than a few Norris' in his future anyway.

Vezina Trophy

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    Given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs. (NHL.com)


    Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

    Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

    Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins


    Winner: Tim Thomas

    Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo had jaw-dropping seasons. Luongo (who led the league in wins) had a 2.11 goals against average and a .928 save percentage, while Rinne (who had six shutouts) had an even better 2.12 and .930.

    Award-winning numbers for both guys, no question.

    But Thomas was even better.

    He posted a 2.00 goals against average and .938 save percentage for the season, so far ahead of Luongo and Rinne that it's hardly worth mentioning them as nominees at all.

    At 37 years of age, Thomas is just warming up.

Hart Memorial Trophy

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    Given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season. (NHL.com)



    Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

    Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

    Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning


    Winner: Corey Perry

    If the Hart is awarded on its true basis (the player deemed most valuable to his team), then it's hard to imagine either Daniel Sedin or Martin St. Louis besting Corey Perry.

    In a weak (i.e. no clear choice) field, it's possible that the votes split a certain way and Perry comes up short in the balloting, but in the truest sense of the award, the Hart belongs to him and to him alone.

    Daniel Sedin and St. Louis will be punished for their terrific supporting casts, and while Perry skates alongside Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf (on what should be the best line in hockey), both of those players had disappointing and, in the case of Getzlaf, injury-plagued seasons.

    Daniel played with Henrik (90-plus points), Kesler (41 goals as a second-line center) and Luongo (Vezina finalist), while St. Louis played on a line with Steven Stamkos (remember when he was on pace for 2,000 goals?).

    Corey Perry ended the season by hauling an otherwise non-playoff team led by Ray Emery (!) into the playoffs on a remarkable late-season offensive surge.

    If Perry isn't on that team, they completely bottom out, and the same just can't be said for Daniel Sedin or Martin St. Louis, whose absences would have seriously wounded their teams, but (arguably) not fatally.

    There are strong cases to be made for all three (without Daniel, the Canucks don't win the Presidents' Trophy and have home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Finals; without St. Louis, the Lightning don't generate enough offense to counter-balance their early-season struggles in net) but on a "matter of life or death" basis, Corey Perry takes it.