Nicklas Lidstrom and the 2011 NHL Award Winners
The NHL Awards are the annual event that caps the closing of the prior NHL season. Formerly hosted in Toronto, the NHL Awards are now held in Las Vegas and will take place on June 22.
I can't even begin to tell you how relieving it is for me to finally see an awards lineup where the names Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin aren't listed. Both are great players, but the need to promote new stars has been a long time coming, and this will benefit the NHL in the long run.
This year, picking winners for awards will be no easy task. Nicklas Lidstrom, the now returning 41-year-old Red Wings captain, is nominated for three different awards this year and could tie Doug Harvey with seven Norris trophies.
The Vezina trophy is going to be no easy decision, with two of the candidates being good enough that they took their teams to the Stanley Cup finals.
Fans should keep in mind, however, that the NHL Awards are based on the regular season, and postseason performances aren't taken into consideration.
With that in mind, let's look at the NHL Award nominees and the predictions of who will take home the trophies.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Description: The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to a skilled NHL player who exhibits an attitude of sportsmanship and gentlemanly play.
Loui Eriksson: This is Eriksson's first Lady Byng nomination. With 73 points this season while only tallying eight penalty minutes, the nomination is well deserved.
Eriksson has a huge disadvantage however, in the fact that his fellow nominees both have a considerable amount of experience on him, which can relate back to receiving more respect from other individual players and teams.
Nicklas Lidstrom: This will mark Lidstrom's sixth Lady Byng nomination, though he has never won the award. It should be noted that Lidstrom's teammate, Pavel Datsyuk, owned the trophy for four straight seasons, but was disqualified from being nominated in the first game of the season after getting into a fight with Hart Trophy finalist Corey Perry.
Lidstrom surprised many this season, storming through with a stellar 62 points at the age of 41. He has more than double the penalty minutes of Eriksson though, which could hold him back from winning the award.
Martin St. Louis: St. Louis was one game away from making his second Stanley Cup final appearance, but this is the sixth time he's been a finalist for the Lady Byng trophy, and winning the award would mark the second time he's taken it home.
St. Louis only had 12 penalty minutes this season while accumulating 99 points, and he has earned the respect of his fellow NHL players over the years.
Winner: Martin St. Louis
Why He Wins: Quite simply, Lidstrom and St. Louis both had better years and are much more respected in the NHL than Eriksson, who will earn that respect with more years in the league. St. Louis only had four more penalty minutes than Eriksson, so the choice wasn't that difficult to make.
Jack Adams Trophy
Description: The Jack Adams Award is awarded annually to the coach who exhibits the biggest contribution to the success of his team.
Dan Bylsma: Bylsma is highly accredited for holding the Pittsburgh Penguins together after the losses of superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
After losing their two top players, the Penguins still managed to apply pressure to their division rival, the Philadelphia Flyers, taking the Flyers all the way to the end of the season before losing a point tiebreaker with 106 points.
Barry Trotz: This will mark Barry Trotz's second Adams nomination and the fact that he hasn't won it yet amazes me.
Trotz coaches the Nashville Predators, who annually hang near the cap floor in terms of spending and yet always seem to hang around when the playoffs come along. The Predators won their first playoff series in franchise history under Trotz's watch, but now have some decision making to do with franchise player Shea Weber hitting free agency.
Alain Vigneault: Vigneault has already won the Jack Adams Award once, and this will be his third nomination.
As the coach of the Vancouver Canucks, Vigneault was a part of the President's Trophy winning team, and took the team all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Winner: Barry Trotz
Why He Wins: Alain Vigneault automatically loses due to having an amazing team to work with. So that narrows it down to Bylsma and Trotz.
Many people will preach about how Bylsma was the Penguins MVP after losing Crosby and Malkin. That may be the case, but if you take a closer look at the Penguins' stats, they went from the beginning of February to the end of March with just five wins in regulation and overtime. Five.
Trotz, on the other hand, is working with a team that has no superstar offensive player, and, as stated above, hovers over the cap floor year in and year out. He was the best choice for the award.
Calder Memorial Trophy
Description: The Calder Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the rookie who has the best debut season in the NHL.
Jeff Skinner: Skinner's most memorable moment of the season might be when he and P.K. Subban swapped jerseys during the All-Star skills competition, but Skinner did have many moments to remember during the 2010-2011 season.
At just 18 years of age, Skinner broke out into the NHL with 63 points for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Michael Grabner: Grabner is considered by many to be a star waiting to explode into the NHL and this season may have marked the start of a great career.
Grabner scored 34 goals and tallied 52 total points in his debut year with the New York Islanders, at the age of 23.
Logan Couture: Logan Couture made his first season with the Sharks one to remember. The rookie tallied 32 goals and 56 total points during the regular season.
Even more impressive, the 22-year-old put up 14 points in just 18 games with the San Jose Sharks during the postseason.
Winner: Jeff Skinner
Why He Wins: Maybe it's his haircut, maybe it's his age. The fact of the matter is, statistics don't lie and the 18-year-old put up more points than both Grabner and Couture on a less than stellar Carolina Hurricanes team. The future is bright for all three of these players, but this season Jeff Skinner shined the brightest.
Mark Messier Leadership Award
Description: The Mark Messier Leadership Award is awarded annually to the player who exhibits outstanding leadership on and off the ice.
Zdeno Chara: The captain of the Bruins certainly proved this year that he could take a team to the Cup, and his contributions to the Boston community proved that he is just as much of a leader off the ice as he is on the ice.
Shane Doan: Doan is one of those players you hate, but would love to have on your team. Shane has been with the Coyotes/Jets organization his entire career and is currently the team's captain, leading them to two straight playoff appearances despite front-office turmoil.
Nicklas Lidstrom: Lidstrom had to step into huge shoes when Steve Yzerman retired as the Wings captain, but anybody will tell you that Lidstrom has filled the role well. Lidstrom has been a stellar leader for the Wings organization and a positive influence to the community, volunteering in Detroit's Children's Hospital.
Winner: Shane Doan
Why He Wins: All three are good team captains and have contributed to their respective communities, but Doan has had to do so under harsh conditions since 2009, when the Coyotes ownership crumbled. To get your team to the playoffs for two straight years, despite not knowing when you might be informed of relocation, is an outstanding accomplishment.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
Description: The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded annually to the forward who shows an outstanding amount of defensive responsibility.
Jonathan Toews: Although it's certainly not comparable to their Cup winning season, Toews had a great season with the Blackhawks this year.
Toews tallied 76 points in 80 games and, on the defensive side of things, he had 93 takeaways, 28 blocked shots, and 74 hits while winning 57 percent of his faceoffs.
Ryan Kesler: Ryan Kesler is arguably the best American player in the NHL, and he's got the stats to prove it.
Kesler put up 73 points in 82 games this season. For his defensive statistics, Kesler tallied just 65 takeaways, but made up for it with 124 hits and 80 blocked shots, and by winning 57 percent of his faceoffs.
Pavel Datsyuk: If the above picture of Datsyuk receiving the Selke trophy isn't good enough, you have two other years to choose from.
Datsyuk's season was unfortunately shortened due to a broken hand and other complications, but he still managed to register 59 points in 56 games. In terms of defensive stats, Datsyuk registered 71 takeaways, 54 hits, 20 blocked shots, and won 55 percent of his faceoffs.
Winner: Pavel Datsyuk
Why He Wins: When looking at the raw numbers, Kesler and Toews clearly are better. But as I pointed out, Datsyuk only played 56 games after he suffered a broken hand. Those games certainly would've brought his numbers up to par, and the hand injury likely dented his faceoff statistics. Datsyuk is still clearly the best defensive forward in the league, which can be seen in his postseason stats.
General Manager of the Year Award
Description: The General Manager of the Year Award is awarded to the general manager who does the best job at building and improving a NHL hockey team.
Steve Yzerman: In his debut as a NHL GM, Steve Yzerman took the Tampa Bay Lightning for quite a ride.
Sure, the building blocks were already in place with Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos, but Yzerman had to do a lot of work to build a Stanley Cup contender. Acquiring Eric Brewer, Dwayne Roloson, and Simon Gagne likely helped solidify Yzerman's nomination for the award.
Mike Gillis: Gillis did a fantastic job with the Vancouver Canucks franchise, despite the fact that they fell one game short of the Stanley Cup.
Moves such as signing Manny Malhotra, pushed Vancouver over the edge for Stanley Cup contention, and the Canucks will certainly be back in the Cup hunt next year, provided they can re-sign key free agent defenders.
David Poile: Poile is the general manager of the Nashville Predators; for a team that always seems to spend so little, they sure do seem to go a long way with it.
Poile built a team that made it to their first Stanley Cup playoff-series victory, and ended up taking the Vancouver Canucks to six games. Poile will have some tough decisions to make this season, with a lot of players to re-sign and a limited budget, he might have to look for alternatives for franchise player Shea Weber.
Winner: Steve Yzerman
Why He Wins: Do I even need to explain this one? In his first year as a general manager, Yzerman took a bottom feeder and turned them into a near Stanley Cup finalist. That is certainly worthy of the GM of the Year award.
Description: The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL's best goaltender.
Roberto Luongo: This is Luongo's third Vezina nomination, and he had a terrific 2010-2011 season, despite following it up with a dismal postseason.
Luongo played in 60 games and posted a 2.1 GAA (Goals Against Average) with a .928 SV (Save Percentage). That's Vezina worthy in anybody's book.
Pekka Rinne: Although Rinne played in four more games than Luongo, he only had 33 wins, but still registered a 2.1 GAA and a .930 SV percentage.
To boot, Rinne had six shutouts on the season.
Tim Thomas: After being on the trading block during the offseason, Tim Thomas came storming back during the regular season, and ended up winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best player during the playoffs.
Thomas only played in 57 games but put up 35 wins and had a remarkable 2.0 GAA with a .938 SV percentage and nine shutouts.
Winner: Tim Thomas
Why He Wins: I wish I could give something to Pekka Rinne too, because he had an outstanding year, but there's no way anybody can sit in Thomas' throne on this one. Posting shutouts in nearly 16 percent of your games is absolutely ridiculous.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
Description: The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the league's best defenseman.
Zdeno Chara: This is the fourth time Chara has been nominated for the Norris, and a win would mark his second time capturing the trophy.
Chara finished the season with 44 points and a plus-33 rating, and played a vital role in the Boston Bruins' success throughout the season.
Shea Weber: The fact that this is Weber's first Norris nomination after Mike Green has been nominated twice, infuriates me. In my opinion, Weber is the league's best defender under the age of 30. The guy isn't afraid to play rough and has an absolute cannon for a shot—if you don't believe that, check out the clip from the Olympics where he shoots the puck through the net and leaves black marks on the netting.
Anyways, Weber finished the season with a plus-7 rating and 48 points, which is just two shy of leading the Nashville Predators.
Nicklas Lidstrom: Many think that the Norris Trophy should be re-named after Lidstrom, and when you hear that he's won the trophy six times and been nominated 11 times, you should understand why. Lidstrom is the best defender of this generation and some will debate that he is the best of all time.
Lidstrom finished the season surprisingly with a minus-2 rating, but he still posted 62 points, which is second in the league in defensive scoring.
Winner: Nicklas Lidstrom
Why He Wins: I've never been one to look into plus/minus as a legitimate statistic, and I'm not starting now. It's a team statistic, and as a team Detroit wasn't very good defensively. Lidstrom stood out though, and seeing the guy make a mistake is still as rare as a lunar eclipse or a presidential election.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Description: The Hart Memorial Trophy is annually awarded to the player considered most valuable to his team.
Daniel Sedin: If you're confused by the picture, that is not Daniel Sedin, it's his brother Henrik, who won the award last year. Wouldn't it be a nice story for one brother to win the award right after the other?
Daniel Sedin has definitely earned the opportunity to do that, after finishing the season with 104 points in 82 games playing for the Vancouver Canucks. Sedin tallied 41 goals over the course of the season.
Martin St. Louis: This is St. Louis' second nomination for the Hart Memorial Trophy and it could end up being his second win.
St. Louis played a vital role in the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning alongside Steven Stamkos and he finished the year with 99 points, just one point from capturing his second 100-point season.
Corey Perry: Although the Anaheim Ducks had a quick exit in the 2011 NHL playoffs, Corey Perry had a phenomenal second half of the 2010-2011 season.
Perry logged 98 points in 82 games and led the league in goals scored with 50.
Winner: Corey Perry
Why He Wins: When reading the description for this award, people often skip over the most important part that says "most valuable to his team."
While Sedin and St. Louis both had outstanding performances, you have to question if Vancouver and Tampa Bay could've made it by with Henrik Sedin and Kesler or Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier, respectfully.
On Anaheim's side of things, Perry played a vital role in the team's success, especially with the extended absence of Ryan Getzlaf.
Corey Perry was undoubtedly the most valuable player to his team during the 2010-2011 NHL season.