NHL Awards 2011: Jeff Skinner for Calder Trophy and Complete Predictions
With the NHL awards imminent, it's time we start looking at each of the candidates and determining who will be the ones taking home the trophies in Las Vegas.
Some awards have a clear favorite who will probably win, while still others have a selection of quality candidates, making the award that much more hotly contested.
Either way, several pieces of historic hardware will be given out in what's sure to be a great show with lots of celebrity presenters and NHL stars reflecting back on what was an excellent NHL season.
Here are my predictions for the winners at the NHL Awards 2011.
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Vezina Trophy: Tim Thomas
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Let's just get this one out of the way first since this really shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone.
When you break long-standing NHL records during the regular season, win the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the MVP of the playoffs, and are even touted by your biggest rival as the winner of the award... odds are it's already got your name engraved on it.
Tim Thomas will undoubtedly win the Vezina Trophy, given to the league's best goaltender from this past season, and rightfully so, as he was an enormous part of the Boston Bruins' success all season long.
The only thing that really bothers me about this award is that it failed to recognize probably the second-most deserving player with even so much as a nomination: Montreal's Carey Price who was just as instrumental to his team.
Other Nominees: Pekka Riinne (Nashville Predators), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks)
These awards should really come as no surprise either, but that's because they are purely statistic-based.
The Vancouver Canucks' goaltending tandem of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider will take home the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL this season.
This might come as a bit of a consolation to Luongo after he will most likely miss out on the Vezina (see previous slide), but it does speak as a testament to how good the Canucks were this season, being the best team in the NHL when it came to goals against.
And both these guys had a big part in that.
As for Cory Schneider, his play this year has made him one of the hottest free-agent goaltenders on the market this summer, and he could have a starting job in a city like Colorado or Florida next season.
Art Ross Trophy
The Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the player who finishes the regular season with the highest amount of points will be awarded to Daniel Sedin, who finished the year with an outstanding 104 points.
A stellar year like this has also seen him earn a nomination for both the Ted Lindsay Award and the Hart Memorial Trophy.
Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy
The "Rocket" Richard Trophy is awarded to the player who wins the NHL's annual scoring race.
This year, the award goes to Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, who was the only player in the league to break the 50-goal barrier. Much like Daniel Sedin, Perry has also been nominated for both the Ted Lindsay Award and the Hart Memorial Trophy.
Calder Trophy: Jeff Skinner
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It seems like just last week I was watching this kid walk down to the draft floor of Staples Center in Los Angeles after hearing the Carolina Hurricanes call his name.
Just under a year later, Jeff Skinner will most likely be leaving the NHL Awards in Las Vegas with the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year, after a whale of a premiere season in the NHL.
How's 31 goals, 63 points, and a +3 rating for a first year on a team that didn't even make the playoffs sound?
Yeah it's true that Carolina just narrowly missed out on the final spot in the East last season, but had they not drafted Skinner, who's to say they would have even had a chance at it:?
For that kind of a critical contribution to his team, I say Jeff Skinner wins the Calder Trophy.
Other Nominees: Michael Grabner (New York Islanders), Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Nick Lidstrom
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Often joked as one of the most meaningless and pointless awards in all of sports, the Lady Byng Trophy is given to "The player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability," as described by NHL.com.
Nick Lidstrom however does just that.
Leading the Detroit Red Wings by example is a huge undertaking that he's managed to perform with excellence.
On the ice, Lidstrom's defensive skill is unparalleled by many. Scoring 16 goals and 62 points for the Red Wings last season at the age of 41 is extremely impressive.
However further than that he's an extremely cool character on the ice. I personally have never seen him drop the gloves to fight and even when he disagrees with a call he's usually very gentlemanly and collected in conversations with the officials, which is certainly something more than his coach Mike Babcock can even say.
However, it also doesn't hurt his chances that he's the only nominee playing on a big-market team when the award is based on a vote by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Jack Adams Trophy: Alain Vigneault
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The Vancouver Canucks' Bench Boss will most likely walk away with the award for Coach of the Year this season after leading the Vancouver Canucks to an absolutely dazzling season in which they put up numbers and statistics that haven't been paralleled in many years.
Not only did the Canucks finish tops of the league in goals for, goals against, wins, points, power play, and 5-on-5 goal ratio, they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Boston.
However, not to discredit the amazing work Vigneault did with the Canucks, but I don't think he deserves the award this year.
In my opinion the trophy should really go to Barry Trotz in Nashville, who was able to get a rag-tag group of players with some solid defense and an outstanding goalie duo to play a lights-out, defensive, and high-pressure forechecking hockey, and do it so well they absolutely terrorized the Western Conference.
The Predators won eight straight games toward the end of the season to seal themselves into a slot in the Western Conference Playoffs, and then that same system took down the Anaheim Ducks, who came into the playoffs as the team absolutely nobody wanted to face in the first round.
And they did all of this without a true offensive sniper/big scorer.
Vigneault had a lot more tools to work with in his lineup, such both of the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, and defensemen like Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa to support them.
For that, I think Trotz deserves the award, but Vigneault will win it.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Ray Emery
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The Masterton Trophy, a particularly special award for a player who "Best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
Ray Emery has done just that.
After an up-and-down spell with the Philadelphia Flyers, Emery underwent a major hip reconstruction surgery that sidelined him for close to a year. Between that and his previously known temper and sportsmanship problems, few thought he would ever play NHL hockey again.
However, Emery's perseverance and dedication to hockey not only saw him come back to the game as strong as ever, but in a very critical time.
When Anaheim GM Bob Murray signed him, he didn't know if the Ducks' star goaltender Jonas Hiller would come back at some point later in the season.
Turns out Hiller never returned and were it not for the amazing play of Ray Emery, it's safe to say not only would the Ducks most likely not have claimed the fourth position in the West, they probably would have missed the playoffs all together.
Top that off with Emery keeping his temper in check and becoming a great member of the Anaheim organization, and Emery's made a great return to the game after over a year out of it.
For this amazing comeback, Emery wins this year's Masterton Trophy.
Other Nominees: Ian Laperriere (Philadelphia Flyers), Daymond Langkow (Calgary Flames)
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Zdeno Chara
The NHL's award for the best defenseman will have a repeat winner: Zdeno Chara will probably take it again.
He's big, he's burly, and he's got a nasty edge to his game, but nobody can argue that he's a guy you do not want to see in your path when you're trying to carry the puck to the Boston Bruins' goal.
Not only does he stand as the tallest player in NHL history at 6'9" tall, he also uses one of the biggest sticks in history, being one of a very select few players who have to file a petition to the league to be allowed to use a stick longer than the rule-allowed length.
And by using this gigantic twig, Chara can pretty much cover half of his defensive zone just standing there.
His skill was on display prominently during the Stanley Cup Finals, when on several occasions he bailed out his goaltender Tim Thomas, jumping behind him to make a save when Thomas couldn't keep the puck out.
The other nominees for this award give some really good competition, but honestly there really is no better defenseman in the NHL right now than Zdeno Chara.
Other Nominees: Shea Weber (Nashville Predators), Nick Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings)
Mark Messier Leadership Award: Zdeno Chara
With his second piece of hardware of the night, Zdeno Chara will also take the Mark Messier Leadership Award for "The player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season."
Chara is an absolute force on the ice, sacrificing his body to make the play, being where he needed to be, and dropping the gloves to stand up for a teammate if needed.
Additionally, he became the second European-born captain to receive the Stanley Cup in league history. The only other person to do so: Nick Lidstrom, another nominee for this award who also has a pretty good chance of taking it.
I do also have to give some props to Shane Doan for his amazing work with the Phoenix Coyotes. Doan has managed to get his entire team to put aside the off-ice drama involving the franchise, and focus on their play on the ice. The result has seen the Coyotes make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
Other Nominees: Shane Doan (Phoenix Coyotes), Nick Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings)
Ted Lindsay Award: Corey Perry
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This award is a tricky one to predict because it's not voted on by fans or coaches or even media; this award is given for the league's best player as voted on by the NHL Players' Association.
All three candidates have a brilliant argument for winning the award, but I think Corey Perry will take it.
Perry has proven that he can do just about anything offensively, and just about any defenseman in the Western Conference will tell you that they absolutely hate seeing him jump over the boards while you're standing on the ice.
Between his dazzling stickhandling, dangerously accurate shot, and incredible hockey sense, I think the NHLPA will vote Corey Perry the league's best player.
Other Nominees: Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks)
Frank J. Selkie Trophy: Pavel Datsyuk
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The trophy for the best two-way forward in the league, or the forward who "best excels in the defensive aspects of the game," is always a tricky one to predict, however this year I really don't think there's any competition.
Pavel Datsyuk is an absolutely incredible player. He's extremely versatile in that he can play even-strength, power play, penalty kill, four-on-four, shootout... whenever you need him to.
He was sidelined for some time with a wrist injury this season, but he still managed to return and score 23 goals and 59 points, while also finishing with a +11 rating.
Perhaps his most striking feature is his unbelievable stickhandling ability, with people saying he's capable of "stickhandling through an entire team in the space of a phone booth."This skill has given him his own moniker of "Datsyukian Dekes" which, as seen in the picture, can take you clean off your skates without even touching you.
However, beyond that and less appreciated but equally as important for this award is the fact that there might not be a better forward when it comes to backchecking and defensive pressure. His chemistry with Henrik Zetterberg make the Red Wings one of the most lethal penalty killing teams in the NHL, and also one of the most likely teams to come away from any particular kill with a shorthanded goal... if not more.
Other Nominees: Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)
NHL Foundation Award: Dustin Brown
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The NHL Foundation Award goes to the NHL player "who applies the core values of hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community."
And really for that I can think of nobody else who deserves this award more than the captain of the Los Angeles Kings, Dustin Brown.
Brown and his wife Nicole take on a lion's share of the load (pun intended) of the work done in the Kings Care Foundation, the primary charity of the Los Angeles Kings that's dedicated to bringing both recreational and educational opportunities to children in the greater Los Angles area.
In addition to their fundraising work through the annual Tip-A-King event, Brown, Kings Care, and the rest of the LA Kings have also organized charity fundraisers and drives to benefit the Children's Cancer Research Fund, the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, Toys for Tots, SPCA-Los Angeles, and the team's Kids Ice Knights program, that gives underprivileged children the chance to enjoy a Kings game free of charge.
Other Nominees: Mike Green (Washington Capitals), Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks), Henrik Sedin (Vancouver Canucks)
Hart Memorial Trophy: Corey Perry
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This is the big one: the Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded to the league MVP as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association in all 30 of the cities around the NHL.
Corey Perry has shown all the traits of a league MVP this season. While the other nominees are both extremely talented, Perry stood out from the rest because of the incredibly important role he played in the Ducks lineup.
Not only was he the only player in the NHL to get to 50 goals this season, Perry essentially picked the Ducks up onto his shoulders and carried them not just to the playoffs, but to the fourth seed in the West, a position virtually nobody thought they would be in at the start of the season.
Had Perry not been as good as he was all season, the Ducks more than likely would have missed the playoffs completely.
Plus Perry also showed a spectrum of skills possessed by very few others. His stickhandling was absolutely unbelievable, as he used his quick hands dance around opposing defensemen.
His goal scoring was incredibly varied, as he regularly scored from wrist shots, slap shots, deflections, pure luck goals, left side, right side, right in the slot, and from shots on the blue line... anywhere. And his brute strength made him nearly uncontainable by opposition players.
For this reason and for his critical role in the success of the Anaheim Ducks, Corey Perry will be this year's league MVP.
Other Nominees: Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks), Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
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