There's controversy behind every trophy given out and the NHL Awards are no different. While the awards are voted on by large panels, there's always a lingering shadow of doubt as to whether the award was given to the player who truly deserves it.
After watching the 2011 NHL Awards show, I can't help but feel that same sense of uncertainty about several of the awards.
While all the candidates were worthy of the honor of being a finalist, there were several awards which in my eyes were not given to who truly deserved it.
Here is who took home the hardware at the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, and who I think should have won.
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Who Should Have Won: Tim Thomas
There was no question Tim Thomas deserved this award. After a year in which he set a new all-time mark for best save-percentage in a season, defied opponents in nearly every game he played, and fought back from surgery to become unquestionably the best goalie in the world right now.
Thomas was the life and soul of the Bruins lineup, and while he is always quick to deflect the praise or take credit for the amazing work, there's no denying he was the biggest reason the Bruins finished where they did in the regular season and through the playoffs.
However, one thing about this award did irk me: where was Carey Price in the nominations and finalists?
Price, much like Thomas, definitely stole an abundance of games for the Montreal Canadiens and was even the reason the Habs had a chance in several games against much more talented opponents.
After a performance like Price, I find it hard to believe he wasn't even given the nod for at least a finalist nomination.
I would have easily put him there over either Pekka Riinne or Roberto Luongo, the other finalists.
Who Should Have Won: Pavel Datsyuk
The biggest problem I have with this award is I can't tell whether the voters just wanted to change things up (seeing as this would have been Pavel Datsyuk's fourth-straight Selkie Trophy) or whether most people who were given a chance to vote forgot that Pavel Datsyuk was hurt for a good chunk of the season.
Despite missing 26 games last season with injuries, the quick and dangerous Russian center still managed to amass 23 goals, 36 assists (8th in the league), 59 points, and a plus-11 rating (ninth in the league).
Kesler's numbers are great as well and I mean this to take nothing away from the incredible year he had with the Vancouver Canucks.
However, I feel that in a year where Datsyuk showed just how much he was of value to the Red Wings through his absence, as well as what he was able to accomplish both offensively and defensively in such a shortened season proved that there really is no better two-way player in the game right now.
For that, I think that even though it would have been his fourth straight win, the Selkie Trophy should have gone to Pavel Datsyuk.
Who Should Have Won: Don Maloney
Mike Gillis winning this award just pretty much showed that you can be at the helm of a team that tears the NHL apart and win the GM of the Year Award when in fact most of the team that's there now wasn't even your doing.
The core of the Vancouver Canucks today was shaped by none other than Brian Burke in his time at the helm of the British Columbia team, including his making the deals he needed to make in order to draft both Henrik and Daniel Sedin at 1st and 2nd.
Ryan Kesler? Also drafted by Brian Burke in 2003.
Yet, GM Mike Gills had one good summer in which he was able to acquire the tools he needed to assemble a brilliant team and he's hailed as the GM of the Year.
Last year's winner and this year's finalist, Don Maloney in Phoenix was a deserving winner for being able to put aside all the off-ice drama and league-imposed restrictions to assemble a team that brought playoff hockey back to Phoenix.
Fellow finalist this year, Washington Capitals' GM George McPhee, has been able to not only build the Washington Capitals to wild success, but keep them there with some frugal trades and often shrewd deals which have the Caps churning along as an Eastern Conference powerhouse.
As for this year's winner... in my opinion there were some far better GMs in the league than Mike Gillis.
Who Should Have Won: Zdeno Chara
This was almost without a shadow of a doubt in my mind giving the award to the default player who always wins.
Nick Lidstrom had a great year. At the age of 41 he was able to put up 16 goals and 62 points on his way to being one of the top scoring defensemen in the league.
However, he was also a minus-2 in plus/minus rating, showing some weakness on the defensive side of his game.
By that same logic, Lubomir Visnovsky of the Anaheim Ducks should have been here after putting up 18 goals and 68 points and a plus-18 rating on his way to leading all NHL defensemen in points.
But the guy they call "Lubo" wasn't even given the nod for a finalist position for the trophy, which appears to be an absolute crime after those numbers when compared to Lidstrom's.
However, this isn't an award for the most offensively-skilled defenseman, and that's why Nick Lidstrom shouldn't have won.
The best defenseman in the game right now is undeniably the 6'9" Slovakian giant known as Zdeno Chara.
After a brilliant year that saw him earn an All-Star berth in the regular season, Chara also put up his first career hat trick and lead the NHL in overall plus/minus despite regularly playing both sets of the Boston Bruins' special teams.
He showed strong offensive talent to accompany unparalleled defensive talent all season long.
For that reason I believe the NHL really missed the boat on this one, as even by the definition of the trophy, Chara was clearly the better candidate.
Who Should Have Won: Jeff Skinner
This one was definitely right.
In a year in which several rookies stood out as future superstars in the making who are already hitting their stride, Jeff Skinner was a head above the rest.
Nobody could have possibly imagined that the goofy-haired kid with the big grin across his freckled face who walked to the draft floor in Los Angeles last summer would possibly throw up an incredible 31 goals and 63 points in his first NHL season... as an 18-year-old.
It's amazing how quickly Skinner caught on to the NHL game and found success with such a degree that he did, and this is compared to a draft which saw Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, and Cam Fowler all find regular time on their respective NHL teams as well.
Logan Couture may have had an edge in goals, but he was drafted in 2007 and had previous NHL experience coming into this season (in fact the absolute maximum he was allowed to have without losing the "rookie" title).
Michael Grabner was also "seasoned" after he played 20 games with the Vancouver Canucks before signing on with the Islanders. He too was drafted in 2007.
But after such an amazingly impressive rookie year which saw him endear himself to the hearts of both the Caniacs of North Carlina as well as the rest of the NHL, it's no wonder Jeff Skinner took home this award.
Who Should Have Won: Barry Trotz
Dan Bylsma has a deep Pittsburgh Penguins team that has the talent to
Not to discredit his work with getting a team that was short Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordin Staal, Kris Letang, and more for certain amounts of time throughout the season. That definitely takes some skill.
However, the Penguins have the backup talent to keep rolling through injuries with players waiting in the wings to fill those roles and they've proved it this season. This gives Bylsma the tools he needs to keep the team moving like he does.
However, Barry Trotz is the reason the Nashville Predators even made any noise in the league at all, let alone the amount they did.
No offense to the Predators organization, but they aren't exactly built like the Penguins when it comes to their proven stacked up offensive and defensive talent.
Yet coach Barry Trotz managed to get the Music City team playing like a well-oiled machine with some extremely high pressure on the forecheck that caused even the best teams in the league a lot of problems.
At the tail end of the regular season, the Nashville Predators won eight straight games to secure themselves a playoff spot.
And they did all of this without a true offensive superstar to lead the team.
For that, I think Barry Trotz should have easily won this award.
Who Should Have Won: Daniel Sedin
I have a hard time writing anything against this award mostly because I'm not an NHL player, which is who votes on it.
Daniel Sedin took home both the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in points at the end of the regular season, as well as the Ted Lindsay Award for league's best player as voted by the NHLPA.
Sedin was a huge reason the Canucks played as well as they did, winning the Western Conference in both the regular season and the playoffs.
His quick hands, scoring prowess, and hockey sense make him an amazing threat on the ice. Defenses never know whether Daniel will shoot or pass and find his brother Henrik for the goal.
Hence, I say this award is well-deserved for the Swedish-born left-winger.
Who Should Have Won: Zdeno Chara
Another award I have a hard time disagreeing with, Zdeno Chara proved he was unquestionably the best leader in the NHL last season.
Not only was he a strong presence in the locker room (it's hard not to be at 6'9" really...) he led by example on the ice as well.
Chara was completely unafraid to lay his body on the line when the team needed him to. He was always there to block the big shot or throw the big body check, or clear out the front of the net to make life easier for goaltender Tim Thomas.
If someone needed to be punished for something, Zdeno Chara was not hesitant to drop the gloves and fight, and believe me that's a lesson learned quickly for opponents.
His leadership also proved invaluable in the playoffs, as he brought the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship.
Who Should Have Won: Martin St. Louis
If the short joke he gave in his acceptance speech was any indicator, Martin St. Louis definitely deserved this award with his amazing humility, gentlemanly status, and dedication to the game.
Over the course of the entire year, St. Louis only took six penalties.
He never drops the gloves to fight (then again as one of the smallest players in the league I wouldn't want to either), and is always extremely calm, cool, and collected.
In conversations with officials, he's never riled up, he never yells, and he's always extremely respectful. I'm sure the officials would agree they like when St. Louis is the one asking the questions about the calls.
For that, I say St. Louis deserves his winning the Lady Byng Trophy.
And a sidenote to the NHL: Please do not bring back the "Real" housewives of Orange County to present ever again. Ever. And while we're on that note... same thing applies to the Far East Movement.
Who Should Have Won: Dustin Brown
Another one they got exactly right, Dustin Brown took home the NHL Foundation Award for his amazing amount of charity work in the Los Angeles area.
During the broadcast, Brown talked a little bit about his charity work building playgrounds in poorer areas of Los Angeles to help improve the lives of the kids there. "It's hard work" he said in an interview, but Brown knows it pays off when those kids get something they can really enjoy.
His charity goes even further than that as he and his wife Nicole are two of the biggest participants in the Kings Care foundation, actively participating in charities that benefit Children's cancer research, SPCA, and many other causes, even giving away free tickets to kids who can't afford them otherwise.
I'm glad to see the NHL recognized his work in Los Angeles with the NHL Foundation Award.
Who Should Have Won: Corey Perry
No player in the NHL played a more central role in his team's success than Corey Perry did, and when that central role includes being the only 50-goal scorer in the league, you can bet that he's a worthy MVP candidate.
A lot of people disagree with this award and say Daniel Sedin should have won it.
I think Perry was easily the most deserving of the finalists.
Here's how I see it: had Corey Perry been a 35-goal scorer, the Anaheim Ducks would not have made the playoffs, let alone finished fourth in the West.
But because Corey Perry picked this entire team up, regardless of shaky defensive-zone play and goaltending uncertainties (until Ray Emery showed up), Anaheim tore through the last half of the season and battled their way to what became ultimately a successful year for the team that went well above and beyond it's pre-season expectations.
For Perry's unequaled scoring prowess and unparallelled vital role in his team's lineup, he easily deserves the Hart Trophy MVP award in my opinion.
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