NHL Predictions: Picking Winners of All the Major Awards in 2011-12
The NHL season is right around the corner and off of a crazy offseason, where there was only talk of superstar players moving cities and now there is only one thing to do, play some hockey.
Each team has a story but one team that has the attention of the league are the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are without star and captain Sidney Crosby. He has started on-ice workouts but he is not likely going to be in the games coming up this week.
How will each team do this season? Who will make the playoffs and who will win the Stanley Cup?
Who will win the scoring title and every other award the NHL hands out each year? Here are some final preseason predictions.
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The first trophy will be for the first year NHL players. We have seen some good players come into the game during this preseason and for most, they will be the future of the NHL, if they are developed correctly.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be a force for the Edmonton Oilers for years to come, Gabriel Landeskog could be Matt Duchene's running mate for the Avs in coming years and Adam Larsson could be the next Scott Stevens in New Jersey.
One player that could shine through as the rookie of the year is Winnipeg Jets' forward Mark Scheifele.
He placed second in preseason scoring with four goals and four assists.
Preseason scoring means nothing in the regular season, but if Scheifele keeps up the pace, he will have a stellar season, one that I predict will earn him the Calder Trophy.
He has come a long way, from playing for the Barrie Colts last season, a team that struggled and ended up in last place in the OHL, to getting named to Team Canada for the World U18 Championships and then getting drafted seventh overall by the Winnipeg Jets organization.
Sorry to my friends at Simcoe County Sports at Rogers TV in Barrie, but Scheifele probably won't be playing for your Colts this season, in my opinion.
Prediction: Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg) wins Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year
Jack Adams Award
The Jack Adams Award is meant for a coach who puts their team in the best position possible to win, and this award can truly be a team-based award, if the team in question goes above and beyond expectation.
Last years winner, Dan Bylsma, proved that even with Sidney Crosby out of the lineup to finish the season, and Jordan Staal out of the lineup for the first half, he could still put a solid team on the ice, one that was a point away from leading the Eastern Conference standings and the first seed in the playoffs.
This year, another second year coach is on my mind for this award, and his name is Guy Boucher.
He did such a good job with the Tampa Bay Lightning last year, getting to within one game of winning the Prince of Wales Trophy and going to the Stanley Cup Finals.
His team is relatively the same, with a new contract on his star, Steven Stamkos, and a better feel for his team, now that he knows the players, look for him to excel and bring the Lightning to new heights, and in the process, win the Jack Adams Award.
Prediction: Guy Boucher (Tampa Bay) wins Jack Adams Trophy for Coach of the Year.
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Nicklas Lidstrom won his seventh Norris Trophy last season.
He is one of the most consistent defencemen of this generation and is only one win behind Bobby Orr for the most Norris Trophy's in NHL history.
There is plenty of competition out there. Zdeno Chara is a recent winner, and based on his new Stanley Cup ring, he can easily get his second if he tries hard enough. Drew Doughty just signed a lucrative deal with the Kings, and based on the depth they have now and how well the team is projected to do, if Doughty is on the forefront of that team being a force, Doughty can win the trophy too.
Consistency is key, but if you want to talk about consistency, you talk about the Detroit Red Wings. Twenty straight postseason appearances and four Stanley Cups in that span, they thrill their fans every year and have been the class of the Western Conference for the longest time.
Their captain wants that eighth Norris Trophy and he doesn't have much time left to do it. If he plays with heart and guts, like he has his entire career, Lidstrom will win his second Norris in a row tying the great Bobby Orr.
Prediction: Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit) wins Norris Trophy for Defenseman of the Year
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Last year, Tim Thomas was the talk of the NHL. He won his old starting job back in Boston and led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
Thomas goes into this season with plenty of expectations, and we all know that at his age, his NHL days are closer to ending than hitting a peak.
Thomas has won two of the last three Vezinas, and if the pressure gets to him, he knows he has Tuukka Rask to help him out and win games, but that won't help him in the Vezina Trophy hunt.
The finalists last year will be hungry to take the trophy, including Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. He has great regular seasons, but can't seem to get it done in the playoffs.
The other is Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who emerged as a great story for a Predators franchise that won their first ever playoff series last season.
This year, expect more from the usual suspects, however, good things could be coming to Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.
Alone, Quick posted a 35-22-3 record with a 2.24 GAA (fourth in the NHL, behind the three Vezina Trophy nominees from last year).
With a revamped offense, that has the likes of Mike Richards, Dustin Penner and Ethan Moreau, they could be the scoring touch that could give Quick a bit more time to breathe and allow him to become calm in net and win the Vezina Trophy, as the Kings soar into the playoffs this year.
Prediction: Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles) wins Vezina Trophy for Best Goaltender
Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy
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This is a trophy that has only been around for a decade and has become one of the most sought after trophies in the NHL.
It is a trophy that can be won on the final day of the season, like we saw last year, with Corey Perry getting up to 50 goals, being the only player to break the 50-goal threshold in 2010-11.
Only one player in NHL history has won the trophy by scoring more than 60 goals, that being Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08.
Is 60 not attainable anymore? Sidney Crosby was well on his way to it last year, until he suffered a concussion and was forced to the IR for the rest of the season.
This year, don't expect anyone to get to 60, perhaps not even 50.
Corey Perry will not win this trophy this year. Instead, look for Steven Stamkos to win his second award. He has the money, he has no distractions and he was on pace to do 50 last year but faltered over allegedly being distracted by contract talks.
All the talking is over, it's time to play some hockey, and Stamkos is the guy to win this trophy this year.
Prediction: Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) wins Rocket Richard Trophy for Most Goals in 2011-12 season.
Art Ross Trophy
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The last two years, the Sedin twins have owned this award. It wasn't so much for their goal scoring prowess, it was for how well they could dish the puck and grab assist after assist.
The Art Ross Trophy is presented annually to the player who puts up the most points during the regular season, something the Sedins have done on a consistent basis their whole careers.
This trophy will go back to Vancouver and it will be Henrik Sedin who gets it once again.
After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals, Henrik will look hungrier than he ever has, being that close to a Stanley Cup title.
He is a consistent player, who, while only scoring 19 goals last year, had 75 assists. If he and Daniel work together like they always do, and Henrik can get more goals, Henrik will take the scoring title once again.
The second year captain should be back into the swing of things, and you never know, Henrik and Daniel could be first and second in league scoring.
Prediction: Henrik Sedin (Vancouver) wins Art Ross Trophy for Most Points during the 2011-12 season.
The Hart Trophy usually comes hand-in-hand with a scoring champion. One player who exemplifies leadership, skill and success on the ice.
Since the lockout, the winner of the Hart Trophy has always been either the Art Ross Trophy winner or the Rocket Richard Trophy winner.
This year will be no different.
This year, just like the last, the winner of the Hart Trophy will excel with a new contract in hand, make his teammates better and make the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2004.
In case you were wondering, that player is Steven Stamkos.
Prediction: Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) wins Hart Trophy for NHL MVP.
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The President's Trophy is given to the team that garners the most points over the NHL season.
Last year, the Vancouver Canucks ran away with this award, clinching it with about a week to spare.
In the East, the race was a bit tougher, as teams fought until the final day to clinch the Conference title. This year, a team from the East will take the crown.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are without star Sidney Crosby, but were within a win of taking the Eastern Conference crown.
The West seems more competitive than ever, with the Kings and Predators emerging as threats, not to mention the Blue Jackets and all the upgrades they've put in this past offseason.
No matter, the trophy will go to the Eastern Conference, and although Philadelphia has looked strong and have a few young guns in the line up, they won't be the Atlantic Division Champions this year.
It will be the Pittsburgh Penguins who reign supreme on the Atlantic, as well as the rest of the NHL. If Crosby comes back, it will be done sooner.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins win President's Trophy for Most Points in the 2011-12 season.
Prince of Wales Trophy
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The Boston Bruins won two Game 7's to get this trophy, on their way to a Stanley Cup Championship. They had depth, size and strength on the back end, and a scoring touch through all four lines on offense.
With little changes, it's easy to say that this team has the best chance of repeating the feat, but they were known as underdogs last year. Now, everyone won't take this team lightly and they will have to fight harder than ever to retain their championship.
They won't make it to the Finals.
The Eastern Conference representatives of the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Finals will be the team that got closer than any team that wasn't named the Boston Bruins to winning the Prince of Wales Trophy, and that team is the Tampa Bay Lightning.
They have a very similar team to what they had last year, and with sniper Steven Stamkos not thinking about contract talks, his head will be clear and ready to get to the next level.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning win the Prince of Wales Trophy as the Eastern Conference Champions, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals..
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl
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The Vancouver Canucks proved that their President's Trophy was no fluke and won the Western Conference.
They made their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1994, but just like their loss to the New York Rangers, it sent their city into anarchy.
There will be no flipped cars, burning jerseys or cops resorting to violence this time around because a new team will make their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in almost two decades.
The retooled Los Angeles Kings squad have the potential to win the whole thing. They added veteran leadership and young, gritty forwards to get the job done.
On defense, they have one of the best duos in the game in Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson.
Their goalie tandem of Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier can save games when need be.
When it comes to the trade deadline, GM Dean Lombardi knows how to pull the trigger on deals that have an effect in the NHL, and history-wise, the LA Kings have a history of making BIG deals, or are we forgetting about a guy named Gretzky?
Either way, the Los Angeles Kings aren't exactly a team you would expect to advance to the Final, considering the new faces, but the ones added know how to get there.
Mike Richards went with Philadelphia in 2010 and Ethan Moreau went with Edmonton in 2006, both in losing causes, but the fact is, they have playoff success, something this team needs to get further.
Prediction: Los Angeles Kings win Clarence S. Campbell Bowl as Western Conference Champions, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Conn Smythe Trophy
The Conn Smythe Trophy is one that holds so much prestige in the NHL. The winners of the Conn Smythe etch their name on Lord Stanley's mug, a feat that goes down in history.
Tim Thomas played a big role in Boston's Stanley Cup Championship and was a unanimous vote in my mind for the Conn Smythe. Nobody played better than Thomas when the game was on the line, and he was the most consistent player throughout the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Conn Smythe will go to a player that won't be the most prominent on the team, but will take the trophy based on consistency. A player who watched a teammate win the same trophy before he had the chance to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Vincent Lecavalier has been given a gift by the hockey gods and his name is Steven Stamkos. Thanks to this gift, he doesn't shoulder all the blame if scoring is at a low for his squad.
On the upside, if Stamkos falters in the postseason, it is up to Lecavalier to pick up the slack and take the team to the promised land.
Stamkos will struggle in his first Stanley Cup Final, leaving the door wide open for Lecavalier to become the biggest threat for either team in the Final.
Prediction: Vincent Lecavalier wins the Conn Smythe Trophy for NHL Playoff MVP.
This is the big one. Everyone puts in their Stanley Cup picks and they are the usual suspects. Detroit, Vancouver, whomever won last year, San Jose.
This year, the team to win the Stanley Cup will be the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It may not have to be against the Kings in the Final, but the fact is that the Lightning have a scary offense, their defense is always improving, have a great mix of veteran and young talent and when you look inside the crease, you have arguably the most underrated goaltender in hockey anywhere in the world in Dwayne Roloson.
He came up huge in their run last year, and considering how far they went, it's not a stretch to say that the Lightning will win their first Stanley Cup since 2004.
A focused Steven Stamkos, an excellent line mate in Martin St. Louis, an emerging defender in Victor Hedman and led by a captain that is quietly putting together a Hall of Fame career at only 31 years of age, this team has the make up of a Stanley Cup caliber roster.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning win Stanley Cup.
Please leave your predictions below and be respectful, as in the end, we are all hockey fans, we just cheer for different teams, and to show my non-bias, I am a Leafs fan, and not one slide on here pertains to my beloved blue-and-white.