Here are my picks for the 2009 NHL Awards which are in Las Vegas for the first time this Thursday night.
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) - Nominees are Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and Evegni Malkin
Ovechkin and Malkin are not defensive players, but Ovechkin is the most exciting player in hockey. Ovechkin's goals frequently top highlights on every sports show. Scoring 56 goals along with 54 assists does help, and once again, it's out of this world.
Malkin had 78 assists along with 35 goals this season and kept pace in winning the Conn Smythe as the MVP of the playoffs.
However, Pavel Datsyuk is the best all-around forward in the game. He doesn't seek the attention that Ovechkin or Malkin do in their scoring celebrations. He scored 32 goals and racked up 65 assists, however his defense is much better than Ovechkin and Malkin. Datsyuk should get the award but Ovechkin will probably win it again.
Lester B. Pearson Award (MVP, voted by players) - Nominees are Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin
Datsyuk will win the player-voted MVP and although the other two can score and assist, their antics on the ice as well as not being great on defense makes Datsyuk the frontrunner. He just plays the game and doesn't need to make a show of it.
Vezina Trophy (Goaltender) - Nominees are Tim Thomas, Niklas Backstrom, and Steve Mason
Thomas had a better save percentage (.933) than Backstrom (.923) or Mason (.916). Thomas won 36 games and lost only 11 whereas Backstrom was 37-24 and Mason was 33-20. Thomas' heroics between the pipes is a big reason why the Bruins finished second to the Sharks for the Presdient's Trophy for best overall record.
Backstrom doesn't play in a market that endears him a lot of press. Mason is a rookie which remarkable to be nominated but he won't win it this season but he will later win a few in his career.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (Defenseman) - Nominees are Zedeno Chara, Niklas Lidstrom, and Mike Green
Niklas Lidstrom is already getting a lot of press as maybe the greatest defenseman to ever play in the NHL. However, this season Chara was better. The tallest player in the league kept up with Lidstrom in the offensive categories as he had 19 goals to Lidstrom's 16 as well as 31 assists to Lidstrom's 43. But in the hitting department Chara recorded 169 while Lidstrom had 43.Chara is similar to Chris Pronger but not nearly as dirty. He is a big factor for the Bruins being in the hunt for the Presdent's Trophy all season.
Mike Green is nominated but the front runners of Chara and Lidstrom are the true finalists for the Norris.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Defensive Forward) - Nominees are Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kessler, and Mike Richards
The runaway favorite for the trophy is last season's winner Pavel Datsyuk. However, this season his play as the best defensive forward earned him also a finalist for the Hart Trophy. Nothing to take away from Kessler and Richards, but this award is Datsyuk's, no contest.
Lady Byng Trophy (Gentlemanly Conduct) - Nominees are Pavel Datsyuk, Zach Parisee, and Martin St. Louis
Datsyuk has won this award the last three seasons. There is little chance he won't win again this season. Datsyuk has been able to maintain this level of conduct while being the best all-around forward in the NHL.
Parisee and St. Louis are nice guys as well but truly Datsyuk will win his fourth Lady Byng in a row.
Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie) - Nominees are Steve Mason, Bobby Ryan, and Chris Versteeg
The all-Western conference set of finalists all proved that they belong. Mason for Columbus, Ryan for Anaheim, and Versteeg for Chicago were factors in helping their teams not only make it to the playoffs but also get to face the Wings to truly prove that they belong.
However, the edge goes to Mason as his play as goaltender for the Blue Jackets also earned him a nomination for the Vezina as best goaltender overall. The Jackets are not the most offensively dominating team, and their playoff berth was due in large part to a rookie goaltender which locks up the trophy for Mason.
Mark Messier Leadership Award - Nominees are Zedeno Chara, Sidney Crosby, and Jarome Iginla
This award should go to Zedeno Chara. His leadership is a big reason for Boston getting as far as they did this season. When he first arrived in Boston the "C" was immediately given to him.
Crosby should not be a finalist for this award. His idea of leadership includes punching an opposing player who was already fighting another Pens player as well as slashing anyone who dares to hit him. The fact that he still lives with Mario Lemieux reflects his immaturity and questions why he is the captain of the team. His captaincy is more because he is the poster boy for the league. Additionally, he possibly snubbed the Red Wings when he won the Cup.
Iginla has been a quality captain for the Flames. He is a sure-fire goal scorer but like Steve Yzerman also brings a presence of leadership by example to keep the Flames focused on someday bringing the Cup back to Canada.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Contributions to Hockey) - Nominees are Chris Chelios, Steve Sullivan, and Richard Zednik
Chris Chelios has the edge in winning this trophy. He was nominated last season but lost to Toronto's Jason Blake. This season, the oldest player in the game has more than earned this accolade. In relief of Lidstrom during the Western Conference Finals, Chelios wore the 'A' even though he didn't put up Lidstrom minutes to reflect his leadership presence.
He is also the first American-born player to captain the Canadiens and is a former captain of the Blackhawks. A big presence in the Detroit area with his chain of Cheli's Chili Restaurants, he is also more than willing (like every other Red Wing) to lend a hand for the community.
Jack Adams Award (Coaching) - Nominees are Todd McLellan, Claude Julien, and Andy Murray
McLellan did more than expected in his first season as head coach in leading the Sharks to the Presdient's Trophy for the best record.
It was a bittersweet postseason as the former Red Wings assistant had the cruelist of fates in losing in the first round to the Anaheim Ducks and then learning the next day he was nominated for the Jack Adams.
He will win it over Claude Julien whose Bruins finished second overall in record. McLellan might even give it to Julien just to reflect how he feels in letting down the Sharks fans. Andy Murray did a lot in turning the Blues around but the injuries caught up to them prior to the playoffs.