NHL Awards Show Upon Us
June 16, 2009 by Big Tony
As the Pittsburgh Penguin organization and fans continue to celebrate their club’s victory and people in Detroit continue to lick their wounds the rest of the hockey world looks to the future. The NHL awards dinner is Thursday June 18, the NHL entry draft on June 26 and of course NHL free agency starts July 1st. With the NHL awards first up we’ll take a look at three of the biggest awards (according to me) up for grabs and my prediction for who will win; those awards are the Calder Trophy (Top Rookie), Norris Trophy (Top Defensemen), Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender), and the Hart Trophy (League MVP).
Calder Trophy Nominees are Steve Mason (CBJ), Bobby Ryan (ANA), and Kris Versteeg (CHI). Bobby Ryan made an unbelievable impact on the Ducks this year and will certainly big a major force in Anaheim for years to come but he’s not taking home this trophy. Kris Versteeg is an important part on a very young team that will be fantastic for years to come with guys like Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith (among others) but it’s not his trophy to win either. The winner in my view has to be Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets because if not for him the Blue Jackets would not have made the playoffs let alone a decent seed at sixth. Mason led the league in shutouts with 10 and first in Goals Against Average (GAA) in the Western Conference at 2.29. They have some talent in front of Mason in Columbus but he was the backbone of the team and if he plays like this in the years to come as the talent improves with time the Blue Jackets can make a lot of noise but without Mason they won’t go anywhere. So as far as I’m concerned the 2008-2009 Calder Trophy winner will be Chris Mason.
Norris Trophy Nominees are Zdeno Chara (BOS), Mike Green (WSH), and Nicklas Lindstrom (DET). Mike Green had a wonderful season for Washington but he was more of an extra forward when he was playing than a good defensemen. Green scored with regularity and played a major role in Washington taking the two spot in the Eastern Conference but his defense is lacking compared to the other two nominees. Nicklas Lindstrom is back once again trying to win the Norris for the 7th time in his career and is nominated for the umpteenth time. Lindstrom has been a major part of Detroit’s success over the years as the face of the team changes over the years Lindstrom remains a constant and it seems like his game never diminishes. I do not think Lindstrom is going to win this year but once again his presence on the ice and leadership on and off of it is second to none. Last but not least is who I think will win the award and that is Zdeno Chara. A major part of the turn-around for Boston from 8th to 1st was the play and leadership Zdeno Chara exhibited this season. He has always been a good player but he stepped up majorly this year not only scoring timely goals but also asserting himself physically to help dominate a number of teams over the course of the season. As a result of those things I think Zdeno Chara will be awarded the Norris Trophy.
Vezina Trophy Nominees are Niklas Backstrom (MIN), Steve Mason (CBJ), Tim Thomas (BOS). Niklas Backstrom has a wonderful season for the Wild but two things that hurt his chances are A. that he plays for a team that did not make the playoffs, and B. that he played in the Jacques Lemaire neutral zone trap that has a reputation for making a goalies life much “easier” on a goaltender whether that’s fair or not. As a result a person who is probably deserving of winning this award will be left out in the cold. It’s a similar story for Steve Mason in that he is definitely deserving of winning the award but since he will in all likelihood win the Calder Trophy the odds that he wins the Vezina trophy are not good. Of the three in the running Mason probably did the most for his team and as a result should probably win the award but it is doubtful that he will take the trophy home. That leaves Tim Thomas who may win the award just by process of elimination but despite that Thomas certainly deserves to win the award and his nomination was well earned. Thomas led the league in GAA at 2.10 as well as save percentage at .933 and was under a lot of pressure to perform in Boston because many felt he could not be a top goaltender. He proved everybody wrong with his consistency this season and should be awarded accordingly. While it may be true that Thomas will win as the last man standing of the three up for the award Thomas could win the award up against any other goaltender in the entire league which is why he’ll be given the award at the show on June 18th.
This year’s Hart Trophy nominees are Pavel Datsyuk (DET), Evgeni Malkin (PIT), and Alexander Ovechkin (WSH). This is probably the most anticipated award of the whole show and is definitely one of the most hotly contested award up for grabs. Each nominee is as deserving of the award as the next and that makes it one of the hardest awards to call because each player is so important to the success of his respective team that so little separates them. Pavel Datsyuk had an unbelievable year finishing 5th in assists (65) and 4th in points with 97. He is one of the best two way players in the world and has played a large part in the amount of success the Detroit Red Wings have experienced in the last few years in particular. Datsyuk’s play in both the offensive and defensive is something that every team craves to get out of their players to at least be adequate at doing let alone excel the way Datsyuk does. To stand out on a team of superstars the way Datsyuk does really says a lot about his game and makes him a deserving Hart Trophy candidate.
Next is Evgeni Malkin who had an unbelievable season in Pittsburgh leading the league in assists with 70 and overall points with 113. Malkin has the ability to take games over when the going gets tough and does just that time and time again carrying the team on his back. He’s a player who is great at scoring goals when he needs to be also in making players around him better while he’s on the ice. Malkin is a pretty good two-way player—although not as good as Datsyuk—who can back-check with the best of them and turn a rush for the other team into a great counter-attack for Pittsburgh. Leading by example is a strength for Malkin and is a top reason why the Penguins went from a team on the outside looking in on the playoffs to home-ice advantage in the first round in a very short period of time.
Last but not least is Malkin’s fellow Russian teammate Alexander Ovechkin. What Ovechkin can do on the ice is clear as he led the league in goals with 56 and finished second in points with 110. Ovechkin is an explosive player who helps make Washington’s power play one of the best in the league by far, and can help keep the Caps in a game by scoring big goals in games Washington probably should not be in otherwise if they’re being dominated in their own end. Perhaps Ovechkin’s biggest weakness is that he is not very good in the defensive zone and has a tendency to disappear if the other team is controlling the puck in the Washington zone while also disallowing the quick breakout counter attack. Nevertheless the energy Ovechkin brings to the game feeds off on other players and certainly makes them better offensively than they might be in other situations. So in terms of value to a team there may be no one who means more to their team than Ovechkin means to the Capitals because he is the lifeblood of that organization. All that said it is hard to say who will win the award by just looking at these three guys on paper. However, it may come down to the fact that Malkin plays with another star in Sidney Crosby and Datsyuk has a bunch of guys around him who are superstars in their own right. Ovechkin on the other hand does not have the stand out superstar around him and as a result Alexander Ovechkin will be your 2008-2009 NHL MVP.
It has been a wonderful season and the NHL awards are a great way to reflect on how wonderful the season has been even including the playoffs despite these being regular season awards. I hope everyone enjoyed this season as it was one of the best for the NHL in recent history which is something they can certainly build on. Now that the season is over it’s a fresh start for everyone and so there should be a fair amount of things to talk about this summer as teams prepare to make a cup run of their own next season. Thanks for reading this season everyone and I hope you continue to follow along right here on sportsroids.com as we cover the happenings of the offseason and into training camp come September.