Before the playoffs started I wanted to weigh in on the major NHL awards. They are all regular season awards, so it is best to reflect now before the playoffs, the real season, start up.
Hart Trophy - The Hart Trophy is supposed to be awarded to the player deemed most valuable to his team. But somewhere along the line the award has shifted in stature and is often considered to be given the best player in the NHL.
I think we are most likely to see Alexander Ovechkin repeat as the Hart Trophy winner. He led the league in goals and attention. His Capitals have now grown into true Stanley Cup contenders. Scoring wonders Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh should split enough of the votes to see Ovechkin win his second Hart quite handily.
Norris Trophy - The Norris Trophy, more recently known as the Nicklas Lidstrom Trophy, goes to the NHL's best defenseman. I do not think Lidstrom is far off from his prime game of recent years. That being said, Detroit's defense has notably stumbled this season. That should open up voter's thinking towards a new winner.
Zdeno Chara should get this one, though offensive guru Mike Green will also be a popular choice. But Chara's defensive and physical game has keyed the Boston Bruins all season. Big Z is the total package.
Calder Trophy - There are a lot of great first year players again this year. We've been saying that for the past 3 or 4 years, which means were really just beginning another great generation of hockey.
Goaltender Steve Mason is the likely winner here. Bobby Ryan, Drew Doughty, and Pekka Renne should also get strong support, but how can it not be Mason? He will get strong support also for the Vezina and even the Hart, as well as the post-season all star team.
Vezina Trophy - Most of the major awards are picked by the media. But the Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL's best goaltender, is picked by NHL general managers. That makes for a bit of a different formula here.
With regular winners Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo out for significant periods of time, the Vezina race is wide open. If I had a vote I would have to go with Tim Thomas. Steve Mason , as I suggested earlier, Miikka Kiprusoff and Evgeni Nabokov will also get serious consideration.
Selke Trophy - The award for the best defensive forward is always hard to pick, given that there often is no obvious candidate. I like Mike Richards of the Flyers, and he scored 7 short handed goals, but often this award is given to veteran players. Pavel Datsyuk is a very strong contender for this award.
Adams Trophy - I think the coach of the year award will either go to Todd McLellan of San Jose or Claude Julien of Boston, because they had the two best teams in the league. Advantage goes to Julien because his Bruins were not expected to blossom as much as they did. Ken Hitchcock and Brent Sutter will also be highly ranked.
That being said, I truly believe Andy Murray is the best coach in the league. Joel Quenneville and Mike Babcock should also be mentioned in that same breath.
Masterton Trophy - Maybe they should have multiple winners this year, because there are several notable players who overcame great adversity to play this season.
Richard Zednik had his neck sliced by a skate last season, nearly severing his cartorid artery and ending his life. But Zednik came back and had a good season this year.
Teppo Numminen missed all but one game last season with a serious heart condition. He came back and played admirably in what may be the veteran's last season.
Steve Sullivan effectively missed two seasons of play due to a terrible back injury. He came back and played well late this season.
Kurtis Foster overcame a shattered leg to return to the NHL late this season.
Brian Pothier and Patrice Bergeron both returned from serious concussion problems.
Lady Byng Trophy - The award no hockey player seems to want sportsmanship and gentlemanly play. Pavel Datsyuk had 97 points and just 22 minutes in penalties. Zach Parise had 45 goals, 94 points and just 24 PIMs. One of these two will get this award.
That being said, maybe this is finally the year Nicklas Lidstrom wins this award? Defensemen almost never win this award. Yet year after year he is the best player in a position much more prone to penalty taking. He rarely takes penalties and should probably have won 2 or 3 Byngs in his career already.
Of course we already know these award winners:
Art Ross Trophy - NHL's Leading Point Scorer - Evgeni Malkin
Rocket Richard Trophy - NHL's Leading Goal Scorer - Alexander Ovechkin
William Jennings Trophy - Fewest Goals Against - Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, Boston Bruins.