Coincidental Minors Awards Picks

The NHL Awards are tonight and the best players in the league for the 2011-12 season will be officially named. The awards really need no introduction, so let’s get right to our choices as Tim Kolupanowich, Jeff Blay and Stephen Lethbridge picked who their favorites for the awards are.

Hart Trophy – League MVP, Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos

Steven Stamkos. (Cassie Storring/CM)

Tim Kolupanowich: Steven Stamkos

The Lightning may not have made the playoffs, but they would have finished last if it weren’t for Stamkos who accomplished more with less talent around him than anyone else. He was first in overtime goals (five), game-winning goals (12), even-strength goals (48) and third in scoring the first goal of the game (10) while becoming the second player since 1996 to record 60 goals in one season.

Jeff Blay: Steven Stamkos

Tim and I discussed this and Steven Stamkos deserves to win the Hart even though Tampa didn’t make the playoffs. How can you argue with a guy who scores 60 on a mediocre team? Malkin performed well down the stretch, but halted in the playoffs and wasn’t as consistent throughout the entire season.

Stephen Lethbridge: Henrik Lundqvist

Out of those nominees, I think Lundqvist meant the most to his team. Twenty-nine of the Rangers’ wins came by just one goal this season, yet they were the uncontested top team in the Eastern Conference for over half the season. Without Lundqvist, the Rangers don’t make the playoffs, let alone the Eastern Conference Final. The Penguins did alright with Malkin, they did last season, and Stamkos’ 60 goals are all well and good, but his team was never a threat to make the playoffs. Overall though, I think Mike Smith is most deserving of the Hart this season, as well as the Vezina.

Vezina Trophy – Best Goaltender, Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Pekke Rinne, Jonathan Quick

Jonathan Quick. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

TK: Jonathan Quick

Like Stamkos, Quick accomplished more than any other goalie with less help. He was second in goal-against average (1.96) and fifth in save percentage (.929, just one point behind Lundqvist) while receiving little support so he had to be at his best every game. The Predators and Rangers both finished in the top 11 in offense while the Kings were 29th and they also finished in the top 12 in blocked shots while LA once again finished 29th. I would have given Quick the Hart nomination over Lundqvist.

JB: Jonathan Quick

Easy peasy. Quick has played well in net for the Kings for the past several seasons and that didn’t change this year. He was huge for them down the stretch and gave the Kings the confidence to keep pushing even when they were in a slump. Although he’s still young and could still continue to peak, he’s earned the nod this year.

SL: Henrik Lundqvist

For all the reasons mentioned above, and for his stellar stats line. It’s going to be really close with Quick, just because of what Quick did in the playoffs, he’s going to be fresher in voters minds, but I have Lundqvist winning both.

Norris Trophy – Best Defenseman, Nominees: Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber

Zdeno Chara. (slidingsideways/Flickr)

TK: Zdeno Chara

My choice would be Dan Girardi, but the NHL seems to prefer defensemen who put up points to those who know how to play defense. But Chara was once again a beast and has taken over Nicklas Lidstrom’s role of the best defenseman in the NHL. He tied a career high with a plus-33 while setting new high marks with 40 assists and 52 points.

JB: Erik Karlsson

While I do agree there needs to be some sort of award for defensive defensemen, when it comes to the Norris and this year’s candidates, Karlsson just can’t be overlooked. Chara and Weber were rocks and leaders for their respective teams as always, but Karlsson stepped up and played solid for Ottawa – certainly a key part of the team’s success this season. Karlsson earned the spotlight throughout the season and deserves the Norris.

SL: Zdeno Chara

Overall, I think Chara’s numbers were the most solid out of all the league’s defensemen, although I think Dan Girardi deserved a nod. Karlsson’s numbers were too heavily skewed toward the offensive, and Weber’s numbers just weren’t as good as Chara’s. Chara set a career high in points with 52 this year, he averaged 25 minutes per game, and was third in the league in plus-minus at plus-33, that’s also best among d-men. He also doled out 166 hits and blocked 87 shots. As well, with Nick Lidstrom retired, I think Chara takes up the mantle as being the de facto “best” defenseman in the league, and a Norris win would signify that. It’d be cool if Lidstrom presented the award.

Calder Trophy – Top Rookie, Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

TK: Gabriel Landeskog

All three candidates put up goos numbers and while Adam Henrique was just as strong all around as Landeskog, the Avalanche freshman was the only rookie to finish in the top three in points (T-1st, 52), goals (2nd, 22), plus-minus (2nd, plus-20), game-winning goals (2nd, five) power play goals (2nd, six), games played (T-2ns, 82) and assists (3rd, 30).

JB: Adam Henrique

This guy kind of game out of nowhere this year. Was the Devils best player in the first half of the season and played a crucial role for the team in many areas. Although he’s not as flashy as RNH or Landeskog, he can score big goals, handle the puck well in the danger areas and use his size to be a physical force. He’s an all-around player who was consistent for his team from the beginning of the season until the end. If RNH wasn’t injured, he might have taken it but in this case, Henrique deserves it.

SL: Gabriel Landeskog

Quite simply, I think he meant the most to his team. RNH had a better point per game ratio, and Henrique helped his team to the Stanley Cup final, but Landeskog was the best player in the Avs line up this season.

Lady Byng Trophy – Most Gentlemanly Player, Brian Campbell, Jordan Eberle, Matt Moulson

TK: Brian Campbell

Campbell has the chance to be the first defenseman since 1954 to win the Lady Byng Trophy. It’s very impressive for a defenseman to play as many minutes as Campbell, a league-high 26:53 a game, while often handling much bigger forwards and only take three minor penalties.

JB: Jordan Eberle

An up and coming star who had a stellar season for the Oilers and plays a respectful game. Quiet and reserved, Eberle is a great leader who respects his opponents. He finished the season with 10 penalty minutes, proving he doesn’t take dumb penalties or let any angst the game may cause to get to him.

SL: Brian Campbell

This award is so hard to judge, but I think out of all the nominees, Campbell best exemplifies sportsmanship. Six PIM all year for a defenseman, who also totals over 50 points and 46 hits is pretty impressive.

Selke Trophy – Best Defensive Forward, Nominees: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk

TK: Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron was tremendous in all three zones this season, putting up 22-42-64 and a league-high plus-36. He won more draws than any other player (973) and though he wasn’t very physical, was very good at taking the puck away from the opposition.

JB: David Backes

Always a tough choice, but this year, Blues captain David Backes earned this award. He’s always been a prime defensive forward, but with the success of the Blues this season, his play really took off and he provides a great example for some of the other young defensive forwards on the team.

SL: David Backes

Backes started over 50% of his shifts in the defensive zone, and finished over 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone. That proves that he is a highly efficient defensive forward, and is able to help his team get into good offensive position through strong defensive play. Also, he lead the team’s forwards in hits, blocked shots, and his 70 takeaways were second on the team. Not to mention the Blues allowed the fewest goals against in the NHL.

Jack Adams Award – Best Coach, Nominees: Ken Hitchcock, Pail MacLean, John Tortorella

TK: Ken Hitchcock

You could really choose one of 10 coaches this year and not be wrong, but Hitchcock came to the Blues, who were 6-7 at the time, and led them to a 43-15-11 record the rest of the way and leading them to the playoffs for just the second time since the lockout. The challenged for the Presidents’ Trophy for most of the year and every player made solid contributions.

JB: Ken Hitchcock

Another tough one, but Hitch gets my vote. Turned the Blues around the minute he was hired on and his coaching made the team a legitimate force this season and likely more to come. Hitchcock has certainly had an allustrious coaching career in the NHL, but the one thing he’s missing his a Jack Adams title. This is his year.

SL: Ken Hitchcock

No brainer. He’ll win in a landslide, although I think there were a bunch of worthy nominees this season. Seems silly at this point that Peter DeBoer wasn’t nominated.

Bill Masterton Trophy – Perseverance and Dedication to Hockey, Nominees: Daniel Alfredsson, Joffrey Lupul, Max Pacioretty

TK: Max Pacioretty

All three nominees are deserving, but overcoming a broken neck last season to become the first American to score 30 goals for Montreal is quite an accomplishment. He was fearess all season after his career was in jeopardy last year.

JB: Max Pacioretty

All deserving candidates but Pacioretty faced the most adversity and responded admiribly well. The hit he took from Chara in 2011 could have been career-ending, but his perserverence and dedication to hockey allowed him to fully recover and return to the Canadiens only to have a stellar season on a struggling team.

SL: Joffrey Lupul

Lupul missed a total of 87 games with that blood infection following his back surgery, over a full season, and was then able to come back and be one of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ best players. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the wheels fell off the bus for the Leafs around the same time that Lupul got injured at the end of the year. The length of his injury, combined with his productivity when he returned should win him this one. Besides, I would be very surprised to see Pacioretty win it for an incident that the NHL received quite a bit of flack in the media for. Alfie could squeak out a victory as a nostalgia pick, though.

Ted Lindsay Award – Most Outstanding Player (Selected by the players), Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos

Evgeni Malkin. (Dinur/Flickr)

TK: Evgeni Malkin

Overall he was the best, even if he wasn’t necessarily the most valuable and there is a difference. Malkin scored 50 goals for the first time and was the only player to record 100 points this season, putting up 50-59-109 and was a consistant force throughout the regular season. He never went more than two games without a point and that only happened twice. With his help, James Neal turned into a 40-goal scorer and he more than eased the loss of Sidney Crosby for most of the season.

JB: Evgeni Malkin

I could have this backwards, but Malkin definitely deserves some credit for his season. He may end up getting the Hart, in which case you’d have to think the players would vote for Stamkos for this award. Either way, the pair deserves some brass at the NHL awards.

SL: Henrik Lundqvist

Since this is award is voted on by the players, I’ll give it to Henrik again. He seems like a very well-respected player, and I’m sure every player in the league knows how good he is. Also doesn’t hurt that he was one of the assistant captains at the All-Star Game this year. He also set an NHL record this season, becoming the first NHL goaltender to have 30 wins in his first seven seasons. Pretty impressive.

Mark Messier Leadership Award, Nominees: Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Shane Doan

Shane Doan. (Big Swede Guy/Flickr)

TK: Shane Doan

Few have been as persistant over the years as Doan, who opted to stay with Phoenix despite their on and off ice troubles. With his guidance, the Coyotes won the division title for the first time in their history and made it to the conference final for the first time as well. He scored the first hat trick of his career and recorded his 11th 20-goal and 50-point season. I was torn between Doan and Ryan Callahan, but I went with the more senior player.

JB: Dustin Brown

This is a leader that stepped up admist trade rumours and dedicated himself fully to his team. He’s been a major part of the Kings since he became captain and this year he really showed his character and leadership.

SL: Shane Doan

Again, I think the respect factor will play a role here. Doan had a bit of a fairy tale season, leading the Coyotes to the Eastern Conference Final, seeing playoff action outside of the first round for the first time in his career. I think he’s destined to take up the mantle of most respected player in the NHL when Selanne, Brodeur, St. Louis, and Iginla retire. It’s also clear from his play, especially in the playoffs this year, that he really does lead by example.

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