Every June after the Cup champ is crowned, the NHL wraps up with the NHL Awards, which for a second straight year will be in Las Vegas. With the Boston Bruins winning their first championship (5th overall- one more than the Rangers :P), there will be plenty of hardware on display Wednesday night.
The show can be seen on Versus, who will pick up the TSN feed. While I have little interest in seeing who wins the individual achievements, let's take a look at the key categories and pick who we'd like to see crowned.
CALDER- F Logan Couture, F Jeff Skinner, F Michael Grabner
The forward trio are all worthy of winning the award for top rookie. However, Skinner entered as an 18 year-old as compared to more experienced competition in Couture, who is easily the best overall. Meanwhile, Grabner finally stuck with his third organization after Garth Snow stole him on waivers from Florida. Shocking. Grabs had a tremendous second half but the other two were more consistent. It's really a toss up. I'll give the nod to Skinner, who became a key cog on an offensively challenged Carolina squad. The kid performed well down the stretch with his team just missing the playoffs.
Honorable Mentions: John Carlson, Corey Crawford, P.K. Subban, Brad Marchand, Michael Neuvirth, Tyler Ennis, Derek Stepan
VEZINA- Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne, Roberto Luongo
While nobody would debate either Thomas or Rinne, it still boggles how GMs selected Luongo over Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist or Marc-Andre Fleury. I guess playing on the best team has its perks. Unfortunately, Lou's D broke down and he wasn't up to the challenge against Boston, who outscored Vancouver by a wide margin (23-8). It really is between Thomas, who shattered Dominik Hasek's single season GAA and Rinne, who backstopped offensively challenged Nashville to its first second round. If he won, I'd have no beef. But this is the Conn Smythe winner's award. Thomas became the first American to win playoff MVP since Brian Leetch. It seems like the affable 37 year-old deserves the icing on the cake.
NORRIS- Zdeno Chara, Nick Lidstrom, Shea Weber
Each are outstanding in their own right with the remarkable 41 year-old six-time winner trying to tie Doug Harvey. Lidstrom is up for the league's top defenseman for a ridiculous 11th time in 13 seasons. That the Detroit captain re-upped for one more year today is even better. One of the game's all-time greats gets one more chance to deliver another Cup to Motown. Still, it really should come down to defending champ Chara versus Weber, whose leadership/value cannot be overstated. Like Zach Parise, he's going to arbitration. Hopefully, the Preds will do everything in their power to retain their captain. I'd really love to see him win if for nothing else, because Nashville doesn't have one elite scorer and Weber's been waiting a while. Honestly, Chara's a freak of nature- able to impact games in so many ways. Whether it's sheer strength, brutality or even dexterity for the near seven-footer, he is the game's top blueliner. Whoever wins is deserving.
HART- Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis
What's not to like about this class? All are dynamic forwards who are vital for their respective clubs. While it'd be fun to see another Sedin win in back-to-back years, I find myself rooting for '04 winner St. Louis, who is the backbone of the Bolts. He has always flown under the radar. Especially with Steven Stamkos emerging into one of the game's elite scorers. However, it's hard to argue with Perry, who carried the Ducks down the stretch with Ryan Getzlaf banged up. Perry is a throwback who will do anything to win a game, even if it means dropping 'em. His final month-plus was remarkable. If you're going for consistency, the other two were stronger. But let's give the nod to Perry.
SELKE- Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, Jonathan Toews
What can be said about three of the smartest players on the planet. All are terrific in their own right with three-time recipient Datsyuk leading the way. There really is no better overall hockey player than the crafty Russian pivot, who also overshadows '09 Conn Smythe winner Henrik Zetterberg. How Detroit can have two of the best players in the world who have no flaws is beyond me. Especially when they stole them. I love watching Datsyuk fly. His effort is always there. Even when he's not producing, the backcheck is constant and nobody's better at stealing a puck and turning it into offense. The man is legendary. However, this really was Kesler's year with the American eclipsing 40 goals for the first time while shutting down opposing scorers. Outside of a quiet Cup, he had a terrific postseason while Toews did all he could to scare the Canucks. All three are worthy but it says here that Kes deserves his first.
JACK ADAMS- Dan Bylsma, Barry Trotz, Alain Vigneault
It comes down to Bylsma, who guided the Pens minus Sid and Geno to the playoffs. Sure. I will always have total admiration for The Czar, Trotz- who every year squeezes as much out of the Preds despite a lack of talent up front. It amazes how tough they are in the face of adversity. No matter who they lose, this team always finds a way. A tribute to Trotz. However, Bylsma did an outstanding job just getting his team in following the loss of his dynamic duo. Kris Letang had a brutal second half and Jordan Staal ran out of steam along with the grinding Pens against Tampa, which was predicted. He deserves to win. Vigneault is not a great coach. Not when he has the most talent. He was badly outcoached by Claude Julien, who finally got his due after an unfair exit from New Jersey. I still can't believe Guy Boucher was passed up. It is what it is.
LADY BYNG- Loui Eriksson, Nick Lidstrom, Martin St. Louis
Is there a more gentlemanly player than Lidstrom? Oh sure. St. Louis's won it before and one of the game's underrated finishers Eriksson is a fine choice. Amazing as it sounds, the do everything Swede who proved a European captain could lead his team to a Cup- has never won this prestigous award. Alright. You don't really care. But in an age where instigators like Matt Cooke, Alex Burrows and Jarkko Ruutu exist, it still is nice to reward character. The choice is Lidstrom.
BILL MASTERTON- Ray Emery, Daymond Langkow, Ian Laperriere
There is no more special award than this one, which rewards perseverance after overcoming great obstacles. All three are worthy of this award with both Emery and Langkow coming back from tough setbacks. Everyone knows about Emery, who was once of the NHL's bad boys before off-ice issues saw him wind up in the KHL. He returned to the league and fared well with Anaheim, helping backstop them into the playoffs- overcoming avascular necrosis, which interrupts blood flow. Without him, the Ducks don't make it. As for Langkow, he finally returned from a fractured vertebrae in April. Always an inspirational player who was overlooked on the old Flyers teams, Langkow is a good story. A high character guy that all teams need. Pencil in Mason Raymond next year. Of the trio, Laperriere's the best. The way his career ended was sad. Sacrificing his body to block a shot in the Flyers' first round triumph last year over the Devils. You're not taught to dive in front face first as he risked not only his manhood, but his life. That's why hockey players are toughest SOBs on the planet. I always had a soft spot for Ian stemming from his too brief stint here (thanks Messier/Neil Smith). He was forced to retire but still works in a capacity with the Flyers. I hope he wins. Imagine the reception.
LESTER B. PEARSON Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin, Steven Stamkos
The award for MVP as chosen by the NHLPA is pretty cool. Imagine being selected by your own peers as the game's best. I always like this award and we get three superb candidates, with Hart nominees Perry and Daniel up for it along with Stamkos, who cooled off considerably but still finished second in goals (45) and fifth in points (91). Give to the kid who made Barry Melrose eat his words.
Congratulations to Rocket Richard winner Corey Perry, who paced the league with 50 goals and to Art Ross winner Daniel Sedin, whose 104 points were five better than Martin St. Louis. Vancouver's duo of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider will receive the Jennings for fewest goals allowed, combined by a team.
TOP EXECUTIVE- Mike Gillis, David Poile, Steve Yzerman
Nobody deserves it more than Stevie Y, who in Year 1 added all the right pieces even if his Bolts fell a little short against eventual champion Boston. Whether it was adding pieces like Dominic Moore, Sean Bergenheim and Eric Brewer or picking up vet Dwayne Roloson from the Islanders for the home stretch, Yzerman did everything in his power to deliver a second Cup to Tampa. With a nucleus that features Stamkos, St. Louis, rejuvenated Vinny Lecavalier, Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina and Brewer along with the game's scrappiest line (Bergenheim-Moore-Downie), there's a lot to like about the Lightning's chances. Especially with one of the greatest captains running the show. They're not going away anytime soon. Don't forget the choice of Boucher too. Gillis is in there for a stellar season while Poile deserves inclusion for how he keeps the Preds competitive. But this is Stevie Y's.
MESSIER LEADERSHIP- Zdeno Chara, Shane Doan, Nick Lidstrom
It'd be easy for Mark Messier to present the trophy to either Chara or Lidstrom, who exemplify the unique qualities The Captain did. Anytime you got the only two European captains to lead their teams to Lord Stanley, it makes them co-favorites. While I respect both, there's a lot of love for Doan, who has been Mr. Jet/Coyote throughout. Despite a move, all the rumors and uncertainty, Shane's been a classy leader, who's helped get the franchise back to the postseason in consecutive years. He has always flown under the radar and deserves this award.
Coming Tomorrow: We present our All-Star Teams