Thursday, May 01, 2008

NHL Award Nominees Announced

The NHL has been announcing their award nominees one a day for over a week. Now that the award nominees have all been announced, I will compare them to the people I would have voted for and give my predictions as to who I think will win the awards.

Selke Trophy- Pavel Datsyuk Detroit Red Wings, John Madden New Jersey Devils, Henrik Zetterberg Detroit Red Wings. The voters chose to nominate two offensive forwards in Datsyuk and Zetterberg who play solid two-way games, but are more concerned with offensive play. This is a mistake. I believe Patrick Sharp deserved this award, but he doesn't have as flashy offensive numbers, the reputation going into the season as a top defensive forward or a spot on a playoff team and was thus overlooked. This is a mistake. I hope John Madden wins the award since he is the only true shutdown forward nominated. I think Pavel Datsyuk will win because he had a league leading +/- rating and good offensive numbers. That is not how the best defensive forward should be determined.

Lady Byng Trophy- Pavel Datsyuk Detroit Red Wings, Jason Pominville Buffalo Sabres, Martin St Louis Tampa Bay Lightning. These are the three players I would have nominated. I think Datsyuk deserves this award and will win it. That would give Datsyuk a double win as Selke and Byng winner. That goes a long way to making the argument that Datsyuk is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career, though he needs more successful seasons in the league to complete that honor.

Calder Trophy- Nicklas Backstrom Washington Capitals, Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks. I would have nominated Carey Price from Montreal in place of Toews. Both missed significant time this season. Toews was injured and Price took some time to win the starting goalie job in Montreal from Cristobal Huet. Since a goalie makes a bigger impact in games and Huet led the Habs in games played by a goalie I think he is a better nominee. Toews was selected because he led rookies in points per game, but was limited to 64 games played. Backstrom should win this award since he was the best all round player. Kane slightly outscored him, but Backstrom was far more solid defensively. I think there is a good chance that voters will merely look to offensive numbers and give Kane the nod because it is far easier to do that then to consider defence, which was undervalued in the award nominations (even in places where it shouldn't be such as the Selke Trophy).

Adams Trophy- Mike Babcock Detroit Red Wings, Bruce Boudreau Washington Capitals, Guy Carbonneau Montreal Canadiens. As always the nominees for this award miss the point. They are two coaches of most improved teams in Boudreau and Carbonneau and the coach of the top regular season team in Babcock. I think Babcock likely finishes a distant third due to the propensity of voters to pick most improved team coaches. I think Carbonneau will win. I think Jacques Lemaire of Minnesota should have won as he is the coach with the biggest positive impact on his team. I was hopeful that he might secure a nomination this year as Minnesota won the Northwest Division, but it wasn't to be. The Adams Trophy voting does a very poor job of selecting the best coaches in the NHL.

Norris Trophy- Zdeno Chara Boston Bruins, Nicklas Lidstrom Detroit Red Wings, Dion Phaneuf Calgary Flames. These are the three players I would have nominated as well. Lidstrom should be the easy winner.

Vezina Trophy- Martin Brodeur New Jersey Devils, Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers, Evgeni Nabokov San Jose Sharks. Brodeur should win this award. He is the only one of the three nominees I agree with. I would have nominated Roberto Luongo of Vancouver and Jean-Sebastien Giguere of Anaheim as well. Nabokov got his nomination for playing in 77 games on a good team and thus leading the league in wins. Lundqvist got nominated in part for being in the New York media center and having a good defence in front of him. Nabokov and Lundqvist did not put up league leading saves percentages (Nabokov .910, Lundqvist .912). These were the three goalies who played the vast majority of their team's games and were among the goals against average leaders, which is a largely team dependant stat. With this nomination, Lundqvist has been nominated for the Vezina in each of his three years in the NHL. He has only deserved that nomination once.

Hart Trophy- Jarome Iginla Calgary Flames, Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins, Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals. The biggest mistake the voters made is not nominating Nicklas Lidstrom for this award. He should have won it. The problem is that he is not among the top scorers in the league (he is only the top scorer among defencemen). Defensive play is largely overlooked in the award voting and thus Lidstrom did not receive enough credit for being arguably the best defensive defenceman in the league while leading defencemen in scoring. With Lidstrom out of the way, there is little doubt that Ovechkin will win this award. The nominees are merely the top three scorers in the league this season. Iginla may have finished in the top three scorers, but in light of Lidstrom's season, there is no doubt this nomination is not deserved.

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