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CALDER MEMORIAL TROPHY (outstanding rookie):
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins; Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins; Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche.
NHL Jeff's Take: Malkin was amazing all season long. Yes, he started out on fire and slowed down a bit as the season went on, but he was definitely the best first-year player in the NHL. Stastny had a great stretch run while setting a rookie record with at least a point in 20 straight games, but his great effort did not push him past Malkin. Staal was amazing for an 18-year-old kid that was expected to remain in juniors this season. He started the season with the Pens because Malkin was injured, and he played so well that he earned a spot on the team, they couldn't send him back. That was an amazing feat for an 18-year-old kid, but I think he made this spot more for the publicity he's gotten while, based on play, LA's Anze Kopitar, and SJ's Matt Carle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are interchangeable in that spot.
Pick: Evgeni Malkin
FRANK J. SELKE TROPHY (outstanding defensive forward):
Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes; Samuel Pahlsson, Anaheim Ducks; Jay Pandolfo, New Jersey Devils.
NHL Jeff's Take: As a big Chris Drury fan, I think he got snubbed here. He deserved a nomination for this award...but obviously we can't change the nominees. So, let's start by pointing out that the teams of these 3 players were all in the top 7 in penalty kill percentage for the year. Rod Brind'Amour had another great year for the 'Canes, but was unable to carry them to the playoffs. His defensive work in all types of situations was instrumental to the 'Canes keeping pucks out of their net, but did they keep enough out...? Pahlsson and Pandolfo were both huge parts of their teams' great success. Pahlsson is one of the most underrated players in the league and deserves a lot more credit for all of his effort. He may be playing with 2 of the 3 best defensemen in the league, but he is buy far the defensive anchor for a fire-powered offense. Pandolfo plays with many defensive specialists both with him at forward and on the blueline, and benefits from the overall defensive system that the Devils play with.
Pick: Samuel Pahlsson
HART MEMORIAL TROPHY (most valuable player to his team):
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks.
NHL Jeff's Take: All great candidates. It's hard to see Tampa's Vincent Lecavalier left off the list, but they take the top three, and these guys definitely deserve it. While Brodeur may have been the best goaltender this season, it can definitely be said that Luongo was the more valuable player to his team. With this statement, I agree. So many of the games that the Canucks won were won by Luongo. While Brodeur also won many of the Devils' games, I would have to say that he did so to a lesser extent. This may be some of my bias coming out, but of these three candidates, Crosby seemed to be most valuable. Yes, an argument can be made that the Pens definitely increased their top-notch talent this year, but Crosby set the pace for every win. His constant effort and hard work rubbed off on his team and he contributed to the better play of every Penguin that touched the ice. The kid played with a broken foot for the last two weeks of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs! Oh yeah, and he was the league-leading scorer....
Pick: Sidney Crosby
JACK ADAMS AWARD (outstanding coach):
Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres; Michel Therrien, Pittsburgh Penguins; Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks.
NHL Jeff's Take: I would like to start out by saying that, while the Canucks played unexpectedly well this season (these teams' coaches are normally the ones up for this award), I truly don't think Alain Vigneault had the biggest part in making this happen. That man was Roberto Luongo. Without this goaltender, Vacouver likely would not have made the playoffs. Now, to the other candidates: Lindy Ruff is the reigning winer of this award, and once again took a team that wasn't expected to be outstanding and made them that way. The Sabres lost veterans Jay McKee, Mike Grier, and JP Dumont in the off-season, who were all integral parts of Buffalo's run to game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. The fact that Ruff was able to keep this team not only as good, but even better than last year's (they won the President's Trophy as the regular season Champs) was astonishing. While much of this can be attributed to the young depth GM Darcy Regier has acquired, but nay seasoned coach can tell you that coaching a bunch of guys without much experience is not the easiest task, which leads us to our next candidate. Michel Therrien's Pittsburgh Penguins were full of yound, raw talent this season. He was able to maintain the attention of these young guys and propel them into the playoffs. Yes, Therrien had the league-leading scorer, but Buffalo has great scorers too. To me, this is a toss-up between Ruff and Therrien, but I am guessing we'll see a new winner this year.
Pick: Michel Therrien
JAMES NORRIS MEMORIAL TROPHY (outstanding defenseman):
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings; Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks; Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks.
NHL Jeff's Take: I definitely agree that these are the 3 best defensemen in the league. Some feel that Tapa's Dan Boyle got snubbed, and he did have a great season. I wouldn't be opposed to seeing him on the list over Pronger only because Pronger missed 16 games due to injury, although he also still had a career-year in points...It seems that almost every time the Ducks need a goal, it starts with a Pronger slapshot from the point that either goes in, is redirected in, or is put in on the rebound. Had Pronger played the whole season, an argument for his winning the Norris would be easier to make. Ducks' captain Scott Niedermayer is the other anchor of the Anaheim blueline, and he also is able to chip in rather extensively on offense. On the powerplay he plays the roll of the rover and often ends up right in front of the net. He led all defensemen with 69 points. Niedermayer was, surprisingly, only a plus-6. Nicklas Lidstrom was a plus-40 and was, in my opinion, the MVP of the Red Wings. His offensive numbers may have been down from last year (80 points last year to 62 points this year), but his defensive game was up and other Wings were contributing more on offensive side. He took on the roll of captain very well and, while personally I don't like him very much (I'm an Avs fan, he's a Wing...), he continued to be one of the top-three defensemen in the league, and because of the lesser depth of defensemen on his team, I am going to say the best.
Pick: Nicklas Lidstrom
LADY BYNG MEMORIAL TROPHY (sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct):
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning.
NHL Jeff's Take: This award normally goes to the player with the most points combined with the least amount of penalty minutes. This year that candidate is Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, but then you look at the list and see a legend like Joe Sakic. He had his best season since 2001 while being the most respected player in the NHL. In my opinion (that of an Avs fan...) he deserves any and all accolades he is up for, and that is why I think this will go to Colorado Avalanche captain and future hall-of-famer Joe Sakic.
Pick: Joe Sakic
LESTER B. PEARSON AWARD (most outstanding player as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA): Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning; Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks.
NHL Jeff's Take: Because this award is voted for by the players, I'd like to make it clear that despite his young age, Sidney Crosby has become a very respected player among his peers. Vinny lecavalier had a spectacular season in Tampa and won the "Rocket" Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals. He was definitely the Lightning's best player and the second best forward in the league. Luongo played amazingly well this season. Luongo was spectacular in Vancouver, especially considering who he had around him (which may give him an edge for the Hart, although I think Crosby will get that too), and players may take that into consideration, but they shouldn't. This award is supposed to go to the "most outstanding player," and that was Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.
Pick: Sidney Crosby
VEZINA TROPHY (outstanding goaltender):
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames; Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers; Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks.
NHL Jeff's Take: I'd like to start out by setting it straight that, despite the fact that 4 candidates were named due to a tie between Lundqvist and Kiprusoff, this is a two-man race. Either Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo will win the Vezina Trophy, I guarantee that. Kiprusoff had a decent year, but not his Vezina-winning season of last, and Lundqvist came on in the second half to blast the Rangers into the playoffs, but neither of these goaltenders played nearly at the level at which Brodeur and Luongo played consistently, all season long. Brodeur broke Bernie Parent's 47 regular season win total and Luongo tied it (although this wouldn't have happened without the benefit of shootout wins). In my opinion, Brodeur deserves the award more. They both had extremely solid numbers, but Brodeur's were slightly better. Brodeur was first in wins, Luongo was second; Brodeur was third in save percentage, Luongo was fourth (by the slimmest of margins); Brodeur was third in goals against average, Luongo was sixth; Brodeur was first in shutouts with 12, Luongo was sixth with 5. Martin Brodeur continues to be the best goalie in the league in the middle of his thirties. This was arguably the best season of his career. If this award was for the goaltender most valuable to his team, it would be Luongo's award, but it is for the goaltender that was most outstanding. Alright, so I've made it clear that Martin Brodeur deserves to win this award, but I didn't say that I think he will. Luongo has been heralded for years as a great goaltender playing for bad teams, and now that he has finally gotten on a competitive team, the media is loving every second of his success. While the GMs are the ones who vote for this award, I think they will take this into account and Roberto Luongo will win. For this prediction, I hope I am wrong and they choose the actual "most outstanding goaltender" of the season, Martin Brodeur.
Pick: Roberto Luongo