Second Annual Grimmy Award Winners
Note: Since my last name is Grimm, the title of the awards are a take-off on my name and the music awards of a similar name.
Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Runners-up: Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), Vinny Lecavalier (Tampa Bay)
There have been heralded youngsters throughout the history of the NHL. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Eric Lindros all received a plethora of attention well before playing their first NHL game, and they are not alone.
Yet it is arguable no player received more ink prior to turning 18 than Sidney Crosby. The perfect storm presented itself -- Crosby was tearing up the QMJHL, the NHL was in need of a new superstar as the Mario Lemieux era came to an end, and the NHL did not play during Crosby's final year of junior hockey. Add it all up, and Crosby was every bit as much of a household name as any NHLer while he was in Rimouski.
Two years into his NHL career, Crosby has proven he is more than worthy of the press clippings. In 79 games, Sid the Kid tallied 36 goals and 120 points while leading a young Pittsburgh squad to a fifth place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Crosby is one of those rare talents who possesses a sixth sense on the ice and makes everyone around him better. Look for him to win many more awards over his NHL career.
As always, the competition was tight. Luongo was the primary reason Vancouver won the Northwest title while Lecavalier took his game to a new level in leading the Lightning to the playoffs.
Calder (Rookie of the Year): Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Runners-up: Paul Stastny (Colorado), Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles)
Many hockey observers rightly classified the 2005-06 crop 0f rookies as arguably the best in NHL history, but many of those same people thought the main reason was the essentially two-year rookie class, thanks to the previous year's lockout.
The 2006-07 class proved the second point wrong, as Malkin headlined a strong class of rookies. After a Cold War era-like escape from Russia and an injury in the preseason, Malkin went on to post 33 goals and 85 points in 78 games.
The young Russian's dynamic style is a great complement to Crosby's all-around game, and the duo will lead Pittsburgh for years to come.
Despite the impressive totals, the decision was far from easy as Paul Stastny, Anze Kopitar, and Jordan Staal all had remarkable rookie campaigns.
Norris (Top Defenseman): Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Runners-up: Chris Pronger (Anaheim), Scott Nidermayer (Anaheim)
A perennial candidate for the Norris, Lidstrom turned in yet another outstanding season. His 13 goals and 62 points were impressive enough, but the truly amazing stat is the +40 plus/minus rating.
Lidstrom averaged 27:29 of ice time, meaning he plays nearly half of each game. On a well-rounded Detroit squad, the new captain is clearly the straw that stirs the drink.
Anaheim's duo of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer were also impressive, but an injury kept Pronger sidelined for 16 games. While Niedermayer missed only three games due to injury, the foot injury kept his game a small notch below last season -- but a big notch above most NHL rearguards.
Jack Adams (Coach of the Year): Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks
Runners-up: Michel Therrien (Pittsburgh), Ted Nolan (New York Islanders)
Heading into the season, everyone knew Vancouver was solid in goal with Roberto Luongo. But just ask the Florida Panthers how much that guarantees -- the Cats never made the playoffs during Luongo's days in South Florida.
Few thought the Canucks would fare any better, but thanks to Vigneault's coaching, they captured the Northwest Division title. Vigneault recognized the team's limitations and designed the system with that in mind, but perhaps more significantly, he brought an environment of fun to GM Place.
Vigneault always seemed to enjoy the coaching gig, as his jovial personality won believers across the NHL.
Therrien did an impressive job of keeping the young Penguins grounded, while Nolan did a remarkable job leading the Islanders to the playoffs despite off-season turmoil in the front office and a key late season injury to Rick DiPietro.
Selke (Top Defensive Forward): Sammy Pahlsson, Anaheim
Runners-up: Kris Draper (Detroit), Rod Brind'Amour (Carolina)
The only repeat winner from last year's Grimmy Awards, Pahlsson centered what was arguably the league's best checking line. Pahlsson and linemates Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen did an outstanding job of shutting down top lines from around the Western Conference.
After years of toiling in near obscurity, Pahlsson finally received his due as fans, media, and opponents took note of Anaheim's strong season. Pahlsson is physical, gritty, intelligent, and is one of the league's best faceoff men.
Veterans Draper and Brind'Amour put forth their normal yeoman-like efforts for Detroit and Carolina throughout the season.
Vezina (Top Goaltender): Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
Runners-up: Martin Brodeur (New Jersey), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
Much has been written about Luongo's heroics between the pipes, yet one feels words cannot do this goaltender justice.
His goals against average of 2.28 and save percentage of .921 are impressive, but they do not tell the whole story. The physically imposing Luongo covers much of the net and his lateral movement is as good as anyone in the league.
Luongo played in 76 of 82 regular season games, posting a 47-22-6 record while leading Vancouver to the Northwest Division crown.
Brodeur set an NHL record with 48 wins while Lundqvist overcame an average first half of the season to lead the Rangers back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Executive of the Year: Darcy Regier, Buffalo Sabres
Runners-up: Ken Holland (Detroit), Lou Lamoriello (New Jersey)
After the Buffalo Sabres marched to the Eastern Conference Finals last spring, Sabres fans immediately turned their attention to the following season. And there were more than a few question marks, with the majority of Buffalo's roster facing some form of free agency.
Regier managed to resign the key cogs to the Buffalo machine, keep ticket prices low, and put forth the best squad in the Eastern Conference. Keeping the Sabres together seemed to be an impossible task last spring, but Regier proved the cynics wrong.
Holland did his normal solid job in Detroit, luring Dominik Hasek back between the pipes. Lamoriello pulled out a magician's act in getting his team under the salary cap, and the Devils responded with yet another Atlantic Division title.