Cross Checks: 2011 NHL awards
Voting for the NHL awards was conducted at the conclusion of the regular season. The Professional Hockey Writers' Association cast ballots for the Hart, Norris, Selke, Lady Byng and Calder trophies. The 30 NHL General Managers voted on the Vezina Trophy. The NHL Broadcasters' Association submitted votes for the Jack Adams Award. Here is how the voting broke down:
Jack Adams Award
Lady Byng Trophy
LAS VEGAS -- Tim Thomas has a second Vezina Trophy to go with his recent Stanley Cup title.
The Boston Bruins goalie earned top NHL honors on Wednesday after a stellar season that culminated in the championship.
Thomas set an NHL record for save percentage when he finished at .938, surpassing Dominik Hasek's .937 set in the 1998-89 season. He also had a league-low 2.00 goals-against average and nine shutouts.
Those imposing figures lifted him over fellow Vezina finalists Roberto Luongo of the Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks and Nashville's Pekka Rinne in voting by the league's 40 general managers.
Rinne had 25 wins in 42 starts, ranking second in save percentage.
Skinner, an NHL All-Star in his first season, finished first in Calder voting by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He led rookies with 63 points.
Grabner scored 34 goals to top his team and fellow rookies. Couture had eight game-winning goals -- including seven on the road.
Jeff Vinnick/NHLI/Getty ImagesDan Bylsma's Penguins finished the regular season in fourth in the East, despite their injury woes.
Bylsma led the Penguins to the playoffs despite the absences of stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who both missed much of the season. The Penguins (49-25-8) had the second-most victories and points in franchise history.
That impressed members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association enough for Bylsma to edge Barry Trotz of Nashville and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault for the honor.
Trotz took the Predators to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. Vigneault, the Adams winner in 2007, led the Canucks to the team's first Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top regular-season team and then guided them to the Stanley Cup finals.
Bylsma received 196 voting points. Vigneault was second with 169 points. Trotz was third.
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesRyan Kesler ranked fourth among NHL forwards in blocked shots (80), appeared in all 82 games and averaged a career-high 20:29 in ice time.
Kesler topped Detroit's Datsyuk and Chicago's Jonathan Toews for the Selke Trophy during a show at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Kesler led the NHL forwards in blocked shots and won more than 57 percent of his faceoffs, a career high.
Datsyuk was trying to match Bob Gainey by winning the Selke in four consecutive years. Montreal's Gainey took it from 1978-82.
Toews won a league-high 937 faceoffs, nearly 57 percent. He blocked 28 shots and led Chicago forwards with a plus-25 rating.
LAS VEGAS -- After a two-year break, Nicklas Lidstrom is the NHL's top defenseman again.
The Detroit Red Wings star won the Norris Trophy on Wednesday night for the seventh time in his 19-season NHL career. Lidstrom tied Doug Harvey as a seven-time winner, one behind record-holder Bobby Orr.
Lidstrom captured the award three straight times from 2001-03 and then added another hat trick from 2006-08. His second run was stopped by Chara, who has been a finalist three of the past four seasons.
Lidstrom was second in the league among defensemen with 62 points, including 16 goals. He was third among defensemen in assists.
LAS VEGAS -- One of the prominent back stories to the Stanley Cup finals was the back and forth between Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Boston's Tim Thomas. How do the kids say it these days? Awwwkwwaaard.
With so much discussion during the series focused on Luongo's comments about Thomas after Game 5 of the finals, the NHL awards might make for some uncomfortable moments with both Luongo and Thomas nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender.
Luongo suggested that Thomas' style of play may allow him to make some stops that Luongo wouldn't but that the lone goal Thomas allowed in a Game 5 loss would have been an easy stop for Luongo.
The curious decision to offer a critique of an opposing goalie's style was then followed up by Luongo's equally curious complaint that Thomas, who ultimately was named playoff MVP, had said nothing nice about Luongo during the series. Luongo then had a disastrous performance in Game 6, getting pulled before the midpoint of the first period, and an ordinary performance in Game 7.
Thomas, who offered perhaps the best line of the playoffs when he said before Game 6 that he didn't know it was his job to pump Luongo's tires, said Tuesday that he told Luongo while the two sides were shaking hands after Game 7 that he really did think Luongo was a terrific goaltender.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images"When we're in the middle of that game or the middle of that series, sometimes emotions get the better of you. When it's all said and done, it's over," Tim Thomas said of Roberto Luongo's comments during the finals.
"We compete as hard as we can on the ice, and when we're in the middle of that game or the middle of that series, sometimes emotions get the better of you. When it's all said and done, it's over. I respect everyone that I play against and every team that I play against."
Luongo said he doesn't feel he needs to say anything further to Thomas here at the awards.
"I think everything's cool," Luongo added as he greeted reporters long after Thomas had vacated the media area.
"We had a few words after the series was over, and you know, I've always had a lot of respect for him and I've always said that from the start. Wish him all the best tomorrow and hope he enjoys the Vezina because he's probably going to win it."
Luongo won't go away empty-handed if he does come up short in the Vezina voting as he and partner Cory Schneider won the Jennings Trophy for turning in the lowest team goals-against average in the league.
Facing your enemyLess than a week after suffering a 4-0 thrashing on home ice in the deciding game of the finals, Hart Trophy nominee (and Art Ross Trophy winner as the league's regular-season scoring champ) Daniel Sedin, Frank J. Selke Trophy nominee Ryan Kesler, Jack Adams nominee Alain Vigneault, GM of the year nominee Mike Gillis and Luongo were once again forced to come to grips with an inglorious end to what had looked like a season for the ages.
Not only did they have to share space during a pre-awards media gathering with Boston's Thomas and Zdeno Chara, nominated for the Norris Trophy, but they did so knowing the Stanley Cup was in the Palms Casino, too.
"Yeah it does. Obviously, we didn't really have time to digest what happened last week yet, so it is a bit touchy to probably see those guys and them holding the Cup and stuff like that," Luongo said.
"Haven't really watched any TV in a week except for maybe CNN, so yeah, it's not easy. It's a tough loss, but it's something that's going to heal with time."
Kesler initially bypassed the issue, saying he hadn't run into any of the Bruins players.
"I haven't seen any yet; I'll let you know how I feel when I see them," Kesler said.
But if he did?
"It would be awkward, yeah," Kesler said.
Still, the fact so many Canucks have been recognized for special accomplishments during the regular season should help put all of this in some perspective.
"Of course. We're all disappointed that we fell just short of our goal. I mean that was our main goal. Every player in the league, that's what they play for. They were all disappointed like you just said, but when you look at the big picture, I think we set a lot of franchise records, and we did a lot of good things during the regular season and the playoffs as well. There's a lot of our guys from our team represented here, and it's going to be nice to see hopefully a few guys take something home," Luongo said.
St. Louis rooting for ThomasLightning veteran Martin St. Louis, who is nominated for the Hart Trophy and the Lady Byng, spoke of the emotion of watching the Bruins capture their first Cup since 1972.
St. Louis played college hockey with Thomas at Vermont, and the two are good friends. Thomas shut out the Lightning 1-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to advance to the Cup finals.
"I couldn't be happier for him. Obviously, it was tough shaking his hand knowing that we were done and they were moving on. The reality is that once we were done, I wanted him to go win it, because he's a good friend of mine. He's had a tough time being where he is and staying where he is. So everything that he's done, he's earned. I'm proud of what he's done, and I'm happy he got his Cup," St. Louis said.
The 2004 Hart Trophy winner said he watched the final series but wasn't too keen on watching the Bruins' celebrate at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
"Find it difficult to watch when it's over and they're raising the Cup. I think only people that have been through, raised that Cup, can understand what they're going through. But it's tough because you know you're so close to do it," St. Louis said.
"I was happy for Boston, for Timmy, but at the same time, it got me hungry for next year."
LAS VEGAS -- Is this the year someone breaks Pavel Datsyuk's death grip on the Frank J. Selke Trophy? The top Detroit center, long considered the best two-way forward in the game, has won the award the past three years and is again nominated.
The argument against Datsyuk is he was injured and played only 56 games, but he could become the first player to win the award four straight times since Bob Gainey (1978-81).
Look for Kesler, a finalist the past three years, to finally pry the hardware away from Datsyuk.
Kesler was a key component of a Vancouver Canucks team that was the best defensive squad in the NHL. He blocked more shots than any other NHL forward and took key faceoffs and delivered 124 hits. Kesler was just 33 points behind Datsyuk in last season's voting.
This is the first Selke nomination for Toews. The Blackhawks captain acknowledged he would like to best Kesler, who he has battled against in three straight postseasons now.
"I think at the end of the day, whatever happens tomorrow, if Ryan walks away with the trophy, you got to respect him for that," Toews said. "He's earned his right to be there with the season he's had this year. He's a big part of that team that went to the final. But again, you always want to just give yourself credit and kind of appreciate the moment, knowing what it takes to get here.
"Sometimes outsiders, the media, the people watching, always kind of measure what you do in a series based on goals and assists, shots on net, all those types of stats," he added. "But half the time, basically, what it comes down to is what you're doing against the player you're matched up against every shift."
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesCanucks forward Daniel Sedin led all players with 104 points this past season.
The MVP race, times two
It is always interesting to see how the Hart Trophy voting (conducted by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association) varies from the players' MVP voting reflected in the Ted Lindsay Award.
Daniel's prime challenge for the Hart looks to come from Perry, who surged through the last third of the regular season to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals (50). The Anaheim sniper scored 19 times in his final 16 games to help the Ducks qualify for the playoffs after a dreadful start to the regular season.
"I think it was one of those things where you get on a roll and things just go your way," Perry said of his torrid finish. "You can't go out and plan on doing that. You just go out and do your thing, and it was a quite a good roll that happened in the last month and a half. It was fun."
The same player has won both the Hart and Lindsay five times in the past 10 years.
Can't escape Jagr talk in Vegas
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma is the favorite to win the Jack Adams Award given his stellar work in guiding the Penguins to the playoffs despite the long-term absences of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
He is chomping at the bit to get a healthy lineup back in the fold next season and take another run at a Stanley Cup. One piece he may have in his puzzle is five-time scoring champ Jaromir Jagr, who has targeted a small number of teams for a potential return to the NHL after spending time in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Pittsburgh, Detroit and another team appear to be interested in the Czech star's services.
"Hypothetically, you're talking about a guy who in his last year in the National Hockey League had 75 points, that's leading our team last year," Bylsma said. "That's an intriguing thing to think about -- a power-play guy, what you saw him do in the World Championship against NHL-caliber players was nothing short of outstanding.
"Those are intriguing things to think about hypothetically and it's tough not to think about adding 75 points to your roster if that's something you're capable of doing," he said.
There are reports Detroit coach Mike Babcock has spoken to Jagr. Has Bylsma?
"I've talked to Mike, not to Jaromir," Bylsma said with a laugh.
Regardless of how Daniel and Henrik Sedin finished out the playoffs (they were a combined minus-20 in the postseason for Vancouver), they remain two of the league's stand-up guys, accepting much of the blame for the team's disappointing turn in the Cup finals against Boston.
In Vegas, the twin brothers can make history if Daniel follows in Henrik's footsteps and wins the Hart Trophy as regular season MVP. He already matched his brother's scoring title from last season by leading all NHLers with 104 points this season. No brothers have ever each won the Hart, let alone in back-to-back years.
Daniel wasn't on hand last year for his brother's big moment in the Vegas sun, and Henrik was nowhere to be seen Tuesday (he was vacationing in Whistler, B.C.)
One of the great stories of the awards is the emergence of Calder Trophy candidate Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders. The 23-year-old was waived by the Florida Panthers on the eve of the regular season and claimed by the Islanders. Grabner went on to lead the Islanders and all rookies with 34 goals. He also had his first child this season.
Although he doesn't have the profile of his fellow nominees, Logan Couture of San Jose and Jeff Skinner from Carolina, Grabner's story is nonetheless compelling. He signed a contract extension during the past season and is part of a dynamic young Islanders team that has people thinking playoffs in 2011-12.
As far as the Calder race goes, if Skinner earns the hardware, he would become the youngest player to win it at age 19. Dale Hawerchuk and Bobby Orr were both 19 years, two months old when they were awarded the Calder in 1982 and 1967, respectively.
"It's been fun," Skinner said. "Just going through everything as a kid, just last year looking up to them and watching them on TV and the next year your sort of around them and talk to them. I think that's really cool to meet some of the guys you grew up idolizing and sort of talk to them as normal guys."
No Sid, no Ovi
These awards mark the first time since the lockout that neither Sidney Crosby nor Ovechkin have been in attendance.
The pair was nominated for rookie of the year in 2006. Since then, at least one of them has been nominated and/or won the Hart Trophy and/or the Ted Lindsay Award.
LAS VEGAS -- It was a pretty good day for the Nashville Predators on Tuesday as defenseman Shea Weber was answering questions about being nominated for the Norris Trophy, while head coach Barry Trotz was up for his second straight Jack Adams as coach of the year and GM David Poile was nominated for GM of the year.
Good work for a team that's seen its share of ups and downs.
"It really shows, obviously some success for the franchise. It's a recognition, if you will, that we're on the map, so to speak," Poile said.
For much of the team's early history, the publicity surrounding the team was negative and at the very least tinged with uncertainty surrounding the team's future in Nashville.
"It hasn't been an easy ride so to speak in Nashville because it's always been an uphill battle. The team doesn't have enough revenues, not a big enough city, a lot of those situations. But I think having a second chance, if you will, with new ownership, being able to bring the team back up again, making the playoffs six of the last seven years and this year winning the first round of the playoffs has probably given us a level of recognition we've never had before. It feels good right now," Poile said.
It's much easier to pull the plug than to stay the course in the face of adversity. That's reality. A team goes in a swoon or never gets its head above water and a coach is sacrificed to the clamoring media and angry fans. If that doesn't work, the GM falls on the sword and the cycle either repeats itself or there is a positive change. But sometimes, the conviction of believing in what you have is a more difficult road to follow.
Yet that is the path the Predators have blazed in the hockey wilderness.
Both Poile and Trotz have been on hand for every game in the team's history. They have weathered ownership changes and financial handcuffs that have made it difficult to sign and/or retain talent, and they have faced the prospect of the team picking up and leaving Nashville.
"A tremendous amount of satisfaction. If it was over for me today that would be one of my proudest accomplishments is that a lot of the staff has been there since Day 1, and most importantly, Barry Trotz has been there since Day 1. I think it's the correct way to do things," Poile said.
With that said, he acknowledged every franchise is not created equally and the pressures on other GMs are different than the pressures he's faced in Nashville.
"You can't walk in somebody else's shoes," Poile said.
It doesn't get any easier as the Preds must try and bring restricted free agent Shea Weber under contract, but don't look for anything to shake the longest serving coach/GM partnership in the NHL.
"We certainly have an opportunity here to be a real good team and a team that, if we can add a little bit more offense, may be a top team," the veteran GM said.
Norris Trophy finalistsThere are three new finalists for the Norris Trophy this season. Well, sort of.
Last year, Chicago's Duncan Keith was the runaway winner, capturing his first Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman over Washington's Mike Green and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty.
This season, there are some familiar faces as former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara (2009) returns to the final ballot along with Nashville's Weber, who is nominated for the first time, and, oh yeah, a guy named Nicklas Lidstrom.
The Swedish defenseman is a Norris finalist for the 11th time in the past 13 years. Mind-boggling, really, given that only Doug Harvey and Bobby Orr have won more Norris Trophies than Lidstrom's six.
What makes this awards event even more compelling is the news that Lidstrom will return for a 20th NHL season in 2011-12. Good news for the Detroit Red Wings, bad news for NHL defensemen hoping to get in on the Norris racket.
"Once I started talking with Kenny [GM Ken Holland] everything went pretty quick and pretty smooth. I wanted to get over the loss in the playoffs and start working out and making sure I had the drive within me to go through the taxing offseason, and go through all the hard work you have to go through to be ready for a long season. That's when I had the feeling I wanted to play again," Lidstrom said Tuesday.
On a related note, Lidstrom is also nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. It is Lidstrom's sixth nomination for the award and his first in eight years. He has never won.
Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma, Nashville's Barry Trotz and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault were named this season's Jack Adams Award finalists Friday. Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun make their picks, even if the award is voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Association:
Burnside: No slight to defending coach of the year Dave Tippett, who did another outstanding job in Phoenix, or John Tortorella or Barry Trotz or any of the eight to 10 coaches who deserved a look for this award. But we figure the Penguins' bench boss deserves the hardware. Dan Bylsma kept his squad afloat and near the top of the Eastern Conference standings despite the long-term absences of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Enough said.
LeBrun: Luckily, I don't have to vote on this one for real. It is again a deep list of worthy candidates, and I don't envy the broadcasters who voted on this. My list includes Trotz, Bylsma, Tippett, Guy Boucher, Vigneault, Todd McLellan, Bruce Boudreau, Tortorella and Lindy Ruff. Tippett and Trotz (Nashville) once again worked miracles with the talent they had. In his first NHL season, Boucher coached the Bolts to a surprising season. Vigneault coached Vancouver to its greatest season in 40 years. McLellan guided the best second-half turnaround in the league. In the end, I saw this as a three-way fight between Bylsma, Tippett and Trotz, but it's hard to ignore the terrific work by a coach who lost two of the best players in the world halfway through the season.
Jack Adams Award: Your vote?
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma led his team to the postseason without stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Anaheim's Corey Perry, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis are this year's Hart Trophy finalists, the NHL announced Thursday.
Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun make their picks:
Burnside: A tough call here with Daniel Sedin having such a stellar season en route to his first Art Ross as the league's top point producer. But Corey Perry was crucial in keeping the Ducks' playoff hopes alive despite the absences of Ryan Getzlaf for a long stretch and No. 1 netminder Jonas Hiller. Perry won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the top goal scorer (50) and was third overall in points (98). His clutch play, game-winning goals, third-period goals and point production since the All-Star break push him over the top for me.
LeBrun: My short list consisted of Jonathan Toews, Carey Price, Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne, Daniel Sedin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Martin St. Louis and Corey Perry. In the end, I found myself going back and forth between Perry and Sedin.
The dilemma: Sedin, to me, clearly has had the most outstanding season in the NHL, but the award is meant for the player most valuable to his team. Perry's league-leading 50 goals on a surprising Ducks team really strike you, especially with Getzlaf's monthlong injury. Where would Anaheim be without Perry? Then again, despite having last season's Hart winner (brother Henrik) as Sedin's linemate and a No. 2 center who earned MVP consideration earlier this season (Ryan Kesler), where would the Canucks be without Daniel Sedin's 104 points and plus-30 rating?
Winner: Sedin (by a hair).
Hart Trophy: Your vote?
Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry led the NHL with 50 goals this season.
Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun make their selections for the award:
Burnside: The Canucks were the top defensive team in the NHL, and Kesler has been the defensive catalyst among the Canucks' forwards, especially after penalty-killing/faceoff specialist Manny Malhotra was sidelined with an eye injury. Kesler was second in the NHL in faceoffs won (behind Toews). Kesler also managed to chip in 41 goals, tied for fourth in the NHL.
LeBrun: Until a scary eye injury ended Malhotra's season and threatened his career in March, I had him penciled in with my first-place vote on my Selke ballot. He was having the exact kind of season the Selke Trophy should recognize: faceoffs, penalty killing, shutdown work, blocked shots, you name it. All the best in your recovery, Manny. In his absence, my list of contenders consisted of Patrice Bergeron, Vernon Fiddler, Darren Helm, Frans Nielsen and Kesler. I know he wasn't a finalist, but my pick was for a player long overdue.
Selke Trophy: Your vote?
Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk has won the Selke Trophy the past three seasons and could become the first four-time winner since Bob Gainey (Montreal 1978-81).