Ladies and gentleman, kids of all ages, it's time for an NHL version of that ESPN classic, "Take Your Pick." I'm your host, E.J. Hradek. With the All-Star Game in the rearview mirror, I'm going to look at the league's five biggest individual award categories. So, tighten your skates, we're going for a couple of quick shifts.
Sidney Crosby or Martin Brodeur?
Oh my, this is a tough one. Both guys are very deserving. But this is "Take Your Pick," not "Pick Both Guys," so I'll take Crosby. Right now, at the All-Star break, the Penguins are a playoff team. At the end of the season, that will probably be the tiebreaker for me. Crosby leads the league in scoring with 72 points. He's six points better than second-place Martin St. Louis, who has played seven more games. Crosby's 1.67 points-per-game average is about one-third of a point higher than No. 2 man Jarome Iginla (1.36 PPG), and his 41 even-strength points leads the league. If Crosby gets the Pens to the playoffs, he'll be the MVP. One more thing: If the Caps qualify for the postseason, Alexander Ovechkin will get some serious consideration.
Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo?
While Luongo has narrowed the gap, I've got to go with Brodeur. The Devils' veteran stopper is having the best statistical season of his brilliant career. At the break, Brodeur leads all goalies in wins (29), goals-against average (2.01) and shutouts (eight). He's also second, behind Predators stopper Chris Mason, in save percentage with a .928 mark. Remember, he's not playing behind Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer anymore. Brodeur gets the Vezina. And, if the Pens miss the playoffs, he'll get the Hart, too.
Evgeni Malkin or Anze Kopitar?
Boy, this is a tough show. I love Kopitar, but I'll take Malkin. The lanky Russian leads the rookie scoring race by 10 points (over the smooth Slovenian) despite playing eight fewer games. Malkin leads all rookies with 24 goals and 144 shots. He's also a plus-4 at the break. Colorado's freshman duo of Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski also merits some consideration, but, of course, this isn't "Take Your Pick Four," either.
Scott Niedermayer or Nicklas Lidstrom?
If I were building a team, I'd probably take Niedermayer, but in this season's Norris race, I have to go with Lidstrom. At age 36, the smooth Swede remains a steady force on the blue line. In 49 games, he has compiled 10 goals and 40 points and he leads all defenders with an impressive plus-30 rating. I'll take Lidstrom to win his fifth Norris Trophy.
Jack Adams Award
Barry Trotz or Lindy Ruff?
I have to take Trotz, the most underappreciated coach in the league. This season, he didn't let key injuries to top pivot Jason Arnott and starting goalie Tomas Vokoun keep his team down. At the break, the Predators have a league-best 34 wins and 71 points. Trotz seems ready to take his team deep into the postseason.
So, you've been such a good audience, I'll throw in a bonus round.
Most Likely To Be Traded
Peter Forsberg or Craig Conroy?
I'm going to choose Conroy. New Kings coach Marc Crawford (overrated?) hasn't been too thrilled with Conroy from the start and, as a result, the veteran center has struggled to find his game. He has just five goals and 11 assists in 50 games. At age 35, the former Clarkson star still has good wheels. In a better situation (Atlanta?), he could thrive. I think he would be an excellent trade-deadline acquisition. He does, however, have one year (approximately $2.3M) remaining on his contract. The rebuilding Kings will move him. In Philly, meanwhile, the Flyers likely will deal Forsberg, but his ongoing health issues and recent injury problems might put a monkey wrench in any trade.