1 May 2012

NHL Awards 2011/12 - meet the contenders


 Seemingly the only public announcements made by the NHL over the last few weeks that haven't been delivered via the medium of a 163-second long video narrated by a depressed-sounding Brendan Shanahan have been those revealing the finalists for the various awards that are voted on by the fine, thoughtful individuals of the hockey writing and broadcasting community and NHL general managers (rather than being automatically determined by those stupid geeks who, like, count stuff).

Perhaps the Shanaban technique will also be employed on the day of the awards show itself...

"I'm Brendan Shanahan of the National Hockey League's Department of Slightly Awkward Prize Giving Ceremonies, in association with Nickelback.  On several nights in different cities, lots of incidents occurred in games between several teams and several more teams..."

"...As the column shows, the beat writer has not seen this player in action all season, therefore this is classed as a 'blindside' vote.  The Department of Announcing the Winner has chosen to suspend the cultural relevance of the minor celebrity making the award for fifteen years."

...but we'll probably just have to settle for another uncomfortably uncomfortable ceremony in Las Vegas in June, propped up by special appearances by Hannes Hyvonen and the Ferraro twins (via satellite link, should their schedules allow).

Here is a quick rundown of the main awards and those in the running:

Hart Memorial Trophy

Supposed to be awarded to: The player adjudged most valuable to his team
In practice, normally awarded to: The player with the most points and/or who happened to get hot in the last month of the season

Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
Has a chance to be a rare goaltender MVP, following previous winners of the modern era, Jose Theodore and Dominik Hasek, suggesting the only writers in favour of goalies for the award are female voters and voters that think Dominik Hasek was a pretty good goalie.

Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins)
While, of course, honoured to be the overwhelming favourite to add this award to his burgeoning collection of individual achievements, is understandably keener to bring home the much bigger prize last won by his team in 2009.  Or if the IIHF World Championships eludes him again, maybe the Stanley Cup next year.

Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Fired an impressive 60 goals to again lead the league, despite the formidable handicap of not playing a single game against a Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender.

James Norris Memorial Trophy

Supposed to be awarded to: The defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position
In practice, normally awarded to: Nicklas Lidstrom

Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins)
Performed at his customary high standard offensively (52 points), defensively (+33 rating) and with discipline (only defenseman in the league not to take a retaliatory penalty against Brad Marchand).

Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators)
A player team owner Eugene Melnyk thinks will "go down in history as one of the great defencemen of all time", which sounds more promising than the way the last Senators defenceman to score 17 or more goals in a season ended up "going down" and became "history".

Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
Justifiably proud of being a finalist for a second straight year, but has promised not to rub his opponents' faces in it if he wins.

Vezina Trophy

Supposed to be awarded to: The goaltender who is adjudged to be the best at this position
In practice, normally awarded to: The goaltender who is adjudged to be at least as good as Jim Carey and Jose Theodore turned out to be

Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
Career season attributed in part to decreased level of fatigue from 10% reduction in number of starts and from 100% reduction in gameday shopping trips with Sean Avery.

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings)
Performed heroics to get the Kings into the playoffs, despite his misunderstanding of exactly what both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter meant when they promised on their separate arrivals to bring "an unprecedent level of scoring" to Los Angeles.

Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators)
Signed a new deal during the season that will see his annual salary spike by 75%, commensurate with the 75% increase in shots he is liable to face next year.

Calder Memorial Trophy

Supposed to be awarded to: The player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League
In practice, normally awarded to: The player selected as the most proficient in what might be his third year of competition in the National Hockey League after what might be no or several years of competition in another professional league

Adam Henrique (New Jersey Devils)
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the last Devils player to win the award, by monumentally screwing the New York Rangers in a bloated free agent deal several years later.

Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche)
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the last Avalanche player to win the award, by monumentally screwing the New York Rangers in a bloated free agent deal several years later.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers)
Thought by many to be too raw and slight of build to crack an NHL line-up, frustratingly did not get the opportunity to prove those people wrong due to him cracking the Oilers line-up instead.

Frank J. Selke Trophy

Supposed to be awarded to: The forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game
In practice, normally awarded to: The forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game while having the offensive ability to score at least 50 points

David Backes (St. Louis Blues)
A complete player, loved by Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who can rely on him to carry out his comprehensive orders without complaint, though it remains unclear why Hitchcock can't take his car to the drive-thru window like the other KFC customers do.

Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
One of the league leaders in Corsi, apparently a measure of frequency a player covers defensively while a team-mate makes a play that really upsets the Buffalo Sabres' goalie coach.

Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings)
So good defensively that while he was on the ice this season, the composite GAA of Jimmy Howard, Ty Conklin and Joey MacDonald was under 11.00.

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Supposed to be awarded to: The player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey
In practice, normally awarded to: The player who missed the most games through injury the season before

Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators)
A player whose dedication will truly be tested next year (if not retiring) when forced to play for only $1m plus whatever the value of the coins thrown at him by Leafs fans comes to.

Joffrey Lupul (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Re-established himself after serious injury, setting a career high in days spent without getting traded for Chris Pronger.

Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens)
One of the few members of the Canadiens organisation at the season's end to be recognised for his perseverance rather than his severance pay.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

Supposed to be awarded to: The player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability
In practice, normally awarded to: The player adjudged to have had the fewest penalty minutes when the voters quickly skim down the list of top 20 scorers five minutes before the deadline to send in their ballot

Brian Campbell (Florida Panthers)
Not originally among the finalists for the award, until NHL staff noticed there was something suspicious about the four thousand write-in votes for every other player in the league all signed by somebody with handwriting very similar to R.J. Umberger's.

Jordan Eberle (Edmonton Oilers)
High points totals and low penalty minutes do not suggest a frustrated player, but recent precedent suggests Jordan might tire of his perennially losing franchise and look to join the Blackhawks.

Matt Moulson (New York Islanders)
Scored 36 goals while only taking three minor penalties all season, proving only that less asbestos falls from the Nassau Coliseum ceiling above the goal crease than from that above the home penalty box.

Jack Adams Award

Supposed to be awarded to: The coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success
In practice, normally awarded to: The coach adjudged to have the most noticeably different personality to his predecessor, who probably didn't win as much too

Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis Blues)
Early season appointment and stunning results led to the long-awaited return of positive headlines for the Blues, that disappointingly did not all use the line "Payne Relief".

Paul MacLean (Ottawa Senators)
Praised by senior players for sharing valuable insight from his playing days, but looked at with faces of utter confusion by less senior players when telling of his exploits in Winnipeg Jets playoff games.

John Tortorella (New York Rangers)
Despite a patchy 0-1-2 start, a famously terse relationship with the media and especially the double banishment of one particular team-first left winger, now enjoys a 23% approval rating among the knowledgable Madison Square Garden patrons, the highest by any Rangers coach in history.

General Manager of the Year Award

Supposed to be awarded to: Brian Burke
In practice, normally awarded to: The top National Hockey League General Manager

Doug Armstrong (St. Louis Blues)
Showed all the signs of being the GM of an emerging powerhouse team by winning the frantic league-wide races to acquire Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Kent Huskins and Brian Elliott then firing his coach after 13 games.

David Poile (Nashville)
Another excellent season at the helm of the over-achieving franchise, but doubts remain that his plan to get Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to fly to Russia briefly then come back to play for entry level deals will help keep the team together in the off-season.

Dale Tallon (Florida Panthers)
Proved this was the finest season of his GM career by overspending on several mediocre free agents on purpose this time.

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