The NHL is readying to take Las Vegas by storm and hand out a few pretty, shiny things - and while we know (now more than ever) that the regular season means [Ciccarelli], and that individual awards are nothing compared to the ultimate piece of silver, there's still something intriguing about the NHL's annual awards ceremony. The debate, the "snubs", the winners all polished in their fancy clothes - it's all fun.
And in the dead of summer, with nothing but months of hockey drought stretched out ahead, sometimes we need a little over-produced, tuxedoed fun.
We've all got our favorites, and there are a few Caps in the races - but who takes home the hardware? After the jump, a little primer to help you prepare for tonight's festivities:
"Given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs."
Why he'll win: Aside from the fact that this award will probably be named after him the second he retires, Brodeur continues to prove that he's capable of doing amazing things. At the tender age of 37 he led all NHL goalies in games played (77), starts (76), wins (45) and shutouts (9), and had the third best GAA (2.24). And oh yeah, he made history, too - repeatedly - by becoming the first goalie in NHL history to record 600 wins, becoming the all-time leader in shutouts with 110 and passing Patrick Roy for the most career games by a goaltender with an astounding 1,076.
Why he'll lose: Because as good a season as he had on paper, there were signs that he was starting to slow down with age, and that his best was no longer up to par with some of the League's younger goalies. His save percentage of .916 was only a disappointing (for him) 13th best overall. And while this year's playoffs won't count against him and this year's Olympics shouldn't count against him, there's a chance that his sub-par performance in last year's postseason is still fresh on the minds of voters.
Why he'll win: Once a backup in Anaheim, Bryzgalov has found new life in the desert of Phoenix and had a career year during the '09-'10 season. He was second in the League in shutouts (8), third in wins (42), sixth in goals-against average (2.29), seventh in starts (69) and tied for ninth in save percentage (.920). Bryzgalov completely obliterated his previous career marks in wins, shutouts, save percentage and goals-against average, helping to lead the once wayward Coyotes to their best season in franchise history.
Why he'll lose: Bryzgalov's numbers are pretty, but they're not consistently good across the board - and there's a chance his team's performance boosted his numbers instead of the other way around. He allowed three or more goals 28 times, tied for the 6th-highest in the League, and earned almost 20% of his wins via the shootout.
Why he'll win: Like his two fellow nominees, Miller's stats were exemplary this year - second best GAA in the League (2.22), second best save percentage (.929), fourth in wins (41, a franchise record) and tied for fifth with five shutouts. Unlike his fellow nominees, however, Miller's numbers were only part of the story, as his performance was the biggest reason why the Sabres finished the season where they did.
Why he'll lose: Going up against a living legend and a feel-good story makes this anyone's award to win (sort of), especially when Miller's numbers were on the same level with Brodeur's and Bryzgalov's.
"Given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position."
Why he'll win: At only 20 years old and in just his second full season, Doughty's already established himself as one of the League’s elite defensemen. Doughty was first in game-winning goals (5), second in power-play points (31), tied for second in goals and power-play goals (9), third in points, and tied for fifth in assists and power-play assists (22). And at the other end of the ice he blocked 76 shots, averaged 2:01 per game on the penalty kill, and finished a +20 – the second-highest plus/minus on his team.
Why he'll lose: Almost all of those shiny offensive numbers still fell short of what fellow nominee Mike Green did this year, while his average ice time, shorthanded ice time and plus/minus trailed both Green and Keith. But ultimately the biggest factor could be his inexperience – there’s a sense that one has to pay his dues a bit more, and while none of the three nominees is particularly seasoned, Doughty is the youngest of the three.
Why he'll win: We’ve talked ad nauseum about why Green deserves to be in this conversation, but the bottom line is this – Green’s offense is head and shoulders above his competition, and his defense has greatly improved. Neither Doughty nor Keith has as much of an advantage defensively as Green has offensively, meaning that Green has demonstrated the best all-around ability in the position. Gee, I feel like I’ve read that exact wording somewhere before...
Why he'll lose: Because he has yet to live down this reputation of being all offense and yet incredibly deficient in his own end. While we know it’s not true, and continues to get less factual every year, some reputations are hard to get rid of, and this one's got serious sticking power in the minds of a lot of people who "matter". The fact that he is so dynamic offensively and plays on an equally dynamic team will hurt him. Again.
Why he'll win: Keith’s got a bit of an offensive flair in his own right, as he led all NHL defensemen in goals (10), assists (38) and points (48) at even-strength; his 15 multi-point games trailed only Green. He was also proficient on the penalty kill, leading all defensemen with 5 shorthanded points (1 goal, 4 assists) while logging an average of 2:58 in shorthanded ice time – all part of an average ice time of 26:58 minutes, second-highest among all defensemen. He blocked 143 shots and finished the season with a plus-21 rating.
Why he'll lose: For all the talk about his defensive prowess, Keith’s not infallible – in fact, he was on the ice for 74 even strength goals against this year, tied for most in the League. By contrast, Green was only on the ice for 51, Doughty 45. And while he did score quite a bit at even-strength, his power play totals were nowhere near that of his competition despite getting an average of 2:48 with the extra man.
"Given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League."
Why he'll win: Amid the pack of highly-hyped rookies that headlined last year's Entry Draft, Duchene separated himself from the pack by scoring 24 goals (including 10 on the power play) and 55 points while averaging 17:43 of ice time per game. His production put him atop all rookies in points, tied for first in goals, second in assists and power play goals, fourth in shots on goal and fifth among all rookie forwards in ice time - all while being the third-highest scorer on the Avalanche.
Why he'll lose: After a fast start, Duchene trailed off a bit and in the second half of the season he allowed other names to start sharing - and sometimes stealing - the spotlight.
Why he'll win: After years of toiling in the Red Wings' system and waiting for his shot, Howard broke out in a big way when he stole the starting job from Chris Osgood - and never looked back. He went on to start 61 games, winning 37 of them (good enough for 8th best in the League) while posting five shutouts, along with the NHL's 5th best GAA (2.26) and 4th best save percentage (.924).
Why he'll lose: As with many of the other awards, it's hard for a goalie to win the Calder without putting up a dramatically impressive season, and while Howard's numbers were good and his performance helped carry the Red Wings for much of the season, he was often overshadowed by the presence of another young goalie in Boston named Tuukka Rask. Plus he has the burden every Detroit goalie has had to deal with in the last two decades - he plays behind Nicklas Lidstrom.
Why he'll win: Myers was the only rookie to appear in all 82 games, making his NHL debut when the Sabres made their season debut at just 19 years old. He was third among all rookies in scoring, the only defenseman to crack the top 5 in that category, and was tied for second in plus/minus with a plus-13. His point totals put him fifth on the Sabres in scoring, and Buffalo was 8-1-1 when Myers scored a goal, 29-7-1 when he recorded a point. He led the Sabres in ice time in 58 of 82 games and averaged 23:44 for the season
Why he'll lose: If Howard has to fight off the impression that his numbers are better for playing behind Lidstrom, think what Myers has to deal with playing in front of Ryan Miller. It's easy to make rookie mistakes when you know nine times out of ten your goalie can bail you out. And if you think it's hard to win the Calder as a goalie, it's even harder to win as a defenseman - only two blueliners have won the award in the last two decades.
LADY BYNG TROPHY
"Given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."
Why he'll win: Datsyuk finished 27th in the League in scoring with 70 points while picking up just nine minor penalties all year (including two in one game). He also went a season-high 31 games without being called for an infraction.
Why he'll lose: Because people are tired of hearing him announced as "Reigning Lady Byng Winner Pavel Datsyuk"...it just sounds braggy. And because his 18 penalty minutes was the highest of all three nominees, thereby firmly establishing him as the goon of this trio.
Why he'll win: His 91 points in 80 games ranked him 7th in the League in scoring and first overall on his team, tying a career-high in points. During that time he picked up just fourteen penalty minutes, going 30 games between penalties and only once being whistled for more than two penalty minutes in a single month.
Why he'll lose: Because Pavel went 31 games in between penalties.
Why he'll win: St. Louis was sixth in the NHL in scoring with 94 points, his 65 assists both setting a career-high and leading the Lightning. Meanwhile he played all 82 games, averaged 21:48 of ice time per game and earned just 12 penalty minutes. After three years of being the runner-up, it's his turn.
Why he'll lose: After three years of being the runner-up, he's the most comfortable in that position. Let him keep it.
"Given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game."
Why he'll win: Datsyuk recorded 132 takeaways to lead the League for the fourth time in the last five seasons. He finished 21st among all NHL forwards with a plus-17, and he recorded 89 hits and 33 blocked shots while winning 55.1 percent of his draws. His 70 points led the Red Wings in scoring for the sixth consecutive season - a franchise record.
Why he'll lose: Despite his abilities in his own end, Datsyuk rarely skates on the penalty kill, averaging less than a minute of shorthanded ice time per game. It's an area in which his fellow nominees excel, and could be the difference maker this year in Datsyuk's quest for his third straight Selke.
Why he'll win: Kesler trailed only Datsyuk in takeaways with 83, was seventh among all forwards with 73 blocked shots, and recorded 95 hits. He also averaged 2:39 of shorthanded ice time per game, third among Canuck forwards. Kesler won 772 faceoffs, ninth best in the NHL, and finished the season with a 55.1 winning percentage, 12th best in the League.
Why he'll lose: Vancouver's a team that can score, and between their high goal totals and the amount of time he spent on the penalty kill, you'd expect a high plus-minus from Kesler - but he finished the season just above even, a plus-1 for the year.
Why he'll win: Staal's plus-19 rating was 17th among all League forwards, and he finished the season with 121 hits, 41 blocked shots and 41 takeaways.He averaged 19:23 of ice time per game, an average of 3:20 of which was spent on the penalty kill, leading all Pittsburgh forwards. He posted a career-high 28 assists and tied his career-high with 49 points, and was the only nominee to score shorthanded (2).
Why he'll lose: Part of playing defensively is simply keeping the puck away from the other team, and that starts with the faceoffs - for someone relied on to take so many (20th most in the NHL), winning 48.3% of draws isn't anything to write home about. It might have been good enough for second-best on his team but it doesn't even crack the top 60 League-wide.
"Given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
There are no winners or losers in this one - all three are more than deserving. For a look at their stories (and those of others nominated by their teams) check out gotsparkly's excellent FanPost on the subject.
TED LINDSAY AWARD
"Presented annually to the "most outstanding player" in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players' Association."
Why he'll win: The Penguins eternally seem to be searching for a winger who can skate alongside Crosby and score goals on the top line; flanked with more "winners" this year Crosby finally took matters into his own hands and decided to provide the offense himself. Picking up his first 50+ goal season, Crosby finished the year tied for the goal-scoring lead and tied for second for the Art Ross. He won 55.9% of his faceoffs, good enough for 11th in the League, and skated an average of 21:57 a game - second among all forwards.
Why he'll lose: Because as great a season as he had, there are a lot of ties and second-place finishes - impressive when considering the entire field of players but nothing that really makes him stand out among the three nominees.
Why he'll win: To finish third in scoring and second in goals (and by slim margins, too) despite playing in ten fewer games is a pretty impressive feat. Ovechkin led all forwards with a career-high plus-45, plus-8 better than any other forward and second in the League behind only teammate Jeff Schultz. His 183 hits was 27th in the League, the only one among the top 30 in that category who even cracked the top 75 in scoring, and his 7 game-winning goals were tied for third overall.
Why he'll lose: Just like Crosby, failing to finish atop any of the basic scoring stats might have lost him some votes - and the fact that he played in ten fewer games, while impressive from a scoring standpoint, also serves as a reminder that he was suspended twice. It may feed in to what some view as an overly reckless, borderline dirty style of play.
Why he'll win: Sedin became the first player in Vancouver’s history to win the Art Ross, breaking the single-season point record previously held by Pavel Bure (110 in 1992-93) and establishing himself as the all-time franchise leader in assists with 434. He played in all 82 games for the fifth straight year and led the league in assists with 83 – 14 more than the next-highest total, and his plus-35 rating was 8th best in the NHL.
Why he'll lose: Despite posting eye-opening offensive stats, Sedin does not have the reputation of being at the same level as the Crosbys and Ovechkins of the League - an elite player having an amazing season, for sure, but not considered by most to be in the same stratosphere as his fellow nominees. Yet.
JACK ADAMS TROPHY
"Presented by the National Hockey League Broadcasters' Association to the NHL coach judged to have contributed the most to his team's success."
Why he'll win: When the Avalanche named Joe Sacco their head coach last summer, it raised more than a few eyebrows. One year later and he's proved himself more than worthy, having taken the Avalanche from a 28th place team to second in the Northwest Division and the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Under Sacco's guidance, Colorado got off to a 10-1-2 start in October and finished 43-30-9.
Why he'll lose: He's not named Dave Tippett.
Why he'll win: The only coach Nashville has ever known, Trotz led the Predators to their third 100-point finish in franchise history and a seventh seed in the playoffs. They also became one of just five teams to reach the 40-win plateau in each of the last five seasons - despite scoring just 225 goals over the course of the year.
Why he'll lose: He's not named Dave Tippett.
Why he'll win: He took a team with an uncertain future, coming off a 25th-best finish the year before, and turned them into one of the powerhouses of the West. Under Tippett's tutelage, the Coyotes made a 14-win, 28-point improvement over their previous campaign while scoring 17 more goals and allowing 50 fewer. En route to their first playoff appearance since 2002, the Coyotes established new single-season franchise records for wins (50), home wins (29) and points (107). Tough enough to do under normal circumstances, Tippett managed to make all this happen amid ownership controversy and the omnipresent threat of relocation.
Why he'll lose: Check the name - he won't.
"Given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team."
Why he'll win: Crosby led the NHL with three hat tricks and eight shootout goals; the Penguins were 38-13-5 when he scored a point, 22-8-3 when he scored a goal. He led the League with 1,001 faceoff wins, over 100 more than the next-highest win total. He also tied a single-game career high with 6 points vs. the Islanders on January 19th, and recorded a nine-game point streak from Feb. 12 – Mar. 14 in which he scored 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists).
Why he'll lose: It might be hard to convince voters that a Stanley Cup-winning team needs to be carried by anyone, even if that's what happened. Plus he's being challenged by a career year from one of the League's best goal-scorers and a career year that no one saw coming.
Why he'll win: Aside from the obvious offensive contributions, Ovechkin added a new element to his game - leadership. After being named captain on Jan.5, the Caps went 30-5-7, a pace that would have resulted in around 130 points if stretched over the whole season. The Caps finished the season as the League's best team, eight more points than the second-best team, eighteen more than the second-place team in the East and thirty-eight more points than the second-place team in the Southeast.
Why he'll lose: A lot of people will point to the team's record without him as a reason why he's no longer the MVP - part of a bigger issue that being the best player on a strong team creates a misconception that the best player isn't as important.
Why he'll win: This was a breakout year for Sedin, as he set new career marks in goals, assists, points, shots, plus-minus and shooting percentage. As a bonus, Henrik also proved that he could continue to produce even without his brother - when Daniel Sedin was out with injury, Henrik went on to score 10 goals and 19 points in 19 games.
Why he'll lose: He may have led the League in points, but take away his 29 goals and the Canucks were still one of the higher scoring teams in the NHL this year. He'll also have to battle two guys who have won before - and if fans of Western Conference teams are to be believed, a wee bit of Eastern bias in the voting, as well.
Be sure to check back and enjoy all the Award Ceremony fun with us later tonight...