Handing Out NHL Hardware

The conclusion of the lockout shortened 2013 NHL regular season is almost upon us, which means that it’s time to hand out some hardware. Read on for my picks for the Hart, Norris, Vezina, and more.

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Hart Memorial Trophy: Jonathan Toews

Runners up: Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin

Awarded to the league’s most valuable player

Toews is the best player on the best team in hockey. He really is a jack-of-all-trades player. He can check, defend, and play on the penalty kill. He is one of the best faceoff men in hockey. He’s big and strong. But most of all, he is an offensive catalyst for the Hawks. He’d be closer to the scoring leaders if he didn’t take such pride in his defensive play, but he is always the first man back and the deepest forward in the defensive zone.

Crosby would have ran away with this award had he not gotten injured a few weeks ago. And Ovechkin has returned to elite status after an extended hiatus. Whatever your opinion of him is, it is great for the game of hockey to have him dominating once again.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Ray Whitney

Runners up: Matt Moulson, Logan Couture

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Awarded to the player who exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability

Even at the age of 41, Whitney continues to thrive as a top six winger in the NHL. He plays a feisty game, too, although you wouldn’t know it from his PIM total (only four PIM in 30 games as of Wednesday afternoon). Whitney is one of the most well-respected veterans in the game of hockey, and he has had to work his butt off for that respect. The Lady Byng sometimes gets a bad rap in the media and among players, but I think it is an impressive and important award to give to a player who competes hard (and clean) on a consistent basis.

Moulson and Couture both play involved two-way games and have very low PIM totals. Again, this should be a recognition of a player who is capable of playing tough minutes without taking penalties. Penalties are bad, especially when it is offensive talents taking them.

Vezina Trophy: Sergei Bobrovsky

Runners up: Antti Niemi, Tuukka Rask

Awarded to the league’s top goaltender

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BOBROVSKY has earned this award with his consistently stellar play for Columbus. He’s big and technically solid (working with former Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark has benefitted his game tremendously), and he is athletic enough to steal games and make incredible saves when called upon. He may not keep this up – we have seen a number of one-season wonder goaltenders come and go, but he has been the most consistently great goaltender in hockey in 2013.

Niemi has been a close second – for a goaltender who has struggled with consistency in the past, you wouldn’t know it from watching him this season. This isn’t the same Sharks team that has dominated the NHL over the past decade – they have won largely because of Niemi’s consistently spectacular play. Rask has emerged as one of the best goaltenders in the world, just like many expected one Tim Thomas went AWOL on the Bruins.

Calder Memorial Trophy: Jonas Brodin

Runners up: Brenden Dillon, Brendan Gallagher

Awarded to the league’s most outstanding rookie player

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There have been several other notable rookies this season in addition to the above three (Brandon Saad and Jonathan Huberdeau, to name two), but Brodin should win this. Defense is an infinitely more difficult position for a rookie to play, and Brodin has seamlessly transitioned into a top pairing defenseman in a matter of weeks.

Dillon has done the same for the Stars, a team that has struggled with its defensive play. Dillon’s story is an interesting one. As an undersized defenseman in the WHL, he was never drafted, but he had a late growth spurt (topping out at 6-3 and 230 pounds), and the Stars gave him a free agent contract a few summers ago. Good move. He has quietly emerged as arguably their best defenseman, and one of the best young two-way defensemen in hockey. We saw some of his skating and offensive ability against his hometown Canucks earlier in 2013, too.

James Norris Memorial Trophy: PK Subban

Runners up: Kris Letang, Ryan Suter

Awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position

Subban’s 2013 season didn’t get off to the best start – he was a contract holdout through training camp, and some speculated that his teammates wouldn’t welcome him back with open arms because of that. Well, those people couldn’t have been more wrong. The Habs surrounded Subban with the right mix of players, and he has thrived. His defensive ability was on display last season, where he made up one half of Montreal’s shutdown pairing.

His defensive play has been just as good in 2013, and he has really broken out offensively, too. Subban is one of the best defensemen in hockey, and the best is yet to come. Suter has had a great season too after a bit of a rocky start. He has a lot of pressure on him after signing that massive free agent contract last summer, and he has delivered and lived up to the hype (not always an easy thing to do).

Letang would probably have pushed Subban for this award if he hadn’t missed so many games. He’s a dynamic defenseman who positively contributes to the Penguins in so many ways.

Jack Adams Award: Paul MacLean

Runners up: Joel Quenneville, Dan Bylsma

Awarded to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success

No Karlsson, no Spezza, no Anderson, no problem. MacLean has done a masterful job guiding a severely undermanned Senators team to many more wins than people expected from them in 2013. Ottawa has done a phenomenal job drafting, signing, and developing young players in recent years, and that has played a huge part in their surprising success.

Frank J. Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron

Runners Up: Pascal Dupuis, Anze Kopitar    

Awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game

Bergeron does it all for the Bruins, and he makes life a lot easier for his teammates. Faceoffs, checking top centers, killing penalties – he excels at all facets of the game. Dupuis has had a phenomenal two-way season, too. The most amazing part is how his game hasn’t fallen off without Sidney Crosby.

NHL General Manager of the Year Award: Bryan Murray

Runners up: Stan Bowman, Ray Shero

Awarded to the top National Hockey League General Manager

As mentioned above, the Senators have done a phenomenal job with player personnel moves in recent years. And they can thank Murray, arguably the best GM in hockey, for that. He has drafted well, traded well, made great signings, and built a strong dressing room. Bowman has done a great job getting Chicago back to the top even after losing so many good players in recent years. Shero has the benefit of having two elite stars on his team, but he still deserves credit for doing a great job with the Penguins.

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