The nominees for all of the NHL’s major awards are now in and while we agree wholeheartedly with most of them, there were a couple we thought were a little weak.
Here are the nominees with my picks and why. The awards will be handed out in Toronto on June 12…
The Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender): The nominees are San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov, New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist.
Our pick is Brodeur. He played in all but five games this season and was brilliant in almost all 77 appearances. Brodeur’s 44 wins were second in the League behind only Nabokov’s 46. His 2.17 goals-against average was fifth best and his .920 save percentage tied him for fourth (among goalies who played in at least 41 games). He was clearly the best goaltender simply because he got a marginal team into the playoffs.
The Norris Trophy (Best Defenceman): The nominees are Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf and Boston’s Zdeno Chara.
Our pick is Lidstrom in a landslide. Phaneuf was fine and Chara had his moments, but the second-best defenceman in the league this year was Brian Campbell (Buffalo and San Jose). Lidstrom has won five of the last six Norris Trophies and he should win easily again this year.
The Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year): The nominees are Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom.
Three outstanding nominees, but our pick is Jonathan Toews. He missed 16 games and still led all NHL rookies in goals. He was the Blackhawks alternate captain and emerged as a team leader. He was third overall in rookie scoring and despite his injury, he didn’t tire down the stretch like Backstrom. I love Kane, and he’ll likely win the voting, but Toews was the best rookie in the NHL this season.
The Lady Byng Trophy (Skill and sportsmanship): The nominees are Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, Buffalo’s Jason Pominville and Tampa’s Martin St. Louis.
No question, Pavel Datsyuk. In fact, Datsyuk isn’t far from being the league’s MVP. He had 96 points, was a plus-41 and played all 82 games. He was the best player on a great Red Wings’ team and although he was a magnificent defensive checker, he picked up only 10 minor penalties all year.
The Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward): Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and New Jersey’s John Madden.
Zetterberg was tremendous but my pick is Datsyuk (see above).
The Hart Trophy (MVP): The nominees are Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin and Calgary’s Jarome Iginla.
Three more outstanding nominees. My vote would go to Ovechkin at the end of the season, but if they counted the playoffs, it would be Malkin. The Pens’ star has been magnificent in the post season and really stepped up during the regular season whenever Sidney Crosby was hurt (which seemed like a lot), but Ovechkin had 65 goals and 47 assists in all 82 games and that’s impossible to ignore.
The Adams Trophy (Coach of the Year): The nominees are Detroit’s Mike Babcock, Washington’s Bruce Boudreau and Montreal’s Guy Carbonneau.
Carbonneau will likely win but Nashville’s Barry Trotz was coach of the year.
Here’s why… this is my column from the National Post which ran April 7, 2008.
Scott Taylor in Winnipeg
At the beginning of the 2007-08 season, the Nashville Predators were left for dead.
Even if one ignored the off-ice fact that the franchise could be re-located on any given day without notice, one couldn’t ignore the on-ice fact that, at least on paper, the Preds were a bad hockey team.
Gone in an off-season housecleaning that made the books look better and the product look dreadful, were No. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun, No. 1 defenceman Kimmo Timonen, leading scorer Paul Kariya and gifted rent-a-player Peter Forsberg. Two of the team’s most reliable forwards, Scott Hartnell and Scottie Upshall had moved on and No. 2 scorer Steve Sullivan was hurt. And he’s been gone all season.
When they went to training camp in September, head coach Barry Trotz’s best player was 33-year-old Jason Arnott, a guy who hadn‘t been a top line centre since his days in New Jersey a decade ago. J.P. Dumont, a talented underachiever wasn’t bad and Alexander Radulov, a gifted 21-year-old Russian who has been a victim of unrealized potential, was about due. Dan Ellis, Martin Erat, David Legwand, Vernon Fiddler, Dan Hamhuis and Jordin Tootoo were all good players, but they were no-names who could have been up-and-coming country singers for all anybody knew.
“Yeah, like who is Dan Ellis?” asked Vancouver Canucks forward Jason Jaffray on Friday. “I’d never heard of him before and I looked in the paper and he had some of the best goalie stats in the league. I had no idea who he was.”
Dan Ellis is a 27-year-old from Saskatoon who played at Nebraska-Omaha and was with AHL Iowa last year, but yeah, who knew?
Naturally, the anonymous Preds started the season as if they were going to be so bad, they’d be sold to an owner who wanted to re-locate them to Minsk. Or Winnipeg.
They won their first two games, then lost six straight. They were 14th in the West (14-16-2), after a five-game losing streak ended on Dec. 22. But Trotz had faith. He had faith that his team wouldn’t quit and he believed, in his heart, that this collection of would-bes, never-weres and has-beens were resilient enough to overcome all the off-ice distractions and play like professionals.
“Resilient. That’s our identity,” said Trotz, an old University of Manitoba assistant coach who came out of Dauphin, Man., to become the only head coach the Predators have ever had. “We’re kind of a hockey version of Major League, the old baseball movie with all the misfits and cast-offs. We sat down in December, when we were almost last, and just decided to play as hard as we could and try to fight back into the playoff race.
“We didn’t say ‘Let’s go out and win 10 straight,’ we just tried to win two-of-three, pick up a point whenever we could and just tried to chip away. When you lose the guys we had lost and somehow you stay in the playoff hunt, I think resilient is the only way to describe us.”
This week, the surprising, No. 8 Nashville Predators will open the 2008 Stanley Cup Western Conference playoffs against the President’s Trophy-winning, No. 1 Detroit Red Wings in what should be a mismatch.
But it might not be. In eight meetings this season, the Wings and Preds went 3-3-2 against each other.
“It’s just another example of how close the league is today,” Trotz said. “We struggled against St. Louis and I really thought that Chicago was the most talented team in our conference. But Detroit, as outstanding as they were, weren’t that intimidating for us. We matched up well against them.
“Of course, we weren’t intimidated by anybody, all year. We’re a lot better than people think.”
This season, a veteran coach took a mediocre team in a lousy situation, convinced them to focus on the job at hand and found a way to keep them from thinking about moving locations or missing assignments. Now they’re in the playoffs.
Certainly, Montreal’s Guy Carbonneau and Washington’s Bruce Boudreau have each done a wonderful job this season, but Barry Trotz would also make a pretty deserving coach of the year.