The annual NHL awards night is set for the Encore Theater at the Wynn in Las Vegas on Wednesday, and I can't even remember which players received my vote back on that Monday following the regular season that ended more than two months ago.
The awards are based on regular season performances, but when the glare of the playoff spotlight is at its brightest often a player or two skates to the forefront and you wonder whether he should have received more attention for their regular-season exploits.
For example, neither Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi nor Los Angeles head coach Darryl Sutter were named nominees for their work in the regular season. Yet, they clearly made an impact on the Kings road to Stanley Cup success.
So, with the benefit of hindsight, here are my picks for the NHL awards.
Hart Memorial Trophy
(Given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team as voted by Professional Hockey Writers' Associaton)
My pick and why: Here's one I would like to have back. Quick kept his team in the playoff hunt all season and continued to shine in the playoffs. But since the Kings netminder was not among the top three, I will go with Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Where would the Rangers have been without the stingy Swede? He was third in wins (39), third in save percentage (.930), fourth in goals against (1.97) and third in shutouts (eight).
Ted Lindsay Award
(Most outstanding player as voted by fellow NHLPA members)
My pick and why: See above.
(Given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs)
My pick and why: Here we can right a wrong and give the award to Quick, also the Conn Smythe Trophy. Ask any Kings player who their most important player in the regular season or playoffs and they will tell you that a playoff berth would not be possible without the outstanding play of their netminder.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
(Given to the defenceman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position as voted by PHWA members)
My pick and why: Usually I'm a stickler for the all-around part of this award. But an offensive season from a blue liner only comes around once every so often and that's why I like Karlsson here. We haven't seen a 78-point season from a defenceman in the NHL since Detroit's Nik Lidstrom produced 80 in 2005-06.
Calder Memorial Trophy
(Given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL by PHWA members)
My pick and why: Before Henrique was dynamite for the Devils in the playoffs with all those important game-winning goals, Landeskog just kept improving as the season went on. He has every right to collect the Calder a year after his former Kitchener Rangers teammate, Jeff Skinner, was named the NHL's top freshman. He checked in with 12 goals and 26 points in his final 31 games.
Lady Byng Memorial 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 as voted by PHWA members)
My pick and why: Each had outstanding seasons with little time in the penalty box. Eberle had four penalty minutes compared to six each for Moulson and Campbell, but it was hard to ignore Moulson's 36 goals, 10th most in the league in 2011-12.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
(Given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game as voted by PHWA members)
My pick and why: Datsyuk is a perennial contender for this award and Backes likely will be up for this award plenty of times before he calls it a career, but it was hard to ignore Bergeron's efforts this season. He is not only one of the game's most effective two-way forwards, he is an exceptional penalty killer and face-off man and put up an offensive season like he used to before his serious concussion.
Jack Adams Award
(Coach judged to have contributed the most to his team's success as voted by the NHL Broadcasters' Association)
My pick and why: Hitchcock deserves the nod here. Only the Vancouver Canucks enjoyed a better record at 46-15-8 than the Blues 43-15-11 mark after Hitchcock took over in St. Louis. Although, now that we know that the Kings prevailed in the end, it's hard to ignore the 25-13-11 regular season record they enjoyed under Sutter, but the broadcasters did, in fact, ignore Sutter's regular season efforts with Los Angeles.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
(The player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey as voted by PWHA members)
My pick and why: My sentimental favourite is the Senators captain, especially after the class he exhibited as the unofficial host of all-star weekend in the Nation's Capital. Pacioretty exhibited the best ability to bounce back from that horrific collision into the stanchion at the Bell Centre, but he also was suspended for his headshot on Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang last fall, and the Canadiens forward should have known better after he fell victim to his incident with Chara 15 months ago. So I'll stick with Alfredsson for this award.
General Manager of the Year
(Top GM as voted by the 30 club general managers and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media)
NHL Foundation Award
(Given to the player who applies the core values of hockey - commitment, perseverance and teamwork - to enrich the lives of people in his community)
My pick and why: Fisher, Liles and Moulson are each deserving of this prestigious award.
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