The Detroit Red Wings were the best team this past season and may account for their share of individual honours when the NHL announces its trophy winners.
The league will honour its top individual performers of 2007-08 at the annual NHL Awards on Thursday (CBCsports.ca, 7 p.m. ET, CBC-TV, 8 p.m. ET).
Detroit boast a total of five nominees in four categories: coach Mike Babcock and players Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, up for both the Lady Byng and the Frank J. Selke.
Meanwhile, the writers and players will each decide who is the most valuable player among the same three choices: Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
The NHL has denied inadvertently giving away the winner last week of the Hart Memorial Trophy.
There will be three inspiring choices the Masterton Trophy, two from Canadian teams, given out for the player who demonstrates perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey: Jason Blake of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Fernando Pisani of the Edmonton Oilers and Chris Chelios of the Detroit Red Wings.
Here's a reminder of the other nominees and who might have their hands full:
Hart Memorial Trophy — awarded to the NHL's most valuable player
Lester B. Pearson Award — given to the top player as voted by his peers
- Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
- Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Lowdown: The nominees are the same for both trophies and the winner probably will be, too. Malkin made a big impression when Sidney Crosby was injured, taking the team by the horns with a huge impression in February. His troubles late in the playoffs won't factor into the voting.
Iginla's advantage over the super Russians is that he's a better overall player and leader. He has the immense respect of his peers. If he wins either of the awards, it will be a second Pearson, not the Hart.
Ovechkin led Washington to its first playoff appearance in five years. He was the first in the NHL with over 60 goals since in a dozen years ago and provided a flair and excitement that hasn't been since the days of Jagr and Lemieux, the last to hit 60.
Vezina Trophy — awarded to the NHL's top goaltender
- Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
- Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
- Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks
Lowdown: There's more than one deserving winner in each award category but you could make a strong case that the margin between the nominees is the most slender here.
Brodeur can win his fourth Vezina in five years and his case is strong. He posted 44 wins, a 2.17 goals-against average and six shutouts, a rock at 36 years old in a transitional year for New Jersey with a new coach and new arena.
Lundqvist led the NHL with 10 shutouts but what may hurt his chances is a prolonged slump that lasted nearly a month in December and January.
Of these three, Nabokov upped his game the most. Nabokov led the NHL with 46 wins, narrowly edged Brodeur for the best goals-against average and helped the Sharks to a ridiculously long regulation winning streak late in the year. The Russian will capture his first Vezina.
Jack Adams Award — given to the NHL's top coach
- Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
- Guy Carbonneau, Montreal Canadiens
- Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals
Lowdown: Boudreau, along with Philadelphia's John Stevens, are making league front office types reconsider the recent pattern of hiring NHL retreads over those with only AHL experience. Boudreau turned a boring, ineffective club into a playoff threat with a 37-17-7 record, but it's hard to imagine the award will go to someone with 61 games of NHL experience.
Carbonneau led Montreal to a surprising first-place finish in the East and, better still, made big strides in learning how to communicate with his key veterans and bevy of young players. Had Boston been anything but inept against the Habs in the regular season, Montreal would have finished third or fourth in the conference, which is still respectable.
Like it or not, sometimes there's a career aspect that works subconsciously on voters' minds. How can you deny Babcock of a single Jack Adams after 352 points over three years in Detroit? That's 117 points per season! Two other factors that help his cause this year - Central rivals weren't quite as sadsack, and the team's only prolonged slump coincided with injuries to their best players.
James Norris Memorial Trophy — awarded to the NHL's top defenceman
- Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
- Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
- Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames
Lowdown: Good on Phaneuf for reaching this strata in just his third season. He's a talented player who will win a Norris Trophy in the future, but not this time.
Chara should win; the Bruins would have been hopeless again without his dominating presence and he set a career high in goals (17). Problem is, the hangover from his somewhat disappointing first season in Boston prevented a lot of people from noticing his turnaround until well into the campaign. And when they did, a late-season shoulder injury hampered his play.
This isn't to say Lidstrom isn't deserving. Of course he is. But the major step forward from fellow blue-liner Niklas Kronvall and the acquisition of near great Brian Rafalski certainly helped out; for the first time in a long while there were games where Lidstrom wasn't the best defender on his own team. Lidstrom finished with 60 assists, second highest in his illustrious career. It didn't hurt that Detroit won just two of six when he was out of the lineup in February.
Lidstrom will pass Ray Bourque for third on the all-time list with his sixth Norris, all won within the last seven seasons.
Calder Memorial Trophy — awarded to the NHL's top rookie
- Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
- Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Lowdown: A brilliant playmaker, Backstrom led all rookies with 55 assists and for a rookie was strong on faceoffs. He didn't really get going until the fourth month of the season, though, and had the luxury of playing with the game's best finisher in Ovechkin.
Which leaves the Blackhawk buds. Kane led all rookies with 72 points. Like Backstrom, he didn't miss a game. Unlike Backstrom, he was solid from wire to wire this season and helped elevate Patrick Sharp's game, among others.
But maybe the voters noticed Kane and the Blackhawks weren't nearly as effective without future captain Toews. Chicago was 35-25-6 with Toews and 5-9-2 without him. You want individual stats? He led all rookies with 24 goals in just 64 games and basically finished with the same point-per-game average as Kane.
Frank J. Selke Trophy — awarded to the NHL's top defensive forward
- Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
- John Madden, New Jersey Devils
- Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
Lowdown: You have to wonder what Tomas Holmstrom feels like, the lone Red Wing on his line not nominated here.
Datsyuk led the league in forcing turnovers and plus-minus, but Zetterberg is probably the best two-way player in the league at this moment, doing a lot more of the little things defensively than his teammate. Zetterberg will get a Selke to go alongside his Conn Smythe Trophy.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy — awarded to the NHL's most gentlemanly player
- Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
- Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres
- Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lowdown: Datsyuk may have a better chance at winning the Selke as he was won the Lady Byng the last two seasons.
While not quite going as far as our CBC colleague, who believes it's time for a major rethink of criteria for the Lady Byng, there could be a recognition this year that you can play an involved, feisty game like St. Louis and be well within the bounds of sportsmanship.