Thornton is NHL MVP
San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton was named most valuable player Thursday at the annual NHL Awards in Vancouver.
Thornton, 26, was selected the winner of the Hart Trophy as league MVP in voting held by the NHL Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the conclusion of the regular season.
"I would always watch these awards and Wayne [Gretzky] would always take it home and, obviously, Mario [Lemieux] and Mark [Messier] as well," he said. "It is just very humbling just knowing I am going to be on the same page as these guys."
Thornton capped the finest season of his pro career by capturing the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champion with 125 points, two more than fellow nominee Jaromir Jagr, who also finished two goals behind Jonathan Cheechoo for the Rocket Richard Trophy as top sniper.
Cheechoo was the recipient of many of Thornton's league-high 96 assists in potting an NHL-best 56 goals.
San Jose lost 10 straight before acquiring Thornton from the Boston Bruins last Nov. 30, and simply took off once he arrived.
"I just felt real comfortable," Thornton pointed out. "I went into a situation and got a chance to play with some really good players."
The voting for the Hart Trophy was relatively close with Thornton meriting 1,058 points followed by Jagr with 974 and Calgary Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff with 561.
Jagr didn't leave empty handed, receiving the Lester B. Pearson Award as outstanding player, as voted by his peers in the NHL Players' Association.
"With this award, you get voted on by the players you play against every night and I think they understand the game better than the media," he said.
Jagr, 34, tallied 54 goals and 123 points in 82 games for the New York Rangers.
He also won the Pearson Award in 1999 and 2000.
Kiprusoff happily settled for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender.
The 29-year-old Finn finished 42-20-11 and led the league with 10 shutouts and a 2.03 goals-against average.
He was chosen over Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, who won it in 2003 and 2004, and Rangers rookie Henrik Lundqvist.
Kiprusoff, who could not attend Thursday's gala, was a runaway winner, totalling 140 points compared to 48 for Brodeur and 41 for Lundqvist in voting conducted by the 30 NHL general managers.
Calder Trophy winner: Alexander Ovechkin
Washington Capitals sensation Alexander Ovechkin won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.
Ovechkin led all rookies with 52 goals and 106 points, four more points than Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the third-highest total behind Teemu Selanne's 132 points in 1992-93 and Peter Stastny's 109 points in 1980-81.
"I never felt any pressure," said Ovechkin, who earned 1,275 points in the voting compared to 831 for Crosby and 580 for Dion Phaneuf of the Flames.
"I just enjoyed playing in the NHL. It was my dream being in the best league in the world."
Crosby, 18, set an NHL record by becoming the youngest player with 100-plus points in a single season.
"When we had games between Pittsburgh and Washington, I would watch him play," Ovechkin said. "And he is a tremendous player.
"He takes the puck, he is not scared, he goes hard to the net. He is an unbelievable player."
Norris Trophy winner: Nicklas Lidstrom
A mild surprise might have been Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings taking his fourth Norris Trophy over favoured Scott Niedermayer of the Anaheim Ducks.
Lidstrom, named the top defenceman from 2001-03, had a solid season with 80 points, including 16 goals, and a plus-21 rating.
"I was out there a lot with the man advantage," Lidstrom said. "My ice time increased a lot after Jiri Fischer went out [and] the combination of increased ice time and lots of power plays really helped me have a good season."
Lidstrom, 36,trails only Bobby Orr (8), Doug Harvey (7) and Raymond Bourque (5) in Norris Trophy wins.
"The lockout season helped me," Lidstrom said. "I felt refreshed and re-energized going into the season.
"I wanted to rebound and have a stronger season than I had before the lockout. I was pleased with the way I played."
Dallas Stars defenceman Sergei Zubov was the other nominee.
Selke Trophy winner: Rod Brind'Amour
Carolina Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour, who scored a team-high 12 playoff goals for the Stanley Cup champions, was given the Frank Selke Trophy as the finest defensive forward.
Brind'Amour, 35, had 31 goals, 70 points and a plus-eight rating in 78 regular-season games.
"I don't go out there thinking I'm going to shut the other guy down," he said. "That's the last thing on my mind."
Brind'Amour's 954 voting points easily outdistanced three-time Selke winner Jere Lehtinen of the Dallas Stars and Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators, who merited 567 and 179 points, respectively.
Lady Byng Trophy winner: Pavel Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings was selected the winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most gentlemanly player.
Datsyuk, 27, had only 22 penalty minutes to go with 28 goals and 87 points in 75 games.
The other finalists were Sharks captain Patrick Marleau and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brad Richards, who won it in 2004.
Jack Adams Award: Lindy Ruff
Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres edged out Carolina's Peter Laviolette by a single point for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.
"I would trade him the point for that big silver cup he has over there," Ruff quipped.
Ruff, 47, guided the Sabres to a franchise-record 52 wins and 110 points.
"It is a tremendous honour," he said. "It has been 13 years of coaching — some as an assistant — and I think the year we had put me in this position.
"It's a great honour for our team and our fans in Western New York. It's another way of saying we're back."
Tom Renney of the Rangers was the other Adams finalist in voting by the NHL Broadcasters' Association.
Memorial winners: Selanne, Kolzig
Selanne captured the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Selanne, 35, potted 40 goals and 90 points in 80 games, a marked improvement over the 16 goals and 32 points in 78 games as a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2003-04.
"Winning this trophy means a lot to me," Selanne said in a videotaped message from his native Finland, where he was operating a charity hockey school.
Goaltender Olaf Kolzig of the Capitals received the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for humanitarian contribution to hockey.
"I feel that giving back to a community is only natural," Kolzig said.
With files from Canadian Press