Picks for NHL's season-ending awards

BY foxsports • April 9, 2012

With the regular season complete, voting is under way for the NHL's individual awards by its various voting bodies – Hart (MVP), Norris (best defenseman) and Calder (rookie of the year) by the Professional Hockey Writers association; Vezina (top goalie) by the general managers and Jack Adams (coach) by the NHL Broadcasters Association.

Here is our look at our candidates for some of the major awards, if we were voting. Only the three finalists for each award are invited to Las Vegas for the awards ceremony, but PHWA ballots, at least, ask for votes for the top five. Here are five candidates in each of those categories.

HART

1. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh. Is it even close? Malkin was one of only two players to hit the 50-goal mark and in 75 games – seven games less than his closest competitor – he won the scoring race by 12 points, helping the Penguins finish with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. This came with teammate Sidney Crosby, ostensibly the league's best player, playing only 22 games because of various injuries. Should be a runaway.

2. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay. Became the first player in the last four years to hit 60 goals and only the second after the 1995-96 season. Scored 12 game-winners. Lightning finished eight points out of a playoff spot. Might've been one of the league's worst teams without him.

3. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver. His 67 assists were the best in the league, helping the Canucks win the Presidents' Trophy for the NHL's top regular season record. Points were important in a season when others, notably Ryan Kesler, fell off noticeably.

4. Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers. Roughly a third of his goals – nine of 29 – were game-winners for the captain of the Eastern Conference's top regular season team.

5. Marian Hossa, Chicago. With captain Jonathan Toews missing the final 22 games of the season because of a concussion and Patrick Sharp, the team's leading goal-scorer, missing eight games, Hossa's 77 points helped the Blackhawks to a 101-point season.

Others in consideration: Because he led all forwards in time on ice per game, some say New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk deserves consideration but his minus-9 rating was still one of the five worst on his team. Also, Philadelphia's Claude Giroux finished third in scoring with 93 points but 38 of them came on the power play, leaving him with only a plus-6 rating. Henrik Sedin, by comparison, finished plus-23 while recording 12 fewer points.

NORRIS

1. Shea Weber, Nashville. His 19 goals equaled the best in the league among defensemen and he finished fifth overall in time-on-ice per game with the seventh-best plus/minus rating among NHL defensemen. He also helped to anchor the NHL's top power play unit on a team that finished with the league's fifth-best overall record.

2. Zdeno Chara, Boston. The former Norris winner finished fourth in scoring among defensemen, posted a plus-33 rating (tops among NHL defensemen) while averaging 25 minutes per game (11th best in the league).

3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa. His defensive play disqualifies him from the top spot – he ranks seventh among defensemen on his team in average penalty kill time per game (most teams dress only six per game) and teammate Filip Kuba's plus/minus rating was 10 better – but his offensive statistics are overwhelming. He won the scoring race among defensemen by 25 points and helped to accelerate his franchise's rebuilding process (getting in the playoffs while many expected it to miss).

4. Brian Campbell, Florida. Would be a candidate for comeback player of the year if they had one. Some saw his acquisition from Chicago as a salary dump, but he was the league's co-leader in time-on-ice and finished third in points, helping his team to win the Southeast Division when few thought it would make the playoffs.

5. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis. Fifth in points by a defenseman, his defensive-minded team finished second in the Western Conference.

Others in consideration: It was very difficult not to put Preds' All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter in the top five – he's third in the league in time-on-ice per game – but his offensive numbers were slightly below the others. Another ex-Pred, Dan Hamhuis, was second best among defensemen with a plus-29 rating and the New York Rangers' Dan Girardi, ranked fourth in time on ice per game for the East's top team, but lacked the offensive numbers.

CALDER

1. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado. Co-leader among rookies in points (52) with a plus-20 rating on a team that finished with a minus-12 goal differential.

2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton. With 52 points in 62 games, would've run away with the rookie scoring race had he stayed healthy. A future star in the making.

3. Jake Gardiner, Toronto. The 21-year-old led all rookie defensemen in points (30) and finished only minus-2 on a team with a minus-33 goal differential.

4. Justin Faulk, Carolina. Led all rookies in time-on-ice per game (22:50) and was second among rookie defensemen in scoring (22 points). Played most of the season as a 19-year-old.

5. Adam Henrique, New Jersey. Was just one point off the pace of the rookie leaders with his 51 and finished plus-8.

VEZINA

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. Third in wins (39), tied for third in shutouts (eight), fourth in save percentage (.930) and tied for fourth in goals-against average (1.97) should get “The King” his first Vezina.

2. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles. Led the league in shutouts with 10, ranked second in GAA (1.95), tied for fifth in wins (35), fifth in save percentage (.929). Kings aren't a playoff team without him.

3. Pekka Rinne, Nashville. Led the league in wins with 43 and games with 73. Steered the Preds through some rough patches early to help them finish with league's fifth-best record.

4. Mike Smith, Phoenix. Thirty-eight wins were fourth-best in the league – and the team won only four others without him in goal. Tied for third in save percentage (.930) and tied for third with eight shutouts.

5. Brian Elliott, St. Louis. He only played 38 games – the second-most on his team and he might not even be his team's playoff starter; otherwise he could have walked away with the trophy. He posted nine shutouts (second-most in the league) in 38 games – almost double the rate of the league's other leaders. His 1.56 GAA was best in the league, as was his .940 save percentage.

Others in consideration: Elliott's teammate Jaroslav Halak also had a fantastic statistical season, though not as good as Elliott, while Halak played more games. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury finished second in wins with 42.

ADAMS

1. Ken Hitchock, St. Louis. It's a runaway, as far as we're concerned. He took over after Davis Payne went 6-7 and rocketed the Blues to the top of the Western Conference, keeping the team in contention for the best record in the league until the final few days of the season.

2. John Tortorella, New York Rangers. He'll never win points for gentility, but he's won a Stanley Cup and could win another with this group. Put simply, he's effective.

3. Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh. Crosby only played 22 games and Bylsma still had the Penguins looking like a  Cup contender at the end of the season, getting production out of Malkin and James Neal (40 goals) while dealing with a tremendous amount of injuries, including on defense, early.

4. Kevin Dineen, Florida. Took a group of disparate parts – the Panthers were maybe the league's most active team in rebuilding their roster in the offseason – and won their division, ending the league's longest playoff drought (12 years).

5. Alain Vigneault, Vancouver. Finished with the best record in the league after going to Game 7 of the Cup final last season. His team runs like a clock. Doesn't get enough credit.


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