The NHL televises its annual awards show tonight and while no Canadiens are among the top vote-getters for the league’s individual awards, many Habs fans will likely watch regardless. A number of the awards to be presented are named for members of the Canadiens family (Hart, Vezina, Selke, Richard) and members of the Canadiens have won almost all of them at one time or another.
Here’s a rundown of the potential winner (“nominees” the NHL calls them, although they are actually the top three vote-getters in each category; no one is actually nominated other than for the Masterton), who the voters are likely to select and why.
Calder Trophy (outstanding rookie): Logan Couture (Sharks), Michael Grabner (Islanders) and Jeff Skinner (Hurricanes). The voters may go for Skinner, who had a terrific stretch run (13 points in his last 11 games), leading the Hurricanes ill-fated charge to the postseason. Some observers considered Skinner to be more of a “real” rookie since he didn’t play the previous season and was the youngest player in the league, while Couture had played the previous year and in the 2010 playoffs. Couture was my top rookie, having been the Sharks top player for the first half of the season when their big players weren’t doing very much. But down the road, Grabner — traded by Vancouver last June, then waived by the Panthers in October — may end up being the best of the group. Last Canadien to win the Calder: Ken Dryden, 1972; Last runner-up: Michael Ryder, 2004.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (outstanding defensive forward): Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Ryan Kesler (Canucks), and Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks). It’s hard to go against Datsyuk, who may be the NHL’s most complete player, or Toews who was plus-25 with with 24 goals and 54 points, but Kesler had a breakout year with 41 goals and 73 points and a plus-24 rating, playing a full 82-games. He should take this one. Last Canadien to win the Selke: Guy Carbonneau, 1992 (and he won it two other times and was twice runner-up; Bob Gainey won it the first four years it was presented, 1978-81 and was runner-up the next year).
James Norris Memorial Trophy (outstanding all-around defenceman): Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Nicklas Lidstrom (Red Wings), and Shea Weber (Predators). Lidstrom had an amazing season for a 40-year-old — well for anyone — and was the favorite to win this for a good chunk of the campaign, but he faded in the end as the Wings slumped and actually finished a minus-2 on the year. Weber is the cornerstone of one of hockey’s best defence corps and while he benefits from partnering with the very underrated Ryan Suter, he’s still got an exceptional all-around game — finishing fifth among d-men in goals (16) and sixth in hits (211) gives you a good indication of that. You can use the comments section below to write about Chara; just remember to follow the HIO guidelines. Last Canadien to win the Norris: Chris Chelios, 1989. Larry Robinson won it twice and was once runner-up. Starting in 1955, Doug Harvey won it six times in seven seasons — teammate Tom Johnson interrupted him and was runner-up in ’54.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct: Loui Eriksson (Stars), Nicklas Lidstrom (Red Wings), and Martin St. Louis (Lightning). The voters may go for St. Louis, a small man in a big man’s game who got 99 points and only collected a dozen minutes. Eriksson got only 10 PIMs and 73 points. But I’m most impressed with Lidstrom. No defenceman has won this since 1954 when the Red Wings Red Kelly won it and it’s only been captured by blueliners four times since 1925 (Kelly three times and Red Wing Bill Quackenbush once). It’s nearly impossible to play defence in a gentlemanly manner but he does and does it expertly. Plus, he’s a gentleman off the ice, although whether he gets any votes for that is an open question. Last Canadien to win the Byng: Mats Naslund, 1988. The only other Hab to win it was Toe Blake in 1946.
Vezina Trophy (outstanding goaltender): Roberto Luongo (Canucks), Pekka Rinne (Predators), and Tim Thomas (Bruins). The NHL GMs choose this one. Luongo will get the Jennings Trophy along with Corey Scheider for lowest goals-against, and finally had the kind of regular season the Canucks were hoping he’d provide when they acquired him in 2006. Rinne was brilliant backstopping a Nashville team that has struggles to score and allows him little room for error. But no one who watched him this season can argue with the selection of Thomas, who some thought also deserved the Hart Trophy. The Bruins probably don’t win the Northeast Division without him. The playoffs, you know about. Last Canadien to win the Vezina: Jose Theodore, 2002, the year he also won the Hart Trophy. Patrick Roy won it three times and was once runner-up. (Before 1980, the Vezina was awarded for lowest goals against and not by vote, and was won numerous times by Canadiens goalies.)
Jack Adams Award (outstanding coach): Dan Bylsma (Penguins), Barry Trotz (Predators), and Alain Vigneault (Canucks). This one is selected by the NHL Broadcasters Association and it’s another one that’s tough to determine just who is most deserving, and that includes some guys who aren’t among the “nominees.” It would be great for Trotz to win, considering he gets so much out of so little every season. Vigneaut coached the Presidents’ Trophy winners and that speaks for itself. But the guess here is that Bylsma, who benefited from his sympathetic exposure in the HBO 24/7 series but also had to keep the Penguins on the rails after the worst run of injuries in the NHL — even worse than the Canadiens — will get the award. But how could anyone not be mightily impressed by the job Jacques Lemaire did in turning around the Devils? He didn’t make the top three, but probably should have. Last Canadien to win the Adams: Pat Burns, 1989. Carbonneau was runner-up in 2008, Vigneault in 2000. Scotty Bowman is the only other Habs coach to win it, and only once while coaching Montreal in 1977.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey): Ray Emery (Ducks), Daymond Langkow (Flames), and Ian Laperriere (Flyers). Every team’s PHWA chapter nominates a player for this award (Mathieu Darche was this year’s Habs nominee) and those who usually get the most votes league-wide are the ones who overcame serious injury or adversity of some sort. How anyone can choose one of these guys over another is a puzzle. They all have inspiring stories of contending with major injuries and never giving up their desire to overcome them and return to the NHL. In Laperriere’s case, he was unable to ultimately resume his career and perhaps that might sway voters to give it to him. Last Canadien to win the Masterton: Saku Koivu, 2002. Serge Savard, Henri Richard and Claude Provost (the first recipient) have also won it.
General Manager of the Year: Mike Gillis (Canucks), David Poile (Predators), and Steve Yzerman (Lightning). This is the second year of this award (the Coyotes Don Maloney won the first one last year) and the first time this award will be part of the TV Awards show. The winner is selected by the GMs themselves — and you never know what the GMs might do in any of their endeavours. Yzerman engineered the Tampa Bay turnaround and he’d be a good choice. Gilles could be their guy as well, considering his impressive team building tactics which resulted in the Presidents’ Trophy. It’s also very possible they’ll pick Poile, who is a popular senior member of this fraternity and who lacks the resources that others have but somehow manages to cobble together a winning team each season.
Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player to his team): Corey Perry (Ducks), Daniel Sedin (Canucks), and Martin St. Louis (Lightning). Although he was a consistent scorer all season, Perry’s impressive late-season surge probably carried him to victory among the voters. He’ll win the Rocket Richard Award for leading goal scorer, but his 25 goals and 47 points in his final 30 games probably left a lasting impression when the ballots were filled out. Sedin was the leading scorer and best player on the league’s best team although that doesn’t necessarily mean to voters that he was most valuable. I’m a big fan of what Marty St. Louis did for Tampa Bay — the team’s de facto on-ice leader during a strong turnaround season, selling Guy Boucher’s novel game plans to his teammates and mentoring Steven Stamkos, all while racking up 99 points defines most valuable to me. It’s hard to imagine what might have happened this year in Tampa Bay had Yzerman not signed him to an extension and had been forced to move him. Last Canadien to win the Hart: Jose Theodore, 2002. Canadiens have won the Hart Trophy 14 other times, Howie Morenz won it three times, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur twice each.
Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA): Corey Perry (Ducks), Daniel Sedin (Canucks), and Steven Stamkos (Lightning). This one may come down to Sedin vs. Perry in the player’s collective thinking. Despite Perry’s heroics, Sedin was the league’s top scorer and is a better defensive player. Stamkos had a terrific start was the talk of the league early on, but he sagged in the second half. Last Canadien to win the Lindsay Award, Lafleur, three straight seasons from 1976-78.