LAS VEGAS - JUNE 23: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and producer Jerry Bruckheimer pose during the 2010 NHL Awards at the Palms Casino Resort on June 23, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for NHLI)
Fly your "Landeskog for Calder" flag high today and send some sanity to Las Vegas, in hopes of our boy walking off the stage with the prize. If Gabriel Landeskog wins the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, he'll be the first Avalanche player to do so since Chris Drury in 1999, and only the second player in Colorado Avalanche history to win the honor. Countrymen Peter Forsberg won it back in 1994, but that was as a member of the Quebec Nordiques.
The following is a preview of the "star" studded event, the awards, the nominees, and our unfounded picks.
begged paid invited to present the awards for weeks now. That list of big time A-listers includes: Vince Vaughn. Celebs I don't loathe include: Will Arnett ("Up All Night," "Arrested Development") and Tracy Morgan ("30 Rock"). These people will be there too: Ray Liotta, Matthew Perry - but wait, there's more! Director/writer/actor Kevin Smith ("Red State," "Clerks"), Kevin Connolly ("Entourage"), Colin Hanks ("Dexter," "The Good Guys"), Joshua Jackson ("Fringe"), Cory Monteith ("Glee"), Michael Vartan (Hawthorne, Alias), Eric Stonestreet ("Modern Family"), Adam Pally ("Happy Endings") and professional dancer and TV personality Cheryl Burke ("Dancing with the Stars"). Are you amazed yet? Get ready to puke that amazement out all over your hipster 2 sizes too small jean jacket: there will also be two live performances by Nickelback! Have you seen that video on youtube "Shit Nobody Says"? Here's a sampling: "Hey, can I burn a copy of your Nickelback CD?".
On to the real reason for the awards: selfishness! Or better said, celebrating individual accomplishments in team sports! (editor's note: sorry. That celebrity nonsense has made me all spiteful and angsty. I'm going to go listen to Rage Against the Machine's self-titled album now and get back to a happy place).
CALDER - awarded "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League". If that definition is held to be true, Landeskog walks away with the Calder. The nominees are: Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, and Adam Henrique.
Landeskog - you know the accolades: "Mature beyond his years". "Plays like a man". "Always in the right spot". "Looks like a young Dolph Lundgren." Landy was in the top two of all rookies in goals (#2), scoring (#1), hits (#2), shots (#1), take-a-ways (#1), +/- (#2) and pretty much any other peripheral stat you could conjure up. Add that to the fact that he played big minutes in every situation against opponent's top competition, all without a super star teammate (looking at you Henrique), and it should add up to a Calder Trophy.
Adam Henrique: Great season. Deserving of the nomination. Played a pivotal role in helping the Devils make the playoffs - especially with Travis Zajac missing serious time with injury. Like Landeskog, Henrique played in all situations and excelled in just about every statistical category. He is also 22 and enjoyed all star linemates in Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Just saying....
RNH: Short version: sample size too small & injuries. Tough luck kiddo. Go drink some protein shakes.
MHH pick: Duh.
Dark Horse: Henrique. If his playoff heroics unfairly sway voters already suffering from an East Coast bias, Henrique could pull the upset.
HART - awarded "to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team." The Hart Trophy is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (meaning no one that writes for a blog). And the nominees are: Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin, and Steven Stamkos. Avs who won the Hart: Joe Sakic in 2001 and Peter Forsberg won in 2003.
Hank Lundqvist went 39-18-5 with a career best 1.97 GAA and .930 save % and 8 shut outs. The Rangers finished first in the Eastern Conference thanks to his stellar play.
Evgeni Malkin led the league with 109 points (50 goals), 12 points more than second place Stamkos, in only 75 games, for an average of 1.45 ppg. That gaudy total was good enough to secure the Russian his second Art Ross Trophy. Malkin did it as the Penguins best player, and with no Sid factor to pad his numbers. In fact, Malkin's teammates were the ones who benefited from playing with a superstar as linemate James Neal enjoyed his first ever 40-goal season. Malkin made his teammates better and often took over and dominated games.
Steven Stamkos: scores goals.
MHH pick: Lundqvist is the pretty face and perhaps the sentimental favorite, but Malkin was the best non-goalie in league and is worthy of the Hart Trophy.
Dark Horse: Jimmy Howard
Snub: Jonathan Quick
Fun Fact: Last goalie to win the Hart was Jose Theodore in 2002.
VEZINA - awarded to the net minder "adjudged to be the best at his position". Your nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, and Pekka Rinne. Avs who have won the Vezina :( . Although Patrick Roy did win it 3 times as a Canadien.
Rinne: Your nomination is your award dude. Love ya, but the other guys were better.
Lundqvist: If a goalie is nominated for both the Hart and the Vezina, it pretty much guarantees he'll win the Vezina. This 4 time nominee may win the Hart for being his team's MVP, but he wasn't the best goalie in 2011-2012. Still, his season was more than solid enough to merit a Vezina win.
Quick: 35-21-13, 1.95 GAA, .929 save %, 10 shutouts. As if those numbers aren't a curb stomp of epic proportions, Los Angeles was 29th in the league in goals scored. Contrast that with the 11th place Rangers and that should push Quick over the top. With his record breaking post season run and Conn Smythe win still fresh in voter's minds, Quick could snag his first Vezina in as many tries.
MHH pick: Quick
Conspiracy Theory: If Quick wins, he'll be only the second Western Conference goal tender to win in 17 seasons. Uh..seriously? Yeah, seriously. Who was the other you ask? Miikka Kiprusoff in 2006.
NORRIS - awarded to the "defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position". Your nominees: Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Erik Karlsson. Avs who brought home the Norris: None.
Chara: turned in another dominant season along the Bruins' blueline. He put up a career best 52 points (4th among all defensemen), led the Bruins in hits with 166, logged 25 mins per game, and led all D-men with a +33.
Weber: The Predators captain tallied 19 goals, 10 of which came on the powerplay. He compiled 49 points while playing over 25 minutes per game - and always against the best in the league. Shea led the Preds in +/- as well with a +21. He also frustrated the opposition with 177 hits, 51 take-a-ways and 140 blocked shots. Nashville finished in the top ten in goals-for and goals-against in large part to Weber's contributions in all three zones.
Karlsson: The young Swede led all defensemen in goals (19) and assists (59) and points (78). He sported a +16, a 46 point positive swing from his previous season. He also led all defensemen in take-a-ways with 67, all while leading his team in ice time with over 25 mins p/g.
MHH pick: this one is tough because Chara has already won and his numbers are even better than the season in which he won the Norris, but this year seems to be Weber's to lose. While Karlsson's numbers are eye popping, and the Norris awards all around play not just defensive play, voters have notoriously tilted toward the defensive game.
ADAMS - is awarded to the coach "adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success". Your nominees are Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues, John Tortorella of the New York Rangers, and Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators. Avs that have won the Jack Adams: Nobody. But Marc Crawford won it as a Nordique in 1995.
Ken Hitchcock floundered with the perennially disappointing Columbus Blue Jackets and got fired. From fired to hired, Hitch took over the Blues' bench on Nov 6th and subsequently blasted off to a 43-15-11 record and a Division title. Wow. He also reportedly was the key factor in getting the young and undisciplined Blues roster believing in a system and reaching their potential. At the end of the day, isn't that what you want? A coach who gets the best out of his players? Ken Hitchcock did that in St. Louis. Fun fact: Hitchcock is a 4 time nominee, but has never won. Always a bridesmaid, eh Kenny?
John Tortorella carried the burden of high expectations with a revamped line up on one of the best and highest profile teams, in a city than does not allow for the slightest variance in expectations. Under Tortorella's tutelage, the Rangers finished a top the Eastern Conference standings. Fun Fact: Torts won the Jack Adams back in 2004 when Tampa Bay won the Cup.
Rookie coach Paul MacLean turned the Ottawa Senators around to the tune of an 18-point improvement over their 13th place finish last season. His nomination is his reward.
MHH pick: Ken Hitchcock coached his players into playing their best hockey, as a team, and got the most out of them that arguably anyone could get. He is respected and been around for years . As a 4 time nominee, this is his year.
SELKE - awarded to the "forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game". One thing is certain, a new champ will be crowned as Ryan Kesler's underwhelming season left him off the ballot. Your nominees are: Pavel Datsyuk, David Backes, and Patrice Bergeron. Has an Avalanche player ever won you ask? No. But O`Reilly gives us hope.
David Backes: I'm just going to quote NHL.com because they did all the heavy lifting.
Besides his team-high totals of 24 goals and 54 points, Backes led Blues forwards with an average ice time of 19:59 while posting a plus-15 rating. He started just 46 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, the second-fewest of any Blues forward who played at least 10 games, but finished 52.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, meaning he was able to turn defense into offense better than any player on the team. He also led all NHL forwards in advanced metrics website Behind the Net's Quality of Competition rating, meaning the players he skated against had the highest average plus/minus rating.
He led the team with 226 hits and all Blues forwards with 72 blocked shots, while his 50 takeaways were second on the team. He won just 48.6 percent of his faceoffs, but took the most on the team at 1,353.
Patrice Bergeron: Led the league in +/- with a +36. He was also second in the league in face off percentage with a whopping 59.3%, while taking 1/3 of his teams face offs. He played over 18 minutes per game and blocked 67 shots while taking the puck away from opponents 55 times.
Datsyuk: Go read another blog - if you can read.
MHH pick: His lower face off % may do him in, but we'll go with the all around game of David Backes.
Snub: Ryan O`Reilly
LADY BYNG - awarded to the "player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability". Your nominees are: Matt Moulson, Jordan Eberle, and Brian Campbell. None have won this award before. Joe Sakic won the Lady in 2001.
Brian Campbell went to the penalty box just 3 times all season. That's unheard of for a defensemen. He also finished 2nd among blueliners with 53 points. Fun Fact: Only two defensemen have ever won the Lady Byng, and none have won it in the past 58 years.
Jordan Eberle scored 76 points and was whistled for a total of 10 PIMs. He and Matt Moulson are the only 30+ goals scorers with 10 or less penalty minutes.
MHH pick: The youngster or the vet? We'll go with the novelty of a d-man winning. Here's looking at you Mr. Campbell.
MASTERTON - awarded to the "player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey". The "we're glad you're not dead" award. Nominees: Daniel Alfredsson, Max Pacioretty, and Joffrey Lupul. No Avalanche player has won the Masterton.
Max Pacioretty nearly was decapitated and died, but is still playing hockey at an elite level (33 goals, 65 points). He also started a charity at/for the hospital that helped treat him. WINNING.
Daniel Alfredsson is nominated for being old. He returned to a poor performing squad, for a 16th season, at the age of 39 and after having back surgery, and was a key component to the Sens turning their team around and making the playoffs. He finished his final season with 59 points.
Joffrey Lupul suffered a blood disorder, lost 40 pounds, and could barely stand up straight before having a back surgery of his own. In his recovery process, he scored 67 points in 66 games alongside Phil Kessel in Toronto. He also purchased 5, 24-person suites, for home games for the Boys and Girls Club. He also saves kittens in trees regularly.
MHH pick: this is a close one, but the league has to give Pacioretty something since they gave Chara nothing (meaning no discipline) for the hit that nearly ended Max's career and life.
TED LINDSAY (formerly the Lestor B Pearson) - is "awarded annually to the National Hockey League's most outstanding player in the regular season as judged by the members of the NHL Players Association". And the total recall nominees are: Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin, and Steven Stamkos. Former Av and hero, Joe Sakic, won in 2001.
No need to rehash what we've already examined, but this is a two man race between Malkin and Lundqvist.
MHH pick: They've got to give Lundqvist and his flowing mane something right?
AWARDS PREVIEW CONCLUSION: Nickelback sucks. Landeskog rules. Go Avs.