HART (most valuable player)
WHO SHOULD WIN: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
It isn’t just that Malkin won the scoring title for the second time in four seasons, it’s how he did it in. In a year when so many of the Penguins’ integral pieces, from Sidney Crosby to Jordan Staal to Kris Letang missed significant time with injuries, he was the glue that kept the team together through thick and thin and led them to a 108-point season, just three off the Vancouver Canucks’ league lead.
WHO WILL WIN: Malkin
There’ll be some support for Steven Stamkos, who became only the second player since the 2004-05 lockout to score 60 goals, but his candidacy will be hampered by the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs. Only three goalies since 1965 have won the Hart. As well as Henrik Lundqvist played for the New York Rangers, he didn’t do enough to break that anti-goalie mindset.
VÉZINA (top goaltender)
WHO SHOULD WIN: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
If the NHL voting season included playoffs, a lot of the Vézina Trophy sentiment may have shifted to the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick, who did what Lundqvist could not and defeated the New Jersey Devils in a best-of-seven series. As it was, Quick and Lundqvist had virtually indistinguishable regular-season stats (Quick: 1.95 goals-against average, .929 save percentage; Lundqvist: 1.97 GAA, .930 save percentage).
WHO WILL WIN: Lundqvist
Statistically, it really was a flip of the coin between Lundqvist and Quick for NHL general managers who vote on this award. NHLers playing on the West Coast perennially complain about a bias against them, on the grounds that their games end too late for many Eastern Time zone viewers to watch. That wouldn’t apply to NHL GMs, who make their living at this, would it? Would it?
NORRIS (top defenceman)
WHO SHOULD WIN: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Karlsson had a Paul Coffey-type season, in which he distanced himself so far from the pack offensively (his 78 points were 25 ahead of the Winnipeg Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien and the Florida Panthers’ Brian Campbell) that it is hard to dispute the sheer weight of the numbers. But Coffey won only three Norris trophies despite the massive scoring totals because the award technically goes to the player who shows the “greatest all-around ability at the position.”
WHO WILL WIN: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Year over year, Karlsson improved his plus-minus rating by a whopping 46 (from minus-30 to plus-16), which should help his candidacy, but Chara was a dominant force at both ends of the ice for the 2011 Stanley Cup champions – 52 points, plus-33, 25 minutes of playing time a night, always in a shutdown role.
CALDER (top rookie)
WHO SHOULD WIN: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton OilersNugent-Hopkins finished in a tie with the Colorado Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog atop the rookie scoring charts, with 52 points apiece, despite the fact that he missed 20 games this season to injury. That shouldn’t count against him, but likely will.
WHO WILL WIN: Landeskog
While Nugent-Hopkins started on the top line, Landeskog played his way up the Colorado depth chart this season and by the end of the year, was a top-three forward on an exciting, free-wheeling young team. Impressive. But likely what impressed the voters most was how well he finished. In theory, every game should count the same in assessing a full year’s performance, but the reality is that voters tend to put a premium on the end rather than the beginning – and from around the all-star break on, Landeskog was in a class by himself.
JACK ADAMS (coach of the year)
WHO SHOULD WIN: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis BluesThere were many impressive coaching accomplishments in the NHL this season, but it is hard to argue with Hitchcock’s impact on the Blues. He took over a team that started 6-7, was considered touch and go to make the playoffs, had no real superstars, and had them in contention for the Presidents’ Trophy right up to the final weekend. Everyone saw the Blues coming, right?
WHO WILL WIN: Hitchcock
Prickly personality and all, the New York Rangers’ John Tortorella will likely get some support in balloting by the NHL Broadcasters’ association, but likely not enough to catch Hitchcock, who has never actually won the award, despite 576 career coaching victories. Defence is usually a function of coaching and the Blues were the runaway winners in that category.