With the Los Angeles Kings hoisting their first Stanley Cup in franchise history just over a week ago, we have one more night to celebrate the season that was, before we look to the future as the NHL Awards are handed out in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Before the hardware is handed out in Vegas, everyone is giving their two cents as to who will take home each award for the season and the NHL crew at Rant Sports is no different, with some of the staff sharing their predictions ahead of the show on Wednesday.
Emma Harger (Featured Writer - Boston Bruins): Evgeni Malkin had to take up a leadership role for much of the season and lead he did, scoring 109 points total to lead the league and nab the Art Ross Trophy. He went on a few different point streaks throughout the year, but the most telling statistic is this: the Penguins were 5-9-0 in the games this season where Malkin did not record a point.
Chris Dubiel (Featured Writer - Winnipeg Jets): Evgeni Malkin – He was relied upon to carry a team who had lost one of the best players in the world and he delivered. A guy who is typically the second name mentioned when one talks about the Pens, was large for Pittsburgh this season and had them threatening for the division title late in the year.
Steve Palumbo (Featured Writer - New Jersey Devils): Henrik Lundqvist. Not to take away from what Steven Stamkos or Evgeni Malkin did, but Lundqvist was exceptional in net for the East leading New York Rangers. He was often the best player on the ice for a team that collected 109 points.
Randy Holt (NHL Editor, Featured Writer – Chicago Blackhawks): Has to be Evgeni Malkin. He had to step up with Sidney Crosby out for a good chunk of the year and he did. Geno was an absolute monster for the Penguins and was easily the most important player to his team in the regular season.
Vezina Trophy - Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne
Harger: Jonathan Quick. Just like last year, an American goaltender has had the kind of year that is deserving of an awards sweep (Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Vezina). Quick’s stellar goaltending during the regular season is a huge part of the reason Los Angeles was even able to make the playoffs, considering the team often struggled to score goals in front of him.
Gustkey: Lundqvist: Don’t let the playoffs fool you, Hank was by far the best goaltender in the NHL over the entire season.
Dubiel: Lundqvist – He’ll get the big market votes and help from playing on the East coast. He deserves the award though, Lundqvist is a model of consistency and the Rangers were at the top of the League almost all season. He was a big reason why.
Palumbo: Jonathan Quick. He alone is responsible for keeping the Los Angeles Kings in the playoff hunt. If he hadn’t been as good as he was we would be honoring a different Cup champ because the Kings would never have made the playoffs in the first place.
Holt: Jonathan Quick. Plain and simple: without Quick, there’s no playoffs in Los Angeles and there’s certainly no first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Conn Smythe winner deserves the Vezina.
Harger: Erik Karlsson. Not only did Karlsson lead all defensemen in goals, assists and points, but he came in 10th in the entire league with 78 points, plus he set and broke team records all over the place and played a team-leading 25 minutes a game.
Gustkey: Karlsson. Led his team to a surprise playoff appearance, and 59 assists for a rookie defensemen is ridiculous.
Dubiel: Karlsson – Erik Karlsson was the second coming of Bobby Orr in the 2011-12 season and vaunted the Senators into the playoffs. He had more points than many standout NHL forwards.
Palumbo: Erik Karlsson. Not only did Karlsson lead all defensemen in goals, assists and points, but he came in 10th in the entire league with 78 points, plus he set and broke team records all over the place and played a team-leading 25 minutes a game.
Holt: Karlsson’s point totals are incredible, but I’m going with Shea Weber. The guy is an absolute beast on the blue line and helped lead the Predators to another playoff appearance, though it ended sooner than they would’ve liked. With Nicklas Lidstrom hanging them up, Weber begins his reign as the NHL’s best defenseman with the Norris.
Harger: Gabriel Landeskog. All three rookies had great seasons, and if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had stayed healthy I would’ve chosen him, but Landeskog excelled with 52 points and a +20 rating.
Gustkey: Landeskog: Was a huge part of a resurgent Colorado squad, that looks poised to be good for a long, long time.
Dubiel: Landeskog – He was one of the few, if not the only bright spot in Colorado this season as he was given a significant role with the Avs. He totally ran with it, looking like he was ready for primetime from the onset of the season. He had a great year and will be a special player for years to come.
Palumbo: Gabriel Landeskog – Depsite playing for a mediocre Colorado Avalanche team he made a name for himself by leading all rookies with 22 goals and tying for the lead in rookie points with 52. Of the three candidates in this category, Landeskog appears to be the most ready to make an immediate impact on the league.
Holt: RNH wowed us quite a bit this season, but I’m going to have to make it a sweep for Gabriel Landeskog. He contributed in all aspects of the game for Colorado, and did so well. He’s going to be a star in this league in the very near future.
Harger: Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron’s +36 rating led the entire league, he finished second on the Bruins with 64 points, he was second only to Jonathan Toews in terms of faceoff wins (59.3%), he excels on the penalty kill (and he usually isn’t the reason the Bruins are killing a penalty), he’s great at dishing out helpers to his teammates and he could potentially be Boston’s captain someday after Chara hangs up his giant skates.
Gustkey: Bergeron. Was a force for one of the best forechecking teams in the NHL, and more than held his own in the defensive end.
Dubiel: Backes – His numbers do a lot of talking, he played in one the toughest divisions in hockey, and he was part of a Blues squad that allowed the fewest goals in the NHL.
Palumbo: Patrice Bergeron – Solid in both ends of the ice. He plays a complete game for the Boston Bruins. He was one of six B’s with 20 goals, finished second in team scoring and was an NHL best +36.
Holt: I’ll go with Bergeron. Very strong offensively, good defensively, wins faceoffs, contributes in all apsects of the game, and that plus-36 isn’t too shabby either.
Lady Byng - Nominees: Matt Moulson, Brian Campbell, Jordan Eberle
Harger: Brian Campbell. All three Lady Byng nominees spent fewer than 10 minutes in the penalty box this season, and while Moulson and Eberle both had 30+ goal seasons as a result of all that time spent not feeling shame, a defenseman hasn’t won the Lady Byng since Dwight Eisenhower was in officer. It’s time for Campbell to break that streak.
Dubiel: Campbell – This guy has always been a positive influence in whatever locker room he’s been in, he doesn’t take penalties and plays an all-around clean game. He’s a leader and a consummate pro who was probably Florida’s MVP.
Palumbo: Matt Moulson – He gets my nod because I am most familiar with his all around game and he genuinely a good solid hockey player with a flair for gentlemanly play.
Holt: Brian Campbell. He quickly made the Hawks regret trading him and was the best player for the Florida Panthers this season. Just six penalty minutes all season, especially for one that logs as many minutes as Soupy does, is simply absurd.
Jack Adams - Nominees: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella
Harger: Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock came to a team that was in the doldrums, boasting a 6-7-0 record and standing at 14th in the West, and completely turned things around for the Blues. They finished the season with a 43-15-11 record, won the Central Division for the first time since 1999-2000 and made it to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Dubiel: Hitchcock – He turned the Blues into a defensive machine almost immediately upon his arrival and did it with essentially the same roster that made St. Louis a middling team in prior seasons.
Palumbo: Ken Hitchcock – In the span of one season he made hockey in St. Louis relevant again. He is by far and away the coach of the year.
Holt: As much as I’d like to say MacLean, Hitchcock turned the Blues into a dominant defensive club in the Western Conference. They were great almost immediately after he took over and became a very dangerous team in the West moving forward.
GM of the Year - Nominees: Dale Tallon, David Poile, Doug Armstrong
Harger: Dale Tallon. Tallon performed an extreme makeover on the Panthers, bringing in 10 new players and new coach Kevin Dineen over the summer. This extreme makeover paid off handsomely as the Panthers won the Southeast Division for the first time ever and went to the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Dubiel: Tallon – The Panthers burst onto the scene as a relevant team this season. Even though they dumped a lot of money on mid-level free agents, it worked and got them to the playoffs after being a punch line for so long.
Palumbo: Dale Tallon - He turned over his entire roster to produce a Southeast Division Champion, thus ending the clubs decade plus long playoff drought.
Holt: No doubt about, it’s Dale Tallon. He brought some notable players in and made the Panthers relevant in the Eastern Conference, with that overhauled roster winning the Southeast Division.
Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments and catch the 2012 NHL Awards from Las Vegas on Wednesday at 7 EST. As an extra incentive to tune in, Nickelback will be performing live..