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Cullen: Handing out 2012 NHL awards

Scott Cullen
4/11/2012 12:17:32 PM
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Before the NHL playoffs get underway, it's time to hand out the hardware. My picks for each NHL award:

HART TROPHY
Winner: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
Runners-up: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia
Comment: Malkin took the lead in the Hart Trophy race in the second half of the season, scoring 51 points in 33 games after the All-Star break, on his way to a league-leading 109 points. Malkin's closest challenger should be Stamkos, who scored 60 goals, 10 more than anyone else (19 more than anyone not named Malkin). I've had Giroux in the mix all season, largely because he's stepped into the leadership role for the Flyers, not only because they traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the offseason, but Chris Pronger suffered a season-ending concussion early in the year and through it all Giroux has been a marquee point producer (93 points in 77 games) while leading a team full of rookies and new faces. I won't object too strenuously to including a goaltender on the final ballot, but the Vezina race may be so close that it's more difficult to pick one goaltender worthy of Hart consideration.

NORRIS TROPHY
Winner: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa
Runners-up:
Shea Weber, Nashville; Zdeno Chara, Boston
Comment: Points aren't the be-all and end-all for evaluating a defenceman, but when a defenceman has 25 points more than his nearest competitor, it makes people take notice. Karlsson does start more of his shifts in the offensive zone, taking advantage of his slick puck skills, and he doesn't face the calibre of competition that Weber and Chara (as well as Nicklas Lidstrom) face on a nightly basis, but the production is too great to ignore. On the edge of the ballot, Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo also enjoyed a very strong season. While his shot differential and quality of competition numbers were similar to Karlsson, Pietrangelo wasn't at the same level of production otherwise so it seems prudent to reward Weber and Chara for taking on the toughest assignments.

VEZINA TROPHY
Winner: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles
Runners-up: Henrik Lundqvist, N.Y. Rangers; Mike Smith, Phoenix
Comment: Any one of these goaltenders is a deserving winner, but the edge goes to Quick, for facing more power play shots against (which are, presumably, higher quality). Smith, who was included on the first quarter ballot but not since, made a charge back into the conversation in the second half, posting a .941 save percentage after the All-Star break. Brian Elliott could sneak his way onto the ballot, after a record-setting .940 save percentage, but with only 38 games played, it's hard to count him on the same level as starters playing 60-plus games.

CALDER TROPHY
Winner: Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado
Runners-up: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton; Adam Henrique, New Jersey
Comment: Though Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the same number of points as Gabriel Landeskog in 20 fewer games, Landeskog still earns the honour because of advanced two-way play. He played against higher-quality opponents, had fewer offensive zone starts, and his shot differential (plus-8.9, per 60 minutes of even strength play, per www.behindthenet.ca) ranked in the Top 20 in the league overall and easily best among rookie forwards. Henrique holds a slight edge on Philadelphia's Matt Read, Carolina's Justin Faulk and Toronto's Jake Gardiner for the final runner-up spot, but all performed very well in their first NHL seasons.

SELKE TROPHY
Winner: Patrice Bergeron, Boston
Runners-up: David Backes, St. Louis; Dave Bolland, Chicago
Comment: Bergeron plays a dominant two-way game, as his line generated so many more shots than they allowed (shot differential of 10.1 per 60 minutes of even-strength play) while starting more shifts in the defensive zone, but viable cases can be made for both Backes and Bolland (among others). Backes played against a higher-level of competition and had even fewer offensive zone starts than Bergeron, but wasn't quite as dominant as Bergeron. Bolland actually had a negative (0.7) shot differential per 60 minutes of even-strength play, but played against tough competition and started less than one-third of his shifts in the offensive zone. Advanced stats help to identify some two-way forwards that have taken on more difficult assignments, many of whom deserve Selke consideration, including Carolina's Brandon Sutter, Nashville's Mike Fisher, Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal, San Jose's Joe Pavelski and the Rangers' Ryan Callahan.

JACK ADAMS AWARD
Winner: Paul MacLean, Ottawa
Runners-up: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis; Dave Tippett, Phoenix
Comment: As always, there are more than three coaches that are deserving of consideration. Given the expectations for the Senators this season and their finish, Paul MacLean is a worthy winner. If not MacLean, then Ken Hitchcock did more than enough, turning the Blues around from a slow start to finish second in the Western Conference. As usual, Dave Tippett and Nashville's Barry Trotz have to be included in the discussion for getting the most out of their seemingly-limited rosters. First-year coach Kevin Dineed could warrant consideration for taking the Florida Panthers to the playoffs after so many years of futility. Even though their teams have more talent, Philadelphia's Peter Laviolette and Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma are deserving too; Laviolette for dealing with massive roster turnover and a season-long run of injuries, while Bylsma kept the Penguins humming along while missing Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang for substantial portions of the season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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