March 29, 2012
And the NHL awards should go to ...
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
CALGARY - The season is ticking away, which means playoffs are around the corner.
Sooner than we expect, too, will be the NHL awards in Las Vegas.
With just more than a week in action remaining, here are the choices for the major honours from this corner of the world.
Feel free to add your two bits, but please don't everyone start their emails with "Dear Moron".
Hart Memorial Trophy
Choice: Evgeni Malkin, Penguins. Runners-up: Steven Stamkos, Lightning; Jonathan Quick, Kings.
Stamkos could hit 60 goals, which would be a huge accomplishment, and Quick deserves way more credit than he's received should he guide a low-scoring Kings team -- 29th in the league -- into the playoffs.
However, Malkin has been a dominant force all season for the Penguins, who spent so much of the year without Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
Choice: Erik Karlsson, Senators. Runners-up: Shea Weber, Nashville; Zdeno Chara, Boston.
Sure, Karlsson may not be the defensive stalwart of the other two, but his plus-18 rating proves he's not a Swiss cheese defender, either.
Combine that with a point-per-game pace, including 19 goals, and a 27-point edge on every other defenceman in the league before Thursday's action, and it adds up to a special season for an Ottawa Senators club which was given no chance of being a playoff team by nearly every pundit before the puck dropped.
Chara and Weber are likely going to have more playoff success, but Karlsson deserves his due.
Jack Adams Award
Choice: Ken Hitchcok, St. Louis. Runners-up: John Tortorella, Rangers; Paul MacLean, Ottawa.
Not a fan of Tortorella's attitude towards the media, but you can't argue with the job he's done. MacLean has done a masterful job in his first year as a head coach. In fact, there are all kinds of candidates.
But Hitchcock took over a floundering Blues team early in the season, gave the players a real focus and turned them into a Presidents' Trophy contender.
By the way, the broadcast media vote on this award.
Calder Memorial Trophy
Choice: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers. Runners-up: Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado; Adam Henrique, New Jersey.
This could be the tightest "race" of the voting. If the Avs make the playoffs, that would likely put Landeskog over the hump. On a points-per-game average, Henrique is actually better than Colorado's young star, but Landeskog has proven already he's a future leader and can play in every situation.
The knock on Nugent-Hopkins is the fact he missed 20 games to injury, but he's provided as much punch as Landeskog, and when he was out, the Oilers fell down the ladder.
Choice: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. Runners-up: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles, Kari Lehtonen, Dallas.
Another option would be the St. Louis dynamic duo of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak, but they almost split the starts down the middle, so no one guy will get the nod.
In some ways, Quick is most deserving, seeing as his team doesn't score many goals and he has a sub-2.00 goals-against average.
However, so does Lundqvist, and his team is in the hunt for top spot in the league.
The GMs of the league vote on this award, and it'll be interesting to see what direction they go.
Can't help but wonder if Olli Jokinen's awful performance during the last while -- two goals and a minus-11 rating in the last 14 games -- will not only put a major damper on his chances to re-sign with the Flames but also earn the kind of contract he was expected to ink when talk was about him in mid-February ... Should the Flames let Jokinen leave via free agency, would they have interest in Colorado's Paul Stastny? His US$6.6 million salary seems high, but he's a 26-year-old centre who may be on the way out of the Mile High City ... One question all those who expect the Flames to blow up their team and rebuild with youth: What youthful players are you thinking about? Sure, Sven Baertschi looks ready to be a full-time NHLer, as does Lance Bouma, T.J. Brodie and maybe even Roman Horak, but Greg Nemisz has not shown to be an 82-game player, and there's no certainty Paul Byron, Ryan Howse, Mitch Wahl, Leland Irving, Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland are even NHLers. Maybe some will, but they have only so many players ready to fill the holes.
With all the things that have gone wrong for the Columbus Blue Jackets, can't you just envision them not winning the draft lottery despite having the best chance? ... Hopefully, those shoulder issues which have hurt young rising Oilers stars Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins aren't going to be perpetual. It would be a shame if those two don't realize their full potential because of bad wings ... Too bad the Winnipeg Jets are still the Atlanta Thrashers in the sense they don't have what it takes to win at crunch time. It would have been amazing to see the White Out back there ... You can't help but marvel at the thought the Buffalo Sabres are going to make a miracle late-season run into the playoffs two consecutive seasons ... OK, we didn't see the Montrael Canadians or the Toronto Maple Leafs as playoff teams, but it's shocking to see them both at the bottom of the standings.
YOU DON'T SAY
"It's my turn to buy dinner, so that's probably one of the reasons why I'm coming on the trip."
-- Chicago Blackhawks D Steve Montador when he finally rejoined the team from injury
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak