Sens worthy of recognition

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

It's that time of year again.

The finalists for the NHL awards were announced on Tuesday with a heavy dose of predictability.

Excuse me while I turn my attention to more exciting things, like the metamorphic change of an ecru semi-gloss from liquid to solid on a sheet of drywall.

Not one member of the Senators was included, but that doesn't mean they aren't worthy of recognition. You won't find any of the following awards in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but let's hand them out regardless:

THE AUBERGINE QUADRICEPS TROPHY: Anton Volchenkov. It was either the hitting machine or the player paranoid of causing another infamous playoff turnover. One wasn't sure which version of Volchenkov the Senators would receive this season. It turned out to be an interpretation previously unseen, and the best yet. The blueliner sacrificed himself 273 times to lead the league in blocked shots. His body now stands as a testament to his work ethic, with the Russian's alabaster skin remaining perpetually blotted with vicious bruises. It obviously was enough to impress Ottawa GM John Muckler. He re-signed Volchenkov to a three-year, $7.5-million US deal.

THE FALLIBLY HUMAN AWARD: Daniel Alfredsson. Ottawa never seemed to be a team destined to possess an immortal leader. The city became divided as to whether Alfredsson was capable of leading the Senators to greatness. There were concerns regarding outside influences -- particularly during Leafs games (both home and away) when the booing crowds seemed to affect his play. And whenever things went sour, he willingly shouldered much of the blame, overcompensating by trying to accomplish too much on the ice. But all negativity has fallen by the wayside, as Alfredsson now reigns as the Senators' playoff MVP. As for outside influences, they seem to be working in his favour these days -- Alfredsson is blatantly buoyed by the home crowd's enthusiasm. The captain knows a fan's affection can be fleeting, but it doesn't look like No. 11 will allow that to occur any time soon.

THE "LOOK AT ME NOW, JACQUES" AWARD: Jason Spezza. The backchecking. The blocked shots. The willingness to skate hard, even while not carrying the puck. All of this maturity from someone who's barely out of the zygote stage of his NHL career -- this isn't the same player that former Senators coach Jacques Martin once knew.

THE "IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE BLUELINERS" TROPHY: Chris Kelly, Antoine Vermette, Mike Fisher, Dean McAmmond (four-way tie). Ottawa has found itself blessed with an abundance of two-way forwards and the defensive play of this foursome has allowed the Sens to go 41-for-48 (85.4%) on the playoff penalty kill (prior to Game 5).

THE GOLDEN MANATEE: Martin Gerber. First, a bit of back story: I visited Florida in February and had a chance to swim with the manatees -- gentle, aquatic herbivores that can grow to the size of a small car. When I returned to Ottawa, Gerber started a game and at one point made a slow, sweeping gesture to catch a puck. His motion reminded me of those mammals, and that's when it hit me -- Gerber's like a manatee. His movements are methodical and he never rocks the boat, despite his stature. The Senators' backup went 10-for-12 down the regular-season stretch, visibly gaining the trust of his teammates in the process. Meanwhile he's watched Ray Emery bask in the spotlight all this time, without uttering a peep. After everything the Senators have been through in the Goaltending Drama department, it's a relief to finally experience some stability. Gerber deserves credit for helping to bring it.

Traditional or pseudo-awards for individual players can be nice, but Ottawa continues to demonstrate that it's all about team effort, rather than personal gains. Besides, the Senators still have a much bigger, shinier and far more memorable trophy in their sights.


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