The NHL season is almost here and our hockey analysts break down who’s in contention for the awards this season.
Question 1: Who will win the the Hart Memorial Trophy (league MVP)?
Ryan- Claude Giroux. I love how Giroux plays the game and he will prove to be the MVP of the 2012-13 season. His toughness, skill, and leadership are incredible, and he was recently announced the 19th captain in Philadelphia Flyers history, and he will prove why, all season long.
Anthony- It is very difficult to predict who is going to win many of these awards. Again, giving the fact that this is going to be a shortened season it all depends on who starts off hot and maintains a steady pace throughout. Having said that, in this shortened NHL season the Hart Memorial Trophy is going to go to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. Crosby was injured for a good chunk of last season, and although the Penguins were able to make the playoffs, there offense was not the same without him. Now that he is going to be healthy for the start of the season and hopefully play every game, he will dominate the league as he always does and lead the Penguins to the playoffs. This will be enough to convince people that the Penguins need Crosby, giving him the MVP.
Corey- My MVP pick this year is Steven Stamkos. Coming off of a 60 goal season last year, Stamkos has taken the reins as the most dominant finisher in the league. With a 48 game season, he could realistically score 32-35 goals . After a down year for the rest of the team last year, the Lightning will compete for a playoff spot this year and they will get more contributions from players other than Stamkos, which will ultimately benefit Stamkos’ goal scoring. If Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis can stay healthy, Stamkos will put up elite power play numbers. The MVP isn’t just about who’s the best player, how important a guy is to his team is a factor, and without Stamkos the Lightning are mediocre. Guys like Malkin, Crosby, and Giroux have better supporting casts around them which can pick up their slack, Stamkos on the other hand, not so much. In four seasons, Stamkos has missed only 3 games, which is an incredible feat. With the shortened season, a guy who plays 46-48 games will be the one who wins the MVP, which means you have to stay healthy and certainly Steven Stamkos can do that. Stamkos gets his first of many Hart Memorial Trophies.
Scott- Wow, this is the hardest award to predict. I’m going to say Claude Giroux takes this one home. If he can prove to the NHL that he can lead the Flyers to the top of the Eastern Conference, and that it was not simply the offensive prowess of Jaromir Jagr that benefitted him, he will lock this one up. Now the captain of the team, Giroux will certainly have a lot on his plate. If he puts up great numbers and emerges as the leader he has the potential to take home the Hart.
Clayton- This question is a difficult one, because if you asked me who the best player in the league was, I would say Penguins’ center Evgeni Malkin. However, the Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded to the most valuable player. Malkin won the award in a landslide last year because he essentially put the Penguins on his back and carried them to the playoffs with Sidney Crosby out for the majority of the season. But Crosby will be back in 2013, so Malkin might not even be the most valuable player on his own team. That is why Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos will win the award this season. Last year Stamkos led the league in goals with 60, becoming the first player to break the 60-goal mark since Alex Ovechkin did it in 2007-’08. Stamkos also led the NHL in game-winning goals, finished second in points, and eighth in powerplay goals. Stamkos’ 60 goals accounted for a quarter of the Lightning’s entire production last year, clearly establishing himself as the team’s MVP. With Crosby poised to play the entire season, Malkin’s production will slide, but Stamkos will still be “the guy” in Tampa Bay, and if he carries them to the playoffs, look for him to bring the Hart Trophy back to Florida.
Question 2: Who will win the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender)?
Ryan- Jonathan Quick out of Los Angeles is coming off one of the best playoff runs in goaltender history leading the Kings to the Stanley Cup. He was dominant all season long and got even more dominant once the playoffs began. There is no reason to think that he won’t outplay Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers who won the award last season. The two will have similar statistics but Quick’s will be better while leading the better team.
Anthony- The Vezina Trophy is going to the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick. Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy in the playoffs last year when the Kings won the Stanley Cup for a reason; he is an incredible goaltender. If Quick is able to play the way he did in the playoffs last season, which I believe he can, then it will be hard for anyone to combat him for the Vezina this season.
Corey- After a stunning Stanley Cup Playoffs last year with a 16-4 record, 1.41 GAA, and a .946 save %, Jonathan Quick will continue his dominance and win the Vezina Trophy this year. Quick, who finished in second behind Henrik Lundqvist in Vezina voting, will look to win his first Vezina trophy this year at the young age of 26. He is coming off a 35-21-13 season with a 1.95 GAA and a .929 save %. The defense he has in front of him in Doughty, Greene, Voynov, Mitchell, and others, will play a huge role in how many shots per game he sees and in turn, how many goals per game he allows. Quick is entering the prime of his career and is arguably the best goalie in the league next to Lundqvist. You never know how goalies will play out every year (i.e. Ryan Miller and Brian Elliot/Jaroslav Halak last season), but if things go how they should, Quick will be the clear cut winner.
Scott- This season Henrik Lundqvist will repeat as the Vezina Trophy Winner. Henrik, among the top three goalies in the world in my mind, posted phenomenal numbers last season. Not coincidentally, this was also the smallest number of games he’s played in a full season. It appears that Henrik thrives with a balance of rest and long stretches of playing. With a reduced workload as the result of a shortened season, I see no reason for Lundqvist not to put up another great stat line and edge out world class goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne for the second year in a row.
Clayton- The race for the Vezina Trophy really boils down to just two candidates: Jonathon Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. When it comes down to it, however, Lundqvist will again take home the title of the league’s best goalie at the end of the season. The two netminders had, well, identical statistics last year; Quick: .929 SV%, 1.95 GAA, 10 shutouts; Lundqvist: .930 SV%, 1.97 GAA, 8 shutouts. Lundqvist ultimately edged out Quick, and I think that trend should continue in 2013. Lundqvist’s 2011-’12 campaign was the best of his career, but 2013 could be even better. The Rangers addition of Rick Nash improved a team that was already great, and stalwart defenseman Marc Staal will be able to play a full season (Staal missed the first half of 2011-’12 with post-concussion syndrome). Defenseman Dan Girardi should also improve on his breakout season last year, which will greatly benefit Lundqvist. The Rangers gave up the fewest number of goals in the Eastern Conference last season, and do the same in 2013, for one reason: Henrik Lundqvist.
Question 3: Who will win the James Norris Memorial Trophy (best defenseman)?
Ryan- Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues. Leading the very talented, stout Blues defense, Pietrangelo has put up 94 points over the last two seasons. Along with that, Pietrangelo is a +24 combined over the last two seasons. He is a huge part the Blues team and will only be 23 when the shortened season begins. Pietrangelo is only getting better and will take another giant step this season.
Anthony- The Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson will retain the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. Karlsson is a very good defender and an excellent scorer. It is extremely hard to find that kind of combination in a defender and have him be good both behind his own blue line and in front of his opponents’. With that said, Karlsson takes the James Norris.
Corey- My top defenseman for the second straight year is Erik Karlsson. This kid is an absolute stud. Only 21 last year, Karlsson put up 19 goals and 59 assists, which are forward like numbers, yet he’s a defenseman. Not to mention, that was only his second year in the league! This kid has all the makings for a Hall of Famer even though he is only 22 years old. He will have an even better season than last year, even with a shortened season (not number wise, but effective wise). This Ottawa Senators team will be built around him for years and years to come almost the same way the Red Wings did with recently retired Nicklas Lidstrom. Karlsson will face competition from guys like Weber, Chara, and possibly Kris Letang or Dustin Byfuglien. With that being said, Karlsson is poised to have ten or more 70 point seasons in his career, when we have full seasons again. In a 48 game season, he will have somewhere around 40 points this year, far and beyond any other defenseman in the league.
Scott- While I personally believe the Norris trophy should go to the best defenseman, it commonly goes to the best offensively productive defenseman. Taking that in mind, Erik Karlsson will repeat as the Norris Trophy winner. Though he has holes in his defensive game, Karlsson has phenomenal offensive talent and will easily be able to put together a Norris worthy (based on recent standards) season.
Clayton- If his 2011-’12 campaign wasn’t a fluke, which I don’t think it was, Erik Karlsson will win the Norris Trophy for the second straight season. Karlsson led all defenseman in points by a country mile last year, putting up 19 goals and 59 assists… at the age of 22. Wow. It’s not very often that a defenseman will be a top ten point-getter in the NHL, let alone at the tender age of 22. But that’s exactly what Karlsson did, and it ended up winning him the Norris Trophy, making him one of only three players ever to win the award before their 23rd birthday. The other two players on that list? Bobby Orr and Dennis Potvin. Pretty good company if you ask me. Karlsson also achieved this feat playing on a good, but not great, Ottawa Senators team that barely made the playoffs. Although Karlsson will not match his incredible point total from last season, another year under his belt definitely won’t hurt, and aside from the Boston Bruins, the Northeast Division is fairly weak this season. If Karlsson can continue to flourish into one of the best defenseman in the league this year, it’s very possible that he will take home the Norris Trophy in 2013.
Question 4: Who will win the Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year)?
Ryan- Braden Holtby. I was enamored with how well he played in the playoffs and how he carried the Capitals to force game sevens against the two top teams in the East. A shortened season gives him an advantage over other possible options like Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz, and Chris Kreider just to name a few. Yes Kreider was also called up for last seasons playoffs but he won’t have as big of an impact on a talented Rangers roster this season. While the other candidates will have a tough time at the start and not enough games in a shortened season to make up for a slow start. Holtby on the other hand will continue to win the Capitals games that they shouldn’t and also help lead them into the playoffs.
Anthony- The Calder Memorial Trophy for the NHL’s best rookie is going to go to the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider. This Boston College great, stepped onto the scene last year to help the Rangers go to the Eastern Conference finals. He was very physical, looked composed in very high pressured games in the playoffs, and scored goals (some of them in very important situations). He will most likely end up on the second line with Derek Stepan and captain Ryan Callahan, which will only add to his production. Now having a full season to perform, Kreider is going to put up excellent numbers and he will be the Calder winner come the end of the season.
Corey- This may be a bit bold, but I am going to go with Damien Brunner of the Detroit Red Wings as Rookie of the Year. I’m sure some people reading this right now are saying, “Who?!” Brunner is a 26 year old Swiss forward who will be playing alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. To get an idea of how good he plays with Zetterberg, playing in the Zug league in Switzerland, he tallied 25 goals and 32 assists in just 33 games on a line with Zet. Imagine how good he can be when you add Pavel Datsyuk alongside that line. Now I understand the NHL and the Swiss league are very different, but if the stats in Switzerland show anything about his talent and what he could possibly do in the big leagues, this guy could be a force to be reckoned with. The Red Wings coaching staff is very high on Brunner, as it shows by putting him on a line with the two best forwards on the team. This one may be a shot in the dark, but I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if Brunner is spectacular this year. Also, with a shortened season, it may be hard for teams to figure out his tendencies as the year goes on.
Scott- While Rookie of the Year in the minds of many is the rookie who puts up the most points, I’m going out on a whim here and saying Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins takes home the Calder this season. Dougie is an impressive prospect who has all but earned his place in the Bruins defensive corps. Under the leadership of Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, and Boston’s solid defense, he will sprout into a phenomenal young player and put together an impressive 2013 campaign.
Clayton- Much of the hype surrounding the Calder Memorial Trophy is on Edmonton Oilers’ winger Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick last summer. However, I’ve got my eyes on another Oilers’ young-gun, defenseman Justin Schultz. Schultz’s path to the NHL is a bizarre one; the defenseman was drafted in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks, but refused to sign a contract with the team. Then, during the last week in May of last year, Schultz “de-registered” from the University of Wisconsin, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Ducks were again unable to sign the talented prospect, and Schultz eventually inked a two-year deal with the Oilers. At 22, Schultz isn’t a particularly young rookie, but any questions surrounding his development were silenced this fall, when he put up 48 points in 34 games playing for the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons. True, it’s certainly a jump from the AHL to the big leagues, but Schultz’s track record and point production at the collegiate (47 points in 41 points as a junior) and minor league level leads me to believe he should have no problem making the transition. Although Schultz is only 6’2” (on the short side as defenseman go), he has put up tremendous numbers in the NCAA and AHL, and will in the NHL.
Question 5: Who will win the Jack Adams Award (coach of the year)?
Ryan- Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators. This is one of the better coaches in the game today and will prove that by getting the Predators in to the playoffs even after losing Ryan Suter and Alexander Radulov. Trotz has done more with less in the past and his team will prove a lot of people wrong with an unexpected return to the playoffs this season.
Anthony- The Jack Adams Award is going to go to Dallas Stars’ head coach Glen Gulutzan. I predicted that the Stars would win the Pacific Division this year; so, having a team go from not making the playoffs to winning the division has to have something to do with good coaching. Gulutzan will use the offseason moves the Stars made to his advantage and lead his team to a Pacific Division title, which will be more than enough to give him the Jack Adams.
Corey- For my Coach of the Year, I am going to go with Ralph Krueger of the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers are going to have a very good year and possibly even be a playoff team. When you have new, incoming players every year and they are all young, it is very hard to produce a successful product. Well, that is what Krueger is going to do this year. Like I said in my Western Conference preview, they have plenty of firepower up front with a young goalie in Devan Dubnyk. If Krueger can get them into the playoffs, he wins Coach of the Year.
Scott- This is another difficult award to pick as it usually goes to a coach who leads a team beyond their expectations. That being said, Claude Julien will take home the Jack Adams. The Bruins are a talented team, but they are without starter Tim Thomas this season. Although he wasn’t an overpowering locker room presence, Claude will have to coach his boys to play smart so they can gain confidence in new starter Tukka Rask. While Rask is more than capable, the way Claude coaches will impact just how well his numbers are, essentially impacting how well the Bruins do as a whole. Claude will thrive and lead the Bruins to an outstanding regular season, earning the Jack Adams.
Clayton- I’ve always been kind of confused on how a coach wins the Jack Adams Award. Does it go to the coach whose team wins the most games? That wins the Stanley Cup? Recently, however, I’ve come to realize that the award is usually given to a coach that takes a team everyone wrote off and turns them into a contender. According to Wikipedia the trophy goes to the coach that “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success”. How much does a coach really do? But, I digress. Although I still am a little puzzled on the grounds for how this award is presented, I’m going with Kirk Muller of the Carolina Hurricanes to win the Jack Adams. Muller took over the head coaching duties of the Hurricanes just two months into the season last year, and although Carolina finished in last place in the Southeast Division, they are a very different team. GM Jim Rutherford brought in forwards Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, both of whom are very talented. Jeff Skinner should rebound from the sophomore slump, and Staal should unite nicely with his brother Eric. However, the pressure will be on Muller to turn the new-look Hurricanes into a contender. If the ‘Canes make the playoffs, and the Jack Adams is truly awarded to the coach that contributes most to his teams’ success, Kirk Muller will win it.