Just when I thought the season was over, they keep pulling me back in!
Ok, enough of channeling Al Pacino in a movie all serious fans of cinema would like to forget. The NHL is back, if only for a night, with its annual awards presentation. From what we've heard so far, it's looking like a huge night for Alex Ovechkin, who is fully expected to walk away with both the Hart and Pearson Trophies.
Still curious? Well, be sure to tune in to Versus/CBC tonight at 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT. In the meantime, we convened a short FanHouse roundtable to discuss the big four awards: The Hart, the Norris, the Vezina and the Calder.
Eric McErlain: Ok, we'll start with the blindingly obvious. Who's your pick for the Hart?
John "J.P." Press: Uh, next. I think Iginla and Malkin have already seen their "I went to Toronto and all I got is this lousy t-shirt" shirts.
James Mirtle: The big one will be no contest. I'm curious actually to see how many first-place votes aren't cast for Ovechkin. This could be one of the most lopsided award wins ever.
John "J.P." Press: If you want a substantive answer, Ovechkin lead the League in goals, points, shots (with the second-highest total ever), game-winning goals, power-play goals, even-strength goals, home goals, road goals, intra- and inter-divisional goals, road points, even-strength points and goals created per game. He became the first 60-goal scorer in a dozen years, set a franchise record for goals and an NHL mark for single season goals by a left wing, had ten two-goal games, a three-goal game and two four-goal games, had 32 multi-point games (including a trio of five-point outings) and was only held off the score sheet 19 times all season (and only three times in consecutive games).
Ovechkin was sixth among all forwards (ninth overall) in hits, fifth among forwards (seventh overall) in plus-minus and was the most clutch player in the League, thanks in part to 29 third period or OT goals (19 of which came in the final ten minutes of games) and a 26-point/plus-17 March in which he had nine multiple-point games. He turned his plus/minus around by 47 over 2006-07, was ninth in the NHL in takeaways, third among forwards in average ice time and nabbed himself a cutie along the way.
Btw, I took that all from a post I did last month.
Earl Sleek: Yeah, regardless of Ovechkin's accomplishments it seems that the league has painted itself into a corner on the Hart. Even if it were a closer contest, I don't see how the league could possibly give the award to anybody else now that they've already made their T-Shirts.
Really, J.P.'s nailed the reasons why it's a one-horse contest, especially if only forwards got nominated. The only other guy I'd give Hart consideration to is Lidstrom, and he's not even a rival nominee.
There's no drama or suspense for this award, which is a bit of a shame, but Ovechkin's deserving enough -- that's for sure.
Bruce Ciskie: Is it too late for Pavol Demitra to win the Hart?
Sarcasm aside, Ovechkin. Not even an argument. It's almost as anti-climactic as the Norris.
Patrick Lackey: I could try to make an argument for Malkin based on his post-Crosby injury stats, but I'd just sound like a homer after the poor guy bombed out in the Finals. He had a great year (as did Iginla), but really it's got to go to the guy that scored 65 goals and dragged his team into the playoffs.
Jes Golbez: Bruce -- Don't make me smack you!
The Norris and Hart trophies...there is no contest. I wonder if the NHL actually released the Ovechkin t-shirt on purpose just to generate some buzz.
John "J.P." Press: Malkin no doubt played MVP-caliber hockey for two months, but he really didn't play at that level from opening night on. Iginla comes in second in my book (not that it matters).
Eric McErlain: Next up, the Vezina: Nabokov, Brodeur or Lundqvist?
Jes Golbez: Remember, the GM's vote on the Vezina, and not the writers.
GM's love the shiny stats, like WINS and GAA, which speaks to their poor evaluation of what makes a goalie truly good. That is the only reason why Nabokov, who ranks 23rd in save percentage (behind the likes of Martin Gerber and Jason Labarbera) is a contender. Yes, he has 46 wins and a a great GAA, but that is thanks to the tight defense in front of him. No way is he even near the likes of Brodeur, Luongo, etc. The same goes for Lundqvist.
This award is Brodeur's, and it won't be close. Brodeur has the shiny wins and low GAA PLUS one of the best SV%'s in the league. Luongo blew it in the second half, giving the race easily to Brodeur.
Earl Sleek: Yeah, I wish I had more of an opinion here, but frankly I don't think I understand what this award celebrates anymore. Generally a team that limits shots against or shares its goaltending workload might make for a better hockey team, but those same moves probably pull its players from Vezina consideration.
Give the award to Brodeur, I guess, but if I were a Devils fan, I'd probably be hoping that Marty was less of a candidate next year. He'd probably be better off if he saw less rubber and started less games, but I guess those improvements aren't trends that the Vezina Trophy likes to see.
Eric McErlain: Let's move quickly to the Norris: Lidstrom, Phaneuf or Chara?
Bruce Ciskie: You have to ask?
Unless this is based on some sort of scale that includes "amount of tabloid attention", there's no way Lidstrom doesn't win unless he's been disqualified for winning too much.
Matt Saler: No kidding, Bruce. No offense to Chara or Phaneuf, but Lidstrom remains in a class of his own and there's no way the Norris isn't his again.
Earl Sleek: Yeah, what they said. In retrospect, ten years ago they probably should have created a trophy to go to the league's second best defenseman. At least then there could be some discussion.
If that were the case, I'd take Chara over Phaneuf. But who am I kidding? Lidstrom would probably win that, too.
Bruce Ciskie: The Vezina is Brodeur. If it's someone else, the voters should be ashamed. Brodeur does more with less - so to speak - than any other goalie in the league. I think he's the best of the nominated three. If Nabokov wins, that's just wrong. So it'll probably happen that way.
Eric McErlain: Finally, how about the Calder? We've got Kane, Backstrom and Toews.
Matt Saler: Backstrom had a big season, but I wonder if he would have looked so good without Alexander Ovechkin on his wing. Kane and Toews are both studs and to me it's a toss-up. They both gave the Wings fits this past season at various points. Personally, I'd lean toward Toews.
John "J.P." Press: I think if Toews was healthy all year, it'd be his. I also think that Backstrom gets discounted (perhaps to some extent fairly) for having played with Ovechkin for the better part of the year. The award was Kane's to lose from Day One and he didn't lose it - it's his.
Bruce Ciskie: I'd like to see Toews win it for personal reasons. He's a great kid.
However, I think Kane's your man here. He was front-and-center for the resurgence of hockey in arguably the NHL's most important city.