When twitter exploded last night with the news that star defenseman Erik Karlsson had signed a new contract which would keep him in Ottawa colours for the next seven years, the Senators organization hit the jackpot in Las Vegas. Tonight, the Sens can play encore at the NHL Awards. Karlsson has a chance to add to his already impressive résumé by taking home the Norris Trophy. Erik is joined by two other Ottawa finalists: teammate and Captain Daniel Alfredsson (Masterton) and Coach Paul MacLean (Jack Adams).
The NHL Awards have not been kind to the Senators historically. Daniel Alfredsson took home the Calder Trophy in 1996 and Coach Jacques Martin won the Jack Adams Award in 1999. That's it. Since then, there have been a few finalists who have worn the centurion, but they have all walked away empty-handed. With the recent change in the event's location - from Toronto to Las Vegas - it is clear the league is trying to establish the Awards as one of the marquee ceremonies of its kind. Do members of the Ottawa Senators, plying their trades for a small-market Canadian team, stand a chance of breaking through and winning?
Predications after the jump.
There are many predictions out there, but here are mine:
Hart (Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist)
Who Will Win: Malkin
Who Should Win: Malkin
All three had great seasons and were the best and more important players for their clubs this season. Malkin carried the Penguins, who were without key stars Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang for long stretches this season, and managed to collect 109 points (12 more than the nearest player) in 75 games
Lindsay (Malkin, Lundqvist, Stamkos)
Who Will Win: Stamkos
Who Should Win: Stamkos
Same nominees as the Hart, but I think that the winner of the Ted Lindsay Award - for the players' choice MVP - will see a different winner. Stamkos scored 60 goals this season, 10 more than his nearest competitor Malkin. That's an achievement that players won't ignore, especially in a low-scoring league.
Vezina (Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Pekke Rinne)
Who Will Win: Lundqvist
Who Should Win: Quick
Because of their underwhelming first-half of the season and because they play on the west coast, Quick has not received the attention he deserves over the past two years (the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup wins probably fixed that). Quick lost 15 games in which the Kings scored two goals or fewer; if his team had found its scoring touch in the regular season, he could have exceeded 40 wins easily. Lundqvist was also excellent in 2011-12 and is the main reason the New York Rangers were the top-seed in the Eastern Conference. Lundqvist has never won the award and this looks to be the year he breaks through. Besides, we can't have another year of a goalie winning the Cup and sweeping the Conn Smythe and Vezina trophies.
Norris (Erik Karlsson, Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber)
Who Will Win: Weber
Who Should Win: Karlsson
We all know the reasons this should be the first of many Norris wins for Karlsson. Still, the Norris is an award where style of play and reputation matter, and Weber has the reputation and has been nominated before. He probably should have won last year, and tonight looks like the night he'll break through.
Calder (Adam Henrique, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins)
Who Will Win: Nugent-Hopkins
Who Should Win: Landeskog
Henrique was good during the regular season and built on that success during an incredible playoff run, but Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog had better regular seasons. Nugent-Hopkins had the better point totals (both he and Landeskog finished with 52 points, but Nugent-Hopkins played in 20 less games), but Landeskog played a bigger role and an impressive two-way game (and a full season).
Masterton (Daniel Alfredsson, Joffrey Lupul, Max Pacioretty)
Who Will Win: Pacioretty
Who Should Win: Lupul
It feels a little weird judging which guy coming back from a horrible injury did it best, but such is the nature of predictions. All deserve the award, but Pacioretty seems like the correct choice given the concussion debate. However, Lupul was on the verge of retiring before becoming the Leafs best player in 2011-12 until an injury in March ended his season. He's got my vote (I don't have a vote).
Selke (David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk)
Who Will Win: Bergeron
Who Should Win: Bergeron
Pavel Datsyuk is great and has dominated this award in the past. But Bergeron is also a great two-way player. He's good on the draw and has been an underrated part of Boston's defensive excellence over the past few years. He's due.
Lady Byng (Jordan Eberle, Matt Moulson, Brian Campbell)
Who Will Win: Campbell
Who Should Win: Campbell
Apologies to Matt Moulson, but it's impossible to think of a New York Islander winning an NHL award. While the Lady Byng has traditionally been dominated forwards, youngster Eberle will have to wait at least a year. Brian Campbell may win this award because he had a great offensive year in Florida. But to play defense and play within the rules the way Campbell does (the Florida d-man had only 6 PIMs this season) should be more than enough to net him the award.
Adams (Paul MacLean, Ken Hitchcock, John Tortorella)
Who Will Win: Hitchcock
Who Should Win: Hitchcock
While many pundits predicted Ottawa to be near the bottom of the league, the St. Louis Blues actually were when Hitchcock took over. His style may get old fast, but for 2011-12, Hitchcock's defensive system made a division-winner out of St. Louis.
GM of the Year (Dale Tallon, Doug Armstrong, David Poile)
Who Will Win: Armstrong
Who Should Win: Tallon
Poile's Radulov experiment backfired spectacularly and you might make the case that Nashville's window is closing. Armstrong will win because St. Louis came out of nowhere and he made the gutsy move to hire Hitchcock mid-season. But Tallon put together a division-winner in the hockey backwater of Sunrise, Florida, by taking on risky contracts (Campbell), discards (Kris Versteeg), signing about a billion free agents, and making a pretty good coaching hire himself (Kevin Dineen).