2012 NHL Awards, June 20, Las Vegas

There is no greater feeling than watching your team battle it out in the Stanley Cup Finals – well besides seeing them actually hoist the cup – but what do you do now that that feeling is dying down?

Now that the Worlds are over and the Finals are coming to an end, it may seem like decades until training camp rolls around in September, bringing with it that wonderful pre-season excitement and the holiest of all holy hockey nights – opening night. But don’t you fear, hockey fans, there are still many opportunities to soak up a few extra doses of your favorite hockey teams before their players disappear – or at least attempt to – for the off season.

The first of which is the NHL Awards.

NHL players are no strangers to Las Vegas, Nevada – especially at the end of June when the who’s who of hockey gather to celebrate a season well played and this year is no exception. Missed the nominations announcement? We’ve got you covered.

The Calder (Rookie of the Year)

Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils

Grabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers

The Front Runner? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Though Henrique and Landeskog both had amazing seasons (51 and 52 points respectively) the Calder is Nugent-Hopkin’s trophy to lose. Scoring a hat-trick in only his third career NHL game, Nugent-Hopkins went on to tie with Landeskog for rookie points leader with 52 points in only 62 games (20 less than Landeskog).

The Jack Adams (Coach of the Year)

Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues

Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators

John Tortorella, New York Rangers

The Front Runner? Ken Hitchcock

In all reality, any of these three could believably win the Jack Adams this season; all three coaches took their middle of the pack teams and turned them into division leaders, but with Tortorella’s…colourful media presence and MacLean’s lack of experience, I’d say if anyone has the upper hand in this race, it’s Hitchcock. The 4 time Jack Adams nominee took the 13th place Blues from 6-7-0 to 2nd in the west with 43-15-11.

The NHL Foundation Award (Community Service)

Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators

John-Michael Liles, Toronto Maple Leafs

Matt Moulson, New York Islanders

The Front Runner? John-Michael Liles

It’s hard to say which one of these charitable gentlemen has a bigger heart – or in this case wallet. Their grand total donated funds are estimated to be well over $200,000 this season alone, and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the commitment they make to their charities. All three donate an incredible amount of their time as well, but Liles will most likely win the trophy. Donating over half of the estimated funds ($148,000 worth of suites, books and sporting equipment) in addition to time spent with his various charities. All three gentlemen however, are fine examples of the NHL’s long standing tradition of giving back to the communities who never fail to support them.

General Manager of the Year

Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues

David Poile, Nashville Predators 

Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers

The Front Runner? Dale Tallon

Locking in key players to long term deals and signing much needed veteran players to compliment your collection of young guns in the offseason is all in a day’s work for a GM, but how about a complete overhaul? Tallon traded for and signed 10 new players in the offseason last summer and brought in a new coach to top it all off. The extreme makeover lead the Panthers to the top of the South East division standings – their first division title in franchise history – and their first playoff berth in over a decade.

The Lady Byng (The Good Guy Award)

Brian Campbell, Florida Panthers

Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers

Matt Moulson, New York Islanders

The Front Runner? Matt Moulson

These three nominations are well deserved, with less than 30 PIM between the three of them, these boys have proved they can keep their calm in games and racked up more points than penalties; Matt Moulson more so than the others; scoring a career high 69 points and earning only 6 PIM (a major improvement from last year’s 24) while playing for a team ranked 9th in the NHL for penalties with a grand total of 944 PIM. Moulson averaged out to 11.5 points for ever PIM.

The Masterson (Perseverance Award)

Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators

Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs

Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens

The Front Runner? Max Pacioretty

All three of these inspirational come back stories deserve their own Mesterson, but there can only be one winner and the 23 year old who bounced back from a fractured vertebrae and a season ending concussion after being checked into a stanchion with a career best season seems to be the likely candidate. Not only did he come back stronger, but some serious changes were made as a result of the extremely publicized hit. The implementation of rounded glass corners to the board where the benches met and of course the Max Pacioretty Foundation – a charity Pacioretty formed to help fund much needed upgrades for the Traumatic Brain Injury Centre at the Montreal General/McGill University Health Centre.

The Selke (Top Defensive Forward)

David Backes, St. Louis Blues

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins 

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings 

The Front Runner? Patrice Bergeron

Though this is the 5th straight year Pavel Datsyuk is nominated for the Selke and Backes is the first Blues player to finish in the top three since in 2000, Patrice Bergeron seems to have the upper hand in this one. He holds a league leading +36 rating, lead the Bruins with 67 blocked shots, and created 55 turnovers while racking up 64 points this season.

The Norris (Top Defensemen)

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

The Front Runner? Zdeno Chara

Deemed by teammate Craig Anderson to be the team’s Sidney Crosby, Karlsson sure put up the numbers to prove it. Finishing tied for 10th in points amongst all players, he lead defensemen with 19 goals and 59 assists for a total of 78 points – the second most from a blue liner in the Post-Lockout Era, but he will be hard pressed going up against Zdeno Chara, who fell short to Karlsson points wise (12G, 40A) but came out on top with a +33 rating against Karlsson’s modest+16. Chara no doubt has a bigger on ice physical presence working at his advantage as well, but this Norris race looks like it’ll be a photo finish for the Czech defensemen vs the Swedish sophomore sensation.

The Vezina (Top Goalie)

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Jonathan Quick, LA Kings

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

The Front Runner? Jonathan Quick

In my books, Jonathan Quick is the hands down winner of this year’s Vezina. He started in a career best 69 games, winning 35 (Side note: The Kings only won 40). He had the league lead in shutouts (10) had a second place GAA with 1.95 and a fifth place save percentage with .929. Now, in saying that I don’t mean to diminish the feats of Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne, who I must admit had pretty amazing years themselves. Rinne played a league leading 73 games and went on to win 43 of those while finishing with a top 10 save percentage and 5 shutouts. Lundqvist won a career best 39 games for the New Your Rangers while ending up with another career best – a 1.97 GAA.

The Lindsay and The Hart (Most Outstanding/MVP)

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Henrik Lunqvist, New York Rangers

The Front Runner? Evgeni Malkin

Since both the Lindsay and the Hart are basically the same award, just voted by two different groups, one the NHLPA and the other the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, I’m going to save you some time and write one explanation.

The aforementioned Lunqvist had an ‘outstanding’ season; he finished in the top four for wins, GAA save percentage and shutouts. Stamkos had a pretty outstanding season too, scoring a career best 60 goals, 97 points and 12 game winning goals, but the title of most outstanding is most deserved by Evgeni Malkin. The 25 year old placed the Pittsburgh Penguins on his shoulders and ran, scoring a career best 50 goals, leading the league in points and securing his place as the most valuable player to the Penguins organization by playing a part in 109 of the Pens league leading 273 goals.

There’s more to the show than just honoring the best and brightest in the NHL community. The NHL knows how to have a good time, so there’s also a performance by Nickelback to look forward to. This isn’t the band’s first appearance at the NHL Awards; they first headlined the show a decade ago when it was hosted in Toronto.

No official host or presenters have been announced, although there has been a strong push by fans for Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame to take over for Jay Mohr as host after handing out the Vezina last year.

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