Since everyone else is doing it, we’ll chip in with what are the ne plus ultra of mid-season trophy awards. So, let’s get to it…
Lady Byng Trophy: The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
Contenders: Any player with: a) more than 40 points, and b) less than 10 penalty minutes.
The Winner: Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils
Why? Parise will be a contender for other awards – this year and in years to come – but he has 43 points (14th in the league), eight penalty minutes, and what’s more, he is plus-20.
Frank J. Selke Trophy: The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
Contenders: Any forward with at least 40 points and a plus-12 or better, unless you’re a former winner, then you’re grandfathered in. Of course, any forward who might be unknown to the casual fan would be a contender, insofar as it demonstrates the voter’s vastly superior knowledge of hockey.
The Winner: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Why? OK, Toews doesn’t have 40 points, but the Blackhawks are one of the best defensive teams in the league. They are not doing it with goaltending. They are doing it because other teams don’t get many shots on goal (the Hawks have allowed the fewest per game in the league). Toews has been on the ice for only 18 of 90 goals scored against the Hawks this year, although he leads all Hawks forwards in average ice time.
Jack Adams Award: The Jack Adams Award is an annual award presented by the National Hockey League Broadcasters' Association to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success. The winner is selected in a poll among members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association at the end of the regular season.
Contenders: Coaches who are doing “better than expected” or who have teams that have already clinched their division.
The winner: Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes
Why? Oh, let’s see… road kill franchise about to be scraped off the pavement and shipped to somewhere in Canada, playing in an arena where one could hit a five iron during a game and probably not hit another fan, previously coached by the games’ most legendary player (if not a Scotty Bowman behind the bench), with talent that can best be described as “middling.” And you have the fourth best record in the Western Conference. We have a winner.
Calder Trophy: The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
Contenders: Rookies who have been named one of the NHL’s three stars of the night at least once, is a “surprise,” or is named “John Tavares.”
The Winner: Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres
Why? OK, he’s the sexy pick at the moment, but he deserves it, too. It’s harder to quantify statistics for defensemen than for forwards (which is why comparatively few defensemen win the award, sportwriters generally eschewing statistical analysis in favor of another trip to the buffet). But Myers leads all rookies in ice time (responsibility), is fourth in shot percentage (efficiency), is tied for second in plus-minus (effectiveness), is tied for eighth-fewest penalty minutes among rookies playing in at least 20 games (maturity), is tenth in hits (physicality), leads all rookies in blocked shots (fearlessness), and he’s even made one of two Gimmick goals (impishness). He gets the nod.
James Norris Memorial Trophy: The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
The Contenders: Nicklas Lidstrom and a bunch of other guys.
The Winner: Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Why? OK, for a long time the NHL would just look at the points rankings for defensemen and give it to the name at the top of the list. That sort of ended with the run of wins by Lidstrom. It continued with the win last year by Zdeno Chara. But look at the citation for the award…"the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position (emphasis added).” Green is the top offensive defenseman in the game. But here are some numbers for you to chew on, too, while you are reminded that Green skates a ton of minutes… Scott Niedermayer (selected as an Olympic team defenseman), on ice for 75 goals against; Dan Boyle (yes, an Olympian), on ice for 51 goals against; Shea Weber (another Olympian defenseman), on ice for 46 goals against; Duncan Keith (this year’s “smart” pick for the Norris), on ice for 44 goals against.
Mike Green – on ice for 44 goals against.
Vezina Trophy: The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs.
Contenders: Martin Brodeur and… uh… uh… we’ll think of some
The Winner: Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Why? Well, there are the games played (37/tied for seventh), wins (25/second), GAA (2.04/third), save percentage (.935/first), the shutouts (5/tied for first). But then there is this, he leads all goalies in save percentage (20 games, minimum) while his team is shorthanded, no small consideration given that the Sabres are a middle-of-the-road offensive team. And no goalie has faced more shots with his team on the power play than Miller, and he has the best save percentage of such situations. He’s been tight as a drum when his team is skating off penalties, and he doesn’t allow the sloppy shorthanded goal. He gets the nod over Mr. Shutout Record Setter.
Lester B. Pearson Award: The Lester B. Pearson Award is presented annually to the "most outstanding player" in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players' Association.
Contenders: Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, [enter third name here]
The Winner: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Why? “Outstanding” covers a lot of ground. It could be raw, unvarnished statistical superiority. It could be literally “standing out” from among your peers. In either case, Ovechkin has a compelling case. First, to take care of the atmospherics, he is both the one player who can draw fans out of their seats in any arena in which he plays every time he touches the puck, and he is becoming the face of the game – not in the Pre-Scandal Tiger Woods “I drive a solid, responsible Buick” sort of endorsement lineup, but as a guy who will do anything (and with an understanding of proper product placement) to sell the game and those products he endorses as one of the elite players in the league. Statistically, he is on an 82-game scoring pace that would challenge or easily surpass his previous career highs – goals (63 versus 65 in 2007-2008), assists (61; previous high 54, twice); points (124/112); plus-minus (plus-52/plus-28), hits (239/243), and he is on a pace to have the best turnover ratio of takeaways to giveaways of his career (0.85, not altogether bad for a forward who has the puck so much – compare it to, say, Sidney Crosby, whose ratio is 0.63). If Ovechkin was the standard as the best player into the league coming into the season, and his performance is eclipsing that, well…
Hart Memorial Trophy: The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.
The Contenders: See “Pearson Award,” above
The Winner: Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Why? Read the citation… “given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team.” It doesn’t say “skater” or “player who doesn’t wear big pads and a mask,” it says simply, “player.” And “most valuable” doesn’t necessarily mean “best.” If that was the case, we would have no reason for a Pearson Award. Miller gets the nod here, because let’s face it, if the Sabres are relying on Patrick Lalime and Jhonas Enroth in goal, the Sabres are flirting with lottery territory. The man has one one-goal loss in regulation this year, and the Sabres are tied for the fourth fewest three-or-more goal losses in the league this year. He keeps his team in games, and he wins the close ones. No team would be more seriously affected by their most valuable player’s absence than would the Sabres with Miller’s.