It's almost time for the 2012 NHL Awards, the glitzy Las Vegas celebration of the 2011-12 hockey season and those players, coaches and general managers who did a job well done. There is a whole spread of hardware to be awarded in Vegas for achievements all over the map and here is my view, as a fan, of who I think should win each category.
All three rookies had breakout seasons, but Landeskog really excelled. He had a 52-point season, tied for the lead among first-years and was second among rookies with 22 goals. But he also led the Avalanche with his +20 rating, played about 19 minutes a game and was often utilized on the power play and penalty kill too.
Malkin was especially important to his team this season. Not only did he lead the entire league in points with 109, and help lead the team in the absence of Sidney Crosby, he was so essential to the Penguins that they had a 5-9-0 record in the 14 games this year where he did not score a single point.
This is like the Hart, but decided by members of the NHL Players Association--peers voting for peers. All three of the Lindsay nominees are also the Hart nominees, so I'm going to repeat my prediction of Malkin here for all the reasons described above.
Nominees: Brian Campbell (Florida Panthers), Jordan Eberle (Edmonton Oilers), Matt Moulson (New York Islanders)
These players spent less time in the penalty box this entire season than I've spent waiting at the DMV. Both Eberle and Moulson had more than 30 goals and fewer than 10 penalty minutes, but it's been a long time since a defenseman won the Lady Byng and Campbell had a 53-point season while visiting the sin bin only three times.
Nominees: Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings), Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers), Shane Doan (Phoenix Coyotes)
I feel like Messier is going to go with Brown not only for his good performance on the ice and his charitable works off the ice, but because the run to the Stanley Cup that the Kings had this season reminds him of the run he had to the Cup in 1988 as part of the Oilers.
Nominees: Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators), Joffrey Lupul (Toronto Maple Leafs), Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens)
All three of these nominees have overcome big challenges, but Pacioretty should win this one. The fractured vertebrae he suffered in March 2011 was so severe that it could have ended his career. It certainly didn't: he came back healthy and had his best season to date on a Canadiens team that, well, wasn't at its best this year.
Nominees: Mike Fisher (Nashville Predators), John-Michael Liles (Toronto Maple Leafs), Matt Moulson (New York Islanders)
All three of these players have done wonderful charitable things to help their communities, but I think Moulson should win this one because in addition to his extensive charity work, he was one of the first NHL players to join the You Can Play Project, which is working to stop homophobia and promote equality in sports.
While Chara and Weber have both been nominated for Norris before, this is Karlsson's first time, and with the kind of season he had, he should get the trophy. He finished 10th in the entire league in terms of points, led all defensemen in goals, assists and points, led the team in time on ice and tied and set Senators records of all kinds.
Nominees: David Backes (St. Louis Blues), Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings)
I've written previously about why I believe Bergeron deserves the Selke and I stand by every point I made. Just look at his league-leading +36 rating, his 59.3 percent faceoff wins, his skill on the penalty kill, the fact that he usually isn't why the Bruins are killing a penalty and his team-leading blocked shots and takeaways.
Nominees: Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings), Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators)
Quick has had the kind of season that deserves an awards hat trick--the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe and the Vezina. His 10 shutouts led the league, plus he had an impressive 1.95 goals against average and a solid .929 save percentage. However, he was the last line of defense for a Kings team that, in the regular season, struggled to score goals. Quick is a huge part of why the Kings were able to make the playoffs and go on to win the Stanley Cup.
Nominees: Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis Blues), Paul MacLean (Ottawa Senators), John Tortorella (New York Rangers)
Each of these coaches did big things with their teams this season, but the biggest turnaround of all may belong to Hitchcock. He came to a Blues team that was in the basement of the Western Conference and transformed them into Central Division winners for the first time since 1999-2000, amassing 109 points for the season.
Nominees: Doug Armstrong (St. Louis Blues), David Poile (Nashville Predators), Dale Tallon (Florida Panthers)
While it's tempting to go with Armstrong because he masterminded the acquisition of Hitchcock in addition to a few key player pickups, Tallon basically performed an extreme makeover on the Panthers, bringing in a total of 10 new players and new coach Kevin Dineen. The makeover worked: the new-look Panthers won the Southeast Division for the first time ever and went to the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
The NHL Awards will be on June 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network. There will be pre- and post-show coverage available on NHL Network, too.
Emma Harger is a Bruins fan and has a weakness for award shows.