June 22, 2011
The NHL Awards are Wednesday night (as is the Puck Daddy/Japers' Rink NHL Awards Party in D.C.), as Las Vegas will welcome back the NHL for what should (God-willing) be another night of free-flowing cocktails and terrible jokes.
The show features appearances by musical acts Dierks Bentley and Far East Movement, as well as by handsome actor Jon Hamm, whose presence guarantees a far east movement in our pants.
But the reason they're all gathered in Vegas is to hand out the annual hardware for the NHL's best and brightest (and in one case, least-penalized).
Who wins? Who loses? And more importantly, which awards offer the most cringe-worthy moments based on those winners and losers? Because any awards show with Tim Thomas(notes) and Roberto Luongo(notes) vying for respect is going to be cringe-tastic.
Coming up, my awards picks (the staff picks are later) and the cringe factor for each award.
The Cringe Factor scale goes from 1 to 10, with 1 being a snuggle from a kitten and 10 being seeing your dad in a Speedo at a bachelor party.
Our Ballot: Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks), Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks), Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins).
Who Will Win? Perry was the best player during the voting period, and was also a player who helped lead his team from the playoff bubble to the No. 4 seed in the West. Fifty goals are also going to charm writers more than 104 points, especially when Henrik Sedin(notes) won the Hart with 112. So it'll be Perry, because no one appreciates a frontrunner.
Cringe Factor: 8. Assuming there actually is some semblance of sibling rivalry among the twins, Henrik winning a Hart and Daniel losing one the following year could be awkward. But not nearly as awkward as the reviled Mr. Perry earning the adulation of his peers as the MVP.
Who Will Win? Sedin, in a close one. The NHLPA "most outstanding player" prize can go to goal-scorers or point-getters. Sedin was the lone guy to crack 100 points this season, Perry was the only 50-goal scorer; we say it'll go to the point man.
Cringe Factor: 3. It doesn't hold a candle to the Ovechkin/Crosby/Sedin cringe-fest last season.
Who Will Win? Thomas had the numbers and a great comeback story for the Boston Bruins. He had the highest save percentage since the NHL has officially tabulated the stat. What he doesn't have are games played, with 57 appearances … but Luongo, his chief competition, had 60 games. So it should be Thomas.
Cringe Factor: 10. Maybe even 11. The Thomas/Luongo rivalry raged in the Stanley Cup Final, and the first reaction shot after either one wins the Vezina will be that of the loser. The biggest questions: If Thomas wins, how much tire-pumping of his fellow nominee will occur? And if Luongo wins, will he make reference to his style of goaltending allowing him to make saves that the other nominees can't?
Who Will Win? It's Weber's turn, for his ice time and impact as the leader of the Nashville Predators' defensive front. And voters probably sensed that Lidstrom was going to come back and couldn't square giving him a seventh Norris with a minus-2.
Cringe Factor: 2. Weber deserves it, Chara has one and Lidstrom has six. They'll be fine.
Who Will Win? Skinner, although the margin should be close. He's the rock star of the group, while Couture was arguably a more important player to his team this season. The problem is that Couture didn't lead NHL rookies in goals or points, and that's usually a prerequisite for winning the Calder if you're a forward.
Cringe Factor: 4. Screams of East Coast Bias will cascade from the left coast, but will be drowned out by squeals of delight at the sight of Hockey Bieber with the Calder.
Who Will Win? It's an odd year for the Selke, given that both Kesler and Datsyuk are nominated partially on reputation. Kesler saw much of his defensive burden shared by Manny Malhotra(notes), and thus had the best offensive season of his career. Datsyuk's defensive stats were down and he only played 56 games — compared to 80 when he won the award in 2010. It'll be Kesler, who was seen as "due."
Cringe Factor: 3. Bump it up to 6 if Datsyuk wins and then gives a speech.
Jack Adams Award
Who Will Win? Bylsma. Rarely does this award, handed out by the NHL Broadcasters Association, go to the coach who guides his team to the Presidents' Trophy. It's usually an award for overcoming long odds, and Bylsma coaxed a hell of a performance out of a Sid- and Geno-less team. Plus, they're broadcasters and Bylsma's now a TV icon after "24/7."
Cringe Factor: 5. Vigneault gets snubbed after the Canucks nearly led the league in every even-strength and special teams category, and Trotz has to wait another year before someone appreciates the enormity of his neck, er, accomplishments.
Lady Byng Trophy
Our Ballot: Loui Eriksson (Dallas Stars), Marty St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning), Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings).
Who Wins? Who cares?
Oh, not an acceptable answer? OK then. Consider this: Eriksson had eight penalty minutes and 73 points. St. Louis had 99 points and 12 PIMs. Lidstrom had 20 PIMs, his lowest total since 2004. Based on the way the voters approach this thing, the winner should be Eriksson; but everyone who didn't vote for Lidstrom for the Norris likely voted for him here just to get a trophy in his hand on what could have been his final awards night.
Plus, we haven't seen a defenseman win the Byng since Red Kelly in 1954. History will be made!
Cringe Factor: 27. It's an award named after a woman given out to a hockey player that doesn't hurt anybody. Just re-name it the Cringe Trophy and be done with it.
(Please note we didn't list the Masterton here because, well, it's the Lifetime Movie award and thus the good vibes of overcoming the odds will trump any cringe. We're thinking Ray Emery(notes), by the way.)