Do the 2012 NHL Awards lack a little buzz this year?
Perhaps. Which is weird, because some of the races for the awards are unpredictable and, in some cases, history could be made.
So if you're on the fence about tuning in for the Awards on Wednesday night, here are 10 reasons why it could be worth your time.
1. Will Henrik Lundqvist pull the Hart/Vezina sweep?
The New York Rangers star is up for both the Hart Trophy for regular-season MVP and the Vezina Trophy for the NHL's top goaltender. The latter, one assumes, he should have in the bag — Lundqvist has been nominated four times for the award; plus, Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne may split the vote from the Western Conference GMs.
But can he win the Hart? Only three goalies have ever pulled off that sweep: Jacques Plante in 1961-62; Dominik Hasek twice, from 1996-98; and Jose Theodore in 2001-02.
The MVP is probably in Evgeni Malkin's Shrek-ish hands, but you never know.
Speaking of which …
2. Evgeni Malkin's Speech
From 96.1 KISS-FM, this tribute to Malkin interviews should whet your appetite for what should be an Obama-level oration when Malkin accepts the Hart Trophy.
3. The Philosophy of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins vs. Gabriel Landeskog
The Calder Trophy vote this season was a fascinating one, and not just because The Nuge and The Kog were stellar candidates. It's a vote that speaks to the very philosophy of what makes for a successful season and an impactful player.
RNH was the League's best rookie offensively — tied for first among rookies in points with 52, averaging a rookie-best 0.840 points per game in 62 games. He scored 23 of his 52 points on the power play, and didn't see any action shorthanded.
Landeskog tied Nugent-Hopkins in points and was second to Matt Read (24) in goals with 22. He played all 82 games, got better as the season went along and was a major factor in the Colorado Avalanche's push for the playoffs during the voting period. He was a physical force and set a Colorado record with 270 shots on goal.
Nugent-Hopkins was the more dynamic rookie during a shorter time frame. Landeskog was in it for the long haul and was the more complete player.
The voters can't go wrong with either choice; but who wins the Calder?
4. Who Will Be Best Dressed?
The NHL Awards exist if for no other reason than awkward, staged photographs of jocks in fancy suits. Some of them embrace this. Others will be your waiter for the evening.
5. Pavel Datsyuk Guns For Gainey
Datsyuk has been voted a Selke finalist for the fifth consecutive year, matching the streaks of Montreal's Guy Carbonneau (1986 through 1990) and Bob Gainey (1978 through 1982). He can match Gainey in another way if he bounces back to capture the Selke this season, after having his run of three trophies end last season: His fourth Selke will tie Gainey for the most in NHL history.
6. The Ottawa Upsets?
Neither Paul MacLean nor Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators could be considered the front-runner for the Jack Adams or the Norris Trophy respectively. But both have their unique charms for voters, which means the potential is there for an upset.
For MacLean, his coach of the year candidacy rests on his likeability (undeniable) and the fact that the Senators were seen by many as a conference cellar-dweller that he led to the postseason instead. Probably not enough to get around the considerable roadblock of Ken Hitchcock, but he has a shot.
Karlsson's path to the Norris is more direct: Hope that Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber split the "total package" vote, and that enough members of the PHWA see his offensive accomplishments as spectacular and his defense as respectable.
7. Old Guy vs. Sob Stories
Joffrey Lupul had his career threatened in 2010 by two back surgeries and a blood infection. Max Pacioretty suffered a significant concussion and neck trauma after being driven into the stanchion by Zdeno Chara, and getting stretchered off the ice.
Both players worked their way back to the NHL, with career-best results in 2011-12.
Daniel Alfredsson is … old. But dedicated. And the Masterton Award is intended for "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Being a career Ottawa Senator … that's all of those things, no?
8. Please Give Jonathan Quick a Cocktail and an Open Mic
If there's nothing else we've learned in the wake of the Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup championship, it's that the Conn Smythe winner is a [expletive] blast when he's [expletive] loose and there's an [expletive] mic on. Sit him with Roenick.
9. How Nice Is Matt Moulson?
The New York Islanders forward has a chance to become the nicest man in the NHL. He's up for the Lady Byng, after a season in which he earned six penalty minutes in 82 games while scoring 36 goals. How gentlemanly!
He's also up for the NHL Foundation Award, given annually to "an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey -- commitment, perseverance and teamwork -- to enrich the lives of people in his community."
Why? Oh, because he created the 326 Foundation with brother-in-law Jon Quick to benefit the Islanders Children's Foundation and the Kings Care Foundation. This year, Moulson donated $500 for each of his career-high 36 goals for a total of $18,000 to the 326 Foundation.
He also raised money for Hockey Fights Cancer and helped out the Wounded Warrior Project, too.
If he wins either award, we bet he'll allow a sick kitten to accept on his behalf.
10. Finally, Please Tell Us Nickelback Is Using Massive Amounts of Pyro
Even those hockey fans that didn't recoil upon hearing Nickelback would be the line musical guest at the NHL Awards are in the "I can stomach them I guess" party. So we ask — nay, beg — of you NHL Awards producers and Nickelback: Give us pyro. Massive fireballs and explosions. Flames licking the faces of the front row VIPs.
Anything to distract us from the Nickelback happening on stage. Hey, it worked for hair metal.
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