The end of the regular season is upon us yet again, so here’s a look at the way I’ll lean when I fill out my awards ballot this week:
Most valuable to his team, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Sidney Crosby should run away with his second Hart after running away with, believe it or not, only his second Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. The Penguins have been ravaged by injuries this season, yet Crosby, who has had a history of concussions, was the one constant presence to keep this team afloat.
Runners-up: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim; Corey Perry, Anaheim; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia; Joe Pavelski, San Jose.
Best defenseman, voted on by the PHWA.
From start to finish, Chicago’s Duncan Keith has been the best defenseman I’ve seen this season. He’s second among blue-liners in scoring, a power-play stalwart, has the wheels and range to not only make like miserable on forwards, but get that puck up ice quickly.
Runners-up: Zdeno Chara, Boston; Shea Weber, Nashville; Matt Niskanen, Pittsburgh; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles.
Best rookie, voted on by the PHWA.
Not only has Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon been the most impressive and electrifying rookie in the NHL, but he’s already become one of the West’s biggest scoring threats. At 18, the sky is the limit for this budding superstar. The 2013 No. 1 overall picks leads all rookies in scoring and has continued to see his role increase.
Runners-up: Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay; Torey Krug, Boston; Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay; Sean Monahan, Calgary.
Best defensive forward, voted on by the PHWA.
You don’t get a true appreciation of Patrice Bergeron unless you watch him every day. He doesn’t have a weakness. Offensively, defensively, positionally, stick work, work ethic and faceoffs, the guy is as complete a player as there is the NHL. He was Boston’s second-leading scorer and had a plus-minus near 40.
Runners-up: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles; Jonathan Toews, Chicago; David Backes, St. Louis; Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado.
Lady Byng Trophy
Most gentlemanly, voted on by the PHWA.
Jared Spurgeon, the Wild’s second-leading-scoring defenseman, logs 22 minutes, 41 seconds a game, leads the team with a plus-16 and has accumulated 14 penalty minutes in 66 games. He has a ridiculous 26 penalty minutes in 228 games. To play as many minutes as he does in a top-two or top-four role and rarely take obstruction penalties shows how smart and how steady he is.
Runners-up: Matt Duchene, Colorado; Patrick Kane, Chicago; Patrick Marleau, San Jose; Brian Campbell, Florida.
Best goalie, voted on by general managers.
Semyon Varlamov turned his 11-21-3 record last season into 41-14-6 this year, breaking Patrick Roy’s Avalanche team record for victories. In a tough conference and hellacious division, he has a 2.41 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. He’s also playing behind a blue line that many feel is the team’s weakness.
Runners-up: Tuukka Rask, Boston; Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay; Carey Price, Montreal; Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus.
Jack Adams Trophy
Coach of the Year, voted on by broadcasters.
There is tons of skill. Up front, the Avs are lethal. But this is still a team that was so bad last year and had such little defensive structure that it “earned” the right to draft MacKinnnon first overall. The Avs hit the 50-win mark in a division where no one felt they would challenge Chicago or St. Louis for the Central title. Like him or not, Patrick Roy has done a heck of a job in his rookie season.
Runners-up: Mike Babcock, Detroit; Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay; Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim; Craig Berube, Philadelphia.
Hart (team MVP) — As my Twitter alter ego, @russosfilter (I swear it’s not me), dubbed the Wild’s goalies the other day, “Josh Kuempgalov.” Hey, it makes sense. The Wild’s season could have imploded at any point along the way if not for Josh Harding, Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov stepping in as the No. 1 at different junctures. Norris — I’m tempted to go Spurgeon or Marco Scandella just to be that guy, but Ryan Suter leads the league in average ice time by almost 2½ minutes and has been sensational down the stretch. Calder — Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine had strong campaigns, but Kuemper deserves props for his second-half savior duty. Selke — Parise, because of 55 points, plus-13 and work ethic galore. Breakthrough season — Mikael Granlund, plain and simple.