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Blues captain David Backes (right), who starred at Minnesota State Mankato, is a candidate for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward.

Darryl Dyck, Associated Press

Michael Russo's Sunday Insider: Plenty of new names are in mix for season awards

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • April 8, 2012 - 12:12 AM

Another NHL regular season has come to an end, and for all our sakes (and the Wild's, with all its prospects coming), let's hope the next one starts on time with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Sept. 15. With every end of the year is the end-of-the-year awards, and members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association are lucky enough to vote for five. Here are my picks:

Hart Trophy (most valuable to his team): The annual debate is whether a goaltender should earn stripes for this award since he has his own, the Vezina. But in this case, how can you argue with the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist or Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick? Lundqvist was scintillating all year, and without Quick, there's no way the offensively challenged Kings make the playoffs. But, with Sidney Crosby limited to 22 games, Evgeni Malkin carried the Pittsburgh Penguins. His 107 points for his second career Art Ross Trophy were 11 more than Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos heading into Saturday's final day.

Winner: Malkin. Runners-up: Quick; Stamkos; Lundqvist; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia.

Norris Trophy (best defenseman): Erik Karlsson's season in Ottawa has been tremendous. His 19 goals were tied for first Saturday and his 78 points were 25 points more than the next guy. He was plus-17 on averaging 25:20 a night.

Winner: Karlsson. Runners-up: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis; Shea Weber, Nashville; Zdeno Chara, Boston; Brian Campbell, Florida.

Calder Trophy (best rookie): This is as close a vote as you get. Gabriel Landeskog was an absolute horse for Colorado, scoring 52 points and 22 goals in 81 games and being a plus-22 when the next highest forward was plus-1. But that was the same amount of points in 20 more games than Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Close call, but ...

Winner: Landeskog. Runners-up: Nugent-Hopkins; Matt Read, Philadelphia; Adam Henrique, New Jersey; Jake Gardiner, Toronto.

Selke Trophy (best defensive forward): The best defensive team in hockey is St. Louis. The best all-around player on the Blues is David Backes. It's impressive what this hard-nosed, almost-old-school hockey player does in the offensive zone every night, but the way he's embraced Ken Hitchcock's system in the other two zones has been impressive. Going away from the usual customers ...

Winner: Backes. Runners-up: Patrice Bergeron, Boston; Tom Callahan, N.Y. Rangers; Mike Fisher, Nashville; Marian Hossa, Chicago.

Lady Byng Trophy (most gentlemanly): Yep, the award many don't know if it's a real honor to get, but it should be embraced. It comes with a snazzy trophy, after all. Ray Whitney, the ageless vet, put forth another season where he piled up points and largely stayed out of the box.

Winner: Whitney. Runners-up: Campbell, Florida; Loui Eriksson, Dallas; Jordan Eberle, Edmonton; Jason Pominville, Buffalo.

Vezina Trophy (best goalie, voted by the general managers): This is a tough call. Lundqvist, until maybe the past six weeks, seemed to be running away with it. But he and Quick have the same 1.93 goals-against average, and Quick's .929 save percentage is just a shade under Lundqvist's .931 with almost 400 more minutes. Because of goal support, one wonders if Quick edges him out.

Winner: Quick. Runners-up: Lundqvist; Mike Smith, Phoenix; Pekka Rinne, Nashville; Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh.

Jack Adams Award (best coach, voted by the broadcasters): This isn't as easy as you think. Hitchcock came in for the fired Davis Payne and nearly led the Blues to a President's Trophy. Kevin Dineen, in Florida, got the Panthers into the playoffs for the first time since 2000. And how about the job Paul MacLean did in Ottawa, a team that few predicted to make the playoffs. This is tough.

Winner: Hitchcock. Runners-up: Dineen; MacLean; John Tortorella, N.Y. Rangers; Pete DeBoer, New Jersey.

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