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Thursday, April 20, 2006 

2006 NHL Award Winners

We find ourselves in the small amount of downtime between the NHL's regular season and the big show, and I noticed that there wasn't nearly enough hockey talk out there to fill the dead air. For that reason, I've decided to dedicate my post today to the NHL by making my choices for all of the NHL awards for the regular season. So, here now are Sports Guy North's 2006 NHL Award Winners.

Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy
League Leader in Goals
Pre-Season Pick: Dany Heatley
Mid-Season Winner: Ilya Kovalchuk
2006 Award Winner: Joe Thornton

I know what you're thinking: "What the H-E-double hockey sticks is he talking about? It was Jonathan Cheechoo who lead the league in goals. Is Sports Guy North on drugs?" Well no, I am not on drugs. Nor have I ever been on drugs. Heck, I don't even drink so that's not it either. The thing is that you're wrong if you think Cheechoo lead the league in goals. 17 goals does not lead the league by a long shot. Thornton had his 29 goals, plus the 36 he banked in off of Cheechoo for a total of 65 goals, coming well ahead of Jagr in second place with 54. Ovechkin and Kovalchuk tied for third with 52.
Dany Heatley was my pick before the season started, because in combination with 2 of Ottawa's top guys helping to feed him the puck, he was a guaranteed 50 goal scorer, and another 50 assists as well, as I will mention below. How people thought Atlanta got the best of that deal will forever confuse me. He is, and will be for many years to come, a valid MVP candidate. At mid season I predicted that Ilya and Ovechkin would battle for the lead, and while their battle did end in a tie, I did not account for Thornton's huge surge towards the playoffs and his first MVP award.

Lester B. Pearson Award
MVP As Voted By the Players Association
Pre-Season Pick: Dany Heatley
Mid-Season Winner: Bryan McCabe
2006 Award Winner: Joe Thornton

Apparently before the season started I was on a huge Dany Heatley kick. His name will come up more than a few times in this process. At the half way point of the season, Bryan McCabe was the leafs team. No one was more valuable to their team. At the time I said "Imagine that team (the Capitals) without him (Ovechkin). The same can be said for Palffy and McCabe, however, two scenarios which we are going to find out about now. These are two teams that are in a lot of trouble without their stars, which is the big reason they are in the MVP running for the first half." The Leafs more than proved me right by going on an 8 game losing streak without McCabe, completely taking them out of the playoff picture. That injury did change the course of the season, however, and McCabe fell off the face of the MVP race.

The other main contenders for this award were Jaromir Jagr, whose Rangers slipped at the end of the season all the way to the #6 seed, and Alex Ovechkin. The Russian President was so important to his team that he fell just short of the ultimate dream of having more goals (52) and assists (54) than anyone else on his team had points (Zubrus finished with 57). I predicted at mid season that Staal and Thornton would likely fight for MVP rights by the end of the year. Eric Staal, probably undeservedly, fell out of the spotlight as Joe Thornton took the Sharks from well out of the playoffs to one of the top 2 (arguably 3) teams in the west going into the playoffs. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone not taking the Sharks in the first round. This is a team that everyone gave up on before Joe's arrival. For this reason, among many others, he is the one and only MVP this year. Hands down.

Frank J. Selke Trophy
Best Defensive Forward
Pre-Season Pick: Mike Knuble
Mid-Season Winner: Brenden Morrow
2006 Award Winner: Brenden Morrow

The race in this one will be tight, and could go any way in the real voting. For me, Mike Knuble has been the strongest defensive forward in the league for 3 seasons now, so I don't feel I need to justify that pick. Brenden Morrow, on the other hand, is probably way off everyone's radar for this award still. Most people would argue Modano for this award if you're looking at a Dallas player, but given the choice of battling Mike or Brenden for a puck, or trying to go around or through one, which would you pick? Morrow is a lot more willing to stand his ground at any cost, and had been doing an excellent job of it this year. He'll always come back, and knows what he's doing when he does. You can't argue with that kind of performance, it's more that Chris Pronger can say for himself defensively, and he's supposed to be a defenseman. Runner ups are Martin Gelinas, Mike Knuble and Mike Fisher.

Jack Adams Award
Coach of the Year
Pre-Season Pick: Randy Carlyle
Mid-Season Winner: Lindy Ruff
2006 Award Winner: Lindy Ruff

Lindy Ruff has done way too much with way too little. There is no other explanation than him for the Sabres success, and it's really no surprise. He has been coaching Buffalo since 1997, and in that time has had a better than .500 record with a complete lack of talent outside of the crease. He gets a strong effort out of every player every night. When the team was in trouble near the end of the season, he did what he had to, grabbed onto the Tucker incident and used it to propel the team again. You may or may not agree with what he said, but you can't argue with the results. Hands down winner, with special mention also to Tom Renney for doing something other coaches have failed to do: get Jaromir Jagr to seem interested in playing day-in and day-out. He managed to do it all year, even, but the slide to 6th will be enough to keep him from the award. Ruff hangs on to as predicted at mid-season.

King Clancy Memorial Trophy
On and Off Ice Leadership
Pre-Season Pick: Mark Messier
Mid-Season Winner: Mark Messier
2006 Award Winner: Mark Messier

Leadership of his godly levels survives retirement. He will be the true, and only leader forever. I only hope to one day bask in such leadership. Feel free to continue donating money to my cause: The Send Kent to Messier Leadership Camp Fund. Paypal your donations to CSULBHockey@netscape.net. We thank you in advance for your kindness. With your help, one day this dream will come true.

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
Perseverance and Dedication to Hockey
Pre-Season Pick: Patrick Elias
Mid-Season Winner: Patrick Elias
2006 Award Winner: Patrick Elias

This award always goes to someone coming off of an injury of some sort. If there is a disease involved then it is a mortal lock. Elias was bound to both come back, and to dominate at some point during the year. When he did come back, he turned around a team battling for the last playoff spot to the #3 seed. He elevated everyones play, and scored as he is known to do. Had he played all year, he too would be in the MVP consideration. The award was, and is, obviously his.

William M. Jennings Trophy
Goalies on Team with Fewest Goals Against
Pre-Season Pick: Dominik Hasek
Mid-Season Winner: Domink Hasek/Ray Emery
2006 Award Winner: Miikka Kiprusoff

Kiprusoff rode Haseks injury, and some solid play down the stretch, to steal this award from the Hasek/Emery tandem. The Patrick Roy trophy appeared to be on its way back to Hasek this year, but the boring play of the Calgary Flames helped solidify this result. Hopefully there won't be 4 rounds of watching them play this year, though, and the Ducks are a great first attempt at taking the boys down.

Vezina Trophy
Outstanding Goalkeeper
Pre-Season Pick: Dominik Hasek
Mid-Season Winner: Dominik Hasek
2006 Award Winner: Miikka Kiprusoff

As is true about the Dominik Hasek award. From the moment he signed with Ottawa on, this one was a lock in my books. There was no denying Hasek his 7th career Vazina trophy, to tie him with Jacques Plantes for the all time record. Nothing but an injury, that is. Don't worry, though, I won't use this as a place to yet again bring up my thoughts on having international competitions in the middle of an NHL season, and especially in the playoff drive. When the Sens bow out early, everyone in Ottawa will be on my side.

With Hasek out of the running, I looked for absolutely anyone else to give this award to. Brodeur had a lot of wins, but his numbers weren't up to par this year. Manny Fernandez had a spectacular first half, but his play really dropped off after his little buddy was traded to Edmonton. Huet didnt start soon enough, Gerber's stats weren't as strong as they should have been. By default, Miika is the vezina winner this year. There's no way around it.

Conn Smythe Trophy
Playoffs MVP
Pre-Season Pick: Dominik Hasek
Mid-Season Prediction: Daniel Alfredson
2006 Award Winner: Joe Thonrton

Hasek looked to be primed to carry the Sens to the Cup this year, but injuries have taken away any real chance of that. All things equal, Alfy then deserves the award. He has been this teams leader right from the start, and suffered through all the adversity placed upon him because of it. If the Sens do end up going all the way, this will finaly be his year. Datsyuk, Lidstom and Legace will duke it out if the Red Wings win the Cup as expected. But I'm going out on a limb here, and I'm calling the Sharks this years Stanley Cup Champions, and Joe Thornton the easy playoff MVP if that happens.

Calder Memorial Trophy
Rookie of the Year
Pre-Season Pick: Sidney Crosby
Mid-Season Winner: Alex Ovechkin
2006 Award Winner: Alex Ovechkin

Crosby was probably everybody's pre-season front-runner, but Vechky quickly took control. The race was somewhat close for a while, but in the middle of the season Alex looked to already be in a class above Crosby. Have you heard anyone mention Crosby's name in MVP talks? Not likely. This is the clear difference between their rookie campaigns. Ovechkin is the rookie of the year, but Crosby's run to nearly catch Alex in scoring will make the vote a close one again. The race for runner up is an interesting one this year. Lundqvist, Meszaros (a defenseman at +34 in a rookie season is ridiculous), Svatos and Crosby would easily be winners in any other season. Thats not to mention Michalek, Phaneuf, Steen, Tyutin, Seabrook, Vanek, Prucha, Boyes, Wellwood, Vorobiev, Whitney, Ouellet, et Al. I have never seen a rookie crop like this years. It is the stuff that dreams are made of, and should give us all an over-abundance of hope for the future of the league. It has been an exciting year, and many of the names listed will be hoping for the same success as their first playoff run gets underway.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Biggest Pussy
Pre-Season Pick: Pavel Datsyuk
Mid-Season Winner: Brad Richards
2006 Award Winner: Steve Rucchin
Who cares?

James Norris Memorial Trophy
Best Defenseman
Pre-Season Pick: Wade Redden
Mid-Season Winner: Bryan McCabe
2006 Award Winner: Niklas Lidstrom

Wade Redden is strong defensively, and offensively, and being on a team that was such a clear front-runner for the Cup made him the early favourite. Injuries late in the year took him out of the running for what should have been his award after Bryan McCabe's injury set in. Lubomir Visnovsky's played slowed down in the second half as well, with all of this coming together to open the door for Lidstrom to walk away with this award. Zubov may give him a run in the voting, but Lidstorm averaged over 28 minutes of ice time this season, and had over 100 more shots on net than Zubov. Zubov may steal it, but it should be Lidstrom's award to lose at this point.

Hart Memorial Trophy
Pre-Season Pick: Dany Heatley
Mid-Season Winner: Bryan McCabe
2006 Award Winner: Joe Thornton

This is pretty much the same as the Lester B Pearson award because I'm speaking in both cases. When it's not player votes, however, Jagr may have a better chance at coming out on top. Could also see a lot more Staal votes this way, but not likely.

Art Ross Trophy
League Leader in Points
Pre-Season Pick: Dany Heatley
Mid-Season Winner: Jaromir Jagr
2006 Award Winner: Joe Thonton

The guaranteed 50 and 50 was enough for me to think Heatley would lead the league in both goals and points. Heatley did exactly as I expected, but 3 others managed to do even more. Thornton found the perfect Rucchin, and soared to the top of the standings with 125 points, followed closlely by Jagr at 123. Ovechkin lead the rookies, finishing third with 106 points, and linemates Alfredson and Heatley tied for 4th with 103.

Prince of Wales Trophy
Eastern Conference Champion
Pre-Season Pick: Ottawa Senators
Mid-Season Prediction: Ottawa Senators
2006 Award Winner: Ottawa Senators

Nothing unexpected here, although Hasek's injury allowed the Hurricaine's to keep it close.

Clarence S. Campbell Bowl
Western Conference Champion
Pre-Season Pick: Detroit Red Wings
Mid-Season Prediction: Detroit Red Wings
2006 Award Winner: Detroit Red Wings

Most people did not pick the Wings at the start of the year. They'll all deny it now, but talk about Legace not cutting it was everywhere, and I just never understood it. Most picked Colorado to miss the playoffs and Phoenix to be in. None of it made sense to me, and it's nice to see in the end that I'm not crazy. It's everyone else that's nuts.

Presidents' Trophy
Best Regular Season Record
Pre-Season Pick: Ottawa Senators
Mid-Season Winner: Ottawa Senators
2006 Award Winner: Detroit Red Wings

Could have gone either way. And it did.

Stanley Cup
League Champs
Pre-Season Pick: Ottawa Senators
Mid-Season Prediction: Ottawa Senators
2006 Award Winner: San Jose Sharks

No matter what I write here, you're all going to question it. So I'm not goign to bother. My ranks for odds to win are 1. San Jose 2. Detroit 3. New Jersey 4. Anaheim 5. Ottawa. Sorry Carolina, Calgary and Dallas fans, it just isn't in the cards this year.

the sharks? are you nuts?

why do you hate all the canadian teams? some sports guy NORTH you are.

steve rucchin for biggest pussy. classy. did he rape your grandma sometime or something?

Well if you are going by goals banked in off other players then you would have to rewrite the record books and give Mario Lemeiux the Goals in a season record for the 159 he got in 88-89, his 85 and the 49 he banked in off Rob Brown.

hey nice blog... i love hockey and your blog is pretty cool! too bad you didn't put Jaques Plante in there though. oh well nice blog though.

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