What happens in Vegas… isn’t the 2013 NHL Awards.
The NHL season was only half-size, and the annual hardware ceremonies will only be half-cocked. Suites at the Wynn and velvet-rope galas cut into HRR, so don’t expect a Nickelback performance or a series of Will Arnett sketches poking fun at Brendan Shanahan. This year it’s handshakes and hardware.
Spread over two evenings, Friday and Saturday, between games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup final, this slapdash version of the affair will require fewer tuxedo rentals and seat-fillers.
The majority of the trophies were handed out Friday evening, but the biggies — Hart, Calder, Vezina, Norris and Ted Lindsay — have been saved for prime time on Saturday.
The winners will be presented at 7 p.m. ET in advance of Game 2 and televised on CBC in Canada and NBC in the States.
Here’s a rundown of all the nominees, the guys who were unceremoniously snubbed, and the best bets to take home a prize:
Awarded to: Player most valuable to his team
Who decides: Professional Hockey Writers’ Association
Nominees: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), John Tavares (New York Islanders)
Who will win: Sidney Crosby
Who should win: Alex Ovechkin
Who got the shaft: Sergei Bobrovsky, Jonathan Toews
Explain yourself: Tavares falls into the happy-to-be-included category, and in a few years he’ll be regularly going head-to-head with Steven Stamkos for league MVP. Crosby’s well-documented health battles, name recognition and superior points-per-game average will win him the most votes. But look at the award’s description: most valuable to his team. Had Bobrovsky’s Blue Jackets made the playoffs, I’d give him the prize. But Ovechkin’s Capitals were on their way to missing the postseason until the winger (who switched wings) started playing like a man possessed. Simply put: the Caps would not have won their division without Ovie; the Penguins would still have won the conference without Sid.
Awarded to: Top goaltender
Who decides: NHL general managers
Nominees: Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Antti Niemi (San Jose Sharks)
Who will win: Sergei Bobrovsky
Who should win: Sergei Bobrovsky
Who got the shaft: Craig Anderson
Explain yourself: Anderson was well on his way, leading all goalies who played 20 games minimum in goals against and save percentage, but having played only 24 games total due to injury, the Senators starter was unfortunately but justly denied a nomination. Outcast by Philadelphia, Bobrovsky stood on his dang head for what most believed to be the worst club in the league.
Awarded to: Best defenceman
Nominees: Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins), P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens), Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild)
Who will win: P.K. Subban (bet on it)
Who should win: Ryan Suter
Who got the shaft: Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson
Explain yourself: The playoffs have proved Chara’s unique worth, and a sliced Achilles robbed defending Norris champ Karlsson of a shot repeating. But minutes hog Ryan Suter emerged out of Shea Weber’s shadow in spectacular fashion. Logging a league-high 27:13 per game alongside rookie Jonas Brodin, Suter is a better defender than Subban and Letang, plus he ranked second among D-men in assists.
Awarded to: Most proficient rookie
Nominees: Brendan Gallagher (Montreal Canadiens), Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers), Brandon Saad (Chicago Blackhawks)
Who will win: Jonathan Huberdeau
Who should win: Jonas Brodin
Who got the shaft: Jonas Brodin, Nail Yakupov
Explain yourself: Jumping on a Minnesota Wild bandwagon that doesn’t exist, I gotta go with Brodin. Choose your conspiracy: The 19-year-old was overlooked because he’s (a) Swedish, (b) a defenceman or (c) plays in the Western Conference. In a stellar crop of freshman forwards, the 166-pound Brodin succeeded at a more difficult position. He scored 11 points and was a plus-3 for a minus-5 team and took just 10 penalty minutes all year defending the West’s top forward lines. What learning curve?
Awarded to: Most outstanding player
Who decides? Fellow members of the NHL Players’ Association
Nominees: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Who should win: Jonathan Toews
Who got the shaft: Jonathan Toews
Explain yourself: Formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award, the Teddy is to the NHL Awards what the Viewers’ Choice Award is to the MTV Awards: a popularity contest. And everybody has respect for Crosby, the consensus best player in the world. Had No. 87 played even 87 per cent of the season (his jaw was busted 75 per cent of the way through), I’d give him the nod, no questions asked. Toews, however, was the best player on the best team — and he only missed one game. He’s so well-rounded, it almost hurts him when it comes to individual honours: 59.9% faceoff success, plus-28, 23 goals, 25 assists. The most outstanding stat line in this 48-game season.