As the season winds down, voting will take place for the NHL's major trophies.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Assn. vote for the Hart (most valuable player), Calder (rookie of the year), Norris (top defenseman), Lady Byng (sportsmanship) and Selke (defensive forward) awards. General managers vote for the Vezina (best goaltender), and members of the NHL Broadcasters Assn. vote for the Jack Adams (coach of the year). The general manager of the year award — which needs a catchier name — will be selected by a panel of general managers, club executives and media.
The Times doesn't allow writers to vote for league trophies on the grounds that doing so would be influencing news. But here's what to expect from ballots that will be cast before the playoffs start.
Daniel Sedin deserves to follow his twin, Henrik, by winning the MVP award and scoring title with the top-ranked Canucks. Fleury was tested after the Penguins lost Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injuries and became more defense-oriented. He has thrived, compiling a 2.32 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. Perry has career highs of 47 goals and 93 points while fueling the Ducks' playoff surge. Thomas might be snubbed by voters who believe goalies are recognized with the Vezina and should be ineligible for the Hart, but his league-leading 1.98 goals-against average and .939 save percentage can't be ignored.
Grabner's 31 goals, 48 points and plus-15 rating on a bad team are eye-popping. Couture, who also has 31 goals, got a jump start by playing 25 games last season. Skinner, 18, is the top rookie scorer with 58 points. Crawford saved the Blackhawks' season by emerging as the starter.
Lidstrom has a minus-1 rating and has never been minus before. But he's playing a more defense-oriented role and among defensemen is second to Visnovsky in scoring with 62 points. Visnovsky has flaws defensively but has an impressive 66 points and is plus 15. Yandle (11 goals, 59 points, plus 11) has great instincts and mobility. Weber is a leader and averages more than 25 minutes a game for the low-scoring Predators.
St. Louis, last season's winner, this season has only 12 penalty minutes to go with his second-ranked 94 points. Eriksson has 65 points and only eight penalty minutes, and Toews has 75 points and 22 penalty minutes.
Kesler averages more ice time than either Sedin (20:33) and is responsible at both ends of the ice. Datsyuk, a three-time Selke winner, could miss out after missing time because of a broken wrist. Toews is a complete player whose defensive work is smart and tireless.
If Thomas (1.98, .939) doesn't win there should be an investigation. Rinne (2.13, .929) has been the Predators' backbone. Luongo (career-best 2.14 goals-against) has benefited from having a strong backup in Cory Schneider. Lundqvist (2.26, .923) is the Rangers' best asset.
Winner: Dave Tippett, Phoenix. Honorable mention: Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh; Alain Vigneault, Vancouver.
Tippett won last year and remains remarkably good at getting a lot out of a low-budget team. Bylsma had to retool after losing Crosby and Malkin and persuaded his players to play defense. Vigneault's Canucks have the league's best record despite injuries that have led the team to use a league-high 37 skaters.
General Manager of Year
Shero pried standout left wing James Neal and depth defenseman Matt Niskanen away from Dallas at the trade deadline, useful pieces for a playoff run. Holmgren found goalie Sergei Bobrovsky as an unsigned free agent and has juggled his roster well. Maloney won the award last year and continues to do an exceptional job despite a small budget and the uncertainty over the team's future.