Wednesday, April 21, 2004

NHL Award Finalists

The NHL has announced the finalists for its awards for the 2003-2004 season, which will be presented in a gala June 10 in Toronto. The Red Wings have only one player up for a major award. Kris Draper is in the running for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game." Despite missing 15 games with a torn left rotator cuff, after a practice mishap involving Curtis Joseph before the dreaded March 3 Calgary game, Draper is still in the running for the Selke. The last time a Red Wing won the Selke was Steve Yzerman in 2000. Kris Draper, a first-time Selke finalist, had a career season in goals (24) and points (40). His previous bests were 35 points last season and 15 goals in the 2001-2002 season. In addition, Drapes boasted a +22 plus/minus rating, reflecting his solid defensive play, and took only 31 penalty minutes. The tandem of Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper is widely considered the best penalty killing force in the league, and Draper had 5 shorthanded goals. Drapes' overall season breakdown is 24 goals, 16 assists, 40 points. Also up for the Selke are New Jersey's John Madden and San Jose's Alyn McCauley, also centers. Madden won the award in 2001, and closed this season out with a +7 plus/minus rating, 12 goals, 23 assists, 35 points, and 22 penalty minutes. McCauley had the most points of the finalists, boasting a 47 point season (20 goals, 27 assists). He was also had a +23 plus/minus rating and only 28 penalty minutes. Steve Thomas is a Rock Steve Thomas is the Wings' nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the "player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey." Steve Yzerman was last year's winner after his return from extensive knee surgery. When asked why he was up for the Masterton, Thomas responsed, in humor, "Because I'm older than dirt." Thomas is 40. Associate Coach Barry Smith on Thomas:
"He's a tremendous pro. Even when he sits on the bench and misses shifts, he's always pushing the rest of the guys."
After Bryan Allen broke Henrik Zetterberg's leg with a wicked slash November 3 (5-1 Wings loss), the Wings responded by signing Steve Thomas on November 5, a $1 million, one-year deal. Thomas was left unsigned after a playoff stint with the Mighty Ducks, partially since he wanted to play near his family in Toronto. As he waited for a team to sign him, he worked out with a junior team in Toronto and contemplated retirement. The signing with the Wings rejuvenated Thomas, who had 5 goals and 2 assists in his first 10 games with the Wings. He played in the Wings' December 8, 3-2 win over the Kings, but was unexpectedly sidelined and underwent knee surgery. He returned January 21 at Anaheim, in a 2-2 tie. But things didn't go well for long. Later in the season, Thomas suffered and aggravated a rib injury, leading to the cracked rib diagnosis. Thomas made the playoff roster, but has been near-invisible. It just seems like the rash of injuries ruined his initial energy after signing for a stint in Hockeytown. Shafted on the Blue Line After having a solid season on defense (+22 plus/minus rating) and offense (14 goals, 32 assists, 46 points), Mathieu Schneider is not listed as a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Instead, finalists for the Norris are Ottawa's Zdeno Chara, New Jersey's Scott Niedermayer, and St Louis' Chris Pronger. Chara had a breakout season with 16 goals, 25 assists, 41 points, and maintaining a +33 plus/minus rating. Niedermayer was stellar with 14 goals, 40 assists, and 54 points, in 81 games. Pronger had a clone season to Niedermayer's, with 14 goals, 40 assists, and career high 54 points, but in 80 games. It'd be pretty funny if Pronger's having played one less game with the same output affects his contention against Niedermayer. Pronger won the Norris in 2000, and this is his third time as a finalist. He came back from an injury-plagued season, and was stellar despite key absences of Al MacInnis and Barret Jackman on the Blues' blue line. Though Chara was a lock-in pick as a finalist, I still think Schneider should've made the cut. Also, Nicklas Lidstrom did not make the cut, but this was expected by most analysts. In Lidstrom terms, this season was a weak one for the Swede. He had a career low offensive output (10 goals, 28 assists, 38 points), and actually looked mortal on defense (but still had a +19 plus/minus rating). Lidstrom had won the last three Norris Trophies, and was in the top-two for six straight years. Is Lewie Award-Worthy? In addition, there is some argument that Dave Lewis should've been mentioned as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, as he coached the Wings to a President's Trophy despite a rash of injuries. Ron Wilson, John Tortorella, and Darryl Sutter are up for the award. In past season, the Jack Adams has become an underdog coach award, although Scotty Bowman won it with the Wings in 1996. My Award Picks: Jack Adams Award: John Tortorella, Lightning Calder Memorial Trophy: Michael Ryder, Canadiens Hart Memorial Trophy: Martin St. Louis, Lightning Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Martin St. Louis, Lightning James Norris Memorial Trophy: Zdeno Chara, Senators Frank J. Selke Trophy: Kris Draper, Red Wings Vezina Trophy: Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames


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