By Allan Muir
The upside of abandoning the NHL's flashy awards presentation in Las Vegas is obvious: no experiments in forced chemistry between C-list celebrities and hockey players; no disdainful hosting from Jay Mohr; and no more sequels to the wacky adventures of Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.
Still, this year's hastily planned alternative won't exactly be remembered as a triumph of marketing genius, either.
The NHL dropped the first eight winners online and the buzz it generated nearly matched the excitement over the last Twisted Sister LP. It's really too bad, since the league could have benefited from wider exposure afforded to these worthwhile honorees.
The most highly anticipated award of the night went to Jonathan Toews, who edged out Patrice Bergeron (again) in the tightly contested race for the Selke Trophy. You can read Sarah Kwak's take on it here. In my book, Bergeron deserved a repeat win -- he took home the hardware last season -- based on his league-leading faceoff numbers and the fact that he was on the ice for just 13 even-strength goals-against all season. Toews is right there with him on nearly all counts, but I think the voters tossed him this bone after bailing on him in the MVP balloting.
And now, the rest of the winners:
Jack Adams Award: Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators
What the NHL says: "MacLean guided the Senators (25-17-6) to a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs despite the extended absence of several key players due to injury. Defenseman Erik Karlsson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, was limited to 17 games; defenseman Jared Cowen, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, was sidelined for all but seven games; top forwards Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek played in just five and 23 contests, respectively; and starting goaltender Craig Anderson appeared in just 24 games. MacLean led a youthful Senators lineup, which included a League-high 14 rookies making at least one appearance, to the top defensive record in the Eastern Conference (2.08 goals-against per game)."
What I say: As I wrote previously, this was fishes-and-loaves coaching, really miraculous work. Watching him keep that young team in dedicated formation through a challenging season led me to believe he could have pulled beer leaguers out of the Scotiabank Place seats, given them a stick and a sweater and not skipped a beat. Can't wait to see what he does with a full lineup next season.
GM of the Year: Ray Shero, Pittsburgh Penguins
What the NHL says: "Shero made key additions to an already-strong roster throughout the year that helped propel the Penguins (36-12-0) to a playoff berth for the seventh consecutive season, their first Atlantic Division title since 2008 and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. He obtained C Brandon Sutter and G Tomas Vokoun in offseason trades and later brought RW Jarome Iginla, LW Brenden Morrow, C Jussi Jokinen and D Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh in deals leading up to the trade deadline. Pittsburgh reeled off 15 consecutive victories from March 2-30, the second-longest winning streak in NHL history and the League’s longest winning streak in 20 years."
What I say: For all his tinkering, it didn't amount to much in the end, but it sure looked like all the pieces were in place when the ballots were cast. I'm guessing most of the voters were swayed by his aggressive talent grab ahead of the deadline, but his best work was done last offseason when he tabbed Vokoun as his back up. If Dan Bylsma doesn't have the veteran at the end of the bench when Marc-Andre Fleury flamed out against the Isles, it's possible that Shero would have accepted this award while standing in the unemployment line. His handling of the Jordan Staal contract issue was a bold move that allowed him to replenish his depth and create some of the cap space that was used to re-sign Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Bill Masterton Trophy: Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild
What the NHL says: "Harding went 1-1-0 with a 3.24 GAA, a .863 save percentage and one shutout in five regular-season games with Minnesota this year and 1-4 with a 2.94 GAA and a .911 save percentage in five playoff starts for the Wild. He stopped all 24 shots faced in his first start this season in a 1-0 victory against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 20. Harding was placed on Injured Reserved Feb. 12 and missed 33 games with the Wild as he battles multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed last fall. He was assigned to the Houston Aeros (AHL) on a conditioning assignment April 16 and went 1-1-0, stopping 56-of-61 shots for a 3.00 GAA and .918 SV% in two starts and helped Houston clinch a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs before being recalled by Minnesota on April 22."
What I say: They're kind of burying the lede a bit, aren't they? I mean, Harding could have gone out there with his pants on backwards and given up 20 goals a night and he still would have deserved this because he played a professional sport WITH MS! Fortunately, this disease isn't so common that everyone has been touched by it one way or another, because if people really grasped how amazing it is that Harding was able to compete at this level, they'd just give him this thing in perpetuity and come up with another award for next season.
King Clancy Award: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
What the NHL says: "Bergeron’s Patrice’s Pals program brings local hospital patients and
children’s organizations, who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience a game, to TD Garden to watch the Bruins play from the view of a luxury suite and meet and take photographs with Patrice. Among the many organizations he has hosted: the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Children’s Hospital Boston, Franciscan Hospital for Children, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and numerous special needs hockey teams.
Bergeron also represents his club at numerous community events throughout the year. He is heavily involved in the Bruins' Annual Holiday Toy Delivery, during which players and other members of the Bruins organization shop for toys to deliver to children in area hospitals who cannot be home for the holidays. Bergeron has spearheaded the shopping and delivery for a number of years, demonstrating his passion for working with children in need."
What I Say: Good player, good guy. Clearly deserving of the honor. That said, there are probably 150 guys for whom an equally strong case could be made every year, including this one. If there's one thing hockey fans should be proud of, it's the quiet generosity of spirit embodied by so many NHL players. They represent their teams, and the game, in a way that shows gratitude for the lives they get to lead. That's exactly what makes the Clancy such a special recognition.
Lady Byng Award: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
What the NHL says: "The 37-year-old led the NHL with 43 assists and 60 points in 48 games to capture his second career Art Ross Trophy (2003-04). He averaged 1.25 points per game, becoming one of only three players in League history to achieve that mark at age 37 or older (Mario Lemieux, 2002-03; Gordie Howe, 1968-69). St. Louis also ranked second among NHL forwards in total time on ice (1,055:12), but was assessed just 14 penalty minutes."
What I say: "Just" 14 penalty minutes? Prorated over a full season, that adds up to his highest total since 2006-07. Still not a ton in the grand scheme, but I'm guessing this was more about his points than PIMs. Logan Couture, who finished fifth in the balloting, and Patrick Kane, who was the first runner-up, would have been more deserving.
NHL Foundation Player Award: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
What the NHL says: "Zetterberg and his wife, Emma, give back to the Metro Detroit community through numerous initiatives as well as international causes in Ethiopia, Guatemala and Nepal. Zetterberg hosts children’s charities, including Metro Detroit-area children’s hospitals and mentoring nonprofits, at each Red Wings home game during the regular season in the Zetterberg Foundation Suite.
"Zetterberg and his wife built the Chige Primary School in Kemba, Ethiopia, in cooperation with Action Aid Ethiopia. The school consists of four classrooms and gives 225 children in Kemba access to a primary school education. The Belta Telo Middle School currently has 780 kids sharing four small classrooms; however, thanks to a donation from the Zetterberg Foundation, construction to add a block of four new classrooms to the school has begun. He also supports microloan programs in Ethiopia and Guatemala to provide women with the opportunity to start their own businesses and work themselves out of poverty. In addition, the Zetterberg Foundation has financed and built six houses for former debt slaves in
What I say: Geez, while I'm feeling good about myself every time I drop a few bucks in the Salvation Army kettle, Zetterberg's out there working on his application for sainthood. This guy's life is a good reminder that we all could set the bar a little higher.
Mark Messier Leadership Award: Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators
What the NHL says: "Alfredsson, the NHL’s longest-serving active captain, leads the Senators in numerous categories, including career games played, goals, assists and points. He has taken a leadership role off of the ice as well, working with the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health and the Sens Foundation. Alfredsson has supported the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa for the past 10 seasons, purchasing tickets and suites for club members to attend Senators games and serving as title sponsor of Ringside for Youth, the club’s primary fundraising event during the season. Since 2008, he also has been the spokesperson and champion for the Royal’s “You Know Who I Am” campaign, leading the way to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. In addition, Alfredsson has supported the Royal’s “Do It for Daron” campaign to assist in raising the profile of youth mental health issues." What I say: Good for Alfie, a player who deserves all the acclaim he gets, but it's tough to get excited about an "expansion" trophy. Maybe I'd take it more seriously if the full name of the trophy didn't include a shout out to a corporate sponsor.