It’s NHL awards season -- which means lots of deliberating over who gets my fifth-place Selke Trophy award vote.
This season is different than recent ones, however, because the Islanders have more viable candidates for NHL awards than at any time in perhaps 15-20 years. It can be a difficult balance in a regular, 82-game season to highlight teams you only see once or twice; with no inter-conference games in the 48-game season, it’s a challenge to figure out what’s been going on in the West.
My ballot won’t be submitted until Sunday, when all the games are done. Until then, here’s who I’m considering from the Isles’ eligibles:
Hart Trophy (MVP): John Tavares. Now that the hockey world seems hip to the idea than an Islander could be an MVP candidate, where does he fit? The voters pick five players, ranked 1-5. The award seemed to be Sidney Crosby’s until his broken jaw; Alex Ovechkin has turned his game up a notch to get the Caps into the playoff mix. Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf are up there too.
Selke Trophy (best defensive forward): Frans Nielsen. He got one third-place vote last season, but he’s in line to get more prominent votes this year given his improved play and the team’s improved play. Patrice Bergeron is the reigning champ and likely to repeat; Bergeron is the best faceoff man in the league, and that’s an area in which Nielsen still struggles.
Calder Trophy (top rookie): Casey Cizikas. A long-shot, given the glut of rookies making an impact, but he’s in the five-player conversation for me.
Lady Byng Trophy (most gentlemanly): Matt Moulson. A third-place finish (with 13 first-place votes) last season got Moulson into the mix. His four PIMs this season will help too. This has become an award given to the best player who doesn’t mix it up that much, and Moulson is certainly a legitimate candidate.
Now to a couple awards for which I don’t have a vote:
Vezina Trophy (top goaltender): Evgeni Nabokov. Doubtful he gets much love here from the league’s GMs, given so many candidates with better numbers. The way he’s played, though -- and how much he’s played -- could be worth a couple votes.
Jack Adams Award (top coach): Jack Capuano. The league’s broadcasters vote on this one, and honestly, if Michel Therrien has the award locked up for how much the Canadiens have turned around from last season, why not Capuano, whose team is six points behind Montreal? Just a thought.