By Jason Ioli
Believe it or not, it’s time again for the spectacle that is the NHL Awards. The awards, this year, were handed out in Las Vegas, instead of their usual home in Toronto, and was broadcast on the new home of hockey, Versus.
The ceremony opened with a very nice homage to hockey by Dennis Leary. Of course, he is in the middle of everything that has to do with hockey, so I would have been disappointed had he not been a part of this. The action then shifted to the stage for a very awkward musical performance by Chaka Khan and Robin Thicke. For some reason, awards shows think they need to have singers even when they are not needed. This would be a prime example that the singing can be left out from now on. But enough with the preliminaries….on to the awards.
The first award of the night was handed out to Steve Mason, goalie, from the Columbus Blue Jackets. It is hard to argue with this selection when you consider his 33 wins, 2.29 GAA, and 10 shutouts. Mason is a bright star for Columbus and gives them a great chance for success for a lot of years.
Possibly the most prestigious of the awards considering who casts the votes, this years Pearson went to the Washington Capital’s Alexander Ovechkin. 56 goals and 110 points this season make it obvious why he received this award. It was also nice to see a softer side to Ovie. While accepting his award, you could tell he was talking from the heart. Yeah, his English still isn’t great, but you could still tell.
It was no real surprise when this award went to Pavel Datsuk. He is perennially one of the best two way players in the NHL and huge reason why no one like to face the Red Wings. The second Russian to win, he too struggled with his speech, but looked like he had more trouble fighting nerves.
This year’s Masterton goes to Steve Sullivan of the Nashville Predators. Sullivan’s two year battle to return to the NHL, after a back injury suffered in February 2007, was remarkable. And his 32 points in 41 games this season shows he is still a force in Nashville.
Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez of the Boston Bruins went home with the Jennings this year. Their 2.24 combined goals against this year was remarkable and a primary reason why the Bruins were the best team in the Eastern Conference this year. Thomas, as the #1 goalie did most of the talking and thanked several people on behalf of Manny. Finally, he realized what he was doing and said. “You want me to thank your wife for you?” Manny responded simply, “No, no…I’ll take it from here.”
Scooping up his second award of the night is Pavel Datsuk. And again, it is difficult to argue this one. His superstar performance on the ice is complimented continually by the way he handles himself. There is no nicer player on the ice who will scare you to death with his skills. Apparently more relaxed for his second speech, Datsuk said, “Second means more confidence.” And he’s funny, too.
This distinguished award went to the Edmonton Oilers’ Ethan Moreau. His leadership to the Oilers on the ice is obvious in the way he plays every day, but few ever hear of his off ice contributions to the Edmonton community. But his introduction for this award showed the just what he does. Now, I know almost every player does some kind of charity work, but his contributions seemed like they would never end.
The next award was the Scotiabank Fan Fav award voted on, obviously, by fans. Roberto Luongo walked off with this, but the most interesting part of this award presentation was how Jeremy Roenick mispronounced the name of the award at least three times. Then, apparently we needed a break, because Chaka Khan was back to serenade the audience while montage in celebration of hockey fans played. Unfortunately, we got to see more of Chaka Khan then the fans. And again, what the heck is she doing at a hockey awards ceremony. Sure, she is a great singer, but was there really no one else available. Anyway, back to the awards.
Another no brainer this year, Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins got the Vezina. 36 wins, a .933 save % and a 2.10 GAA is mind boggling. How could he have not won this? But apparently it was obvious to everyone except Thomas who struggled to fight back tears as he gave his acceptance speech. Boston will always be a Stanley Cup contender as long as Thomas is between the pipes.
Claude Julien got the Boston Bruins their second award of the night. The coach led the Bruins to 116 points and the best record in the Eastern Conference. They also had the league’s second most potent offence with 275 goals on the year and were the only team in the league to give up less then 200 goals.
That’s right; Mark Messier has his own award to distribute each year. And this one went to Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames. There is no question that Iginla is the undisputed leader of his team and there is no one more deserving of such a trophy.
After the Hart, this was probably the most difficult award to predict. All three nominees were deserving of the Norris, but in the end it was Zdeno Chara who took the hardware. Not only did he have 50 points and a +23 on the year, he was integral in front of his goalies and led that defense to be one of the best in the entire league.
Next, Geno and Alex Ovechkin were brought up to accept their regular season scoring awards. First, Geno took the Art Ross as the player with the most points in the regular season. Like Datsuk, he apologized for his bad English, but sounded a lot better then he has in the past. Then Ovechkin accepted his Rocket Richard award as the league’s top goal scorer. Ovie, apparently, has conquered English better then Geno, because he joked, “Well Geno, your English better then Pavel Datsuk.” I will give him one thing, he has a great character. Then the commissioner came out to present the Lifetime Achievement Award. At first I did not recognize Gary Bettman with out the chorus of boos that seems to follow him everywhere. The Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Jean Beliveau, who played for the Montreal Canadians. Amazingly, he played for them from 1953 until his retirement in 1971. He had 507 goals and 712 assists for 1,219 points in 1,125 NHL regular season games. He also accumulated 79 goals and 97 assists for 176 points in 162 playoff games. He won the Stanley cup ten times as a player and seven more as an executive, all with the Canadians. That led up to the final award of the night, the much anticipated Hart.
The 2009 Hart Memorial Trophy winner is Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Naturally, I was pulling for Geno, and I know that Datsuk was deserving of the award as well, but no one means more to his team then Ovechkin. As I see it, this should go the player most valuable to his team, and without Ovie, the Caps might not even be a playoff team. The Pens and the Redwings would both still be good clubs without their respective players, but the Capitals would be a shell of their current team without Ovechkin.
Usually, I would have been upset that no Penguin won any of these awards, but the image of Geno and Max Talbot carrying the cup to the stage at the start of the ceremony made that all better. So congratulations to all of the winners. Another NHL award season has past and I look forward with great anticipation to the next.