Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
The National Hockey League handed out the hardware 22 June 2006 at its award show in Vancouver, Canada. There were some very happy players as they left sporting the shiny trophies that would turn anyone green with envy. Did the winners deserve their prizes?
The Hart Trophy, given to the league’s most valuable player, was handed to Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks. He beat Jaromir Jagr and Miikka Kiprusoff and fully deserved the award. Thornton scored 92 points in 58 games after being traded to the Sharks from the Boston Bruins and, most impressively, helped Jonathon Cheechoo, who was the winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Award for scoring the most goals, reach 56 tallies.
Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Dion Phaneuf were up for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. After the lockout of last season, this year’s cast was impressive. Washington Capital sniper Ovechkin was handed the prize and earned the trophy, ending the season with 106 points, including 52 goals. This choice was anything but a no brainer, given the showing of future superstar Crosby, but the right player did win the award.
Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. Kiprusoff beat Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist, earning enough respect to be placed in the hunt for the Hart Trophy (see above), and easily deserved this honour.
The Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman, was won by Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings. His stalwart play allowed him to easily earn the honour over fellow blueliners Scott Neidermayer and Sergei Zubov.
The award for the top defensive forward in the league was given to Rod Brind’Amour, who captained the Stanley Cup championship team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Brind’Amour’s stellar play and faceoff artistry gave him the prize over Jere Lehtinen and Mike Fisher.
Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk took home the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship. Patrick Marleau and Brad Richards finished behind Datsyuk and although this was a difficult choice, 2004 winner Brad Richards could have easily won another of these trophies.
The Jack Adams Award for coach of the year went to Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres. This is another prize that could have easily gone to another, namely Carolina’s Peter Laviolette. It would be difficult to argue against either choice. Tom Renney was also in the running as coach of the New York Rangers.
Other winners included: Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks (no longer Mighty) who won the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey; Jaromir Jagr took the Pearson Trophy as the MVP of the league as voted by his peers in the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players’ Association); and Olaf Kolzig, goaltender for the Washington Capitals, was given the King Clancy Trophy for humanitarian contributions.
It turned out to be a controversy free evening as these prestigious awards went to well deserving players.