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Awards races tight as season, playoffs

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Few people get fired up about the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play and sportsmanship, however Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell will be a rare bird if he wins it. (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

The NHL hands out its annual individual player awards tonight in Las Vegas during a glitzy, star-spangled gala that’s a far cry from the afternoon luncheons in Montreal that were hosted by Clarence Campbell.

Just as the regular season and playoffs were hard to predict as a result of the league’s parity, it’s difficult to try determining who the voters selected for some of the hardware, and there may be some controversial choices among fans who will believe that the wrong guy won. You have to keep in mind that the voting was done at the conclusion of the regular season and the award recognizes only that aspect of the players’ performances. The playoffs are not a factor.

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  • Published On Jun 20, 2012
  • Can Erik Karlsson win the Norris?

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    Only 21, Erik Karlsson has blossomed into the NHL’s best offensive defenseman. (JC Salas/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    It’s a bit too early to say whether Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson will be one of the NHL’s three Stars of the Week next Monday — and because it will be trade deadline day, who is even going to notice? — but he’s got a great head start with seven points in his last six periods of play.  With his goal and two assists in Ottawa’s 5-2 win over Washington on Wednesday night, Karlsson leads all NHL defenseman in scoring with 60 points — 20 more than his closest pursuer, Florida’s Brian Campbell.

    Karlsson’s 47th assist on Wednesday set a new Sens franchise record, breaking Norm Maciver’s mark of 46 set during the team’s inaugural campaign of 1992-93. He’s now only three points shy of Maciver’s team mark of 63 points by a d-man in a season.

    Playing in a small market is part of the reason Karlsson hasn’t gotten the acclaim he should. It doesn’t help matters when NBC’s Mike Milbury touts him for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, as Milbury did last night, either not realizing that Karlsson has already played two full seasons or perhaps confusing him with Devils rookie Adam Larsson.

    Karlsson is just 21, and obviously doesn’t have the name recognition nor resume of Shea Weber, Nick Lidstrom or Zdeno Chara. But he has zoomed to the top ranks of blueliners this season. Last season (yes, Karlsson indeed played last season), he was a minus-30 on a poor, directionless team. Today, he’s plus-15 on an excellently coached club that is one of the NHL’s surprises — and he’s a big reason why they are.

    So the inescapable question is, should Karlsson be the favorite for the Norris Trophy as top NHL defenseman?

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  • Published On Feb 23, 2012
  • Our choices for the 2011 NHL Awards

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    Given the rugged nature of the position, a defenseman hasn’t won the Lady Byng Trophy (gentlemanly play) since 1954, but Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings truly deserves it. (Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL hands out its regular season awards on Wednesday evening in Las Vegas, a venue that just oozes hockey history and tradition. Actually, the “nominees-winner” Academy Awards-style format is as artificial as Vegas glitz because the “nominees” are not nominees at all but actually the top three vote-getters from the April balloting (here’s who SI.com’s Michael Farber chose) after the votes are tabulated. So the winner has already been determined when the nominees are announced. This format transforms the known into the suspenseful, so maybe Vegas is the right venue after all.
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  • Published On Jun 21, 2011


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