The Nashville Predators might never be a team that’s overhyped. But they’re no longer overlooked.
With four finalists for honors that will be bestowed Wednesday at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas, the Predators clearly have made their mark throughout the league. The nominees include two players, one coach and the general managers. The awards for which they are nominated were determined by four different voting bodies.
“You have to have success before you can get anybody nominated,” general manager David Poile, a GM of the Year finalist, said. “You don’t get nominated for awards unless your franchise is winning something. It’s as simple as that. To me, the fact that we have four people up for awards means we’re going in the right direction.
Poile and coach Barry Trotz, a Jack Adams Award finalist, have been recognized for the second consecutive year.
The difference in 2011 is that captain Shea Weber is up for the Norris Trophy and goalie Pekka Rinne is one of the top three for the Vezina Trophy — awards that go to the top players at their position and reward on-ice performance. Those nominations are the first of their kind for the franchise.
“I’m rooting for all three other guys for sure,” Rinne said. “I think they all have done well, and they all deserve trophies. It’s a great honor to be one of the three guys, and to have that chance to go there and feel the atmosphere. It’s going to be fun to go with Shea and, obviously, with David and Barry there too.”
His personal time in the sun helps put the entire franchise in the limelight.
Presented to: The goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position.
Selected by: The general managers
of all NHL clubs, who vote for their top three choices with points awarded on
a 5-3-1 basis.
• Roberto Luongo, Vancouver, 38-15-7, 2.11 GAA, .928 save pct.
• Pekka Rinne, Nashville, 33-22-9, 2.12 GAA, .930 save pct.
• Tim Thomas, Boston, 35-11-9, 2.00 GAA, .938 save pct.
Rinne’s chances: Slim.
Voting was conducted prior to the playoffs, so the fact that Luongo and Thomas carried their teams to the Stanley Cup finals is not a factor. Thomas, however, was a dominant presence throughout the season and looks to be the most likely winner. He set an NHL record for save percentage and was the league leader in goals-against average. Rinne’s inclusion among the top three likely signals he’ll get strong consideration in years to come.
JAMES NORRIS MEMORIAL TROPHY
Presented to: The defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.
Selected by: Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association,
who rank their top five candidates with points awarded on a 10-7-5-3-1 basis.
• Zdeno Chara, Boston, 14 goals,
14 assists, 44 points, plus-33
• Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, 16 goals,
46 assists, 62 points, plus-2
• Shea Weber, Nashville, 16 goals,
32 assists, 48 points, plus-7
Weber’s chances: Not bad.
Lidstrom has won the award six times previously, and anyone looking for a reason to vote against him this time found it in the fact that the vast majority of his points came on the power play. That leaves a choice between Chara, who has been an elite performer for years, and Weber, a darling of the Canadian media and fresh face for anyone who used their vote in a forward-thinking manner.
JACK ADAMS AWARD
Presented to: The NHL coach judged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.
Selected by: Members of the NHL Broadcasters Association.
• Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh, 49-25-8,
• Barry Trotz, Nashville, 44-27-11, 99 points.
• Alain Vigneault, Vancouver, 54-19-9,
Trotz’s chances: Strong.
Given that the award should be based on the coach’s contribution, Trotz seems to have an edge based on the relative lack of star power on his roster. Plus, he’s a finalist for the second year in a row, which means he has a sustained base of support. Bylsma kept Pittsburgh competitive without Sidney Crosby in the later weeks of the season but still had plenty of firepower. Vigneault had arguably the best overall roster in the league, although the fact that Vancouver led the league in goals scored and allowed is tough to overlook.
GENERAL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Presented to: The NHL general manager judged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.
Selected by: A panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media.
• Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay, 46-25-11, 103 points
• David Poile, Nashville, 44-27-11, 99 points
• Mike Gillis, Vancouver, 54-19-9,
Poile’s chances: Not good.
Poile traded for Sergei Kostitsyn, who turned out to be the team’s leading goal scorer, during the offseason and then added Mike Fisher near the trade deadline when he needed a center. Those were two significant moves. However, Yzerman overhauled the Lightning in his first year and produced a 23-point improvement. He’s a living legend in Canada based on his playing career and the fact that he was GM of Canada’s gold medal Olympic effort. It’s tough to see this one going to anyone except Yzerman.