Here's where it gets interesting though....Instead of shuffling through the laundry list of NHL awards and handing them out to certain players, I'm going to create my own awards and name them the ‘Bentleys' (I know, quite original) The voters consist of Me, Myself and I, and votes will be cast with no bias or pre-determined favorites (ex. A Goalie can actually win the MVP) If you have an issue with my awards, feel free to drop a comment below and I'll kindly point out the reasons as to why you are wrong.
First let's hand out a few ‘Bentleys' quickly that I don't want to spend much time on (You know, like the "best foreign/animated/black and white clip that is 47 seconds long" categories at the Oscars that they rifle through during the commercials)
Most Improved Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Team that fell from grace: Tampa Bay Lightning
Executive of the Year: Brian Burke(ANA)
Best Transaction: Dallas acquiring Brad Richards at the Trade Deadline
Worst Transaction: Pittsburgh surrendering a 2nd and 5th round pick for Hal Gill
Now, on to the good stuff....
This ‘Bentley' is given to the player that has a butt-load of talent, yet has under-achieved all year. It is appropriately named ‘The Yashin'...
Step right up Patrick Marleau you win the first ever Bentley. You won this award by posting a god awful 33 points in 62 games for the Sharks, while recording a -18. He is on pace to finish with 41 pts, his lowest total since 1999 - simply not good enough for the Sharks who will be battling for a top 4 seed in the West down the stretch. Sorry Patty, I like yah, but you get this years Yashin award.
Honourable Mention: Maxim Afinogenov(BUF) - 22 pts in 41 games, -8.
Next up, we hand out our Adam Graves award. This award is given to a player that over-achieves throughout a season, and exceeds the expectations placed on them.
Congrats J.P Dumont, with 61 points in 65 games, you are on pace for your best statistical season as an NHL'er since you started playing regularly in 1999-2000. He's also led a resurgent Nashville squad that was left for dead into a playoff race in the West. I don't think anyone saw almost a point per game from J.P, but he's delivered, and that's why he wins this esteemed award.
Honourable mention: Thomas Plekanec(MTL) - 61 points in 67 games, 6 Game winners.
Our next ‘Bentley' is named ‘The Saku', and it is given to a player that displays perseverance and commitment to the game of Hockey in the face of insurmountable obstacles. This was a tough one, a VERY tough one. But I eventually decided on Chicago Goaltender Patrick Lalime over Jason Blake, Richard Zednik and former Masterson winner Phil Kessel. Lalime had fallen into oblivion after he was crucified in Ottawa and bombed in St.Louis, and many thought his career was all but done. He had surgery on a torn ACL, and then had surgery on his back, and now he's outplaying all Blackhawk net minders to steal the #1 job. He's posted 14 victories, a GAA under 3.00 and a SP% over .900, not bad for a guy who was supposed to be finished at the end of this year. If Zednik comes back to play well next year, he's a lock for this award, but for now give it to Lalime.
Honourable mention(s): Jason Blake(TOR),Phil Kessel(BOS), Richard Zednik(FLA)
Now I know there should be a ‘Bentley' for sportsmanship and all that jazz, much like the NHL does with its Lady Byng trophy, but that's no fun. So I've come up with a ‘Bentley' to award a player for POOR sportsmanship, yes that's right, we're giving away accolades for being a d-o-u-c-h-e.
So we now present the ‘Lady Bong' trophy to Chris Simon of the Minnesota Wild. This one is pretty self-explanatory, if not go and google "Chris Simon stomp on Ruutu's leg with skate" and you'll see all you need to see. This is the guys 8th suspension, enough already.
Honourable mention: Steve Downie(PHI)
Now every sport has one or two storylines that just will not die over the course of the season; with the NFL it was SpyGate, with the MLB it was steroids, and with the NBA it should have been the Donaghy scandal, but instead it was the Celts, Kobe, and the dreadful Knicks.
Thus I've created the ‘RoidaghyGate' award for the most overused storyline in the NHL that I'm absolutely sick of hearing about. That easily goes to the undying story of where Peter Forsberg will end up, or ended up. He likes to pull a Roger and hold teams and the league hostage until he makes up his mind, and obviously creating a media frenzy in the meantime. I can't wait for it to happen again next year!
Honourable mention: The Flyers rash of suspensions, turmoil in Sens locker room.
It's time to shell out the hardware for Coach of the Year. Now Jack Adams was a great man, but I'm going to name my COTY ‘Bentley' after Scotty Bowman, because frankly I like him better.
This was very difficult, and after a lot of deliberation I chose Montreal Canadians coach Guy Carbonneau. This is a team that was expected to be fighting for the 8th playoff spot come this time of year, instead they are battling for the 1st seed in the East. He has rejuvenated Kovalev and kept Montreal's power-play the best in the league, even after losing Sheldon Souray. They have the best inter-conference record, and the best record on the road in the East. He's kept the kids focused, and the vets happy, and he has his team poised to make a deep playoff run. Carbo gets the nod and the ‘Bowman'
Honourable mention: Barry Trotz(NSH), Lindy Ruff(BUF), Brent Sutter(NJD), Mike Babcock(DET), Wayne Gretzky (PHO)
Now, a list of NHL awards would not be complete without recognizing the finest rookie in the entire league. Now, many expect the flashy pick here with either Kane or Backstrom. BUT these here are the ‘Bentleys' and that's not how we do things, so my selection for the "Best Rookie" is Dallas Stars d-man Matt Niskanen. He's stepped in admirably for the injured Zubov, and helped the Stars to the leagues best PK% and the 7th best defensive squad in the NHL. He leads all d-men on his team and rookie d-men with a +17. While one of the flashier rookies will likely win the Calder this year, Niskanen gets the ‘Bentley' - and that's just as good.
Honourable mention: Pat Kane(CHI), Nicklas Backstrom(WSH), Alex Edler(VAN), Carey Price(MTL)
Since we're already talking about defencman, let's award the ‘Bentley' for the best defenceman; or as I call it, "The Robert Gordon Orr" award.
Lidstrom, Lidstrom, Lidstrom, Lidstrom, Lidstrom, Lidstrom...Can we just go ahead and name the Norris after him? The guy is brutally consistent, and rightfully should get some consideration for the MVP. He leads the league in points for a defenceman, and plus/minus....YAWN, just another year for Nick. Oh, and he captains the NHL's top squad, the Red Wings.
Alright let's address the best Goalie. You may have heard of him before, he goes by the name of Martin Broduer. There really isn't much of a discussion here, he consistently faces a lot of shots (4th in NHL) yet still posts 36 wins, a 2.15 GAA and a .921 SP%. He is one of 4 Goalies who have played more than 60 games so far, and he blows the other three out of the water in effectiveness. He is a workhorse and consistent, and is carrying his team at a crucial time of year.
Honourable mention: Pascal Leclaire(CBJ), J.S Giguere(ANA), Roberto Luongo(VAN)
Whew, this is tougher than I thought...
OK now this is where we'd usually give out the Hart trophy for Most Valuable Player of league. The problem I have with the Hart is that different voters weight certain things differently, such as winning, and talent. SO I'm going to do things a little differently; I'm going to pick TWO such awards. ONE will go to the Most Valuable Player to his team - fairly self explanatory. The other will go to the leagues Most Outstanding Player - the player who is simply the best in the NHL.
First, the MVP.
This ‘Bentley' will be named after one of the greatest leaders of all time. No not Messier, but Jean Beliveau.
This year's winner of the ‘Jean Beliveau MVP' award goes to................
And this year's first multiple ‘Bentley' winner....
Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils are in the bottom half of the league in Goals For and PP%, and their defensive core leaves a lot to be desired, yet they are again perched at the top of the league, and second in the league defensively. Their leading scorer Parise is 38th in the league with 57 points, with the next highest being Elias at 47 points. This is an offensively challenged squad, with a weaker defensive core than years past, which is why Brodeur is so important. Imagine this team with Kevin Weeks as their starting Goalie, and tell me Brodeur isn't the MVP.
Honourable mention: Alex Ovechkin(WSH), Evgeni Malkin(PIT), Nicklas Lidstrom(DET), Jarome Iginla(CGY), Roberto Luongo(VAN)
Now with that out of the way, we can award the ‘Bentley' for Most Outstanding Player.
This award will be simply known as ‘99' - And it goes too.....
Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals
Is there anyone else this could go to this year? He has been far and away the best player on the ice this year, racking up over 50 goals already. He is on pace for 63 goals and 110 points while posting a +14. He leads the NHL in Goals, Points, Power-Play goals, Shots, and tied for the lead in Game-Winning goals. He also ranks 12th in the NHL in hits, and has become the 4th player in this decade to have two 50 goal seasons. He has had TWO 4 goal games this year, and TWO 5 point nights. Against Boston the other night, he had a hat-trick in the first period.
He has been hands down the most exciting and effective player in the NHL this year, and for that he gets the ‘99'
Honourable mention: Evgeni Malkin(PIT), Vincent Lecavelier(TB), Jarome Iginla(CGY), Nicklas Lidstrom(DET)
Well there you have it folks, the first installment of the ‘Bentleys'
Mr.Bettman I will be patiently awaiting your call....