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The Statesman

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The Statesman

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    Deciphering NHL End-of-Season Awards

    Hockey has always been a team sport, where individual achievements often meanfar less than the greater good of the team. In fact, if one were to ask anyprofessional hockey player what his dream is, undoubtedly, it would be winningthe Stanley Cup.

    Out of a sixty-minute regulation game, each team’s superstars may not registermore than twenty to twenty-five minutes of ice time (excluding goaltenders).However, for each of those twenty or so minutes, some players can put togethera very impressive assortment of statistics and achievements. These players aremore often than not the difference-makers in a team’s success and without them,let’s face it, the sport would be much less exciting.

    So, to honor the distinguished achievements of its superstars over the courseof this season, as has been the tradition for countless years, the NationalHockey League will present the 2002 NHL Awards in Toronto on June 20.

    Perhaps the most anticipated of the trophies is the Hart Memorial Trophy, whichis awarded to the most valuable player of the league. As with all of the end-of-seasontrophies, the winner will be selected from three previously announced finalists.

    This year, Jarome Iglina of the Calgary Flames is the only offensive finalistfor the award. He is competing against the league’s two best goaltenders, theColorado Avalanche’s Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens’ Jose Theodore.This would be the first MVP trophy for each of these players and, this year,Iglina looks to be the favorite after already capturing the titles for mostgoals and most points scored during the season.

    The Jack Adams award is annually given to the league’s best coach. Boston’sRobbie Ftorek, Chicago’s Brian Sutter, and Phoenix’s Bob Francis have each contributedgreatly to the turnaround of their respective teams, culminating in postseasonappearances. Sutter of the Blackhawks, though, appears to be primed to takehome his second Adams trophy, his first with the Blackhawks.

    The best goaltender of the season is honored with the Vezina trophy. Once again,Roy and Theodore are finalists, along with the Phoenix Coyotes’ Sean Burke.Statistically, this has been Roy’s best year in his long seventeen-year career,as he registered nine shutouts, a .925 save percentage (second to Theodore),and a league-leading 1.94 goals against average during the season.

    The rookie of the year is honored with the Calder Memorial trophy. All threeof this years finalists, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers,and the Florida Panthers’ Kristian Huselius, are, in fact, the top three rookiescorers. Due to an umtimely injury that sidelined Kovalchuk for seventeen games,it appears that his teammate, Heatley, will walk away with the trophy afteraccumulating twenty-six goals and forty-one assists.

    The James Norris Memorial trophy is awarded to the league’s best all-arounddefenseman. This year, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom seems to be the favorite forhis second consecutive Norris. Competing against him are his teammate, ChrisChelios, and Colorado’s Rob Blake. All three excel defensively, yet they arejust as capable of creating scoring opportunities for their team, adding countlessassists and goals.

    The finalists for the Frank J. Selke trophy are Dallas’ Jere Lehtinen (a winnerin 1998 and 1999), the Islanders’ Michael Peca (1997’s winner), and first-timechoice, the Flames’ Craig Conroy. The award is given to the league’s best defensiveforward. Here, penalty killing, plus/minus rating, and shorthanded goals arefactored in along with a player’#146;s offensive capabilities.

    Finally, the Lady Byng Memorial trophy is awarded to the player that best displaysgentlemanly conduct, sportsmanship, and athletic prowess. The finalists areColorado’s Joe Sakic (last year’s winner), Carolina’s Ron Francis (a winnerin 1995 and 1998), and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom (a three-time runner-up).

    This race has, perhaps, the stiffest competition. Both Francis and Sakic totaledonly eighteen penalty minutes over the entire season while leading their respectiveteams in scoring. Additionally, Lidstrom, a defenseman, served only twenty penaltyminutes throughout the entire season, an impressive feat for a player at sucha physical position.

    Voting for the awards is conducted at the end of the regular season by an assortmentof distinguished journalists, broadcasters, and NHL general managers.

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