NHL Hands Out Awards
VANCOUVER -- The NHL honored a season of excellence Thursday night in Vancouver, handing out a galaxy of trophies to the League's elite players.
Leading the winners was San Jose's Joe Thornton, the winner of the Hart Trophy as the League's Most Valuable Player, Miikka Kiprusoff, of the Flames took the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom won his fourth Norris Trophy as the top defenseman.
The black-tie event was held at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts and boasted an audience that represented a who's who of the hockey world. Among the presenters were Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
Hart Trophy, Most Valuable Player -- Joe Thornton, who came over from the Boston Bruins in a trade early in the season that helped point the San Jose Sharks in the right direction, was named the winner of the Hart as the League's most valuable player.
Thornton was named on all 129 ballots from the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and received 67 first-place votes for 1,058 points, besting Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers, who received 48 first-place votes and 974 points.
Thornton formed a dynamic duo with Jonathon Cheechoo in San Jose. Cheechoo won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard" as the League's top scorer with 56 goals. Thornton finished atop the League in scoring with 29 goals and 96 assists. It marked the highest point total since Jaromir Jagr, the Hart runner-up this year, scored 127 points in 1997-98.
After being acquired by the Sharks on Nov. 30, Thornton scored 92 points in 58 games, helping the Sharks to a 36-15-7 record. His 125 points are the most by a player who played with two teams in one season.
"I was Wayne Gretzky's biggest fan and watched him take this home a few times, and then there's Mark (Messier) and Mario (Lemieux)," Thornton said. "It's very humbling to be on the same page with them. I'm so proud of my teammates, so glad I have good people around me. They really helped me do this.
"Every time you hit over 100 points it's a special season," Thornton said "Getting the team to the playoffs makes it a special season. Those two thing said it's a special season."
Calder Trophy, Top Rookie -- Left wing Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is the NHL's top rookie in 2005-06, topping an unprecedented rookie class that included Pittsburgh Penguins standout Sidney Crosby and Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
Ovechkin, the Caps' dynamic scorer, ran away with the award, receiving 124 of 129 first-place votes and five second-place votes for 1,275 points. Crosby, also named on all 129 ballots, was second with 831 points.
Ovechkin, drafted first overall in 2004, scored 52 goals and 54 assists for the Caps and also led the NHL in shots with 425. His 52 goals was the third-best in the NHL and was third all-time among rookies, trailing only Teemu Selanne (76) and Mike Bossy (53).
Ovechkin was thrilled with the win, although a little nervous having to talk about it in English.
"I'm nervous now," Ovechkin smiled. "I can't believe I won this cup ...
"I win," Ovechkin said with a huge sigh. "I'm very happy playing for a great team and great guys. This means a lot ... I don't have the words. I can tell you in Russian."
Vezina Trophy, Top Goaltender -- Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff came away with two trophies, the Jennings Trophy for lowest goals-against average, 2.03, and also won the Vezina as the League's top goaltender. He bested formidable competition from New Jersey's Martin Brodeur and the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. Kiprusoff won handily, taking 140 points to Brodeur's 48.
In addition to goals-against, Kiprusoff led all netminders in goals-against average shutouts (10) and was second in victories (42) and third in save percentage (.923).
Selke Trophy, Top Defensive Forward -- The wins just continue to roll in for Carolina Hurricanes center Rod Brind'Amour, who won the Stanley Cup Monday in Raleigh and the Selke Thursday in Vancouver.
"It feels like a huge weight has gotten lifted off my chest," Brind'Amour said of the Stanley Cup/Selke combo.
Ironically, the Selke goes to the NHL's top defensive forward, and Brind'Amour said he never has thought of himself as a defensive forward. But he has proven to be a shutdown center and also excels at faceoffs, as well in the leadership capacity that was so evident during the Hurricanes' ruin to the Cup.
Brind'Amour outdistanced the field by receiving 80 first-place votes and was named on 108 of 129 ballots for 954 points. Three-time Selke winner Jere Lehtinen of the Dallas Stars was second with 567 points.
Brind'Amour helped the Hurricanes to a franchise-best 112-point season and the second seed in the Eastern Conference with his trademark tenacity and versatility. The Hurricanes captain led all NHL forwards in ice time per game at 24:17, more than a minute and a half ahead of second-place Brad Richards of Tampa Bay (22:45). Brind'Amour's faceoff prowess was impressive. He led all players in faceoffs taken with 2,145 and placing third in faceoff winning percentage, 59.1 percent.
Norris Trophy, Top Defenseman -- You can never go wrong selecting Nicklas Lidstrom for an award and the Detroit Red Wings' defenseman has once again come away with the Norris trophy as the NHL's top defenseman. It marked the fourth time Lidstrom has won the Norris.
"It's special," Lidstrom said. "After the lockout, I wanted to come back and have a strong season and I think I did that. I'm very proud of the season I had."
Lidstrom's career year helped land him his fourth Norris Trophy in five years.
Lidstrom led all NHL defensemen in scoring with a career-high 80 points (16 goals, 64 assists), helping the Presidents' Trophy winners post a 14-0-0 record when he scored a goal. Lidstrom ranked third in the NHL in ice time per game (28:06) and posted a plus-21 rating.
"It's an honor to be among the players who have won this award," Lidstrom said, pointing to Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque. "To be mentioned with them is an awesome feeling."
Lidstrom said a combination of health and playing time has combined to make him a strong player.
"Staying healthy is a big part of this and getting an opportunity to play a lot of minutes are key factors," Lidstrom said. "I play better when I play more."
And it shows.
Lady Byng, Sportsmanship -- Playing well and staying out of the penalty box can be a tough line to walk in an action, collision sport like hockey, but the Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk does it beautifully.
Datsyuk was named on 94 of 128 ballots and received 41 first-place votes for 669 points, finishing well ahead of 2004 Lady Byng winner Brad Richards of the Tampa Bay Lightning (442).
Datsyuk led the Red Wings in scoring in 2005-06 with a career-high 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists), the most by a Detroit player since Brendan Shanahan's 88 in 1996-97. Datsyuk became the first Red Wings player to tally 50 assists in a season since Steve Yzerman, also in 1996-97, and was the first player in franchise history to attempt and score a shootout goal, Dec. 20 vs. Columbus. He was assessed just 22 penalty minutes in 75 games.
Masterton Trophy, Perseverance and Dedication to Hockey -- Anaheim Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne, coming off surgery for a serious knee injury, enjoyed a banner season with the Anaheim Ducks in 2005-06 thanks to the diligent hard work he did to rehab the injury.
The award was presented by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association to honor the late Bill Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited those qualities. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968, as a result of an on-ice injury.
Coming off a disappointing 2003-04 season in Colorado when he scored 16 goals and 16 assists, Selanne rebounded in a big way this season, scoring 40 goals and 50 assists with the Ducks.
Pearson Trophy, MVP voted by NHLPA -- Trying to decide between Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr for the Hart Trophy was really a case of splitting hairs in terms of excellence. So it was fitting that the NHLPA's Pearson went to Jagr, who was a one-man gang for the New York Rangers. Jagr scored 54 goals and assisted on 69 others and finished at an impressive plus-34.
Adams Trophy, Top Coach -- Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff, whose team fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final, won a close vote over the Hurricanes' Peter Laviolette and the New York Rangers' Tom Renney as the NHL's top coach.
Ruff edged Laviolette, 155-154, in the closet Adams vote since the trophy was first awarded in 1973-74 and the closest vote among all trophies in 2005-06.
"Some great coaches have won this award," Ruff said. "I had a terrific team to coach. There were three real good nominees, it certainly could have gone either way."
The League's longest tenured head coach, Ruff guided the Sabres to a 52-24-6 record for 110 points, a 25-point improvement over 2003-04, and set franchise records for victories and points. The Sabres tallied their highest goal total, 281, since 1993-94, doing so without a player placing among the League's top 60 scorers.
"In training camp I felt we had a special team," said Ruff, who cited Scotty Bowman and Roger Neilson as the coaches who had the most influence on him. "We didn't have a lot of holes. Our offense was built on the players we've got and the mobility on the back end."
Maurice Richard Trophy, Most Goals -- San Jose's Jonathon Cheechoo was the Sundance Kid to Thornton's Butch Cassidy for the Sharks. The two developed almost instant chemistry thanks to Thornton's passing touch and Cheechoo's ability to score.
Cheechoo tallied a Sharks-record 56 goals, including 11 goals in the final 10 games, and led the NHL in game-winning goals (11), home-ice goals (31) and divisional goals (29).
King Clancy Trophy, Humanitarian Contributions -- Washington Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig is a pretty good netminder, but he is a much better person. Kolzig has been instrumental raising awareness about children with Autism and his continuing works will help not only raise awareness but money to research the disease.
The Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA) cast ballots for the Hart, Norris, Selke, Lady Byng and Calder Trophies. The PHWA also voted on the Masterton Trophy. The 30 NHL General Managers voted on the Vezina Trophy. The NHL Broadcasters' Association (NHLBA) submitted votes for the Jack Adams Award, and a special panel of representatives from the PHWA and NHLBA chose the King Clancy winner. Voting for these awards was conducted at the conclusion of the regular season.
Balloting results were tabulated by the accounting firm Ernst & Young, with the exception of the Masterton and King Clancy trophies. The results for these awards were tabulated by the PHWA and the National Hockey League, respectively.