I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday or their regularly scheduled Thursday and Friday plus the weekend for the Canadian fans. Now it is time to finish what I started last week with Part 3 of the NHL Award ceremony, should the season suddenly end today(You can view those blogs her for PART ONE and here for PART TWO). Today I will examine the ever so difficult Frank J. Selke Trophy, given to the top defensive forward and the Jack Adams Trophy, given to the coach that is adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.
The Frank J. Selke Trophy- This trophy is one of the harder trophies to nominate players for unless you have extensively watch multiple games played by a number of teams. I have watched my fair share of games this season, but mostly involving the Phoenix Coyotes, the Toronto Maple Leafs, or the Detroit Red Wings. I have watched other teams play, but I usually focus on those three, which might make these nominations slightly different from those that may have been chosen by you, my diehard fans. This trophy is given to the player who plays both ends of the puck, offense and defense, and that doesn’t necessarily mean this player hits, or leads in takeaways, or wins all the face-offs, but rather this player has the perfect combination of all three. With that being said, here are the nominees:
John Madden, Chicago Blackhawks- Madden has been nothing short of perfect for what the Hawks brought him on for this summer, his defensive ability as a forward. If the Blackhawks need a player to go out and win an important draw, John Madden is your guy, and has been that guy for the Hawks. He may not be the most offensively gifted player, but Madden does all things defensively for the offensive power house that is, The Chicago Blackhawks. He is the leader among forwards for the Hawks in Face-offs take, face-offs won, shorthanded ice time, and blocked shots, which is a pretty good reason to consider him a nominee for top defensive forward.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings- Call it a homer choice all you want, but there is a reason Datsyuk has won this trophy two years in a row. He is third in the league in takeaways after missing some games to injury (not an excuse, just a stat), he has one of the highest face-off percentages among regular centers, and is just all around the ice trying to keep the other team off of the puck. He is a magician with his stick both offensively and defensively and whenever the Wings need someone to get the puck out of there zone and keep it in their possession, Pavs is usually that guy called upon. He is a truly gifted player that does not give up when his team loses the puck and back-checks anytime he is on the ice to ensure his team gets back on the offensive side of the puck. He is the complete package for a perfect hockey player and has every reason to be nominated for the hat trick of Selke Trophies.
Martin Hanzal, Phoenix Coyotes- As I mentioned I watch A LOT of Coyotes games, and have since Hanzal came onto the scene two seasons ago. So picking Hanzal as a nominee is definitely a homer choice, but an honest choice at that. Hanzal was not drafted for his defensive ability, he was chosen because he displayed very good offensive potential while playing for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL. When he made the jump to the NHL his offensive capabilities did not transfer as well as previously hoped, but His defensive game improved tremendously. The Coyotes used him to become the shut down player against the opponents’ top forwards, and he did everything in his will to do just that. For example, there is one thing you will always se when watching the Coyotes play the Sharks, and that is Martin Hanzal on the ice whenever Joe Thornton hops the boards. He has also become the Coyotes go-to guy for important face-off wins and has adapted to that as well. He may not win it this time around, or even be truly nominated by the league, but I guarantee within five years, he will earn himself a nomination at the very minimum. Plus, as Mugatu said in Zoolander, “That damn Hanzal, he’s so hot right now” and any Coyote fan will concur with Mr. Mugatu’s statement
Honorable Mention: Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks- Since I have not watched as many Canuck games as I have other teams, I couldn’t feel justified fully nominating him. But from what I have seen he truly is an all around player who plays extremely well on the defensive side of the puck. He is the current leader in takeaways and third in the lead in blocked shots among forwards, so it is obvious that Kesler has no problem getting his nose dirty. But as I pointed out earlier, this trophy is one of the harder trophies to give out if you haven’t equally watched every team play this season. Therefore, I’m sure there are people reading this believing that a player from their team should be nominated, but that’s what the comment section is for. If you think other players should be nominated or win, then leave the name and I will watch them more and re-evaluate my choices for the half season awards ceremony.
Winner: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings- As I mentioned before, this guy is a magician in all three zones of the ice, both on the defense or on the attack. He will take the puck away from you without you even realizing it is gone, and then creatively get the puck out of his zone after you finally look up to notice it’s not on your stick anymore. He is just an all around player, who I think will complete his hat trick of Selke Trophies this season, and now that he has started to find his offense again, is turning into that dangerous player everyone knows he can be as the season progresses on.
Jack Adams Trophy- This is basically given to the coach who leads his team to far greater expectations than anyone thought they could do. Last season Claude Julien won the trophy after his Boston Bruins were predicted to squeak into the playoffs, but never thought they would lead the conference in points. So far there have been quite a number of surprising teams in the league, thus giving me a bunch of worthy nominees, so without further adieu, here are your nominees:
Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators- This team began the season with the lowest goals for, with only 19 in the team’s first 10 games (for the mathematically challenges, that’s less than 2 goals a game by average). But Barry Trotz has done something right since then as he has turned his team around and marched them back into a top 8 spot in the Western Conference, winning 9 of their 12 games thus far in November. Trotz is the only coach Nashville has seen behind the bench in its franchise history, and there is a reason the ownership has decided to stick by him. He makes the best with what he has got, which is honestly not much, and makes his team a competitive match every night. Last season was the first time since the 03-04 season that the Preds missed out on the postseason dance, and Trotz is going to make sure history does not repeat itself.
Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche- As I have mentioned in each of these award blogs, the Colorado Avalanche were not expected to be a competitive team this season. But after a hot start by an underrated goaltender, the Avalanche are playing far better than anyone in the organization could have hoped for. Sacco was brought in to help work with the young players the Avs had started to use after deciding to start rebuilding for the first time in franchise history. And he has been everything management could have wished for. He has his players fighting for every point and doing their best to prove the doubters wring about the Avs not being a competitive team anymore. His team may not be playing as well now as they were at the beginning of the season, but the mere fact that they are still in a top 8 spot as of today makes them far ahead of where most people predicted them to be at the beginning of the season.
Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes- Raise your hand if you thought the Coyotes would be a playoff team as of right now. If you raised your hand, chances are you are a liar, because there weren’t many people who thought the Coyotes would even be in Phoenix, much less a playoff spot after this summer’s circus. Dave Tippet was brought in after the preseason had started, therefore giving him very little time to work with his new squad, previously coached by Wayne Gretzky. But that hasn’t stopped him from implementing a system, something the team has not had since the firing of Bob Francis late in the 03-04 season. Besides Ilya Bryzgalov’s outstanding goaltending, there is no one player on the Coyotes that has contributed to their success. The reason for their success thus far is the patience and intelligence of Dave Tippett behind the bench. He has turned a team that almost left Phoenix into a team that battles for their W’s night in and night out and beats their opponents using defensive skill and hard work. It still amazes me that the Stars let him go after one bad season last year that included a number of important injuries and a goalie who was struggling find his game. But the Coyotes are happy it happened, and is the rest of the fan(s), myself included.
Honorable Mention: Scot Gordon, New York Islanders- This is another team the “experts” predicted would be battling for last place with the Coyotes and Avalanche. But Scott Gordon has turned a group of young inexperienced players into a group who is only a win away from being within the top 8 teams in the eastern conference. Blessed with the first overall pick John Tavares and his blossoming chemistry with Kyle Okposo, The New York Islanders are giving their fans hope that the dawn is coming, that there is light(house) around the corner. And hopefully, the political people behind the decision for the new arena deal can see that this team has a bright future with a strong leader behind it, as well as a top-tier goaltender returning from injury to help lead the way towards a very bright future in years to come.
Winner: Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes- He deserves this after wrongfully being dismissed from the Dallas Stars and having less time than all other coaches to work with his team. And he has turned this team into a scary opponent who have already defeated the Bruins, Penguins, Red Wings, Sharks, Blackhawks, and Flyers, who are all teams predicted to be top teams in their conference. Not bad for a team making no money and having less than half the arena filled on some nights. But Dave Tippett gives the fair weather fans of Arizona a gleam of hope that this team will stick around for years to come, and thanks to their young talented prospects in the juniors and in San Antonio, they will be a competitive bunch for years to come.
That concludes this 3 part assessment of who should be handed the major trophies if the season were to end today. I will do this again at the half-way mark of the season and we will see which of these nominees still deserves the honor of being on my list. If you feel some players from your squad deserve merit more than the players I have chosen, share your thoughts and I will watch those players more closely and see if I agree that they should be included in the half season Awards Ceremony.
About the Author: 22 year old hockey fan born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Weird, huh? Entire family minus myself and my brother were born in Toronto, ON so thats how I became a fan of this great sport. I have worked at Ice rinks since I was 14 and spend all day reading hockey stories. I eat, sleep, coach, play, and basically LIVE hockey. I became a Red Wing fan thanks to EA Sports NHL '95 and haven't looked back since (Why would I?). Parents were Season Ticket holders for the Phoenix Coyotes since day 1 and when they moved to Portland 3 years ago, I picked up where they left off and have found a soft spot for them. I moved to Toronto in December 09 to study sports journalism at Centennial College and took an internship with the Hamilton Bulldogs Communication Department for the 2010-11 season. I am hoping to bring an unbiased look at the most popular NHL team, THE Toronto Maple Leafs