March 19, 2009
Preview of the Individual Awards

Former NHL defenseman Chris Kotsopoulos offers his two-cents on hockey's hot topics.

[New York, NY] -- Now that all of the excitement of the NHL's trade deadline has well passed and teams have settled into what they believe is a "run" at the playoffs, I just wanted to know - did I miss something?

Was there a blockbuster trade?

Oh, and before I get into my review of my picks on the individual awards for the 2008-09 season, I got to ask: What's all the fuss about eliminating fighting? Are you kidding me? I mean really, all you have to do is look at all the changes the NHL has made to "help the game."

You know, the rules that helped "open up" the game and provide "more" scoring.

Yeah right!

Now the NHL wants to slowly get rid of fighting? That's a good one!

The NHL should be worried about the empty seats all across the league. Teams like Atlanta, Nashville, Florida, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, etc.

Taking fighting out of the game would be a disaster. Fans at the games that I attend get more animated and in a frenzy when two players drop their gloves. More often than when a goal is scored.

If the league believes otherwise, then I think they miscalculated the importance of the odd scrap or two in a game.

Any how, that's enough of that.

Now, on to my preseason picks of the individual awards...

Art Ross Trophy (Most Points)

I had Sidney Crosby as my selection. Well, I had the right team at least! Looks like Evgeni Malkin will be the winner unless Alexander Ovechkin can make up the deficit. Close, but no cigar with Crosby. Oh well.

Hart Trophy (MVP)

See above, I went with Crosby again. Unfortunately for me, Alexander Ovechkin is too much of a machine right now and is most likely a lock.

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)

I went with Dion Phaneuf. Dion who? Exactly. Not a horrible year, but not Norris Trophy worthy. So, should it be Mike Green or Zdeno Chara? Chara would be my choice. He is the most dominant all-around player in the league. He should get some MVP votes as well!

Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year)

My pick, as was most, was Steven Stamkos. After a lousy start to the season (he's losing Barry Melrose's vote), he has picked it up a bit. Even with his better play as of late, it's still not enough. The winner, without a doubt, has to be Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender, Steve Mason. Mason has been fantastic and is a big reason that Columbus is in the race for the franchises first playoff birth.

Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie)

"King" Henrik Lundqvist, my pick, is the best (a little bias here). However, lack of offensive support hurt his chances this year. The winner is, well, your guess is as good as mine. Tim Thomas? Steve Mason? Niklas Backstrom? I don't have a clue. I'll go with Mason just for the sake of picking one!

Rocket Richard Trophy (Most Goals)

Jeez, I think I actually picked Alexander Ovechkin. This is what I call an easy one. As pure of a sniper and scorer as there is in the modern day of the NHL. He might even reach 60 or more this season. While the best of the rest will struggle to break 50 (are you listening NHL)?

Jack Adams Award (Best Coach)

I went with Dallas Stars coach, Dave Tippet. Definitely looked like a good choice going into the season. Not so good now. Yeah, I know all about the Sean Avery situation and how he totally "wrecked" the psyche of the team. I also know about how Marty Turco couldn't stop thinking about Avery when he had to make saves. Nice excuses! Blah, blah, blah! The winner here would have to be Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins. Did anyone, and I mean anyone, believe the Bruins would be this good this year? What a job he's done in getting his team to buy into his system. Brent Sutter of the New Jersey Devils should get some votes as well.

Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)

I picked Brendan Morrow to win this trophy. You are definitely starting to see a pattern here. Unfortunately for me, Morrow, and the Stars, he's been out the majority of the season with injury. That didn't help here. It's probably going to come down to Henrik Zetterberg and his teammate Pavel Datsyuk again. In the end they seem to be the favorites, but who really knows?

So, there you have it. I didn't nail too many of my picks it seems, but it's always a crapshoot.

The NHL Playoffs will be here real soon. It will be interesting to see how the stretch run pans out and who's in and who goes home!

Chris Kotsopoulos, a former defensive blueliner with the likes of the NY Rangers, Hartford Whalers and Toronto Maple Leafs, is a Journal Columnist with
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