by PuckStopsHere on 12/22/12 at 01:27 AM ET
Let's assume there is an NHL season. It will be an abbreviated season which is probably much like the 1994/95 season where 48 games were played. In that season the East Conference played only against East Conference teams and the West Conference played only against West Conference teams. There would be more games in fewer days than in a normal NHL season - which already pushes a player's stamina to the limit.
It is common wisdom that such a season favors the young player who is more likely to stay healthy in the season. I don't think it is that simple. This format favors the player who is in shape and during the lockout there is a significant difference in conditioning of various players The young player is likely to already be playing in the AHL (or elsewhere) and is thus in shape.
In order to make reliable predictions about an abbreviated season one has to be able to reliably predict which players are not in good shape at the beginning of the season and those who may suffer injury trying to get into shape. I think that will be a significant unpredictable factor in a already unpredictable season which will be made harder to predict by a smaller sample size of games played.
That said, I want to predict who I think would win awards. In many cases my answer is I have no idea. From the many candidates it makes sense to pick the one who is in the best position to fit the voter's biases.
Calder Trophy - Justin Schultz Edmonton Oilers. If the Calder Trophy could be give based on the hockey played so far this season he would be a clear winner. He is tied for the AHL scoring lead. I don't think it is a sustainable thing as his scoring rate has significantly increased as he jumped from the NCAA to the AHL. How often is a rookie defenceman the top scorer in any league? Schultz has matched pace with Jordan Eberle in the AHL and he scored 76 points in the NHL last year. I think Schultz off to an unsustainable start. That said he is a good hockey player and will have every chance to play a top role in Edmonton. I think he starts the season on their first line and stays there unless he proves himself unworthy. I think it will likely be a much closer race for the Calder and some candidates I wouldn't predict right now wind up top contenders, but I cannot think of any more likely candidtae or rookie of the year than Schultz.
Selke Trophy - Pavel Datsyuk Detroit Red Wings. There are a couple dozen players I could imagine winning this award. It is hard to evaluate defensive play in the best of times and in a shortened season it will be even harder to do this. This award will be given out on reputation for the most part. As long as Datsyuk is healthy and has a solid season as he usually does he will be a contender. He can miss 12 games to injury and rarely play on the penalty kill as he did last year and still be a Selke nominee. Nobody else has his defensive reputation and it is deserved even if he no longer plays the toughest defensive role. I can't see any player who has a better shot at the Selke Trophy than Datsyuk.
Adams Trophy - Lindy Ruff Buffalo Sabres. This award usually goes to the coach of the most improved team. I think that is easier to predict than the actual best coach in the league and predicting the most improved team is not easy. It will be a solid team that had a poor year in 2011/12 and has reason to improve. In a shortened season an improvement will be harder to predict and may come down to a few games that could have gone either way in a smaller sample size. Buffalo missed the playoffs and has enough talent that they could have made them. Most importantly goaltender Ryan Miller has had time to off to overcome concussion problems. If he is healthy he could be one of the best in the league. He has been the best goalie in the league only a couple seasons ago. That says little about Lindy Ruff's coaching. He is a competent coach and is in a position where his team could take a big step forward and that could make him a top Adams Trophy candidate.
Masterton Trophy - Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins. A player could recover from a horrific injury or come back from a serious illness and become the front runner at any time. The only players who can be picked must have already suffered their injury, illness or whatever makes them a candidate. Sidney Crosby is coming back from concussion and is probably the best player in the world. The fact he is Sidney Crosby helps him. Many players recover from concussions. In my Adams prediction I already suggested Ryan Miller could make a big recovery from a concussion as well. I don't see any reason this should make Crosby a better Masterton candidate than Miller if they both show they have recovered from concussion issues, but Crosby will get the press since he is Sidney Crosby.
Lady Byng Trophy - Pavel Datsyuk Detroit Red Wings. In a short season it is possible that any of many players will have an All Star calibre season with few penalty minutes. That would make them a Lady Byng front runner. If there are a couple players in a relative dead heat it goes to reputation and nobody has a better Lady Byng reputation than Datsyuk. He won it four times.
Norris Trophy - Zdeno Chara Boston Bruins. He is the best defenceman in hockey. I think voters made bad selections in not giving him a second Norris Trophy in the last two years. Picking the best player is probably the best bet but in a limited sample size any of the other top defencemen could get hot and win this award.
Vezina Trophy - Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers. I think there are two solid candidates from last year in Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. Lundqvist will have an easier schedule staying in the eastern time zone than Quick who will travel i all four NHL time zones. That is the main reason I pick Lundqvist. Of course in a short season another goalie could get hot and win this award.
Hart Trophy - Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins. The best player in hockey is always a good bet. If he is healthy he should have a good shot at this award. Like any other award, in a shortened season another player getting in a hot streak could win the award.
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