I know the playoffs aren't supposed to factor in to voting, but they probably do, so here's my un-biased, pre-playoff trophy ballots, for the hardware which recquires a vote, not including the Lady Byng. Each trophy gets a top three and an honourable mention.
1- SHEA WEBER
HON - KRIS LETANG
My logic: Weber deserves more credit than he gets. They have a deep defense and play a team-d style but when your top d-man is your top scorer, and brings the skill set that Weber does to the table, not to mention being your unconditional leader as you again gritt your way in to a playoff spot...who else but Weber? Keith Yandle is in a similar situation, but he doesn't have all the physical/intangible skills of Weber, and there's just no way you could keep Visnovsky off the ballot given his stellar plus-14 rating on a porous Ducks defense. Letang has been nothing short of heroic for the banged up Pens, which is just enough to get him the HON over a number of other worthy candidates.
My Logic: So much has been made about this trophy being the defacto throw-in for the Art Ross winner, but that's a bunch of crap. By definition this is for the player most valuable to his team. Tim Thomas has garnered a lot of consideration here, and the knock is that goalies have their own award. With Thomas the reality is that Rinne could step in and do just as good of a job, not to take anything away from his accomplishments. When I sat down to write this blog entry Eric Staal as MVP was farthest from my mind but have a look at that team and their conference and then tell me what you think of my pick for MVP. He's a big physical all-situations centre, a captain, a leading scorer of a very young and talent-thin team. Jeff Skinner is an amazing talent but when a raw rookie is second on your team in scoring the guy in first is probably a work horse. Henrik Zetterberg has been Mr. Everything to the Wings this year as they've suffered injuries to key players again and again. The team leader in scoring is amazing two way threat and a rugged player. You've already heard the praises I have for Weber and if he doesn't deserve to be in the running then tell me who deserves it more? Sid the Kid gets the HON because he's the runaway winner if he didn't spend half the season playing martyr for the concussion cause. How the league has failed him so badly is beyond me. How David Steckel can still walk without a cane is beyond me. What happened to this league?
My Logic: This selection isn't based entirely on Kess' increase offense numbers which are almost entirely dedicated to his new designation on the Nux top powerplay unit, but if you look at his over all play he is the obvious choice. His usual competition, Pavel Datsyuk and Mike Richards have had sub-par and injury plagued seasons while his play has escilated. David Backes' plus/minus is schokingly good when you look at his non-playoff bound Blues' teammates. Korpikoski has been a revelation this season and it was a fine line between him and the unheralded one, Franz Nielsen.
HON - LOGAN COUTURE
My Logic: In my opinion this was the hardest trophy to award. The offensive leaders are all within a hair of each other but when you look at the team around him and the adversity he's faced this year the mature rookie Michael Grabner in the doldrum that is Nasseau Coliseum has been a bright light. He simply deserves this trophy more than his competition, despite his age advantage. PK Subban would have won it if not for Grabner. His offensive performance has been stunning, he's been counted on so heavily in a decimated Habs' back-end and has handled the scrutiny and spotlight of MTL like a seasoned veteran. Jeff Skinner has to be atleast third. The former figure-skater with the much questioned skating stride (go figure) was an all-star and a joy to watch. Logan Couture is a special player and deserves the HON. Many would pick him to win, and in the difficult position of power forward where maturity time is almost as long as goaltenders he has stepped in relatively quickly and seemlessly. In my opinion the depth of talent he gets to skate with has helped that transition, compared to Grabner who was on three teams this season and ended up being passed over by more than that only to be picked up by the Isles.
My Logic: Again, very difficult to choose who deserved consideration, but it's King Henrik's time. The league leader in shutouts is as much an MVP candidate as Tim Thomas; where would the rag-tag Rangers be without their King? Win, Sv % and GAA aren't as good as others but he's the best when it means the most. Rinne might do a Dominic Hasek on this award in years to come. A team can be as good as it wants defensively but in that system the key component is between the pipes and if you score as little as Nashville you better keep the puck out the best if you want to win, impossible without Rinne. Thomas' numbers are stunning and while Hiller gets the HON despite his vertigo it was so difficult to keep Price out of it but that's my decision.
My Logic: Lemaire, in third, lead an unlikely charge back to respectability for the Devils. Bob Hartly took a motely crew of castoffs and nearly willed them in to the playoffs, but they fizzled leaving him second to the man who in the same season lost Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, and still kept his team in home-ice playoff advantage, and challenging for the conference lead: Dan Bylsma (insert slow clap here); I don't know how he did it. Alain Vigneault was a strong candidate, but there were many. He gets the HON and could arguably get more as his Canucks won the Presidents Trophy while using the most players in the course of a season, losing pretty well every starting defenseman in the process and the leagues best faceoff man.