I know I said Monday I would get to the Calder Tuesday but I didn't. Sorry. I will instead do that one tomorrow and present the two top defensive awards today ...
The Norris Trophy:
1. Nick Lidstrom (Detroit) - As long as he is in the NHL, he has a chance to win this trophy. He has five, so why not make it an even half dozen? Detroit is still a great team and he is still a great all-around player. No Mathieu Schneider or Danny Markov by his side but Brian Rafalski and a healthy Niklas Kronwall should help make up for it. Although Markov's grit will be missed, it shouldn't hurt Lidstrom's case for Norris.
2. Scott Niedermayer/Chris Pronger (Anaheim) - Ok, as of this writing Scotty hasn't announced he has retired. I can undersand why he would want to leave on top, but he is still incredible. I feel safe saying that now he cemented his place as a Duck (as opposed to a Devil). Should he retire, Chris 'My Elbows Are Lethal Weapons' Pronger would have to step up his game and he is quite capable, provided he isn't suspended. Wouldn't that be ducky (bah-dum-dum-chhhhhh)?
3. Kevin Bieksa (Vancouver) - If he progresses from where he was last year, he will be one of the best in the league. He put up over 40 points, 130 PIM and was sound in front of Roberto Luongo, clearing rebounds and crippling crease crashers. He stands up for his teammates and looks a lot like a younger, more offensive Jay McKee.
Dark Horse: Dion Phaneuf (Calgary) - Another case to watch should he progress. The kid makes buildings come alive with his hitting, and he had 31 power play points last year (and 50 overall, to go with 98 PIM). Now with Keenan to ride and guide him, he should hit the next level. After all, Pronger has Keenan to thank for where he is today ...
The Vezina Trophy:
1. Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary) - Kipper is a machine. Unfortunately he was a very overworked machine last year. And without 'Hackin' Jamie Mac to back him up, he is likely to be overworked again, especially with Keenan as coach - the same man who wouldn't give Dom Hasek a chance in Chicago ... But still, Calgary has good team defense and Kipper is a helluva a goaltender. If the Flames have as good a season as I think they will, Miikka will raise the Vezina, if not the Cup.
2. Roberto Luongo (Vancouver) - He is good, so, so very good. And man am I glad the Islanders got rid of him for Rick DP. If he didn't bitch to the officials in Game 5 vs. the Ducks, he may have turned that series around. I don't think so but its possible. This year he learned from his mistake and should be even better than he was as long as Curtis Sanford stays healthy and can play at least 10, 15 games.
3. Martin Brodeur (Jersey) - New Jersey is worse this year without Gomez and Rafalski but Marty is still Marty, and he still is one of the best ... ever. Dammit.
Dark Horse: Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota) - Yes he is set for a letdown after signing a big contract extension after a good year (see: Marty Turco). But he seemed utterly unflappable last season and by no way was he to blame for the Wild's loss to the Ducks in the playoffs (the defense was). His regular season numbers were great in 41 games - 1.97 g.a.a., 23-8-6 and 0.929 save %. Without Manny Fernandez on his back, Backstrom has the chance to be just as good over the course of the full season.
Tomorrow (hopefully) ... the Calder.