Since I will be out in the field for work the next two days, I don't think I will have time to split them up so here they are: my predictions for the final two of the 'big five' trophies.
The Calder Trophy:
1. Jonathan Toews (Chicago) - Just can't say enough about this kid. He is the whole package - he is phenomenal offensively, responsible defensively and a leader. He has starred in college, in world juniors and even looked good at the world championship in the spring despite being the youngest player there. In Chicago he will have little pressure - the team sucked last year, attendance is down and home games are rarely broadcast. He will get a lot of ice time (even on the power play), he will have some great veterans to mentor him in Robert Lang and Yanic Perrault and he will have Jack Skille and Pat Kane to share in the rookie experience. The spotlight, what little of one there will be, will be on No. 1 overall pick Kane at the start but by midseason Toews should have the Calder all but wrapped up.
2. Jack Johnson (L.A.) - The Carolina Hurricanes are kicking themselves now, and will be for a long, long time. They had trouble signing him before last season and dealt him to L.A. for a pair of mediocre NHLers. Johnson showed them up by just showing up. He played in five games for the Kings at the end of the season and was a beast! If not for the perfect situation in Chicago for Toews, I would have handed the Calder to him. He has the tools to not just be as good as his mentor in L.A. Rob Blake, but much, much better. Johnson will battle Dion Phaneuf for the Norris for years to come.
3. Nicklas Backstrom (Washington) - Like Toews, Backstrom is walking into a good situation with little pressure. The Caps were bad last year, he will have one of the two Alexanders on his wing and he will have underrated veteran Michael Nylander to guide him (and force him to babysit). Backstrom is a good playmaker and if he develops the chemistry with Semin, then watch out.
Dark Horse: Marc Staal (N.Y.) - I am a Rangers fan, I have to put him in. I am not even 100% sure he will get a NHL job with the team already carrying eight defensemen (nine if you include Darius Kasperitis, who they say is in the best shape of his life and ready for a come-back). However, Staal already proved himself to be a man among boys as the best defenseman in juniors the last two years. Should Sather be smart and find a way to make some room for him, Staal has the size and skills to make an impact and in New York's limelight, it could get him the Calder.
The Hart Trophy:
1. Cindy Crosby (Pittsburgh) - If Bettman and the NHL had done the right thing, then Cindy would be a Ranger, much like Pat Ewing went to the Knicks. Granted the Rangers were able to recover from the lockout without him and he pretty much saved the Penguins franchise, but still -- imagine how big of a star he would be on Broadway! So I'm bitter and his perpetual whining to officials pisses me off even farther. But he's good. Very, very good. And, barring something tragic, this will be his award to lose for the next 10 years. Damn I hate him.
2. Joe Sakic (Colorado) - From a petulant child to a graceful elder statesman, Joe Sakic is the man. A quiet captain of grace and skill, he is the Aves' Steve Yzerman (just with better knees). Sakic had a 100 points last year and his team only got better this offseason. He won the Hart back in 2001 and with Ryan Smyth by his side this season he can capture it again.
3. Martin Brodeur (Jersey) - If New Jersey goes anywhere and does anything this season, it is because of Marty. The Devs lost Gomez and Rafalski but signed Weeksie from us so while the scoring went down, Brodeur should get better. And that is a scary thought since he had a 2.18 gaa and 0.922 save percentage with no one to spell him last year. No rest for the wicked, haha. Wonder how that sister-in-law of his is doing ...
Dark Horse: Jaromir Jagr (NYR) - Ok, I don't want to jinx anything so I made Jags a dark horse in this race. Should the Rangers improve on last season, should they go farther in the playoffs it will not be because of the additions of Gomez or Drury, it will be because Jagr played like the all-world talent he is. The Rangers need him to be healthy and happy to win, that simple. Henrik is great, but there are too many teams with great goaltenders between here and the Stanley Cup. There aren't many, if any, with a player of Jagr's caliber (when he chooses to be). So let's hope he's happy and Let's Go Rangers!