Warning: the following article contains many words that happen to be my opinion. That's all they are - one person's opinion. That being said, if you disagree with anything that follows, you are wrong.*
I tried to think of an amusing segue into the awards, but I couldn't think of anything funny, so here you go.
Wade Redden Award for Worst Defenseman - Ian White
In a year where half of the blueline went down with injuries, you have to be pretty deep into the doghouse to find yourself still sitting up in the press box. Introducing Ian White, who not only made a fool out of himself during the lockout with his comments regarding Gary Bettman, but was incredibly underwhelming with his play in the twenty-five games he appeared in this year. In those twenty-five games, he managed only four points (still one more than Quincey, who skated in eleven more games) and was continually frustrated as he was passed over in favor of Brian Lashoff, Danny DeKeyser, and Carlo Colaiacovo. Don't worry Ian - I'm sure you'll be a lot happier when Paul Holmgren gives you a massive contract next year and you're bought out the year afterward.
Nicklas Lidstrom Award for Best Defenseman - Nik Kronwall
I really thought about giving this award to Ericsson due to the fact that he screwed up the least out of all the defenseman this year, but Kronwall's stellar playoff performance nudged him ahead. Kronner had a rather rocky start to the season, taking minor penalties left and right and seemingly trying to do too much by himself, but after being paired with Jonathan Goodbox, started to play better. He returned to the Kronwall of old, laying people out, playing solid defense, and shooting into forwards' skates on the powerplay. I still think Kronwall is better suited as a #2 defenseman rather than the go to guy, but if he can follow up his great performance in the playoffs this year, maybe he can become that guy.
Alexandre Daigle Award for Worst Forward - Valtteri Filppula
By "worst," I don't mean the forward who played overall the worst this year. The Alexander Daigle award goes to the forward who performed the worst given his role and expectations on the team, and for me, that comes down to two guys this year - Yohaan Fraanson and Val Filppula. While the Mule would occasionally forecheck hard and use his big frame correctly like he's supposed to, Filppula followed up his breakout season with an underwhelming 17 points in 41 games. His PPG average dropped from a career high 0.81 last year to a painfully average 0.41 this year.
For a guy playing on the top line and second powerplay unit, that just isn't acceptable. He was injured for a portion of the season, sure, but when he was in the lineup, he was invisible for long stretches of time in the offensive zone. He still provided the team with solid defensive play, but his job in the top six first and foremost is to produce and he didn't. He didn't earn any of the $5M he seemingly wants, and I imagine Kenny lets him walk when the season ends. He'll get his mega contract from a team desperate for center help, like Vancouver or Toronto, and hopefully for him he has more success there than he did here.
Sergei Fedorov Award for Best Forward - Pavel Datsyuk
I thought for a second of giving this award to Zetterberg, but I felt that he disappeared offensively for long stretches of time throughout the regular season. There were a few stretches where Datsyuk was also quiet, but when you're playing with Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary, you can't be expected to do that much. He scored 49 points in 47, good enough for the team lead, while providing excellent defense and consistently shutting down the other teams' best forwards. I wonder what his point totals would look like if he actually had wingers who consistently played well.
Mike Komisarek Award for Most Disappointing Player- Valtteri Filppula
This award should probably go to Jonas Gustavsson, Mikael Samuelsson, or Darren Helm, as each failed to meet the standards of what was expected of them this year (though all three were hurt, so I don't blame them for that. As long as we're on this topic, can anyone explain how Helm being hurt for the entire year = "Get well soon Darren!" while Samuelsson being hurt for the entire year = "What a horrible signing, a waste of a roster space!")
Anyway, Val Filppula finally had his big breakout season last year, so naturally expectations were high for him coming into a contract year. As explained above, Fil failed to produce at the levels to be expected out of a top six forward, earning precisely 0% of the $5M per year he allegedly wants. I could be this horse to death more, but I'll stop here since there's more livelier horses that are still in need of a good beating.
Jonathan Ericsson Award for Most Surprising Player- Jakub Kindl
Ericsson doesn't win the award of his namesake just because he already proved his worth at the end of last season. Unfortunately for him, it was when he wasn't in the lineup due to an injury and the penalty kill was abysmal as a result.
That's why this award goes to Jakub Kindl, a guy whose only claim to fame up until this season was being a part of the fabled "Kindl + 3rd" trade offer for another team's young, top six sniper. He had zero expectations at the start of the season, but when the blueline was hit with the injury plague, Kindl was forced into service, and I think he played incredibly well. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw someone actually shooting the puck on the powerplay, and it was even hitting the goalie! He did make several mistakes and was a liability in a few games, but overall, played so far above anyone's expectations. He also lead the defense in points during the postseason this year, with 5 points in 14 games. Not Kronwall, not Smith, not Quincey. Kindl.
Taro Tsujimoto Award for Most Promising Prospect - Ryan Sproul
I can already sense people typing in "But what about Mra-," but before you finish your hypothetical sentence, let me explain. I think Petr Mrazek has what it takes to be an all-star goalie in the NHL, but to me, his value to the team is diminished by two things - the great play of Jimmy Howard, and the contract of said Howard. He's just as likely to be traded at this point as he is to be the future netminder of the team.
By "prospect," I mean someone who isn't either a) playing with the Red Wings right now nor b) should he be. This disqualifies people like Tatar, DeKeyser, Andersson, and Nyquist.
If you could create the ideal defenseman that would best fill a need on the blueline, Ryan Sproul is that guy. He's big (6'4, 190 or so), a right handed shot that produces a howitzer of a slapshot, and a proven scorer. He lead all OHL defensemen this year in scoring, recording 20 goals and 66 (!) points in only 50 games, and for his efforts, was named the best defenseman in the OHL. He was also named the best defenseman in the OHL by Hockey's Future, which is especially nice considering he was drafted in the second round, and a lot of the guys on that list (Cody Ceci, Ryan Murphy, and Slater Koekkoek) were high first round picks. He'll likely spend the next 1-2 years down in Grand Rapids, but going forward, he projects to be a top four, maybe even top two defenseman.
GallopingGreg Award for Biggest Blunder - NHL Having More Than 1 Outdoor Game
This decision really doesn't make sense to me, both from a hockey and marketing standpoint. Sure, having more outdoor games will bring in more revenue, both from the gate and tv viewership, but in the long run it's going to devalue them. The Winter Classic is so special because it's the only time fans can watch an outdoor game, and I'm imagining for most people in America, the only time they watch a hockey game period. (Unless they happen to live in Chicago, then they only tune in for the playoffs).
The Winter Classic isn't nearly as big of a draw if it's being played before or after a handful of other outdoor games. I know that some other fanbases wanted more outdoor games so their teams would actually have a chance in playing in one, but since when did anyone care what Sharks fans wanted?
Kerry Fraser Award for Worst Call - Phantom Penalty Shot in Game Six
There's no way to prove this, but even if the roles were reversed on this play, I would still be mad as hell. So, in a one goal, game six playoff game, in the third period, a penalty shot is called on a stick check to the hands? Frolik was not interfered with nor his scoring chance illegally impeded. Could this have been a two minute slashing call? Yes, absolutely, but NOT a penalty shot. This was almost as bad as Chicago's disallowed goal in the final minutes of game seven (see, I'm not biased I swear!), but I chose this one because fuck you Chicago, that's why.
Best part is that it ended up being the game winner.
There's one more award to be decided, and that's the Claude Lemieux Award for most disliked player. This is a fan voted award, and the options are below. I listed everyone who I think has a chance to win the award and excluded people who have no chance (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, etc.). I'll update the awards in about a week with the winner.
Claude Lemieux Award for Most Disliked Player - Mikael Samuelsson
In another classic showdown between the nations of Finland and Sweden, the latter once again emerges victorious (sorry Finnish friends, but you know this to be true). Mikael Samuelsson won the fan voting with a wide margin, edging out Mr. Five Million, Val Filppula. Brendan Smith might have garnered some votes had I actually remembered to include him in the poll, so I think it'd be fair to say he's a distant third.
A big need for this team during the last off-season was a sniper, preferably one right handed. He needed to be young, a good skater, and have an outstanding shot that was always on target. Samuelsson perfectly met those needs, if by "young" you meant "getting AARP cards in the mail," if by "good skater" you meant "he understands how to lace his skates without cutting himself," and if by "on target" you meant "the third row." Exploding groin never really got a chance to shatter any glass this year due to a handful of injuries that kept him out of action for most of the year. Even when he was playing, his play, while not bad, wasn't good enough to keep him in the lineup. That was apparently enough to earn him the Claude Lemieux award.
That and the fact that he's Mikael Samuelsson.
*This was a joke by the way