Tomorrow night brings us the 2012 NHL Awards, which are commonly referred to as the most awkward professional sports awards show in existence. Nickelback? Oh, goodie. And two performances, you say?
Sign me up.
Seriously, though, despite the sad fact that Jon Hamm will not be a presenter, there are plenty of Blues ties to go around. For the first time since Andy Murray was nominated for the Jack Adams in 2009, the Blues will have some hefty representation up there. Ken Hitchcock is up for coach of the year for turning around a sub-.500 team, winning them the Central Division, nearly winning them the Presidents’ Trophy, and getting them to the second round of the playoffs. Doug Armstrong is nominated for GM of the Year for putting together a team that could do all of that. And finally, Captain David Backes is nominated for the Selke as best defensive offenseman… and according to some folks might stand a chance of beating perrennial favorite Pavel Datsyuk.
If I were into sports betting, I’d plunk down some cash on Backes winning. Of course, my luck isn’t nearly as good as I’d like for it to be, but hey. There’re odds for everything, and the awards *are* in Vegas, after all. I’m not going to tell you who to bet on, but I will say that both Hitchcock and Armstrong’s odds of winning are just as good as anyone else’s. Both Ottawa coach Paul MacLean and New York Rangers coach John Torterella did amazing things with their teams — no one expected the Rangers to win the Presidents’ Trophy and no one expected the Senators to even make the playoffs. There’s just something about Hitch, though, that makes me feel like he’ll walk off with the trophy. The night and day difference of the team without then with him is too glaring to ignore. It just strikes me as more obvious than the other two coaches that Hitchcock had a direct hand in how they played.
Doug Armstrong, as opposed to David Poile, managed to do something folks didn’t expect. Poile and the Predators can get blood out of a turnip with their line-ups, but there was also the miscue of the trade deadline and bringing aboard too much “win now!” to sway Ryan Suter to stay put. Armstrong stayed pat. Frankly, Armstrong only did big things when necessary, such as bringing aboard Jaroslav Halak a few seasons back or last year’s trade that brought Kevin Shattenkirk and the recently re-signed Chris Stewart to the Blues. The 2011 off-season saw some veteran tweaks, and then the team did nothing at the deadline. That little bit of tinkering gave the Blues their first Central Division Championship in 12 seasons.
I wish I could say that it was clear that Backes would be the winner, but he’s up against both Datsyuk and Patrice Bergeron. I hate blaming things on bias, but let’s admit this — both Boston and Detroit are bigger markets than St. Louis and get more attention from hockey pundits. Plus you factor in Backes’ rough style of play and his still-present tendency to get frustrated, and, well… I don’t know. I’d love to see Backes walk away with a shiny trophy, but this one’s tighter than fans would like for it to be.
As it stands, good odds on winning two out of three awards ain’t bad, huh?