Norris-worthy Chara leads my list of award winners

Chara/By S. Bradley

Normally today’s the day I fill out my NHL Awards ballot and submit it to Ernst & Young to be counted among the ballots of other voting members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

Unfortunately, this season I will not be voting. Some of you might’ve already read about the boycott many of us are taking part in to protest the New York Islanders’ treatment of banished blogger Chris Botta.

While I do not know Chris personally, my status as an independent blogger just like him compels me to join with the PHWA chapters that cover New York, New Jersey, Long Island and other teams — including writers from the Boston Herald –  in withholding my vote.

Now instead of boring you with more details of boycotts and access restrictions, I’m just going to give you my year-end award winners. I’ll give you winners for four of the individual awards I would’ve voted on through the PHWA (I’ll skip the much-hated Lady Byng) and also winners for the Jack Adams and Vezina Trophy, which are picked by the league’s broadcasters and the league’s general managers, respectively.

Here you go:

Norris Trophy

Zdeno Chara, Boston

I’ll be accused of being a homer with this pick, but season-long favorite Nicklas Lidstrom was a minus for the season for the first time in his career. There’s been a lot of push for Nashville’s Shea Weber of late, and he’s definitely worthy of strong consideration with his 48 points and plus-7 rating. But no defensemen struck a better balance between offense and defense this season than the Bruins’ captain.

Chara was a plus-33 despite matching up against the best of the best offensive players every single night, and he still contributed 44 points. Had the Bruins’ power play been more respectable, there probably would’ve been some more secondary assists to pad his total. As it was, he did his part by scoring eight of his 14 goals on the power play. For the entire season, Chara was the best defenseman in the NHL.

Calder Trophy

Logan Couture, San Jose

To me, this is just a two-player race between Couture and Jeff Skinner of Carolina. That San Jose qualified for the postseason and Carolina missed out impacts my decision a little. But more pertinent to this discussion to me is that of Couture’s 32 goals (one more than Skinner), eight were game-winners. Couture’s 56 points were seven less than Skinner, but the Sharks center was plus-18 and won 53.4 percent of his faceoffs.

Selke Trophy

Manny Maholtra, Vancouver

To me, this was a toss-up between Maholtra and his Vancouver teammate Ryan Kesler. With 73 points, a plus-24 rating and 57.4-percent success rate on faceoffs, Kesler — a former Selke nominee — is the sexier pick.

Maholtra took more than 200 fewer draws than Kesler, but was more proficient (61.7 percent). He led the team that finished third in penalty-kill success in shorthanded ice time (just ahead of Kesler among forwards) and was second to Kesler among forwards in blocked shots. Had he not missed 10 games, Maholtra probably would’ve led the team in that department. More important, those in the know that I’ve talked to and stories I read by people that see a lot more Canucks games say that although Kesler is still a great two-way player, Maholtra was the one called upon to take the tougher defensive shifts more often. He still managed to be plus-9.

Hart Trophy

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver

Anaheim’s Corey Perry made a valiant run to 50 goals that got the Ducks in the playoffs and put his name right up there with Sedin for MVP. However, I don’t want to punish Sedin just because he was consistent all season and his team dominated well enough to wrap up the Presidents’ Trophy with a week to go in the season.

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