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Lundqvist deserves Vezina for his career year

The Vezina Trophy has been awarded since 1927, but for the first 55 years it was given to the goaltender with the lowest goals-against average. The Jennings Trophy was added 30 years ago for the lowest GAA, leaving general managers to determine the Vezina as the NHL's best goalie regardless of statistics.

Only 10 times in the Last 30 years has a goalie won the Vezina and the Jennings in the same year. Blues goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott will share the Jennings after allowing just 1.89 goals per game this season. Picking one over the other for the Vezina is difficult enough, but selecting a third goalie over both is tougher.

Good luck. Votes could come down to games played. Halak and Elliott also could cancel out one another.

Elliott led the league with a 1.56 goals-against average and .940 save percentage and was second with nine shutouts while posting a 23-10-4 record for the Blues. Halak was 26-12-7 with a 1.97 GAA (fourth), a .926 save percentage (sixth) and six shutouts (fifth) while playing eight more games (46) than Elliott did (38).

Predators netminder Pekka Rinne had a 43-18-8 record in 73 games this season. He led the league in wins but his 2.39 GAA was 14th and his .923 SP was seventh. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury was 42-17-4 in 67 games with a 2.36 GAA (12th) and .913 SP (27th). He had only three shutouts.

My choice: Henrik Lundqvist.

King Henrik was brilliant while leading the Rangers to the best record in the Eastern Conference. He had a 39-18-5 record with a 1.97 GAA (fourth), a .930 save percentage (third) and eight shutouts (third) in the best season of his career. He lost two games in a row only four times all season and won four straight or more six times.

Lundqvist was 10-2 while allowing two goals or fewer in 12 straight games, surrendering 13 goals overall, and had four shutouts. It was part of a stretch between Dec. 20 and March 4 in which he was 19-5-1 and allowed three goals or more only four times. He was the best all-around goalie in the league.

Jonathan Quick wasn't far behind. He had a 35-21-13 record with a 1.95 GAA and .929 save percentage with the Kings. His record would have been considerably better with more support from his teammates. Quick had 11 losses, including overtime and shootouts, when allowing one goal or fewer in regulation.

Here are my other season-ending awards:

Hart Trophy: Evgeni Malkin, Penguins. The big center had 50 goals for the first time in his career and led the league with 109 points with little help from injured star Sidney Crosby. Steven Stamkos had a great year on a poor team in Tampa Bay.

Norris Trophy (top defenseman): Erik Karlsson, Senators. He became a complete player while answering questions about his ability in his own zone. It's difficult to look past his 19 goals and 78 points and plus-16. He had 25 more points than the next highest-scoring defensemen. My runner-up, Zdeno Chara, had 52 points and was plus-33 for Boston.

Selke Trophy (top defensive forward): Patrice Bergeron, Bruins: He's been one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL for years. His league-leading plus-36 rating is ridiculous considering his role against the top lines. Blues forward Jay McClement's defense is often overlooked, and Maxime Talbot is effective for Philadelphia.

Calder Trophy (top rookie): Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Gabriel Landeskog came on strong for Colorado, but RNH was equally effective in fewer games. The Oilers' center had 18 goals and 52 points in 62 games, the best points-per-game average for a rookie since Anaheim's Bobby Ryan had 57 points in 64 games in 2008-09.

Jack Adams Trophy (top coach): Ken Hitchcock. He pulled the Blues out of the gutter and turned them into one of the best teams in the NHL. St. Louis' success was largely about its defense, but his players embraced his team-first approach and bought into what he was trying to accomplish on both ends of the ice.

Lady Byng (most gentlemanly): Brian Campbell, Panthers. The former Sabres defenseman had four goals and 53 points, led the league in average ice time (26:53) and had three minor penalties. That's incredible for someone who is that effective, particularly at his position.

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No surprise here

If you're wondering, the Sabres' decision to bring back GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff was not a surprise to me. Owner Terry Pegula never wavered from his stance after purchasing the franchise last year. Several people have told me in the past year that he's not one to make decisions based on public opinion.

His strategy makes sense, but opinions -- including mine -- aren't going to change when it comes to what needs to be done if the Sabres are ever going to win a Stanley Cup. Pegula has been here for 14 months. I've covered the Sabres for 18 years and frequently speak to others who have been connected to the NHL in one form or another for decades. Their opinions might not matter to him, but they matter to me.

The consensus, after numerous conversations on various levels this season, is that Regier and Ruff have been here far too long and would be fired if they worked anywhere else. Reaction last week after the Sabres announced both would be retained ranged from total shock to bewilderment to amusement.

Some were confused over the Sabres' decision to announce both were coming back less than a week after the season ended in failure. Regier for years was blamed more than Ruff for the Sabres' shortcomings, but a growing number now believe Ruff has either burned out himself or burned out his players.

"This is not a knock on Lindy or him as a coach," one source said. "It's the same way for anyone who has been in any position for that long in hockey or in the business world or whatever. It's the same speeches and the same message coming from the same person. It gets stale and people stop listening. It's normal. It's natural."

No argument here.

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Brent Sutter takes the fall

Flames GM Jay Feaster spent a day taking the blame for another year in which Calgary missed the playoffs. Two days later, it looked like he was blaming his coach while showing Brent Sutter the door.

"The responsibility for where we are is mine," Feaster said Tuesday. "I'm the general manager of the hockey club. I put the players in place. I hire the coach. And this season has been a failure."

In fact, Feaster didn't hire Sutter. Former GM Darryl Sutter, now coaching the Kings in the playoffs, lured his brother away from the Devils. Feaster replaced Darryl Sutter last season. He's now looking to replace Brent Sutter with the fifth Flames coach since the lockout ended in 2006.

"I think the world of Brent, I do," Feaster said Thursday. "We talked about that. We are friends. That's one of the toughest things in this business."

Feaster will not have a shortage of candidates with Ron Wilson, Jacques Martin and Terry Murray among the experienced coaches who are currently unemployed. Feaster could summon Bob Hartley, with whom he has a close relationship. Hartley is godfather to Feaster's son, Ryan, but has another year left in his contract in Switzerland.

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Renney's status on hold

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini planned to spend a few weeks decompressing, evaluating the season and scouting the 18-under world championships before deciding whether he would sign coach Tom Renney to a contract extension.

Renney, whose contract expires June 30, has a good reputation and has been praised for his work with a young team. The Oilers have finished with the worst or second-worst record in the NHL for three straight years. They were 29th this year with a 32-40-10 record, nine points ahead of Columbus.

"This is why we need time to step back," Tambellini told reporters during a season recap. "I know Tom's going to have a lot to say to me. I want to hear how he thinks we can get to the next step, how do we make people better, compete for a playoff spot. -- I need time to let Tom prepare and let myself figure where we're going."

email: bgleason@buffnews.com