Crosby is far and away the league’s best - The Buffalo News

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Crosby is far and away the league’s best

BOSTON — The NHL Awards Show will be back in Las Vegas after a one-year hiatus. Of course, that’s of no concern to the Sabres.

For the fourth straight season, the only way the Sabres are getting near the awards is if they pose for pictures with the winners. No one in Buffalo has been honored by the voters since 2010, when Ryan Miller won the Vezina Trophy and Tyler Myers was named the league’s top rookie.

Sidney Crosby should be the big winner this year. On a Pittsburgh team besieged by injuries, Crosby led the Penguins to the Metropolitan Division title and was the only player to reach 100 points. He’s the Most Valuable Player by every definition available.

Here’s a look at the awards – which will be voted on this week, with results announced June 24 – with a Sabres honoree thrown in:

Hart Trophy: Crosby. In addition to doing the extraordinary, he’s also as consistent as they come. Crosby’s longest drought without a point was two games, something that happened just three times. He’ll lead the NHL in points and assists, and he’s second among forwards in ice time.

Sabres’ MVP: Tyler Ennis. No one really earned this, but Ennis’ second half gives him an edge. Buffalo has wondered which center would emerge as its best, and the answer was Ennis. While he’s still not a No. 1 middle man in a league-wide sense, he’s tops on the Sabres.

Norris Trophy: Shea Weber, Nashville. It’s hard to go wrong with Chicago’s Duncan Keith, Minnesota’s Ryan Suter, Boston’s Zdeno Chara or Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty. Heck, with those four (and others) in the competition, Weber might not even be a finalist. But with his solid defensive play and omnipresent offensive weaponry, he’ll get this vote.

Sabres’ top defenseman: Myers. He started slowly and finished hurt, but the big blue-liner had his moments in between. There have, however, been a lot fewer moments than folks expected back in 2010.

Calder Trophy: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado. He wins based on his February dismantling of the Sabres alone. Toss out that three-point outing and he’s still the top choice after a 24-goal, 63-point season. The 18-year-old is a difference maker.

Sabres’ best rookie: Zemgus Girgensons. One of the few bright spots this season, the hard-working forward created a fan following with his on-ice effort, off-ice candor and Olympic appearance. He’s a building block, for sure.

Vezina Trophy: Semyon Varlamov, Colorado: It’s not hard to put up 41 wins when surrounded by that much talent. It is hard to face the most shots of anyone in the league and still put up a .927 save percentage. Boston’s Tuukka Rask had better numbers but played in a more defensive-minded system. It’s a shame Minnesota’s Josh Harding couldn’t continue what he started because of multiple sclerosis.

Sabres’ top goalie: Michal Neuvirth. He played just two games. He suffered a mysterious (also known as “fishy”) injury that went from undetectable to season ending. But he stopped 93 of 98 shots, giving him the nod over Jhonas Enroth and his 1-12-5 start.

Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron, Boston. The center is vying with Jonathan Toews for the title of best two-way player in the game. There’s no shame in being second on that list, but Bergeron gets No. 1. He’s near the top in traditional and advanced stats, plus he wins nearly 59 percent of his faceoffs.

Sabres’ best defensive forward: Girgensons. After getting his NHL introduction at an unfamiliar wing spot, Girgensons showed enough responsibility to be moved to the middle. There aren’t many videos of him being out of position or lollygagging on a goal.

Lady Byng Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado. There’s more to the award than staying out of the box, but avoiding a penalty for the first 71 games is pretty ridiculous. He also leads the Avalanche in takeaways, so it’s not like he shies away from the action. Throw in 28 goals and 64 points, and we have a winner.

Sabres’ most gentlemanly player: Matt Ellis. He plays hard, and he plays the right way. Plus, he’s a great guy.

Jack Adams Award: Patrick Roy, Colorado. The Avs finished 29th in the NHL last year with just 14 regulation and overtime wins in 48 games. They have 47 of those victories this year as Roy introduced an uptempo style to match his players’ talents.

Sabres’ best coach: Ted Nolan. He didn’t win a lot, but he brought order to the chaos and confidence to the downtrodden. Now he needs an NHL-level roster to lead.

Gaudreau to debut

It’s been another rough season for Calgary, but Flames fans are excited for their finale today. Johnny Gaudreau, the Boston College forward who won the Hobey Baker Award as top collegiate player, signed with the team Friday and will make his NHL debut against Vancouver.

“It’s been a wild weekend,” Gaudreau said. “I never thought I’d get the chance to win the Hobey Baker Award or even sign with an NHL team. I’ve been fortunate enough to do both this things this weekend.”

The first year of Gaudreau’s three-year, entry-level deal burns off with his one game, but Flames President Brian Burke says it’s worth it. Gaudreau had 36 goals and 80 points in 40 games with B.C. this season.

“He’s been on a prolonged tear,” Burke said of the 5-foot-9, 160-pounder. “This is a guy that’s managed to produce despite being small at that level. He’s obviously going to have to take a step to jump to the next level. This is a guy when he has the puck, all four of his teammates are dangerous.”

On the fly

• St. Louis has six of its top 12 forwards out with injury, and Miller has allowed 30 goals on his last 260 shots for a .885 save percentage. “I’ve got to find a way out of it myself,” Miller said. “It’s a tough stretch of hockey for me as far as goals against go. I don’t feel like it’s too far away, as far as my game, but it’s got to be better. Just need to get through this stretch and be there when it counts.”

• The Senators named Jason Spezza their captain this season, but it’s quite possible the center is playing somewhere other than Ottawa in October. He has one year left on a contract that averages $7 million per season, and the Sabres need to spend a lot of money just to get to the salary-cap floor.

• I’m not sure how well Trevor Linden (Vancouver) and Brendan Shanahan (Toronto) will do in their new roles as team president, but it’s a safe bet they will be around longer than Pat LaFontaine. Linden sure sounded a lot like the Sabres legend. “It’s one of those things where you need to surround yourself with good people,” Linden said. “It’s about building a team.”


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