Four Preds still in hunt for hardware

Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 10:33pm

The Stanley Cup continues to elude them, but Wednesday the Nashville Predators will try to get their hands on one of four individual trophies.

Defenseman Shea Weber, goalie Pekka Rinne and general manager David Poile all are finalists for performance-based awards, none of which has ever been won by a member of the franchise. All three also were finalists a year ago but heard someone else’s name called during the festivities in Las Vegas.

Center Mike Fisher is a finalist for the NHL Foundation Player Award, which recognizes community service.

The issue of whether or not Fisher wins is purely subjective. All the finalists in that category did good work.

For the other awards there exists a basis for objective comparison — statistics. History also shows what numbers voters in each category value above others.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how Rinne, Weber and Poile match up against their competition and how likely each is to be announced as the winner during the ceremony, which will be televised live (6 p.m., NBC Sports Network).

 

 

VEZINA TROPHY

Given to: Best goalie

Finalists: Pekka Rinne, Nashville; Henrik Lundqvist, N.Y. Rangers; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles 

The strength of Rinne’s case is that he led the league with 43 victories, a career-high and a franchise record. That is not likely to be enough.

The last time the league leader in wins went home with the Vezina was in 2007, when Martin Brodeur did it.

More recently, goals-against average and save percentage have weighed more heavily in the process. Boston’s Tim Thomas led the league in both in 2009 and again in 2011 and was the Vezina winner each time. In between, Ryan Miller finished second in the league in each category, but was best among the finalists and captured the award.

Rinne failed to crack the top 10 in goals-against average (he was 14th at 2.39) and seventh in save percentage at .923.

This year’s other finalists, Quick (1.91 GAA, .929 save percentage) and Lundqvist (1.97, .930), each outperformed him in both.

Rinne also gets credit for the fact that he was a workhorse. His 73 games played tied for the league lead and 4,168:52 of ice time was second, but that seems unlikely to allow him to overcome the statistical disadvantage he faces.

 

 

NORRIS TROPHY

Given to: Best all-around defenseman

Finalists: Shea Weber, Nashville; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa; Zdeno Chara, Boston

To be recognized as the defenseman “who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability,” offensive production is a must.

Only one of the past five winners (Zdeno Chara in 2009) was not among the top five defensemen in points.

Last season, for example, Nicklas Lidstrom won his seventh when he ranked second in points (62), third in assists (46) and fourth in goals (16). Never mind that he had a minus-2 rating and that nearly two-thirds of his points came while on the power play.

Weber racked up 49 points this season, which tied him for sixth among all NHL defenseman but put him third among the Norris finalists. He did lead all blue liners with 10 power play goals, and he was the only one of the finalists who was among the top 20 in hits.

In terms of the balance between performance in the offensive and defensive ends, his case is strong. Plus, as a second-time finalist he has a clear base of support.

There is, however, the possibility that Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson overwhelmed the competition on the basis of his massive offensive numbers. Karlsson was last among the finalists in plus-minus rating and averaged less than a hit per game, but his 78 points were 25 more than any NHL defenseman and the most by anyone at that position since Lidstrom had 80 in 2005-06, the season he won his fourth Norris.

 

 

General Manager of the Year

Given to: Best general manager

Finalists: David Poile, Nashville; Doug Armstrong, St. Louis; Dale Tallon, Florida 

This is just the third year this award will be presented, so there isn’t as much the history attached to it.

It also has not been named in honor of anyone yet, although Poile might get consideration in that regard given that he has been a finalist each of the three years. No one else has ranked among the top three more than once.

That might be a worthwhile consolation prize. He has yet to win, and his chances look slim based on the limited voting record that exists.

Phoenix’s Don Maloney won it in 2010 after his team won 14 more games and had 28 more points than the previous season. Last year Vancouver’s Mike Gillis walked away with it after his team improved five wins and 14 points and led the league in both.

The Predators’ gains of four wins and five points pale in comparison to the improvement of Armstrong’s Blues (11 wins, 22 points) and Tallon’s Panthers (eight wins, 22 points).