The Ted Lindsay Award, formerly known as the Lester B. Pearson Award, is the only one that the players get to decide. The award, meant to be a companion to the Hart Trophy, is given to the NHL’s most outstanding regular-season player as decided by the NHLPA.
A bit of background, since I’m a hockey history junkie: the end of the 1971-72 season was the first time the then-Pearson award was handed out. Lester B. Pearson, its namesake, had been Prime Minister of Canada and also coach of the U of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s hockey team. Then, in 2010, the NHLPA changed the name to honor Ted Lindsay, a Hall of Fame player who helped establish the first players’ union.
Past winners have included Wayne Gretzky (of course), Mario Lemieux (again, obvious), Eric Lindros, Joe Sakic, Jaromir Jagr, and both Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Last year’s winner was Daniel Sedin, whose 104-point season certainly turned heads. So who will be in the mix this year? My guesses are:
Steven Stamkos, Lightning: The red-hot Stamkos scored his 57th and 58th goals of the season in a 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals Monday night and has become just the sixth player in NHL history to record more than one 50-goal season before he even turns 23. He’s certainly on the upward trend, and with Crosby having battled injury all year and Ovechkin far from his usual mark, Stamkos has caught everyone’s eye as the guy to beat in the points race.
Evgeni Malkin, Penguins: 105 points this year. Yup, you read that right. One hundred and five. 48 goals, 57 assists, and while Stamkos has the edge on him in goals scored, Malkin has pretty much blown him out of the water overall, and in fewer games played, too (73 to Stamkos’ 79 so far). Overall, Malkin is just a dynamic player who can make something out of nothing, and not just when that other great Pens player is on the ice with him.
Phil Kessel, Toronto: Okay, sure, so his game’s tapered off a bit, but this really has been a breakout year for the 24-year-old winger- 37 goals, 44 assists, good for fifth in the league in scoring. More recently, he’s been playing without linemate Joffrey Lupul who’s out with an injury, but he’s still dangerous, with deceptive speed and smarts to match.
Also consider Claude Giroux, who’s third in scoring and has become quite the star in Philly, emerging from the shadows of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards; James Neal, in a three-way tie with Kessel and Ilya Kovalchuk for fifth with 81 points; and Jason Spezza, who has come practically out of nowhere to claim fourth in the league with 83 points. All are deserving of at the very least nomination; who will win? The answer will come in June… who do I think should win?
After serious consideration, I’m torn between Malkin and Stamkos. I feel that Malkin will ultimately win it, but I’m pulling for Steve mainly because I feel that he’s more of the forgotten party in the rush to talk about *star* players like Crosby, Ovechkin, etc. Stamkos has been developing at an incredible pace, and while I’m sure playing with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis helps, the fact remains that Tampa Bay doesn’t have THAT much depth. The idea of Stamkos tallying 95 points this season with virtually no help is incredible- and the kicker is that he’s only 22. He still has much more to go. He already has two 50+ goal seasons and a 45-goal season under his belt- what more can there be? Oh, I think we’ll all be surprised.