Well the hardware has been handed out in Las Vegas, thereby concluding the 2011-12 NHL season. A lot of deserving players took home some brand new trophies to put on their mantles; Henrik Lundqvist snagged the Vezina, Patrice Bergeron grabbed the Selke, and yes Evgeni Malkin received the Lindsay and Hart trophies.
Tampa Bay’s representation at this year’s awards show once again featured Sniper-Center Steven Stamkos. Last year he was there to be named the EA Sports NHL 12 Cover Athlete. This year he was a finalist for the Hart and Lindsay Trophies for the Most Valuable Player as voted by the NHL Press Writers and NHLPA respectively, in addition to picking up his second Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy for being the league’s top goal scorer.
A lot of grief has been sent out via the Twitterverse claiming that Stamkos was robbed for not winning either and in some cases that Malkin wasn’t deserving of either as well. But why? Is it because Malkin doesn’t wear a lightning bolt on his sweater but a skating penguin? Heaven forbid it is a case of xenophobia, in that Malkin is not a good Canadian or Minnesotan son. Or was it media bias?
I am not one to deny that there is a bit of bias amongst the national (US and Canada) hockey press when it comes to non-traditional hockey markets; like Tampa Bay, Sunrise, Dallas, Anaheim, LA, etc. But to be honest the NHL is a business and they are going to promote the teams in more traditional markets and that’s where the majority of the press is going to be. Is it fair to the beach-going hockey fans, no. Is it sound business practice, yes. (On a side note, the Lindsay is voted on by the players, I am pretty certain that most of them do not favor Pittsburgh so they voted on the players’ achievements not the sweater they wear).
Stamkos had a great year. He was the first skater in four years to net 60 goals and was a big factor on how the Bolts returned to and stayed in the playoff race near the end. In saying that, let’s not also forget Mathieu Garon’s run (before tearing his groin) that sparked this team, the addition of Keith Aulie, Mike Commodore, and Brian Lee to beef up the Blueline. What about Teddy Purcell’s breakout season? Saying Stamkos was it is a slight to the rest of the team.
Saying Malkin shouldn’t have been awarded either is a slight to himself, the players of the league, and the game itself. Malkin had an outstanding season after fully recovering from injury. He netted 50 goals and 59 helpers en route to claiming the Art Ross Trophy at the end of the regular season. And he did this without the league’s favorite son, Sidney Crosby. Sure he cooled off during the playoffs but he still scored 3 goals and 5 helpers (the same as Sid the Kid). Malkin’s “drop-off” in production was not all that damaging to the team, it was Marc-Andre Fleury’s inability to stop the puck.
I am a fan of Stamkos, he is a great player and has matured in to a great leader on and off the ice. Is a 60 goal season outstanding? Yes. Is it automatically deserving of a Hart or Lindsay? No. Hockey exists outside of Tampa Bay, we of all fans should know that, as most do not or wont recognize that hockey exists in Tampa Bay. The season is over, let us not show our backsides, rather let us be the classy fans we are known to be and congratulate Malkin and the rest of this year’s award winners.
– Jim Courteau
Follow me on Twitter @BlackSheepJim