The NHL Awards are tomorrow night, and while no Sabres might be walking away with a trophy – who says we can’t play our own awards game right here?
We’ll start this off with the youngster award – the Calder Memorial Trophy, for the team’s most outstanding rookie. Technically, the Sabres only had one NHL rookie who would qualify this season: Jhonas Enroth. However, let’s stretch the definition of ‘rookie’ just a bit to include any players who dressed in their first NHL games.
The Sabres Calder winner is……….. *drum roll*……. Marcus Foligno!
For anyone who paid enough attention this year, it’s no surprise that Foligno earns this distinction. It was his first year in the American Hockey League, where he performed very well, and he also managed to get some time in the big league. Rolled on a line with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, the trio was unstoppable.
In 60 AHL games, the twenty-year-old had 16 goals and 23 assists. Foligno also had 13 points in 14 games with the NHL team and ended the season with Buffalo before rejoining Rochester for the playoffs, whih came to an unfortunate end in the first round when the Amerks were ousted.
Next up: the Hart trophy. Who would you say was the Sabres’ MVP this past season? I’d give the award to none other than the captain, Jason Pominville.
He may have left his pants in Nashville (you DID see that video, right?), but he surely didn’t leave his talent. In his first season as captain, he was the only one to play in all 82 games. With 30 goals, 43 assists and 73 points, he led the team in all those categories.
His 12 penalty minutes are also a standout number, which leads me to the next award – another honor we’ll bestow upon the beloved captain.
The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded to a player who exhibits sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, in addition to a high standard of playing ability. All anyone needs is one glance at the above statistics to see that Pominville clearly fits the bill in all those categories. (He was also nominated for the NHL’s Lady Byng in 2008.)
Next up: the Vezina, for top goaltender.
Although many will be quick to hand this trophy over to Ryan Miller, I’m going to stop you. As someone who spent a good portion of the season also dividing her attention to the Rochester Americans, allow me to argue that this award should be given to none other than David Leggio.
I know – he didn’t even play in an NHL game this year! But who’s to say we can’t expand this out just a little further to include other Amerks players besides just Foligno?
Leggio played in an astounding 54 of the Amerks’ 76 games this year, including a loooooong stretch toward the end of the season. He went 28-24-2 and had a 0.917 save percentage – actually .001 better than Miller. Some of his moves, and some of his saves, were simply mind-bending, and hopefully this ‘Sabres-Vezina’ winner will not sign with another team due to the impending free agency.
Moving on to another position-specific award, let’s focus on the James Norris: given to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the position. This award-winner? Jordan Leopold.
On an overcrowded blueline, Leopold found a way to stand out and maintain a spot. His veteran presence and NHL experience are certainly assets to the young Buffalo team, and he ended the season with 10 goals, 14 assists and a plus-4 with 79 games played. He’s willing to be physical and make the necessary plays to block shots from getting through, and his flexibility as a player is definitely a bonus as well.
Our final award will be the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, presented to the player who exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and makes a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to the community. The winner? Nathan Gerbe.
On the ice, Gerbe is always willing to stand up for himself and his teammates. Despite his height, he’s not afraid to push around when it’s necessary, often drawing penalties for the opposing team. He’s also a goal-scorer and power forward. Off the ice, he’s active in the community and involved with the Sabres’ Tickets for Troops program, as well as making occasional visits to local hospitals and other worthy causes.
Who are YOUR award winners? Want to argue for anyone else, or think we forgot an award? Drop a message in the comments to let us know.