Commentary

Read and weep! Our midseason awards

Updated: January 13, 2010, 12:41 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The ballots are in, and the nominees have been notified. ESPN.com's NHL midseason awards are a big moment for the players and coaches involved, so we take this seriously.

OK, they have no clue we're doling these out, but we know you, the fans, will either embrace or attack these choices. So be it!

A look at which guys ESPN.com would choose as award winners if the season ended Wednesday, the midway point of what has been a very interesting 2009-10 campaign:

Crosby

Hart Trophy

Candidates
• Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks: The NHL's leading scorer has been a beast all season while also posting a plus-14 rating.

• Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: The game's most exciting player recovered from his two-game suspension with the offensive production we've grown accustomed to.

• Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: He has found the back of the net with more regularity while helping to carry the defending Cup champs as fellow star center Evgeni Malkin has struggled.

• Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers: Could the Rangers score a goal if he weren't in the lineup?

• Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres: The best goaltending of his stellar career has the Sabres in first place in the Northeast Division.

• Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes: He's quick to credit his teammates, but the Russian netminder is the backbone of this season's surprising success for Coyotes.

Winner: Crosby
Our case: With top defenseman Sergei Gonchar out for a long stretch earlier this season and Malkin not having his usual kind of production, Crosby has been the most consistent star for the Penguins and has carried on right from last season's playoffs, where he was dynamite. He's shooting the puck more, scoring more goals and reminding us that, at age 22, the best is yet to come. (Full disclosure: Pierre LeBrun has never picked a goalie for the Hart; it goes against his rules. He believes the Vezina is worthy enough an award for netminders.)

Miller

Vezina Trophy

Candidates
• Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres: His consistency is perhaps his most admirable trait so far this season.

• Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes: Rebounding in a big way from last season's disappointing performance and by far the biggest reason the Desert Dogs are in a playoff spot at the midway point.

• Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames: He has covered up Calgary's offensive struggles for most of the season.

• Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils: Ho-hum, what else is new.

• Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks: He has a great team in front of him, but his play has also been stellar.

• Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks: His numbers have been remarkable since October turned into November.

(Writer's note: You might be surprised to see no Marc-Andre Fleury on this list, but his numbers have very quietly dipped. His .905 save percentage was ranked 32nd among NHL goalies as of Tuesday afternoon.)

Winner: Miller
Our case: As Team USA GM Brian Burke said New Year's Day at Fenway Park, if there's one area in which Team USA won't take a backseat in the Olympic tournament, it's in goal.

Myers

Calder Trophy

Candidates
• John Tavares, New York Islanders: He has led the rookie scoring race pretty much all season.

• Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche: His lightning-quick speed and high hockey IQ have been on full display.

• Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres: The friendly 6-foot-8 giant leads all NHL rookies in ice time with more than 23 minutes a game.

• Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning: Second in rookie ice time, but at times it's clear the defenseman is a year younger than 19-year-old Myers.

• Niclas Bergfors, New Jersey Devils: Another David Conte special shines through.

• Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings: Look who's playing every night for the Wings.

• Semyon Varlamov, Washington Capitals: The goalie is 12-1-2 so far this season!

Winner: Myers
Our case: The Big Easy is a staple on special teams and in late-game situations; his 22 points (3-19) lead all rookie defensemen; and his plus-8 rating isn't too shabby, either. No position in the NHL is harder to learn than defense, and Myers is making it look easy.

Boyle

Norris Trophy

Candidates
• Mike Green, Washington Capitals: No Team Canada, but a heck of a bounce back from those playoffs.

• Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks: Now people all over North America likely understand what all the fuss was about.

• Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks: The quarterback of the Sharks and a puck-moving king.

• Stephane Robidas, Dallas Stars: Unheralded and still very much underrated.

• Shea Weber, Nashville Predators: A monster defenseman with the big shot and big hit.

• Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings: If he was still a secret on the East Coast, Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman ended that.

• Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins: Not quite up to last season's Norris-winning form, but pretty darn good.

• Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers: He has held up his part of the bargain even if his team has struggled.

(Writer's note: Hard to believe there's no Nicklas Lidstrom or Scott Niedermayer in this conversation at this point; but, at the midway point, they've been good, not great.)

Winner: Boyle
Our case: Perhaps a surprise pick for many of you, but watch the Sharks and you'll see how impactful this defenseman is on their success.

Quenneville

Jack Adams Award

Candidates
• Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes: Crushing dire preseason predictions with a surprising season that has Phoenix in the playoff hunt.

• Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche: See Tippett.

• Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators: Hard to believe this guy has never won this award, given the small payroll and the competitive teams he leads every season.

• Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey Devils: Free-agent defections and injuries haven't slowed one of the game's great coaches.

• Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres: He should be nominated every year.

• Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks: He has his young star lineup on a leash obeying his every command.

• Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals: Yes, he has lots of firepower, but he still doesn't get enough credit for what he does behind that Caps bench.

• Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks: Don't underestimate the coaching job he has done to get his players' heads screwed on right after last season's playoff failure.

• Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings: The toughest coaching job he has had in his career with all the massive injuries.

(Writer's note: Honestly, without exaggerating, you can easily make the case for close to 16 coaches every season for this award because nearly all the playoff-bound teams have a coach who has done well.)

Winner: Quenneville
Our case: Tippett and Sacco will get the nod from most of my colleagues (the NHL Broadcasters Association votes on the award); but, after a while, it gets tiresome that this award is always won by the coach whose team surprised the most. What about the coaching on great teams, as well? The Blackhawks give up the fewest shots on goal in the NHL and launch the second-most at the other net. Quenneville has 12 players who should be on the first-unit power play and has found the delicate balance to please everyone. His team leads the league in goals against with two goalies no one would rank in the top 30. That's called coaching.

Staal

Selke Trophy

Candidates
• Mike Fisher, Ottawa Senators: A perennial contender for this award who is having his best season yet.

• John Madden, Chicago Blackhawks: The old goat has found new life with the young Hawks and is indeed doing his thing.

• Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins: He might just be the best penalty killer in the NHL.

• Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: He leads the best penalty-killing unit in the NHL.

• Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks: He'll be one of Team USA's top penalty killers in the Olympics.

• Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks: He doesn't get nearly enough credit for his defensive prowess.

Winner: Staal
Our case: He's eighth in the NHL in short-handed ice time per game, but first among recognizable star players. He's also plus-8 on the season.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.