Commentary

Vegas, baby, Vegas: Awards recap

Updated: June 24, 2010, 12:52 AM ET
By Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- Here's our recap of all the highlights from Wednesday's NHL awards night:

Close vote for MVP

The voting for the Hart Trophy was exceptionally close, the closest since 2002 when Jose Theodore edged Jarome Iginla for the honor.

Henrik Sedin gathered 894 voting points, while Alex Ovechkin drew 834. Sidney Crosby was third with 729 points.

It was also the first time since 2006 that the Hart Trophy winner didn't also win the Ted Lindsay Award (formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award, given to the league's most outstanding player award as voted on by the players). Ovechkin is the first player since Wayne Gretzky to win three straight Pearson/Lindsay awards. Ovechkin said the award has a special meaning because it's voted on by the players.

"When they vote for you, it's the most important thing," Ovechkin said.

In his acceptance speech, Ovechkin paid tribute to his brother Sergei, who died in a car accident in Russia when Ovi was a child. The Capitals' captain rarely speaks of his brother's death.

Sedin won his first NHL scoring title with 112 points (30 more than his previous high), but his Hart win may have come as a surprise to some given his goals total (29) was well behind those put up by Ovechkin (50) and Crosby (51).

"When they said my name, I didn't really think they said my name. But it was great," Sedin said.

After meeting with the media, Sedin looked at the names of previous winners and acknowledged some surprise.

"I'm not sure I really fit with them," Sedin said. "You look at those great names, but it's truly amazing my little name will be on there with them."

Among the players whose names are inscribed on the trophy is Peter Forsberg, the first Swede to win the Hart.

"To be on the trophy with him makes it even more special for me," said Sedin.

New chapter for Norris

Duncan Keith plans to cherish his Norris Trophy. It certainly may not be the last time he captures the NHL award for top defenseman, but he also knows there are other young bucks on the rise who will push hard for it (Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Mike Green and Tyler Myers, just to name a few).

"Definitely it's a great group of young players, young defensemen coming up that makes it a challenge every year to win this award," Keith said while sitting next to his hardware. "And that's what makes winning this award this year so much more special."

In many ways, the Norris Trophy is entering a new era with Keith's win. With Scott Niedermayer and Rob Blake retiring and Nicklas Lidstrom back for one more season at the age of 40, it feels as if the trophy is changing hands. Sure, given how well Lidstrom played in the playoffs, he could easily contend for a seventh Norris next season, and Chris Pronger showed us in the Cup finals why he's not done yet. But the blue-line kids have served notice to Pronger and Lidstrom.

"You know, I grew up watching some of these guys," said Keith. "I know they're not that much older than me. ... To me, Lidstrom, you know, he's everything. To me, he's still the best. We watched him play and I've learned so much from him, and I can't say enough. It's kind of funny, but those guys to me are still the best and I still look up to those guys in a lot of ways."

Miller caps big season with Vezina

Ryan Miller was listening attentively to questions from the media, but every now and then, he'd glance to his left at the Vezina Trophy, which he had just won for the first time in his career.

"Yeah, I'm looking at all these names," said the Buffalo Sabres netminder. "It's pretty amazing, the history on this trophy. So to get my name on there is pretty cool."

Jacques Plante, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur ... yeah, those are nice names to hang around with. And deservedly so.

Miller won comfortably in voting by the NHL's 30 GMs, totaling 126 points. Ilya Bryzgalov of the Phoenix Coyotes was second with 79 points, while four-time winner Brodeur was third with 32 points.

"Standing next to Martin Brodeur and Ilya Bryzgalov, after watching them the entire season and being thoroughly impressed, it feels really good to walk away with this award," said Miller.

It caps quite the year for the Team USA star, who was named MVP of the Vancouver Olympics after he came within a hair of backstopping his underdog team to a stunning gold medal. It was silver instead, but still impressive and much of it because of Miller.

"The Olympics were fun," said Miller. "When you're playing pro hockey, you don't get the opportunity to play in the tournaments like you did when you're an amateur. Every couple of weeks, you're in a tournament. So there is certain excitement in that. Grinding out the regular season is a completely different experience. The NHL playoffs are a different experience. It was a lot of fun to get together with your countrymen and push for something and have it come very, very close."

Jimmy's journey

Of the three rookie of the year candidates -- Tyler Myers, Matt Duchene and Jimmy Howard -- it was the Detroit netminder's journey to the brink of stardom that was most arduous.

When the Wings opened the 2009-10 season in Stockholm, Howard was still trying to prove he was an NHL-caliber goaltender and looked to take a backseat to incumbent Chris Osgood.

But when Osgood faltered, Howard seized the opportunity and, at one point, started 25 straight games for the Wings, the most by a Detroit netminder since Tim Cheveldae started 29 straight in 1991-92. Howard, who finished second in the Calder Trophy voting to Myers, finished with a 37-15-10 record and .924 save percentage.

Howard said he's had a chance to reflect on the arc of his success.

"As the season was progressing, you blink and it felt like it was over," Howard said. "Now that I've had several weeks to sort of look back on the season, it's just pretty surreal for myself."

He credited his teammates, goaltending coach Jim Bedard and Osgood for helping him achieve his goals.

"It's very humbling to be able to sit next to a guy that has almost 400 wins and three Stanley Cups," Howard said. "When he talks, I listen. We have a great relationship, so I'm very thankful for that."

'I would have laughed in your face'

Myers didn't hesitate Wednesday night when asked how he would have reacted had someone told him on the first day of Buffalo Sabres training camp last September that he would win the Calder Trophy this season.

"I would have laughed in your face," Myers said. "You know, I can't believe I'm at this point right now."

It was no contest. Myers got 1,178 points in voting by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, clobbering the competition. Howard was second with 778 votes, while center Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche was third with 755 points (Tuukka Rask was fourth with 339 points and John Tavares fifth with 303).

It was obvious to most he'd win, but not to Myers.

"You know, those two guys had seasons where they could have easily been walking out there just as much as I could have, so I didn't have any idea," said the 6-foot-8 blueliner. "When they did call my name, it was a relief to have this over with. But at the same time, you know, it's nice to be able to experience this."

He was the right choice for the Calder; making an NHL roster as a defenseman at age 19 is the most difficult achievement of all. And he did it with the poise of a 10-year league veteran. He led the Sabres in ice time (23:44 per game) and had a plus-13 rating. His 48 points (11-37) can't be overlooked, either.

While working a story on Myers last November, I spoke with legendary coach Scotty Bowman, who said he had never in his storied career seen a big man who skated like Myers. High praise, indeed. The next time Myers comes to the NHL awards show, he'll be nominated for the Norris Trophy. You can take that to the bank.

Most moving moment

One of the most poignant moments of awards night came when Washington Capitals netminder Jose Theodore was named the Bill Masterton Trophy winner for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.

Before the start of the season, Theodore lost his infant son, Chace, after a premature birth.

The former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner worked through the loss and not only regained his starting job with the Caps, but also went on a 20-0-3 run over the final three months of the season as Washington won its first Presidents' Trophy.

"Well, it's a mixed feeling, I think," Theodore said. "Obviously, you know, it was a tough year emotionally, but I'm really proud of the way I handled myself. Then, winning this award just brings back some tough memories or good memories, it depends, but it's tough. I mean, with all the support I had, it was just fun to see people around me that cared for that."

The netminder said every day is a challenge to deal with the pain of his son's death.

"I'm still struggling to get by every day," he said. "Like I said, yesterday would have been his first birthday, so you can imagine it was twice as hard for me today."

Perhaps adding to the emotion of the night was the knowledge that Theodore will be looking for a new team as the Capitals look to turn their goaltending over to youngsters Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.

Line of the night

Not only did Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett win the Jack Adams Award in a landslide, but he also delivered one of the grand lines of the night.

After being presented with his first coach of the year crown, Tippett joked that most winners get up and thank their owners.

"I would do that, but I don't know all 29," Tippett joked, referring to the fact the beleaguered Coyotes are the wards of the NHL and are effectively owned by the 29 other franchises.

Tippett received 291 voting points (57 first-place votes and two second-place votes) from the league's broadcasters' association. Nashville's Barry Trotz was second in voting with 60 points.

Tippett acknowledged the expectations were pretty low for his Coyotes team when he took over midway through training camp after former coach Wayne Gretzky stepped away from the team in the midst of the team's bankruptcy woes.

But instead of finishing dead last in the league -- where most observers believed the team would end up -- the Coyotes piled up 107 points, 28 more points than they had the season before.

Although the Coyotes were eliminated by Detroit in seven games in the first round of the playoffs, the team's strides were significant and the players credit Tippett with helping them get there.

"I might have walked out if he didn't [win]," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said.

While the ownership situation looks to be stabilized with the Ice Edge Holdings group hoping to close a deal to buy the team from the NHL by the end of the summer, Tippett acknowledged the Coyotes have to be wary of backsliding next season.

"When you take as big a step as we did last year, there certainly are those concerns," Tippett said.

With all due respect to Mrs. Byng ...

The Lady Byng Trophy, awarded annually for on-ice sportsmanship, is often given the short shrift among the media and some players. But this year's winner, Tampa Bay star Martin St. Louis, was defiant in his pleasure in winning the award for the first time.

"You have to respect the honors, whether you're winning or not," St. Louis said. "You have to respect the NHL and what it stands for. This is the best game in the world. This is the highest level. This is what every kid dreams of doing, to put your name on the trophy. Whether you finish third, second or first, you should show up.

"I couldn't be happier to win this trophy. I know I've been nominated, but I think back in my career as a kid, and if you told me I would have a [Stanley] Cup, a Hart, an Art Ross, a Lester B. Pearson and now a Lady Byng, I don't think I would have believed you."

When St. Louis gave his acceptance speech, he produced a cell phone from which he read his remarks.

"When we walked in there, they told us to turn our phones off and everybody's pulling paper out. I was like, 'Who uses paper?' You guys do, but you all have a recorder," St. Louis joked. "So I don't know. I thought it was nice and neat. I could actually read it."

This will be an interesting season for St. Louis. He could become an unrestricted free agent in July 2011 and is the heart and soul of a Tampa Bay team hoping to rebuild under new ownership and management.

Rookie NHL GM Steve Yzerman has said extending St. Louis' contract is one of his priorities, and it is believed St. Louis will be open to re-upping with the team that gave the undrafted collegiate player a chance.

Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun cover the NHL for ESPN.com.