Americans shine at the 2011 NHL Awards

This year’s NHL Award show was exciting for all fans of hockey and most of all it was a testament to how far hockey has come in the U.S. over the years. Five American born players and one American born coach took home awards Wednesday night celebrating their success in the 2010-11 NHL season. 

Tim Thomas (Flint, MI) of the Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins must be getting a work out lifting all these trophies, as he collected some hardware for the second time in a week by winning this year’s Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s Best Goaltender. This was his second Vezina Trophy in three years. Thomas not only shined in the playoffs, he turned in a pretty exceptional regular season too. Thomas led the NHL with a 2.00 goals against average and set a record with a .938 save percentage. He also had nine shutouts, second most in the league during the regular season. Interesting side note, for the past three years the Vezina Trophy has gone to an American born goaltender (Tim Thomas-2009, Ryan Miller-2010, Tim Thomas-2011). That is the first Vezina 3-peat for U.S. born players in NHL History.

Ryan Kesler (Livonia, MI) took home the Frank J. Selke trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. It was Kesler’s third straight nomination for this trophy, and by winning it this year Kesler became the first American born player ever to win the Selke Trophy. After seeing the number of votes he received, it was apparent that he was the runaway candidate this year for the award. Kesler scored 41 goals this season while chipping in 32 assists and was a plus-24 as well. As a key offensive contributor for the President Trophy winning Canucks, it was also his play in his own end that really put him above the rest of the pack this season. Kesler is a fast, fluid skater that plays in every situation imaginable for Vancouver. Whether it be power plays, on the penalty kill, or key face-offs, Kesler was counted on to handle it. Here’s a video of a pretty spectacular goal he scored in the Canucks’ playoff series against Nashville, in which he singlehandedly dominated. 

Dan Bylsma (Grand Haven, MI), coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins took home the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year. Bylsma led the Penguins to a 49-25-8 record this season despite having to deal with prolonged absences of two of the biggest stars in the NHL due to injuries. The Pens were able to overcome these hurdles and earn the second-most points (106) in the franchise’s history. Also, anyone that watched HBO’s 24/7 shouldn’t be too surprised by him taking home this award. I’ve met him in person in the past and he was a gracious guy, but after watching the 24/7 special I truly respect him more than ever as a NHL coach.   

Dustin Brown (Ithaca, NY) of the Los Angeles Kings was presented with the NHL Foundation Player Award for his dedication to charity and his dealings with the community. This was the third consecutive year he was nominated for the award. A tough player on the ice, but a true beauty off. Here’s a link to learn more about all of Dustin Brown’s countless community-benefiting endeavors.

Doug Weight (Warren, MI) the recently-retired Islanders’ forward was presented with the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership qualities on and off the ice. Unfortunately, injuries limited Weight to playing in only 18 games in his final season, but the Islanders’ captain treated his ailment as an opportunity to become an even stronger leader for the Islanders off the ice. While unable to play in games, Weight took on a coaching role with his teammates during practices and maintained his veteran leadership role as captain in the locker room.

Cory Schneider (Marblehead, MA) was part of the Vancouver Canucks tandem in net that captured the William Jennings Trophy, as the goaltenders on the team allowing the fewest goals this season. In 25 games played, Schneider went 16-4-2 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.

With another successful NHL season in the books, it looks like USA Hockey is in great hands moving forward.

Rock, Flag & Eagle

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