FGD: The 2015 NHL Awards (5pm MT, SN West)

What a difference a year makes!

One calendar year ago, the Calgary Flames had zero presence at the National Hockey League’s awards showcase in Las Vegas. Mark Giordano was their best hope for an award, but his Norris-caliber season was truncated by an early-season injury. This year, his season was cut short by an injury, but the Flames captain is one of four members of the organization that will appear in the MGM Grand Garden Arena this evening to see if they take home some hardware.

Here’s a brief look at the Flames’ awards contenders. Be sure to check out the NHL’s big show beginning at 5pm MT on Sportsnet’s national feed, and hang out afterwards to check out Sportsnet’s documentary on former Flames enforcer Kevin Westgarth’s continuing hockey journey in Europe.

NHL FOUNDATION PLAYER AWARD

First Awarded: 1997-98

Award Given To: “the NHL player who applies the core values of hockey—commitment,
perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community.”

Award Given By: the National Hockey League

Past Flames Winners: Jarome Iginla (2003-04)

Flames captain Mark Giordano saw his season derailed by injury and obviously isn’t a nominee for the Norris Trophy this year, despite having put together the best two seasons of his NHL career. But he does see his off-ice contributions to the Calgary-area community recognized. The NHL Foundation Player Award is, functionally, an award the league bestows upon a good citizen (and typically a fairly big-name player) for giving back to their community. It’s hard to handicap this, as Giordano is almost as universally-beloved as his predecessor Jarome Iginla. San Jose’s resident sasquatch Brent Burns and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist are the other two nominees.

LADY BYNG MEMORIAL TROPHY

First Awarded: 1924-25

Named For: Evelyn Byng, Viscountess Byng of Vimy (1870-1949); wife of former Governor General Lord Byng, she was a big hockey fan who donated the trophy and wanted to honour the sport’s gentlemenly players.

Award Given To: “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and
gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

Award Given By: the Professional Hockey Writers Association

Past Flames Winners: Bob MacMillan (1978-79), Joey Mullen (1986-87 and 1988-89)

Jiri Hudler is nominated for the Lady Byng this season, typically given to a hockey player who scored a ton of points without taking a lot of penalties. Hudler’s arguably the sentimental favourite this season, having mentored two green-horn line-mates this season in Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and quietly anchoring one of the NHL’s most impressive lines on the NHL’s most surprising team. Unfortunately, he’s up against the Kings’ Anze Kopitar and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, who are typically awards favourites, so I’m thinking he won’t win. Bodog has Hudler as a long-shot at +410.

JACK ADAMS AWARD

First Awarded: 1973-74

Named For: Jack Adams (1895-1968), nine-time Stanley Cup champion as a player, coach and general manager

Award Given To: “NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success”

Award Given By: the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association

Past Flames Winners: none

Nicknamed “Bob The Builder” by some in local media, Hartley is well-known around these parts for hilarious one-liners and occasionally befuddling line-up decisions. But hey, he took a roster that the majority of our writers felt would be Oilers-bad and got them into the playoffs. And the Jack Adams Award is traditionally given to coaches that find a way to get the most lemonade out of their 23-man roster of lemons. Bodog has Hartley as a big favourite at -550. Alain Vigneault of the Rangers and Peter Laviolette of the Predators are the other nominees.

CALDER MEMORIAL TROPHY

First Awarded: 1936-37

Named For: Frank Calder (1877-1943), the first president of the National Hockey League

Award Given To: the NHL’s rookie of the year

Award Given By: the Professional Hockey Writers Association

Past Flames Winners: Eric Vail (1974-75), Willi Plett (1976-77), Gary Suter (1985-86), Joe Nieuwendyk (1987-88), Sergei Makarov (1989-90); Makarov’s award victory at age 31 led to what’s jokingly called the “Makarov Rule,” restricting the award to first-year NHLers aged 26 and younger

Probably the most contentious race at these awards, this year’s Calder race features Flames sniper Johnny Gaudreau, Florida blueliner Aaron Ekblad and Ottawa’s Mark Stone. Gaudreau and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg were neck-and-neck all season long for the rooking scoring title, only to be beaten late in the year by a surging Stone. Was Gaudreau’s year-long excellence good enough to win the award? Does Stone’s late-season surge push him over the top? Or do voters instead favour the steady defender Ekblad? My gut says Gaudreau’s prominence in the big East Coast media markets and his flashy “Johnny Hockey” brand get him the slight edge. Gaudreau’s a slight betting favourite at -200, but he’s far from a sure thing.