LAS VEGAS — The Vancouver Canucks may have missed out on the trophy they wanted most, but they didn’t walk away empty-handed from the best season in franchise history.
No team had more members of the organization called to the stage during the NHL’s awards show on Wednesday night. Daniel Sedin took home the Ted Lindsay Award as the players’ MVP, Ryan Kesler won the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward and Mike Gillis was named general manager of the year.
It gave them a chance to reflect fondly on a year that ended with a disappointing Game 7 loss to Boston in the Stanley Cup final last week.
“We should be happy,” Sedin said. “I think the organization should be proud of our team and the players. We’re going to have a lot of years going forward here where we’re going to be a good team.”
Of course, the individual recognition didn’t completely take away the sting of failing to win the Stanley Cup. The Canucks were reminded about what they missed out on when Boston’s Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara carried the coveted trophy on stage during the awards show, drawing the biggest applause of the night from the crowd at The Palms.
“I’m honoured to win this award but I’d trade it in any minute for the Stanley Cup,” said Gillis, who beat Tampa’s Steve Yzerman and Nashville’s David Poile for top GM. “I don’t think any of us have kind of had an opportunity to fully decompress from what happened and understand it. It’s great, but I want to win the Stanley Cup.”
Sedin failed in his bid to secure both of the league’s MVP awards — he finished second to Anaheim’s Corey Perry in media voting for the Hart Trophy after winning the Ted Lindsay Award selected by his peers.
However, there was no hint of disappointment from the Swede, who led the league in scoring with 104 points while Perry was tops with 50 goals.
“Corey obviously had a great finish to the season and helped his team make the playoffs,” Sedin said. “He really deserves that award.”
A year ago, Sedin’s twin brother Henrik won the Hart and finished second to Alex Ovechkin for the Ted Lindsay.
Kesler finally got his hands on the Selke after being a finalist on two other occasions. He led all NHL forwards in blocked shots with 80 and set personal bests in faceoff percentage and scoring.
“Everything kind of happened for me this year — 41 goals and to win the Selke is a season I’ll never forget,” Kesler said. “It’s nice to get acknowledged. I guess all those years my dad was yelling ’backcheck’ at me finally paid off.”
The only other member of the team nominated for an award, Roberto Luongo, finished third in voting for the Vezina Trophy.
It was won by Boston’s Tim Thomas, who capped one of the best seasons ever by a goaltender in fine style. His head is still spinning after capturing the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy and Vezina in a matter of days — the first person to accomplish that since Philadelphia Flyers goalie Bernie Parent in 1975.
“We’re just coming off winning the cup and it’s been crazy and I haven’t had time to think,” said Thomas.
It was a record-setting night for Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, who took home the Norris Trophy for the seventh time despite being a minus player for the first time in his career. He’s now just one behind Bobby Orr’s record of eight Norris wins.
The 41-year-old is returning to the Red Wings for at least one more season, but was in a reflective mood about his Hall of Fame career.
“When I came over (to North America), I was just trying to make the team,” Lidstrom said. “I figured I’d stay a few years and see what it’s like playing over here and then go back to Sweden. I never envisioned myself playing for 20 years and having the success that I’ve been part of.”
Some of the other winners included:
— Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner took home the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
— Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martin St. Louis won his second straight Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player.
— Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.
The awards show was held in Las Vegas for the third straight year and included a mixture of celebrity, pop culture and hockey. One of the more amusing moments saw Bylsma receive his trophy from entertainer Donny Osmond.
“This is my first chance to get an award like this, of this magnitude,” said Bylsma. “I didn’t picture Donny Osmond being the guy who announces it. Once I found out it was Donny, I had a couple jokes that I thought about saying but 45 seconds wasn’t enough.”
Overall, there was a light atmosphere around the proceedings — something the Canucks could certainly use after a long spring. They expect to be back at the awards show in full force in 2012.
“Hopefully, next year there can be a lot of players from our team here and we’ll hopefully have the Stanley Cup,” said Sedin.