Our 2009-10 Tampa Bay Lightning team award winners

The entirety of SB Nation's Hockey blog community have contributed a list of their own-team award winners for the Hart, Vezina, Norris, Calder and Selke award.  We've also been voting for league award winners for all of these trophies, but that's another post for another time.

At any rate, I'd like to define and defend Raw Charge's selections for the Tampa Bay Lightning award winners.  Like all awards, the winners are debatable and we welcome the discussion in comments.  One of the community members, Taiter, went so far as to write a FanPost with his own choices for some awards.  We fully recommend you check that post out as well.

Raw Charge's 2009-10 Tampa Bay Lightning Award Winners

 

Hart  (Most Valuable Player) - Martin St. Louis (RW)

With our current poll results showing who the fans think is the MVP of this club, this selection may just upset (more than) a few of you.  It's not as controversial as Taiter42's pick for team MVP however.

Marty started slow this season...  Well, scratch that.  He started with a bang in Atlanta, notching two goals.  But after that, he transitioned largely into a set-up man for Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone (along with just about anyone else he was lined up with).   While fans could get flustered at the lack of goals coring form St. Louis, what largely remained with Marty is he remains the heart and soul of the Lightning.  Vincent Lecavalier might be the face but St. Louis is the attitude and the skill that never ceases to amaze and influence his line-mates performance.  It's because of that and his continued excellence at his all-around game (29g 61a, 94 points) that Marty is the team MVP.    

There's certainly an argument to be had between naming Marty MVP or Steven Stamkos, who had one more point than St. Louis and a better plus/minus (-2 compared to St. Louis' -8).  In total influence, however, we have to give this to Marty.  Stamkos' time will come.

Vezina  (Top Goaltender) - Antero Niittymaki

When Antero Niittymaki was signed over the summer in 2009, his role with the Lightning was to be back-up to anointed #1 goaltender Mike Smith.  Smith, coming back from post concussion syndrome, struggled in the opening months with the Bolts while Niittymaki impressed - leading the league in save percentage at times during his inconsistent starting stints through December.

The goaltender lovingly nicknamed "Frank" did let his reputation as a streaky netminder come to light down the stretch, however...  With personal distractions (the premature birth of his daughter in January) as well as the team's poor play around him, Niittymaki fell back to earth statistically.  Whatever the case, he was the more dependable netminder for the Lightning (2.89 GAA, .909 save percentage) and a rallying point for many fans.

Selke (Top Defensive Forward) - Nate Thompson (C)

 


There was actually a good deal of internal debate over this one.  On the surface, if you look at the Lightning stats - just any standard statistical page for the Lightning roster - what stands out is Steve Downie's strong plus/minus rating of +14.  Certainly that says a ton about Downie's abilities as a defensive forward, right?

 

 

It's of note that Downie had all of 45 seconds of penalty kill time during the course of the season, and would more likely be a reason why the Bolts were short-handed than be able to serve on the unit. 

 

 

Thompson, since picked off waivers from the New York Islanders in January, had played strongly at even strength and short-handed. While his offensive numbers aren't as pretty as Downie's, his job wasn't to score goals and play on the wing of Steven Stamkos or Vincent Lecavalier.  It was to get things done and be responsible in both ends, his -3 plus/minus rating reflects this. 

At times, you could see Thompson did indeed have offensive skills - though he lacked strong finishing moves.  He certainly played a more responsible role for the club - covering both ends of the ice - than most anyone else.

Norris (top Defenseman) - Mike Lundin


This one comes as a bit of a surprise.  No, wait, it comes as a flat out shock.  Recall that Lundin did not make the opening night roster for the Lightning in 2009-10, and then remember Lundin had been banished to the AHL since early in the 2008-09 season.  He was stuck there because the Lightning did not want to risk losing him to re-entry waivers.

 

With Lundin stuck in the AHL, one would think that his career with the Lightning was over.   The team was overstocked with defensemen and could not find anyone interested in taking on the likes of David Hale or Lukas Krajicek

By chance (and by way of injuries), Lundin passed through waivers and found himself recalled by the Bolts in November and made the most of his NHL return.  His stability and confidence on the blue line didn't just earn him playing time; it earned him first-pair minutes with Mattias Ohlund.

Let me draw remarks from Taiter's award post, praising Lundin's game:

I also couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather up against the top players in the league - if nothing else, who de have who's better? Ohlund?  Maybe - he knows how to finish a check, but he's also on the downward swing. Hedman?  Too inexperienced (for now, we hope!).  Walker?  Meszaros?!  Exactly... In order to win, you need to score more goals than you concede - this team had too few scoring options to overcome its defensive frailties (despite its potential) so it's a testament to the job Lundin did that he was largely able to keep a lot of the league's super stars quiet.

Calder (Rookie of the Year) - Victor Hedman (D) 

A by-default selection, Hedman and James Wright were the only rookies on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster this season.  Hedman is the one of the pair that lasted.  Wright is making waves in the CHL, playing like nobody's business and outclassing those around him during the CHL playoffs, while Hedman has struggled but persevered at the NHL level.  It's a start for the guy who has been heralded as a future defensive cornerstone well before his drafting in June of 2009.

 

***

Let's take this opportunity in our second year-end awards post to introduce a couple of awards of our own.  We could go straight with "Biggest improvement, biggest disappointment", but I think others have that covered rather well, and it will be repeated through the off-season.

For now, we're going to introduce you to two awards that are overlooked and taken-for-granted items that have an effect on us every game, on ice and among fans:

The first annual Club Two-Minutes Achievement Award.  This award is to be levied to the biggest botch-up by referees during a Tampa Bay Lightning game.  Linesmen and refs and questionable calls go together like...  Well, they just go together too damn well.  It's a conspiracy, I tell you!  Conspiracy!  Every game there is a call that fans question, but sometimes questionable calls are just flat out wrong and influence a game.  This is the award for that.

The second award is the Ryan ClassicTM Nickname of the Year Award:  handed out to the most catchy nickname of the season for a player who has played for the Bolts.  I give Ryan name credit on the award because he helped invoke our nickname passion in game threads.  Everyone from Zenon "Zeke" Konopka to Jeff "Pigpen" Halpern had a nickname.  Which one caught on the most?  That's what this award determines.

Club Two-Minutes Achievement Award --  LA Kings at Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1 SO loss final, November 14th 2009)

 Congratulations to Referees Rob Martell and Frederick L'Ecuyer and linesmen Derek Amell and Ryan Galloway!  The blown call in overtime of the Lightning's shoot-out loss to the Los Angeles Kings wins the first ever Club-Two  Minutes achievement award!

 

Don't quite remember what happened?  No worries, lets recap the game through video.  You can watch all of the action below.  You can see the precise incident we're talking about at 4:37 of the clip...  Andrej Meszaros gets robbed of the game winning goal by-way of a false interference call on Paul Szczechura:

The incident may pale to thers durign the season,w e invite you to submit your own ref blunders int he comments.

The Ryan ClassicTM Nickname of the Year Award --  James "Killer" Wright

James Wright came into Tampa Bay for training camp last September in relative obscurity.  He was a Junior level prospect who would be starting for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL...  Up until he made an impression on everyone in Tampa and earned a starting role with the club. 

The nickname came about from the Bolts exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan...  It really was not a vicious incident that you'd think would lead to such a nickname - James cut Alex Kovalev with his stick blade.  Ryan dubbed James "Kovalev Killer" over the incident, in jest.  Upon further discussion on Raw Charge as the season started, we shortened nickname to just "Killer".

The thing is, that nickname has been part of what's endeared us to James.  We're fans!  We've even interviewed the guy upon his return to the Vancouver Giants.  He's a cult hero in our game threads and we'll be rooting for him and the Giants as the WHL playoffs continue.  

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