2011-12 Raw Charge end season awards: Better late than never

Read that title over again and scratch your head a little. "2011-12 awards? You mean last season? As in, the season that ended for Tampa Bay five months ago?"

Yeah, that one.

You see, Raw Charge neglected to post end-season awards last summer when it was more timely. And, instead of totally neglecting the chance to praise the efforts of certain member s of the Lightning roster, I thought it might be worth posting about before the onset of the 2012 NHL season lockout.

Of course, naming these award winners now throws the fabled process of becoming out the window. 211-12 happened. It's over. Old news. Moot. Fin. Done with. Process halted. The accolades had been handed out already. Time to move on and start fresh for 2012-13.

Right, good. All true. Consider this posting as overdue closure.

Most Valuable Player
Steven Stamkos

Since Raw Charge started naming its own award winners in the past, Stamkos' name was often the write-in favorite for the team MVP award. He of the many many goals captured fans imagination then. He wasn't the central figure of the Bolts on-ice efforts at the time, however. That was Martin St. Louis.

In 2011-12, the transition happened. Stamkos was the lynch pin in team efforts, notching 97 points (60 goals, 37 assists) in 82 games. It led to his nomination for the NHL's Hart Trophy... And while the Bolts ultimately came up short in their efforts to make the playoffs, it wasn't with the lack of trying.

Vezina Award (best goaltender)
Mathieu Garon

Going into the 2011-12 season, all eyes were on Dwayne Roloson as the defacto starter in net for the Lightning. He played well during his half-season-plus-playoffs stint with the Lightning in 2010-11, and it looked like the Bolts would have some continuity in net with an age-defying stud in net. Mathieu Garon was signed with the specific intention of backing up Roloson and take thing pressure off Rollie.

But things changed. Roloson did not play up to the expectations that people had for him in any way, shape, or form up until the final few weeks of the season. It was Garon who afforded the Lightning consistency in net. Was he all-world? No, his GAA of 2.85 and .900) save percentage should give you an idea that it wasn't all wine and roses with Garon minding the net...

But Garon wasn't signed to stake the claim as a bona-fide NHL starter. He was signed to be a back up and share duties with Roloson. Instead, Garon became the workhorse in net and did his damnedest to play as a number one. It was only after his season-ending groin injury when fans gave up on the idea of the Lightning making the playoffs.

Norris Trophy - best defenseman
Victor Hedman

Victor played all of 61 games last season, battling injuries at times. Hedman being named the team's top defenseman comes from the fact the Bolts played defense much better with Hedman in the lineup than without.

There's an argument to be had if Eric Brewer would be more worthy of this accolade than Hedman. He did play in all 82 games, and had a better plus-minus (minus five) than Hedman (minus nine). Both defensemen, as well as Marc-Andre Bergeron, are the holdovers from the opening-night 2011 Lightning defensive corps. Regardless of who was the top D man last season, both will see top pair minutes and be vital to the Lightning defense.

Selke Award - best defensive forward
Nate Thompson

The Alaskan Assassin remains the clubs focal point on a two-way game. And though his plus/minus (minus 23) suggests he's not great at his job, it's more so evidence of how often he was called upon to handle faceoff's in the Lightning zone.

Calder Award - Rookie of the year
J.T. Wyman

The rookie of note on the Tampa Bay Lightning was forward Brett Connolly, who had high expectations thrust upon him by making the team out of training camp. The expectations and bouncing between the Bolts and the Canadian National Team for the World Juniors just seemed to further slow Connolly's development. He had the skills to play, but his place wasn't exactly defined in the lineup.

Meanwhile, J.T. Wyman, who had played all of one NHL game before the 2011-12 season, was called up in the face of mounting injuries on the Lightning roster, and found his place on the bottom lines. When Dana Tyrell suffered a season-ending knee injury, his position on the club was cemented.

Ryan Classic Nickname of the Year Award:
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Nacho Labrie

While the first two recipients of this award have been bestowed upon Raw Charge community-created nicknames for players (such as James "Killer" Wright and Sean "Isberg" Bergenheim - both now with the Florida Panthers), the 2012 nickname of the year came to fruition the old fashioned way - the players coined it.

It wasn't the typical unimaginative name-ending-with-a-Y type deal that you see so often with players. It was, dare I say it, creative! Not just creative, but above-and-beyond cool that was embraced outside the locker room.

The nickname, inspired by the Jack Black comedy Nacho Libre, was coined by Ryan "Bugsy" Malone. Fitting.

Club Two-Minutes Achievement Award
November 9th, 2011 vs. Philadelphia Flyers - Stall, stall, stall without a call.

Let's get something straight - we're not happy with officiating. I don't know who is, and I don't mean this in a Tampa Bay Lightning specific fashion. I mean this is a league-wide, continuous epidemic. Yeah, fans are always going to complain when their team is affected by calls... But league officiating is inconsistent to the point that the definitions of penalties have been deleted and replaced by whims of the moment, as if officiating's job is simply to punctuate a game now and again - just for the sake of making a call.

So it's no surprise that our botch-up of the year by referees actually didn't cost the Lightning a victory. No, it just ended up affecting public perception of the club; it became fodder for pundits who attacked the Lightning for employing the 1-3-1 defensive system.

Basically, the grievance of officials during Lightning/Flyers at Times Palace (a nationally televised game) was their failure to call delay-of-game on the Philadelphia Flyers when the Flyers... Well, when they delayed the game in an attempt to get the Lightning to break formation.

Rule enforcement is there to keep order to the game. Yes, they can screw up by making calls. But by not making calls, they bring out the worst in the sport.