LAS VEGAS – The fans stretched along the hallways, past the luxury stores and spinning slots, sporting jerseys and aiming their cameras at the red carpet. The winners, nominees, presenters, one actress and one deejay were escorted by workers, who were holding tall signs that bore all those famous names, like golfers walking down the 18th fairway, and by the end they could hear people shouting at them. Even the occasional famous television reporter earned a holler.
“Go Wings,” someone yelled at Detroit Coach Mike Babcock, the first to come through the cameras and microphones, near the Blackhawks fans wearing red goal lights atop their hard hats. “Go Mike!”
Eventually, all the big names migrated into the Encore Theater, where tickets ran $350 a pop, and the reporters snaked away into the media room, so everything that you saw on television is everything that we saw. That said, here are some quick dispatches from an evening at the NHL awards.
>> Sporting a royal blue suit and toting another “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal-scorer, Alex Ovechkin said the two in-house offseason changes — at head coach and general manager – will trickle down onto the roster, demanding a rebound season after Washington missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.
“Of course we have to make a change,” Ovechkin said. “Everybody has to make a change. We have to make a big step to be in the playoffs and we have to make position when teams play against us, they’re going to be afraid to play against us. That’s a huge goal.”
The honor was Ovechkin’s fourth of his career and second straight. He was named a second-team NHL all-star at right wing, the ninth time he’s made the postseason list, tops among current players.
“It’s great to have that kind of moment in my life,” he said. “It’s not my first time, but it’s always nice to go back.”
Ovechkin also received one fifth-place vote for the Hart (MVP) Trophy, which tied him for 23rd overall. The award is voted upon by the Pro Hockey Writers Association. Per company policy, Washington Post writers do not vote for awards.
Given his 51 goals, this is a rarity.
Only other 50G scorer in the salary cap era to finish as low as Ovechkin in Hart voting was Ilya Kovalchuk in 2005-06 http://t.co/6BS9dqEfxA
— Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) June 25, 2014
>> Predators defenseman Shea Weber was on hand as a Norris Trophy nominee, and he said the burden of new Capitals Coach Barry Trotz’s dismissal from Nashville following 15 seasons fell onto the players.
“It’s tough,” Weber said. “You look back, and obviously he gets fired and everyone tries to put the blame on him, but in the end it’s the players that didn’t perform, and we didn’t get in the playoffs and we’ve got to take ownership of that. That’s our responsibility. At the same time, he’s got another opportunity in Washington that I’m sure he’s going to enjoy, embark on a new journey in his career.”
Asked about what type of coach Washington is getting in Trotz, the only NHL coach Weber has ever known, Weber gave a glowing review.
“Great coach,” he said. “Obviously a guy that’s very good with his players and can’t speak for what system he’s going to have there, because he’s going to have a totally different group of guys, but he’s a smart guy that likes to evolve with the game and keep things fresh.”
Trotz’s homecoming to Nashville is pegged for Jan. 16, his first game with the Capitals against his old squad. Washington hosts the Predators on March 28.
“The fans love him,” Weber said. “I’m sure it’ll be a great reception for him. He’s been in Nashville for so long and he’s done so many good things, not only for the organization but for the city as well. He put his roots down in Nashville big-time. I think people will definitely be welcoming.”
Weber ultimately finished third for the Norris, voted upon by writers, but received the second-most first-place votes behind winner Duncan Keith.
>> As Ovechkin accepted his hardware, host George Stroumboulopoulos handed over the trophy and asked Ovechkin for a few words. Ovechkin thanked his teammates and his coach from last season, Adam Oates, but, “He right now don’t have a job now, so…wish good luck for him.”
>> The teleconference with new Capitals goalie coach Mitch Korn pulled me away from the red carpet before Ovechkin arrived, sporting a blue suit, but the team posted video of his interview with Barry Melrose and Kathryn Tappen of the NHL Network. Melrose’s first question was whether Russia had a Las Vegas comparison, where “all the Russians go to gamble and drink vodka and all that stuff.”
“I don’t drink vodka,” Ovechkin replied, then he conceded that “Moscow is probably the most fun city I [have] been.”
>> Capitals center Marcus Johansson finished sixth in voting for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the player “best combining sportsmanship and ability.” He received 128 votes, including one first-place nod.
>> As for the full list of winners:
Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player, voted by the players): Sidney Crosby, Penguins.
Selke Trophy (forward who best excels in defensive aspects): Patrice Bergeron, Bruins.
Masterton Trophy (perseverance and dedication to hockey): Dominic Moore, Rangers.
Calder Trophy (top rookie): Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche.
Art Ross Trophy (scoring champion): Crosby.
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (goal-scoring leader): Ovechkin.
King Clancy Memorial Trophy (leadership on and off the ice, and community contribution): Andrew Ference, Oilers.
NHL Foundation Player Award (community service): Bergeron.
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award: Dustin Brown, Kings.
EA NHL 15 Cover Vote Winner: Bergeron.
Norris Trophy (top defenseman): Duncan Keith, Blackhawks.
Jack Adams Award (top head coach): Patrick Roy, Avalanche.
William M. Jennings Trophy (goaltender who plays at least 25 games for the club allowing the fewest goals): Jonathan Quick, Kings.
Lady Byng Trophy (best combination of sportsmanship and ability): Ryan O’Reilly, Avalanche.
General Manager of the Year: Bob Murray, Ducks.
Vezina Trophy (top goaltender): Tuukka Rask, Bruins.
Hart Trophy (MVP): Crosby.
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