By Bill Whitehead
It should be no surprise that the pace quickened at 7 p.m. Saturday when the remainder of the National Hockey League awards were announced. With just a one-hour time slot to work with before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, the broadcast crew rushed through five trophies — the Calder, Ted Lindsay, Vezina, Norris and Hart.
Why should it be no surprise? Well, with the 2012-2013 season being essentially cut in half — actually, you can forget the “2012” part of that — it only makes sense that the awards show was just as abbreviated and crowbarred into a one-hour time slot. The broadcast crew rushed through as if they had to get ready for a game, which they did.
If you followed Twitter earlier Saturday, you had a pretty good feeling Florida Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau was going to be awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy honoring the premier rookie. TSN leaked out word that the Quebec native would receive the award and become the first Panther ever to claim the honor.
Huberdeau, who turned 20 earlier this month, had my vote for the Calder, and he did win the award over Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher. The pair tied with 54 first-place votes each, but the former Saint John Sea Dogs star beat Gallagher, who plays for Huberdeau’s childhood fave Habs, by a margin of 1,141 to 1,048. And Huberdeau deserved it: He had multiple highlight-reel goals and posterized Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov twice. And don’t forget he was the top-scoring rookie. That goes a long way, especially on a club that finished 30th in the NHL. Huberdeau was also the second consecutive player from the 2011 draft class to be named Calder winner, joining Gabriel Landeskog, who was selected in front of him at the Minnesota draft and won the award last year.
It was the second consecutive season a Florida player won a trophy. Brian Campbell claimed the Lady Byng award for sportsmanship last year by being assessed just six penalty minutes in 82 games. Tampa Bay’s Marty St. Louis, a classy player like Soup, earned the honor this year, though his 14 PIMs in 48 games looks goonish next to No. 51’s numbers.
The other two winners who were interviewed live on set were Sergei Bobrovsky, who had a translator with him to discuss his Vezina win as the top goalie, and P.K. Subban, who was resplendent in a suit that looked like it had been dipped in dijon and splendid in his interview accepting the Norris Trophy. The Canadiens defenseman is a PR dream — he’s extremely talented, articulate, candid, often somewhat controversial and fiery. What’s not to like about that? I’m always dumbfounded by Habs fans who complain about Subban; 29 other teams would love to see him on their blue line.
Huberdeau was complimentary and answered all the questions posed to him. He couldn’t have been any better on the set. The only complaint I have is that the crew cut him short, kind of like how the season was cut short. Looking back, though, 48 games was enough to see of this Florida team. Huberdeau’s season is the brightest spot in a lousy 2013 campaign — the 31 points he tallied and the Calder Trophy were fun experiences — and another great addition will be acquired on June 30 at the draft. But I still wanted to hear more from Huberdeau Saturday night. I wanted to hear more of that story of him and Kris Versteeg rooming together.
No worries, though, Huberdeau will do all his talking next year on the ice and for many seasons to come wearing the red of the Florida Panthers.