It’s a banner year for NHL Saturday: After going 41 seasons without a Stanley Cup title, the Detroit Red Wings won the NHL championship 4 times in 11 seasons between 1997 and 2008. Overall, the residents of Hockeytown made the playoffs 25 straight times between 1991 and 2016. That’s akin to the better playoff runs in all of professional sports history.
Alas, the Red Wings have not won the Cup again since this season, but we thought we’d mark it down …
2008 Hart: Alex Ovechkin (original, confirmed)
The three dominant forwards for the year were Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (17.21 Point Shares), Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla (14.24), and Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (13.89). Remember, we took away Ovechkin’s Calder vote win in 2006, while we did the same to Malkin last season. Meanwhile, Iginla got this nod from us in 2004. Aren’t we a familiar group here?
The Caps won the Southeast Division by just 2 points, but second-place Carolina missed the postseason—so that all but clinches this award for Ovechkin, who won the vote at the time. The Flames had a 6-point cushion in the Western Conference, while the Pens enjoyed a 10-point margin with their Atlantic Division title. So, Ovechkin gets to keep this award, as his PS mark was pretty impressive, anyway.
The numbers behind it: 65G, 47A, plus-28 rating, 40 PIMs, and 446 SOGs. Ovi topped the league in goals, points (112), even-strength goals (43), power-point goals (22), game-winning goals (11), and SOGs. He was pretty dominant in just his third season. This is the first Hart vote win we have confirmed since 1999, by the way.
2008 Norris: Nicklas Lidström (original, confirmed)
Detroit legend Nicklas Lidström (14.4 PS) won another Norris vote, his sixth of seven vote wins in his career. We have confirmed only two of these (2003, 2007), but we’re going to confirm this one as no other blueliner finished within 2.6 Point Shares of him. With the Red Wings posting the best record in the league, this is about pure dominance, of course, on top of straight-up value.
At age 37, Lidström posted 10G, 60A, 40 PIMs, a plus-40 rating, and 26:43 ATOI … not to mention 8.07 Defensive Point Shares—a mark that was 1.7 DPS better than the next-best player in the league. If Ovechkin was the dominant offensive force in the league, Lidström was his defensive equal.
2008 Vezina: Martin Brodeur (original), Tim Thomas (revised)
The top 6 goaltenders finished with 3 PS of each other: Florida Panthers acquisition Tomas Vokoun (16.13 PS), New Jersey Devils star Martin Brodeur (15.45), Vancouver Canucks rock wall Roberto Luongo (14.45), Phoenix Coyotes phenom Ilya Bryzgalov (13.54), Philadelphia Flyers veteran Martin Biron (13.45), and Boston Bruins late bloomer Tim Thomas (13.18).
Brodeur, our favorite goalie ever, won the vote again, for the fourth time in five seasons (2003, 2004, 2007), but we’ve never confirmed any of those trophies. With the Panthers missing the postseason, maybe it’s time? The Devils only had a 7-point cushion for their playoff spot, while the Canucks missed the postseason, too. The ‘Yotes didn’t qualify, either, but the Flyers squeaked in by just 3 points.
But the Bruins made it by just 2 points in the Eastern Conference, claiming the final berth there. Brodeur has a 2 PS edge on Biron and more than that on Thomas, but it’s not the same dominance as Ovechkin and Lidström, really, and Brodeur’s PS mark wasn’t the best in the league, either. So we go with Thomas (28-19-6, 2.44, .921) for this one, by thin margins over Biron and Brodeur.
2008 Calder: Patrick Kane (original), Nicklas Bäckström (revised)
Six rookies separated themselves this year: Montréal Canadiens G Carey Price (9.5 PS), Chicago Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane (7.2), Dallas Stars D Matt Niskanen (7.2), Capitals C Nicklas Bäckström (6.8), Chicago C Jonathan Toews (6.8), and Edmonton Oilers D Tom Gilbert (6.4). Kane won the award vote, but he won’t win it from us due to his teammate being almost as valuable.
The Habs won the Northeast Division and had a 12-point playoff cushion, so that hurts Price’s value a little bit. The Stars had a 9-point margin for error in the Western Conference, while we know the Caps had that 2-point comfort zone. The Oilers missed the postseason. So, on the surface, this would seem to be Backstrom’s award, although he had it “easy” playing on a line with a finisher like Ovechkin.
But those are the breaks: Without Backstrom’s play, Washington can’t ride Ovi alone to the division title and postseason berth. It is what it is, and teammates often win different awards in this sense. Backstrom posted 14G, 55A, a plus-13 rating, and 24 PIMs on his way to helping the Caps to the playoffs.
2008 Conn Smythe: Henrik Zetterberg (original), Chris Osgood (revised)
Detroit beat Pittsburgh in 6 games to win the Cup Finals, and LW Henrik Zetterberg (27 points in 22 games with a plus-16 rating and 16 PIMs) won the Conn Smythe vote at the time. He was the best all-around skater on the ice for the Red Wings, while goalie Chris Osgood posted a 14-4 record with a stunning 1.55 GAA and an impressive .930 S%.
Fading legend Dominik Hasek went 2-2 in net for Detroit, posting a 2.91 GAA and an .888 S%—which shows how valuable Osgood really was, himself 35 years old. There’s no way Detroit wins the Cup with Hasek in net full time, while two other skaters also finished with more than a point per game for the Red Wings. We therefore re-assign this award to Ozzy, which is really ironic and strange, all things weighed.
Check in on Saturdays for our NHL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!