Blackhawks' regular season awards

The Blackhawks took the day off on Sunday and soon enough our attention will be on the Phoenix Coyotes for Round 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. But let’s take a moment to hand out some regular-season awards. Will there be enough success for a postseason award blog? We’ll find out soon enough.

Team MVP

Patrick Sharp: Jonathan Toews is excluded from the voting due to missing more than a quarter of the season with his concussion and Patrick Kane doesn’t win due to a very quiet stretch of games mid-season, though his play early and late was more than admirable. No, this award comes down to two people, Marian Hossa and Sharp. Sharp gets the nod for several reasons. His point-per-game average was about the same as Hossa’s, and he was slightly more consistent.

Hossa had some well documented long point streaks, but Sharp failed to earn at least a point in just one stretch that lasted more than three games. It’s Sharp who led the team in goals (33), despite missing eight contests. And it was Sharp who not only broke a bone in his hand, and didn’t miss a beat when he came back, but he also missed all of training camp due to an emergency appendectomy. Could you even tell by watching him he had been injured twice? On top of all that, he led all forwards in the NHL -- that aren’t on the Boston Bruins -- with a plus-28 rating, a career high. Criticizing Hossa is like finding fault with a perfect rainbow -- though he did take a few games off and seem to go through the motions killing penalties. Sharp also stepped up his playmaking. According to the Elias Sports Bureau 19 of his 36 helpers were primary assists. That's the second most of his career. He earned helpers off shots on net -- he was 12th in the league -- and off some nifty passing, which wasn’t necessarily part of his game in the past. Think of Game 82 in which he earned assists both ways. But at the end of the day Sharp is a sniper -- and one of the best at that. On the play that he broke a bone in his wrist, he still managed a pretty shot and goal. That’s quintessential Sharp. Score the goal then go get a cast put on. He turned 30, had a baby daughter mid-season and came back strong from those injuries. In some ways he’s the heart and soul of the Hawks, one of the rare holdovers from the previous regime, and he’s also the Hawks' 2011-2012 Most Valuable Player.

Breakout player

Viktor Stalberg: Could there be any other choice? A floundering fourth-line player entering the year, he moved into the top 6 with his speed and finishing ability. That latter attribute still isn’t refined, but he managed 22 goals though none came via the power play. In fact not one of his 43 points came on special teams, and Joel Quenneville still hasn’t completely explained why Stalberg can’t get more chances with the man advantage. His speed was devastating, but more than anything he realized how to use it to his advantage. His shots on goal increased as the season went on, and there is no reason to think another jump to 30 goals isn’t a possibility. A year ago at this time, a 20-goal season from Stalberg seemed like wishful thinking. Obviously, the ceiling has been raised for the 26-year-old Swede. How high can it go?

Best rookie

Andrew Shaw: This is one of those times when you say to Marcus Kruger, life isn’t fair. Kruger did everything asked of him, but Shaw simply did it with more of a flair for the dramatic. Maybe Kruger was more valuable over the 82-game season. But for the 37 games he played, Shaw was the man. He scored 12 goals while adding 11 assists and did it with a grit and determination that personifies a player who was passed over in the draft for two years before being selected in the fifth round in 2011. Forget about all the goals he scored, he simply played more games -- in the season he was drafted -- than anybody picked in his position or lower in more than a decade. And the last time someone scored 12 or more goals under that scenario was 1996 when Andreas Dackell of the Senators tallied 12 after being drafted in the sixth round before that season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. His four-game goal scoring streak in his first eight games was the most for a Hawks rookie since 1944. He goes to the net, he drops the gloves and he takes a hit and keeps on going. What’s not to like?

Most undervalued

Brent Seabrook: As maligned as the defense has been most of the year, Seabrook stepped up his game as those around him were leaving the lineup. No Toews, no Hjalmarsson, no Keith, no problem. He had points in nine of 13 games down the stretch as the Hawks were clinching a playoff spot, all while playing solid defense. His 198 hits were good for ninth best among defenseman and nowhere near any other Chicago blue-liner. He scored nine goals and every one of them seemed to tie the game or take the lead for the Hawks, sometimes very late in contests. He was plus-21 and easily the Hawks best defenseman in 2011-2012.