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Though the NHL season is mathematically more than half over, we still observe its midpoint at the All-Star break. With that in mind, CNNSI.com spoke with Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber about his "midseason" award winners. Take a look at his comments in each category, and click on any of the thumbnails below for a better look at the winners.
Evgeni Nabokov, Sharks
"He's an impressive rookie goalie who has remarkable poise and he doesn't give up rebounds. San Jose deserves credit for having developed him, sticking with him in Kentucky and letting him mature. There are several good goalies in the organization. At that position the Sharks have really done their homework."
Runners-up: Brent Johnson, Stars and Martin Havlat, Senators
"St. Louis at this point would have figured Johnson would have somewhere between five and eight wins, but he's at 16. And he still has a chance to be the Blues' starter in the playoffs. Havlat probably would be my third choice. He is going to be a remarkable two-way player, and he's part of the reason Ottawa has become one of the more consistently good teams in the NHL."
Jack Adams Award
Joel Quenneville, Blues
"The Blues have not been the machine-like team that rolled to the Presidents' Trophy last year, but they have found the ability to win when they aren't at the top of their game, the mark of a terrific team. The talent isn't overwhelming by the standards of Colorado, but Q makes the most of it. He has the ability to tell players what they don't want to hear, necessarily. But they still play hard for him."
Runners-up: Darryl Sutter, Sharks and Marc Crawford, Canucks
"The Sharks still have to prove they belong among the NHL's elite, but they are a tough team to play against because of the passion they bring most nights. For a Western Conference team, they are especially gritty. My third choice … Should I throw a bone to a bad team that's done well? Then would I be overlooking Jacques Martin, who has done a great job in Ottawa? Let's throw it to Marc Crawford. This is a low-budget team with a big-budget attitude. Crawford has finally tapped Ed Jovanovski and Todd Bertuzzi, two players with enormous upsides who never really lived up to their potentials. Jovanovski has managed to find life between the big hits and Bertuzzi has been an important contributor."
Lady Byng Trophy
Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings
"Lidstrom got hosed last year when the award went to St. Louis's Pavol Demitra. Lidstrom plays against the best lines night after night and never has to resort to anything cheap. He's the classiest player in the NHL. Defensemen are consistently overlooked for this award, which is a pity. It's easy to be a gentleman when you are a forward."
Runners-up: John Madden, Devils and Ron Francis, Hurricanes
"Madden competes so hard and is such an in-your-face player, yet he only has 10 penalty minutes. He's another guy who isn't the typical dandy forward who is the annual winner of the NHL's most misunderstood award. I was torn between Washington's Adam Oates and Francis, but I'll go with Francis. Another classy centerman, who more typically fits the profile. He has 24 penalty minutes. We prefer him over Zigmund Palffy and narrowly over Oates. This is the no-wimp Lady Byng Award."
Al MacInnis, Blues
"He's just so sharp this year. He's healthy and handling the puck with so much confidence. He might be the best passer coming out of the zone of any defenseman in the NHL and no one ever talks about that because his shot is so good. But he holds the puck, he delays and then he makes the right pass. I think he's really back to his Norris Trophy form of two years ago. His responsibilities are a little lighter than Chris Pronger's, but I still think he's been the best defenseman so far."
Runners-up: Pronger, Blues and Rob Blake, Kings
"Pronger isn't as consistent or as dominating as he was last year, but he's still the No.1 defenseman in the game. He's one of the few defensemen in the game who can dominate the game from the back without being a Bobby Orr type. If Blake's plus-minus were a little better (-3), he'd be having a Pronger-type season. The difference is that Blake's almost always looking to go, to jump into the play. And he doesn't quite take care of his own end as well as Pronger does."
Sean Burke, Coyotes
"Burke has seen so many shots, and so many quality shots. That's not a real strong defensive group in front of him. He's just played the best goal of his career. And he's changed his game a little; he has more flexibility now. Benoit Allaire, the Phoenix goaltending consultant, has worked with Burke and he's been phenomenal. Given the circumstances, where he's supposedly a seat warmer for Nikolai Khabibulin, it's as memorable a first-half performance by a goalie in a long time."
Runners-up: Nabokov and Patrick Roy, Avalanche
"Nabokov's just been the surprise of the year. In fact, in training camp [Nabokov didn't sign until Sept. 19], Mikka Kiprusoff had a slightly better chance there. Nabokov's a different look than teammate Steve Shields, who is kind of a wandering goaltender. As for Roy, people tended to look away after all the early-season fuss over him -- one, breaking Terry Sawchuk's record, two, the arrest -- but he's been consistently good."
Joe Sakic, Avalanche
"Early on there were big injuries in Colorado -- for stretches of eight or 10 games -- without Chris Drury, without Peter Forsberg. This is a very talented team that has been a slow starter the past couple of years. Well, Sakic didn't allow that. He lifted that team and kept it through what could have been a very understandable slump. He has great wingers, the two kids Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk, they're speedy and they meld nicely. Sakic's just been the consistently best player in the first half."
Runners-up: Burke and Mario Lemieux, Penguins
"Burke's contributions were mentioned earlier, and Mario has been almost as advertised. If you're talking about the MVP to this point of the season, Lemieux isn't quite there yet. Now, if you're talking about an MVP for the sport of hockey, you could make a better case."
Photographs (top to bottom) by Robert Beck, David E. Klutho (3), Darren Carroll, David E. Klutho