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Not every award winner is named Gretzky

by John Kreiser
NHL postseason awards are something to cherish -- a sign that no matter what else a player may have done during his career, there was a season in which his performance was good enough to be recognized.

But not every NHL award-winner is a hockey immortal. For every Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky, who have enough hardware on their mantelpiece to stock a trophy shop, there are players who were in the right place at the right time to get their names on some of hockey's most famous hardware.

Here's a look at some of the one-time winners of the NHL's major trophies:

Hart Trophy
Andy Bathgate, 1958-59

With right wings like Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard playing at the same time -- and for better teams -- it's easy to forget what a force Bathgate was in the late 1950s and early 1960s while playing with the New York Rangers. The glory days of the pre-war Rangers were long since gone, and Bathgate was the focal point of a team that was in the process of going more than 20 years without so much as winning a playoff series.

But Bathgate was a great player, and never more so than in '58-59, when he scored 40 goals and piled up 88 points to set team scoring records. That was enough to end Howe's two-year run as the NHL's most valuable player and give Bathgate the Hart Trophy -- despite the Rangers' late-season collapse that dropped them out of the playoffs. He was the best player on the Rangers for several more seasons before going to Toronto and winning a Stanley Cup in 1964.

Bathgate is often remembered more for being the player whose shot cut Jacques Plante and led to the debut of the goalie mask, but his MVP award also deserves recognition.

Art Ross Trophy
Bryan Trottier, 1978-79

The Art Ross Trophy, given to the NHL's regular-season scoring champion, has been dominated by a few teams and a few players -- Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in the last 30 years; Guy Lafleur, Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Stab Mikita and Gordie Howe before then.

One of the few interlopers was Trottier, the New York Islanders' brilliant center, who had the best year of his Hall of Fame career in '78-79. With two more Hall of Famers (Clark Gillies and Mike Bossy) on his wings, Trottier led the NHL with 87 assists and 134 points -- four more than Marcel Dionne and five more than Lafleur, who had won the scoring trophy for the past three seasons.

That performance was also enough to earn Trottier the Hart Trophy as the regular-season MVP -- and helped the Islanders dethrone Montreal as regular-season champions, though they were upset in the semifinals by the Rangers.

Trottier's point total dropped from 134 to 104 the following season, but he did go home with another piece of hardware -- the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Isles' first of four successive runs to the Stanley Cup.

Vezina Trophy
Jim Carey, 1995-96

Few players have had a wilder NHL ride than Carey, whose brief episode of brilliance was recognized 14 years ago with the top award given to goaltenders.

Carey was Washington's top pick in the 1992 Entry Draft after a brilliant high school career in Massachusetts and turned pro two years later after a superb season at the University of Wisconsin. He was the AHL's top rookie and top goaltender in 1994-95 before being called up by the Capitals and going 18-6-3 with a 2.13 goals-against average as a 20-year-old.

By the fall of 1995-96, Carey was the Caps' starting goaltender, and posted perhaps the best season by a goaltender in franchise history -- going 35-24-9 with a 2.26 GAA and nine shutouts, good enough to be recognized with the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie that season.

But the brilliance didn't last. Carey struggled in '96-97, and not even a trade to his hometown Bruins helped him regain his form. By 1999, he was out of hockey.

Norris Trophy
Randy Carlyle, 1980-81

When hockey fans think of Randy Carlyle today, it's usually as the coach who led the Anaheim Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup and remains in charge today -- not as a solid NHL defenseman who had his best season at the right time.

Carlyle had never had more than 47 points in his four previous NHL seasons before breaking out in a big way with the 1980-81 Pittsburgh Penguins. In a League that had Hall of Famers Denis Potvin, Ray Bourque and Larry Robinson still playing at an All-Star level for far better teams, it was Carlyle who was named the NHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and putting up 83 points despite playing on a sub-.500 team.

Carlyle was later traded to Winnipeg and played until 1993 but never approached his '80-81 numbers again.

Calder Trophy
Brit Selby, 1965-66

The Calder is a trophy you can only win once -- after all, there's no repeating a rookie season -- and Selby happened to have his first NHL season in the right year.

Selby had scored 45 goals with the Toronto Marlboros in his final junior season in 1964-65 and added a pair in a three-game call-up with the Leafs. That was enough to earn him a berth with the big club in '65-66, and he put up respectable offensive numbers -- 14 goals and 27 points in 61 games. Those totals weren't as good as another young Leaf, Ron Ellis, had put up the previous season. However, Ellis had the misfortune to be a rookie in the same season as a young Detroit goaltender named Roger Crozier, who won the Calder.

Selby had no such competition, and was named the NHL's top rookie. But having a trophy was no guarantee of a job in those days, and Selby spent much of the following season in the minors. He returned to the NHL in 1967 after being taken by Philadelphia in the expansion draft. Ironically, the Leafs traded for him in 1968-69 and kept him for a couple seasons. He went to St. Louis before finishing his pro career back in Toronto -- with the WHA Toros.

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