Among the Sharks several individual honors awarded over the past year, including Joe Thornton
’s Hart Memorial Trophy and Art Ross Trophy, along with Jonathan Cheechoo’s Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy, could another piece of hardware for 2006-07. Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala are in a prime position to win the William M. Jennings trophy.
“I think winning awards like this sets the bar high and build tradition and history in the organization,” concluded Thomas.
The award, first presented in 1981-82 to honor the late William M. Jennings, one of the great builders of hockey in the United States, is awarded to the goalie or goalies who’s team has had the least amount of goals scored against for the season (minimum of 25 games).
Currently, the Minnesota Wild’s Niklas Backstrom and Manny Fernandez lead the race for the trophy but Nabokov Toskala follow are right on their tails.
In fact, Nabokov and Toskala trail by just two goals (190 to 192) with two games remaining for each club.
Many times the award is claimed by a single netminder carrying the load for the entire season, but with San Jose, both netminders would have played a prominent role if they take home the hardware.
Team Teal will face the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks to close out the season, while the Wild will meet up with Edmonton and St. Louis.
“I think it is a terrific team award that is also a credit to the coaches, penalty killers and defense,” said Thomas. “It is a team award, but it is nice if the goaltenders can get the recognition. They both deserve it and have played a big role in our success. It would be great for both of them.”
The Sharks taking the Jennings trophy would be yet another feather in the cap for Goaltending Coach Warren Strelow, who while dealing with numerous health issues over the years, has played an integral role in the Sharks netminding success.
“It would honor Warren Strelow for all his work with the organization,” said Thomas.
Strelow’s excellence in coaching goalies stems deep into hockey lore as he not only coached the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team, but also coached Martin Brodeur, a four time winner of the Jennings Trophy.
With their win last night, the San Jose Sharks tied their highest point total in club history with 104 points. The record ties the 2003-04 team that went to the Western Conference Finals.
“I think the teams are comparable,” added Thomas, “In some ways this team is deeper, but now the expectations are higher. 2003-04 was special because there were no expectations. This year the bar was set higher and it can be harder when people are shooting for you.”