Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Mid-Season Awards

We're halfway through the year.Here's my take on what the potential award nominees would be if the season ended today.

Hart Trophy: League MVP
Sidney Crosby, Pit: All you really need to look at to understand why Crosby should, and most likely will, be up for this trophy is the last three games by the Penguins. They have earned one of six possible points, have scored three goals, and allowed the Bruins to score four goals in the final four minutes in a 4-2 loss. As I stated in a recent post about Crosby, he is everything to the Penguins and with Evgeni Malkin still playing to a sub-par standard, the Penguins better hope Crosby's concussion is not serious.

Brad Richards, Dal: Richards has been a consistent offensive force for the surprising Stars. He is on pace to set career highs is goals and points and has helped the Stars to the top of their division, six points ahead of the Coyotes. He's the main reason Loui Eriksson has developed into a dangerous two-way sniper. Joe Nieuwendyk has a tough decision to make before the February 28 trade deadline; keep Richards for the playoff run and risk losing him for nothing to free agency, or trade him if they can't come to terms with a new deal and lose a highly experienced playoff performer (he won the Conn Smythe when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004).

Eric Staal, Car: After Ray Whitney left via free agency, Staal was the only bona-fide and proven scorer left on the team. After 42 games, he has the Hurricanes 2 points behind the Thrashers, with three games in hand, for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. He is also on pace for 41 goals, an important mark because the only two times his team has made the playoffs have come after his only two 40 goal seasons. He gets the nod over Steven Stamkos who gets the benefit of playing with Martin St. Louis.

My pick: Sidney Crosby. If Malkin were playing like he did two years ago this may be a different story, but he is struggling and the Penguins simply do not win with out Crosby in the lineup.

Vezina Trophy: Top Goaltender
Tim Thomas, Bos: Thomas started off on fire and hasn't slowed down yet. He has rebounded from an off year, but has taken the starting role back from Tuuka Rask and it doesn't look like he will be handing it back any time soon. He is head and shoulders above every other goalie ion the league with a .946 save percentage and 1.77 goals against average and has the Bruins sitting on top of the Northeast Division.

Jonas Hiller, Ana: He has faced more shots than any other goalie in the league (1,245), and is still third with a .929  save percentage to go along with a 2.39 GAA. They are getting great seasons from Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, but Hiller is keeping them in playoff position and giving them reliable performances each night while costing the Ducks less than former goalie J.S. Giguere. With a record of 21-14-3, he is one of four goalies with 20 wins on the season.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit: He has been giving the Penguins reliable goaltending and has been having the best season of his career. He is 18-11-2 with a .919 save percentage and 2.31 GAA; taking away his poor start, those numbers improve to 17-5-2, a .934 save percentage, and a 1.96 GAA. With his play, the Penguins currently have the second most points in the Eastern Conference.

My pick: Tim Thomas. A lot of the time stats don't tell the story, but his are too good to ignore.

Calder Trophy: Best Rookie
Jeff Skinner, Car: This 18 year old is currently second on the Hurricanes in goals (14) and third in points (33); among rookies he is second in goals and first in assists (19) and points. He has given the 'Canes surprising offensive depth after Staal and Tuomo Ruutu. He beats out Logan Couture because, despite his 19 goals and +9 rating, he has been streaky. Take away his two three-game goal scoring streaks in which he scored four goals both times, he has 11 goals in the remaining 38 games.

Corey Crawford, Chi: The Marty Turco experiment has failed, but Crawford has given stability to the Blackhawks goaltending situation. Of the three rookie goalies who have started at least 20 games, he has the best stat line with a .917 save percentage and 2.23 GAA. Expect Crawford to get the majority of the remaining starts if the Blackhawks wish avoid becoming just the third team since 1995 to win the Stanley Cup and miss the playoffs the next season.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Phi: In the year of the rookie goalie, Bobrovsky has been one of the most important freshman in the league. An undrafted 22 year old from Russia, Bob has given Flyers fans long-term hope in goal for the first time since partner Brian Boucher was a rookie 11 years ago. Its too early to say for sure he is the answer in Philly (anyone remember Roman Cechmanek?), but his 16-6-3 record, .917 save percentage, and 2.55 GAA show plenty of promise.

My pick: Corey Crawford. After last year's roster purge, the Blackhawks no longer have the deep lineup that won them the Cup, making Crawford's play all the more important.

Jack Adams Award: Best Coach
Guy Boucher, TB: The rookie coach has been instrumental in turning the Lightning around. Tampa Bay currently sits on top of a surprisingly strong Southeast Division despite injuries and sub-par performances to Vincent Lecavalier, Steve Downie, and Simon Gagne and inconsistent goaltending. They are 25-13-5 this year after going 34-36-12 and finishing 12th in the East last year.

Barry Trotz, Nsh: Only the Canadiens have scored fewer goals than the Predators among teams in playoff position and only the Bruins have given up fewer goals overall. They boast a record of 23-13-6 and yet they do not have one player on pace for 50 points.

Joe Sacco, Col: Neither Craig Anderson nor Peter Budaj has a GAA under 3.0, but Colorado is still 22-15-6. They are getting solid contributions across the lineup and do not lack a scoring punch, even with the absence of Chris Stewart who had 11 goals and 25 points in 23 games before breaking his hand.

My pick: Barry Trotz. It's just about time he won this, no coach does more with less.

James Norris Trophy: Best Defenseman
Kris Letang, Pit: The Penguins chose not to resign veteran Sergei Gonchar, banking on further development by Letang. He has rewarded them by already setting career highs in assists and points while tying Crosby and Alex Goligoski for the team lead at +20. He also leads the team in ice time, averaging 23:39 per game.

Nicklas Lidstrom, Det: Someone needs to tell Lidstrom that a player's skills are supposed to decline as they get into their 40s. He is tied for first among defensemen with 30 assists with Tobias Enstrom (14 years his junior) and Letang (17 years) and is tied with Dustin Byfuglien (15 years) for most points with 41. He continues to play more than any other Red Wing at 23:44 per game.

Dustin Byfuglien, Atl: Byfuglien may be the surprise player of the year, leading the Thrashers is goals and points. Not leading the defensemen, leading the entire team. He is also tied for the league lead with six game winning goals and is a plus player for just the second time in his career. His physical play and playoff experience has been one of the main reasons for the Thrashers' play this season.

My pick: Kris Letang. Only partner Alex Goligoski has as good a plus/minus rating among the top 20 scoring defensemen.

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