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Mid-Season Awards

Jason Chen

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It's mid-season! We officially past the half-way mark a week ago, but the All-Star weekend is unofficially considered the midway, where players can rest and relax for a weekend before preparing themselves for what eventually becomes a 20-game grind to the death for playoff spots. But it's also the best time of the year, because 1) I get to do lists, like this mid-season awards post, and bloggers love lists, and 2) we're 45 (!!!) days away from the trade deadline... which means I get to do another post about potential trade baits (stay tuned). But let's not get ahead of ourselves... here are 3 nominees for each of the major NHL awards.

Hart Memorial Trophy

3. Sidney Crosby. The best player, by a sizable margin, in the league. There's no one else in his class, but his case may be hurt with his concussion. These things are iffy, and considering that he played another game after he was clearly concussed by Dave Steckel at the Winter Classic (I called it... there's no way he wasn't if you watched how slowly he got up... and then missed his shift when the Pens played 5-on-5 with an empty net), so if he misses an extended period of time, it really hurts his case. While the Pens still have Malkin and Staal, Crosby is the key cog in that lineup and given the major lack of depth, this Pens squad just isn't as good without him. That goes without saying. But how much of a difference does it make? Take away the Pens' 12-game win streak where Crosby went on a Gretzky-like tear, and the Pens are a .500 team at best (15-14-4, 4-4-2 in last 10).

2. Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The only wrinkle is that the Hart has never been shared before. Could we make an exception for the Sedins? While they may not be the highest scoring brothers duo in league history (Bobby and Dennis Hull, Maurice and Henri Richard, and of course, Wayne and Brent "4 Points" Gretzky), their chemistry with one another is unmatched. And you gotta feel for Dan, right? First, Henrik makes an ASG before him, then wins the MVP, Art Ross, and is named captain. Henrik's been proven he can play without Dan, and I'm sure Dan can play without Henrik, but together they're practically unstoppable. (To be fair, if the NHL had to pick one Canuck, it should be Kesler. For the sake of Dan's sanity. You think Mrs. Sedin makes more cookies for Dan during Christmas?).

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1. Steven Stamkos. He is the runaway MVP. The Lightning currently hold top spot in the traditionally Washington-dominated Southeast Division, and this division is no longer the joke of the league. Florida, the weakest with 42 points, sits 11th in the East. While Marty St. Louis has been a huge, huge part of Stamkos' success, he's been carrying the franchise and sits second in league scoring with 57 points. It's almost amazing that Stamkos is +9 (so much for that he-can't-play-defense theory, which I've tried to debunk since day one), even though the Lightning have allowed the third-most goals in the East with 137, which is also 6 more than they have scored as a team. Take away Stamkos' 31 goals and their GF total (100) sits third-last in the conference.

Vezina Trophy

3. Carey Price. After every win at the Bell Centre, Price must be thinking, "how do you like me now, Montreal!?" If you're looking for a feel-good story of the season, Price is one of those. After being unceremoniously booed in last year's playoffs, Price came back better than ever. His record may not be shining, with 21-15-3, but his SV% is .919, and anytime you're finishing the season at the .920 mark you're having a great season. Major points for really bouncing back, and for a franchise that has so much pride and tradition his cocky, I'm-better-than-you attitude has really helped him along in the toughest hockey market in the league.

2. Tim Thomas. He's everyone's obvious choice and for the most part he's been flat out amazing. Of goalies with at least 20 starts, he has the fewest regulation losses with 4. His 1.88 GAA and .943 SV% has been tops in the league all season and has regulated Tuukka Rask, believed by many to be the B's starter this year, to the bench. It's amazing what he can do at his age and his

remains one of the best I've ever seen. He saw that puck all the way. It wasn't dumb luck.

1. Jonas Hiller. Only Price has played more minutes but Hiller has better numbers, and Hiller's also played 400 more minutes and appeared in 9 more games (40 in total, tops in the league) than Thomas. That should seal the deal. His numbers are nothing to sneeze at either: his .927 SV% is tied for third in the league and his 2.43 GAA is 12th. Instead of Chara, Seidenberg, Stuart, and Ference, Hiller gets Visnovsky, Lydman, Mara, and Lilja. Which defense would you take? It's a no brainer. That and the Ducks still currently sit 6th in the West. Could you imagine the Ducks without him?

It's been a great year for goalies, but the Habs (defensive system), Bruins (defensive system), and Ducks (just no defense) rely on their goalies much more than other deserving nominees, like Luongo (great team), Ondrej Pavelec (Enstrom and Byfuglien), Jimmy Howard (Nick Lidstrom), Jonathan Quick (good team), Fleury (great defense) and a whole slew of others. I don't remember another year in which good goaltending has been so prevalent. It's going to be a fun race to watch if the Tim Thomas bandwagon doesn't blind everyone.

Calder Memorial Trophy

3. Corey Crawford. He was once a highly-touted prospect in Chicago's system, (drafted 52nd overall in 2003, the second goalie taken after Fleury was taken first), and forgotten by everyone when Antti Niemi stepped in. Now that both Huet and Niemi are gone and Turco is clearly over the hill, Crawford's single-handedly saved the Blackhawks' season, with the team losing Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews to injuries at various points throughout the season. Among rookies with at least 25 starts he leads in wins, SV%, and GAA. Not more you can ask for.

2. Jeff Skinner. This kid came out of nowhere. He's undersized as a NHL centre, so he's been forced to move to the wing. His 15 goals are second on the team and he's a plus player on an average team. If he wasn't there, it'd be all Eric Staal, and Staal can't carry a team. He's provided some extra offensive juice and lessened the pressure on Staal. The fact that Skinner plays in Carolina hurts him because he's been a much better player than more heralded players like Hall and Eberle.

<img src="http://nimg.sulekha.com/sports/thumbnailfull/logan-couture-2009-11-5-21-13-11.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">1. Logan Couture. I wrote a while back that the Sharks are actually an above average team posing as a Cup contender. They have one good line that's constantly broken up because they can't score on a consistent basis, a defense that has Niclas Wallin, Kent Huskins, and youngster Jason Demers logging regular minutes, which means Todd McLellan has to rely heavily on 34-year old Dan Boyle (27 minutes/game). They're getting disappointing seasons from Joe Pavelski (9 goals, -12) and Devin Setoguchi (7 goals, -13). The lone bright spot is Couture, who wins more than 50% of his face-offs, and leads his team in plus/minus (+9) and goals (19), 5 of which are game-winners. And this is a team with Marleau and Heatley, mind you.

James Norris Trophy

As usual, this is the hardest category to figure out. This is the part where I disagree with everyone, and everyone disagrees with me. There's too much of an emphasis on offensive output for this award (which explains Mike Green's two nominations) and not enough focus on all-round, actual defensive play (which is what the award is about). You can't look at one singular category, be it points, blocked shots, hits, or ice-time. You have to look at how good he is at BOTH ends of the ice (so no Hal Gills or Willie Mitchells) and how well he plays within his team's system. It's hard to do because the only way you can truly tell which defencemen make a difference in their own zone is by watching them. Having not watched every single team enough times, I can't tell you definitively which player is the best, but I can tell you which ones should be considered. And Mike Green is about 832 spots down the list.

3. Kris Letang. The numbers speak for themselves: 7 goals (11th), 33 assists (1st), +20 (3rd), 84 hits (26th), team PK 87.4% (1st). Letang's putting up fantastic offensive numbers, but what about defensive play? It's been good, but not Norris-material. Even on the PK, it's Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek who get first taps on the shoulder. If there was one offensive defenceman who gets consideration, it should be Letang.

2. Alex Edler. Before flamers start yelling "homer pick!!!" let's (try) and look at this subjectively. Is Edler's game complete? Definitely, probably the most complete out of all Canucks defencemen, who has the league's 4th ranked PK. Does Edler figure in on said PK regularly? He averages 2:08 TOI/G on the PK, and considering that Vigneault has the luxury of spreading that time around, that's not an insignificant amount. Bieksa averages about 30 seconds more and Hamhuis about 50 seconds more. Tangible stats like hits and blocked shots? Check and check - Edler's 71 hits is third on the team and 76 blocked shots is first. And offensively? 27 points, +10, 4 PPG. Let's not mention that along with Ehrhoff, Edler has been key to the Canucks transition game, possessing an excellent first pass and skating ability. Case closed.

1. Dan Girardi. How about that? The Rangers are light on skill but they have plenty of players who play hard, like Callahan, Dubinsky, Staal, Drury, and even Gaborik. But perhaps the most indispensable defenceman under John Tortorella? #5 in blue. The Rangers' PK is ranked 9th in the league and a big reason for that is Girardi. In order to showcase how good he's been this year, let's compare him to all the other candidates, with leaders in bold.

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Sure, Girardi's offensive game isn't as polished, but he's averaging close to half a point per game, and only 24 defencemen last year had more than 40 points. Girardi's SH TOI/G is 12th in the league (leads Rangers with Marc Staal) and 13th in hits and 2nd in blocked shots. But how vital has he been to the Rangers? Expressing his hits and blocked shots as a percentage, Girardi accounts for 25% of all Rangers' blocked shots and 13.7% of all Rangers' hits, who are by a significant margin the most physical in the league. That's astonishing. That means 1 in 4 blocked shots by the Rangers are by Girardi. In comparison: Edler (12.5% of all blocked shots), Letang (8.3%), Lidstrom (10.3%), Byfuglien (5.3%), and Enstrom (13.1%).

The popular pick is Dustin Byfuglien, but again, this award is about defence too, so the fact that Byfuglien averages only seven seconds (7!!!!) on the PK per game should automatically disqualify him. Atlanta also allows more than 3 goals per game and has the third-worst PK in the league. Byfuglien for Norris? Please. Giving it to Tobias Enstrom would make a lot more sense, but there are still better candidates. The other hard cut was Nicklas Lidstrom. Believe me, this was so, so, so difficult. Pedigree? Yup. Points? Yup. Team? Ehhh, not so much. The Wings' PK sits 16th in the league (which surprisingly is never at the top of the league - 10th last year, 25th year before), while the Pens, Canucks, and Rangers' PK have been much more effective. That's not mentioning that Lidstrom is an uncharacteristic -1 in plus/minus, and his career low of +9 was ten years ago.

<img src="http://nimg.sulekha.com/sports/thumbnailfull/daniel-girardi-2009-10-12-22-41-21.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Jack Adams Award

3. Guy Boucher. The Lightning have been flailing since their Cup win in 2004 and literally dropped off the map. You didn't hear about them unless it was close to draft time because they held the first overall pick in 2008 (Stamkos) and second overall in 2009 (Hedman). Now they're becoming relevant again. While the Capitals may still have the reputation as the Southeast powerhouse, Tampa Bay now leads the division with a two point differential and Atlanta is close behind. Boucher's system has unleashed the Bolts' offense, an offense that ranked 4th worst in the East last year. He's one of the few coaches that have made a smooth transition to the NHL after coming over from Drummondville (QMJHL) and Hamilton (AHL).

2. Peter Laviolette. Laviolette's blessed because he has so much to work with. What other team can have Danny Briere (24 goals) on their third line? The Flyers have six forwards with more than 30 points and both James van Riemsdyk and Nikolay Zherdev have double-digit goals. You could make the argument that any decent coach could turn this team into a division winner, but what Laviolette has excelled at is playing the goaltending carousel. He made the curious decision to start rookie Sergei Bobrovsky on opening night and rode him until he got cold. Now Brian Boucher's the starter and he's on a tear. Credit Laviolette for having such a great feel for his goalies (2.62 GA/G, 10th), a big reason why his team's done so well.

1. Alain Vigneault. What a change this year's been for Vancouver. One of the most penalized and pugilistic teams in the past, the Canucks went from 15.5 PIM/G (26th) last year to just 11.5 (11th) this year. That means more 5-on-5 ice-time for the Sedins, and surprise, surprise, the Canucks even strength GF/GA ratio of 1.34 sits third in the league, trailing Philadelphia and Boston. The Canucks own the league's most potent powerplay and a top 5 penalty kill. This is the finest job Vigneault has done in Vancouver to date, and he's had some very good seasons here.

Frank J. Selke Award

<img src="http://blastmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/kesler.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">3. Manny Malhotra. Recently, he's managed to gain a bit of a cult following. The league's best face-off man also leads the the league's fourth-ranked PK in ice-time, with 2:45 per game. He is not the Canucks first-line centre, nor is he the second-line centre, yet he takes the most face-offs out of anyone on the Canucks, taking 30.4% of the team's total. Only Atlanta's Rich Peverley (30.6%) and Toronto's Tyler Bozak (31%) take a bigger percentage of their team's face-offs even though they're not a fixture on their respective teams' top line. His 46 blocked shots is third in the league amongst forwards, trailing only Mike Fisher and Adam Burish, but Malhotra's takeaways (27) is almost equivalent to Burish and Fisher's total (30). If there's any gripe about Malhotra, is that he is a minus player on the road. A Selke winner shouldn't have that wrinkle.

2. Mike Richards. A staple in the Selke category for years to come, Richards is a good shot blocker and never gives up on a play. That he's a +11 despite playing against the opposing team's top line and/or top pairing is quite the accomplishment. By taking away those match-ups, that has allowed Laviolette to play Briere and Jeff Carter against weaker lines and pairings, a big reason why Philadelphia's scoring is so spread out. That's major points for Richards and something that isn't reflected through stats. Only Blair Betts and Darroll Powe average more SH ice-time than Richards per game, but neither have shorthanded markers, of which Richards has 2. The only problem? The Flyers' PK is ranked 17th in the league and Richards is posting his lowest face-off percentage in his career (48.2%).

1. Ryan Kesler. Is there anyone else? Datsyuk's bid for a fourth straight Selke will end this year, meaning that Bob Gainey's record will remain intact. Offensively, Kesler's done it all, on pace for a 40-goal season and just two shy of his career high. His 69 hits ranks third on the team behind Hansen and Glass, his 44 blocked shots is just two behind Malhotra and fourth-best in the league, wins 57.4% of his face-offs, and his takeaway-giveaway ratio of +22 is the best on the team. He should've won the award last year and he should win this year. (For those thinking about a Selke/Hart double whammy for Kesler, only one player has done it in NHL history: Sergei Fedorov in 1994).

There are three other players that I considered: Jonathan Toews, Ryan O'Reilly, and to a lesser extent, Nicklas Backstrom. These three players' defensive games are extremely underrated, especially Backstrom's, who has been constantly mislabeled as a one-dimensional playmaker despite being quite polished in his own zone. The arguments against these players is that Chicago and Colorado's PK are fourth-last and second-last in the league, respectively, and Backstrom doesn't play enough on the PK each night (just 1:33 per game) to be really considered, despite top-notch marks in FO%, % of team face-offs, hits, and blocked shots.

And there you are, the mid-season awards! Given the Canucks' strong season, and if they continue this pace, I wouldn't be surprised if the Canucks clean up at this year's awards.

Thoughts? Comments? Flame away, readers!



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Hrm.. I think I'm one of those people that disagrees with you on everything. Mostly because a lot of the picks (in my mind) are not logical or don't follow what you're saying.

I still think the Vezina should go to Thomas, if he can keep up his numbers over the entire season. The only thing holding him back at this point is the smaller number of games played. I've watched plenty of Boston games, and although their team defence is better than Anaheim, Thomas has been playing lights out. Amazing saves game after game and a raging competitive spirit has kept him going. Hiller has played great too, but the greater number of shots allowed inflate his save percentage. Luongo had one season in Florida where he had a .931 save percentage because the team had set a NHL record for shots allowed. A similar theme in Anaheim. Yet, I doubt Luongo played 'fantastically' better that season than this season.

Byfuglien and Enstrom are great offensively, but defensively I'd say their equal to the top pairing of Anaheim. Pavelec's numbers are a true reflection of his play. As you said yourself, the GAA of the thrashers as a team is pretty bad. Most of the forwards are poor defensively and they have no true shutdown guys. You yourself state they are not Norris-quality defensemen. But somehow they are good enough that they disqualify Pavelec from Vezina considerations? You can't have it both ways.

L.A. has 47 points in 43 games. They are not playing like a 'good team'. Quick is playing remarkably well given the circumstances.

So you want the Norris trophy to go to a guy that's not just about offense. Okay, I agree with you, that's better than just handing it to Mike Green. Lidstrom is an elite defenseman on both sides of the puck. But supposedly Girardi is a better candidate as an all-around defender? Complete BLASPHEMY! What about the Slovak giant, mr. Z Chara in Boston? That guy is literally a monster. He's already won the Norris, and that season he wasn't an offensive juggernaut.

When's the last time Lidstrom gave the puck away? Or allowed a breakaway? Or took a miserable penalty? The guy's play is almost SPOTLESS and he's doing it at age 40. I think a Norris trophy could be a great (possible) retirement prize. Oh, and also Detroit has middling GAA, so it's not like Howard or the rest of the defense has been playing all that well beside him. Whereas NYR has a great defensive system and a superstar goalie in Lundqvist. You keep talking about how goalie shouldn't be overrated by the defense in front of them... well Girardi is most likely overrated by the defense and goaltending beside him. Why pick him? Why not choose a defenseman who manages to be great defensively on an defensively challenged team? That would indicate a better talent.

Bieksa has been great defensively this year and is on pace for 12 goals. I'd pick him over Edler on this team. He had 28 minutes of ice time last night and he didn't even lose a step whilst shutting down Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin.

In terms of the Jack Adams Award... there is only one true contender. And that is Barry Trotz in Nashville. No one ever raves about the guy, so I will start. I don't know how he manages to take a team that can barely afford to ice a full roster and keep them competitive. This is happening even when they are losing talented players year after year (Forsberg, Timonen, Hartnell, Vokoun, Zidlicky, Hamhuis). The exodus just keeps on growing as the team can't keep all its stars signed. Every year he manages them as a hard working defensive club, which usually makes the playoffs, or is at least competitive. The 'best' coach is the one that can maximize the utility from his players. He has done that this season and in years past.

Ranking a player's defensive ability by looking at the team's PK rate is blindingly stupid. Luongo had a great season in 06-07 which was the major reason we led the league in penalty killing (20th in shorthanded shots allowed). But by your reasoning, that means that Kesler and burrows were the class of the league defensively? Team stats are not necessarily an indication of individual performance, and I can give you many examples of proof.

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How the hell did you come up with these nominations.

First, Crosby will win the Hart. Its not even a question.

For the Norris. GIRARDI? EDLER? Yah they are good players, but nowhere near Norris quality. Ever heard of a guy named LIDSTROM? And Byfuglien definitely deserves Norris contention as well. Even Enstrom. Over all the players you mentioned.

At least the Calder nominations are alright.

For the Jack Adams, Trotz should really win it. He is the only coach who is able to do so much with such little talent consistently. Guy Boucher is up there as well.

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That's a great point, that Anaheim's SA/G (34.2) is second worst in the league, although it's negligible because Boston isn't far behind with 33.8 SA/G, which is fourth worst. Both Hiller and Thomas have been fantastic, but I think Hiller has done more with less. He's kept the Ducks competitive and has been forced to play much more than Thomas because McElhinney has been much, much worse than Hiller or Rask. He's logged the second-most minutes and appeared in the most games. The Vezina should be awarded to the goalie most valuable to his team and that's Hiller. Stick Rask in net and the Bruins would still be pretty good. The same can't be said about Anaheim with McElhinney.

Byfuglien and Enstrom equal to Anaheim's top pairing (pick your two of Fowler, Visnovsky, Lydman)? I don't think so. Atlanta's pair has combined for 81 points while Fowler and Visnovsky have combined for 60 and -5 combined. I should clarify that "(Byfuglien and Enstrom)" means that Pavelec is helped out by the highest scoring defensive duo in the league this year, something Hiller cannot say. The Thrashers aren't a great defensive team but they have arguably two of the best 'pickpocket' players in the league in Burmistrov and Little. What really hurts Pavelec is his wins (15, 18th) and given that he and Hiller have very similar GAA/SV% numbers, I'm going with Hiller.

LA is not playing well, but they are a good team. They've got great pieces and have been in a little bit of a slump. Quick has been good but he's not outplaying Hiller, Thomas, Luongo, Fleury, Lundqvist, or even Ward... There's plenty of better candidates (some I haven't mentioned) to choose from.

I love that you brought up Trotz because I've been saying he's one of the best coaches in the league. I've said that repeatedly. Trotz regularly turns chicken sh*t into chicken salad but I think he's had better years in the past. He's got some good, young talent this year (Cal O'Reilly, Cody Franson, Colin Wilson) and the only way he will ever be considered by the media is if they unseat the Red Wings (unlikely). However, I feel that the three guys I've named are more worthy. Boucher has turned TB around and they're no longer a joke. The Flyers made the playoffs last year as an 8th seed in a shootout but Laviolette has them sitting first in the East. AV has distanced the Canucks even further from their competition. They've done outstanding jobs so far. You could also make the case for John Tortorella, who like Trotz has turned into a rather average roster into a pretty good team.

When I picked the Selke/Norris winners, team PK was considered, but not the defining factor. If that had been the case it would've been easy to pick Letang for the Norris and Talbot/Adams for the Selke. PK is more a reflection of team play, I totally agree, but that doesn't mean PK should be thrown out the window. It should be, at the very least, taken into consideration. I will never pick a Selke/Norris player on a team with a pitiful PK, just as it's stupid to pick a MVP from a losing/non-playoff team.

I knew I was going to take some heat for Girardi but here's my logic explained further. Hopefully it makes sense.

First, Big Z. He's a great player. One of the best defenceman in the league. The season Chara won the Norris was 2008-09 and he WAS an offensive juggernaut. His second consecutive 50-point season and 11 powerplay goals, a career high. Has he been as vital to Boston's defence as Girardi has been to his? I don't think so. (More later).

Second, Lidstrom. I'm going to ignore the "retirement prize" argument because we're not throwing awards away. Is Lidstrom still good? Yes, in a pick-up game I'd probably pick him over everyone. But he does give away the puck. He has 17 recorded giveaways. He's not flawless, and comparing this season to year's past, he just hasn't been as good. Sometimes I think his reputation, not unwarranted, precedes him, but I think other players have been better this year. Case in point, Datsyuk winning the Selke last year, when I think, quite convincingly, Kesler was the superior two-way player.

Third, Bieksa. We're going to have to agree to disagree because I do think Edler's a more well-rounded defenceman. Bieksa's been great but he struggled early in the season while Edler's been his usual, quiet, dependable self.

On Girardi... Tortorella's teams thrive on playing the body and blocking shots. It's a big reason why they have such a stingy defence and a good PK. And the best player on their team at doing that is Girardi. The Rangers rely on him and Staal (wasn't considered because I think Girardi's been better, both offensively and defensively) more so than the B's on Chara and the Wings on Lidstrom. The B's have 4 players who average more than 2 minutes per game on the PK: Chara, Ference, Stuart, and Boychuk. The Wings have 2 with more than 3 minutes (Lidstrom, Stuart) and 2 with more than 2 minutes (Kronwall, Salei). The Rangers have 2 with more than 3 minutes (Girardi, Staal) but everyone else plays half that, with Rozsival (traded, so now Sauer) and Eminger rounding out the top 4. Because the Rangers' second unit PK is so weak (Eminger and Sauer... seriously?), Tortorella has had to rely much more heavily on his top pair than Babcock or Julien. Giradi's blocked shots and hits make up a higher % of the Rangers' total output than anyone else for their respective teams (as the chart clearly shows). Overrated by the defence beside him (laughable, other than Staal) and the goalie behind him? The Rangers do have Lundqvist, but Thomas and Howard have been good as well. It's not like Lundqvist is significantly better than either.

"Why not choose a defenseman who manages to be great defensively on an defensively challenged team? That would indicate a better talent."

Because there's no one worthy of picking from Atlanta, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Colorado, or the Islanders. A defensively challenged team has nobody that has been great defensively. I would rather much rather pick the defensive MVP on a good defensive team, one that obviously doesn't work by committee, but rather an alpha dog top pair/player. And picking a defenseman who manages to be great defensively on a defensively challenged team may be an indication of TALENT (still very unlikely), but not PRODUCTION.

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How the hell did you come up with these nominations.

First, Crosby will win the Hart. Its not even a question.

For the Norris. GIRARDI? EDLER? Yah they are good players, but nowhere near Norris quality. Ever heard of a guy named LIDSTROM? And Byfuglien definitely deserves Norris contention as well. Even Enstrom. Over all the players you mentioned.

At least the Calder nominations are alright.

For the Jack Adams, Trotz should really win it. He is the only coach who is able to do so much with such little talent consistently. Guy Boucher is up there as well.

Crosby will win the Hart if he doesn't miss an extended period of time. I already said he's the best player in the league. That concussion, if long-term, hurts his chances.

I've already covered the Norris and Byfuglien is an afterthought for that category - he shouldn't be a serious contender. Has his play and production been any different from Mike Green's, who is already unworthy of those two nominations he's garnered in his career?

I've already covered Trotz in the comment above. Others to consider: Craig Ramsay, Claude Julien, Mike Babcock, Marc Crawford, Dave Tippett, to varying degrees. Just so I have my bases covered.

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Props to you for bringing up a few interesting/off-the-board candidates, but I can't say I agree with you on most of your picks. Couture and Kesler are very reasonable choices for the Calder and Selke respectively, but I highly doubt we'll see Dan Girardi picking up the Norris at the end of the year (he has been VERY solid though).

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Props to you for bringing up a few interesting/off-the-board candidates, but I can't say I agree with you on most of your picks. Couture and Kesler are very reasonable choices for the Calder and Selke respectively, but I highly doubt we'll see Dan Girardi picking up the Norris at the end of the year (he has been VERY solid though).

We will never see Girardi win the Norris. Same goes for Edler. If either even get a third place vote I'd be ecstatic. It's rather unfortunate that the award has almost been deteriorated to "defenseman with the most points" award but that's the way she goes. I'm still appalled how many people think Byfuglien deserves consideration, even though it's quite clear he's not even the best defensively on his team.

My picks have been unconventional and somewhat controversial (intended... to spark some conversation) but hopefully I've shown enough that the logic seems sound (if you've managed to plow throw all those words).

Cheers.

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We will never see Girardi win the Norris. Same goes for Edler. If either even get a third place vote I'd be ecstatic. It's rather unfortunate that the award has almost been deteriorated to "defenseman with the most points" award but that's the way she goes. I'm still appalled how many people think Byfuglien deserves consideration, even though it's quite clear he's not even the best defensively on his team.

My picks have been unconventional and somewhat controversial (intended... to spark some conversation) but hopefully I've shown enough that the logic seems sound (if you've managed to plow throw all those words).

Cheers.

True. Although if Mike Green can't win a Norris, neither will Byfuglien (hopefully), so I don't think we have anything to worry about. :lol:

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That's a great point, that Anaheim's SA/G (34.2) is second worst in the league, although it's negligible because Boston isn't far behind with 33.8 SA/G, which is fourth worst. Both Hiller and Thomas have been fantastic, but I think Hiller has done more with less. He's kept the Ducks competitive and has been forced to play much more than Thomas because McElhinney has been much, much worse than Hiller or Rask. He's logged the second-most minutes and appeared in the most games. The Vezina should be awarded to the goalie most valuable to his team and that's Hiller. Stick Rask in net and the Bruins would still be pretty good. The same can't be said about Anaheim with McElhinney.

That's a bit unfair. Backup goalies shouldn't really in consideration. Although in fact, Mason has been really horrible for Atlanta this year, so based on your own point Pavelec ekes out everyone else (literally Mason's stats are scary at like .892 and 3.78 GAA D:)

Byfuglien and Enstrom equal to Anaheim's top pairing (pick your two of Fowler, Visnovsky, Lydman)? I don't think so. Atlanta's pair has combined for 81 points while Fowler and Visnovsky have combined for 60 and -5 combined. I should clarify that "(Byfuglien and Enstrom)" means that Pavelec is helped out by the highest scoring defensive duo in the league this year, something Hiller cannot say. The Thrashers aren't a great defensive team but they have arguably two of the best 'pickpocket' players in the league in Burmistrov and Little. What really hurts Pavelec is his wins (15, 18th) and given that he and Hiller have very similar GAA/SV% numbers, I'm going with Hiller.

Well, his less wins probably is a result of playing way less games. In actuality, the two top pairs of both teams are a lot closer tan you think. I've created a little list:

Lydman and Visnovsky

total blocked shots: 172

total hits: 119

combined +/- = 31

excess giveaways: 38

Enstrom and Byfuglien

total blocked shots: 141

total Hits: 96

combined +/- = 9

Excess giveaways: 13

So, in nearly every single category except giveaways the Ducks' D is in the lead. I don't buy the argument that Hiller has a weaker D.

Also, the fact that the Atlanta D is much more higher scoring whilst having worse +/- probably indicates the Thrashers are overmatched 5 on 5, which is not good for Pavelec's win potential. Again, proving he's playing in a harder situation.

LA is not playing well, but they are a good team. They've got great pieces and have been in a little bit of a slump. Quick has been good but he's not outplaying Hiller, Thomas, Luongo, Fleury, Lundqvist, or even Ward... There's plenty of better candidates (some I haven't mentioned) to choose from.

I love that you brought up Trotz because I've been saying he's one of the best coaches in the league. I've said that repeatedly. Trotz regularly turns chicken sh*t into chicken salad but I think he's had better years in the past. He's got some good, young talent this year (Cal O'Reilly, Cody Franson, Colin Wilson) and the only way he will ever be considered by the media is if they unseat the Red Wings (unlikely). However, I feel that the three guys I've named are more worthy. Boucher has turned TB around and they're no longer a joke. The Flyers made the playoffs last year as an 8th seed in a shootout but Laviolette has them sitting first in the East. AV has distanced the Canucks even further from their competition. They've done outstanding jobs so far. You could also make the case for John Tortorella, who like Trotz has turned into a rather average roster into a pretty good team.

When I picked the Selke/Norris winners, team PK was considered, but not the defining factor. If that had been the case it would've been easy to pick Letang for the Norris and Talbot/Adams for the Selke. PK is more a reflection of team play, I totally agree, but that doesn't mean PK should be thrown out the window. It should be, at the very least, taken into consideration. I will never pick a Selke/Norris player on a team with a pitiful PK, just as it's stupid to pick a MVP from a losing/non-playoff team.

I guess I will have to disagree with the italicized sentence. I think that team achievements are team achievements. So, if a guy manages to score 50 goals on a team without any decent centre, he has had a more valuable season than a guy who scores 60 playing with Sidney Crosby. I guess that's my outlook. Your argument about not making the playoffs is also wrong, in my mind. Why stop there? Why not just give the Vezina to the goalie who wins the cup? After all, that is the ultimate goal and he has had the most success. What's to stop me from disqualifying all forwards who don't play in the Stanley Cup Final? Your argument can be taken to some absurd levels, which makes it considerably weaker. When Ottawa beat New Jersey in 2007, did that mean Emery had outplayed or is/was better than Brodeur? Of course not, anyone who watched that series can attest. We'll have to just agree to disagree.

I knew I was going to take some heat for Girardi but here's my logic explained further. Hopefully it makes sense.

First, Big Z. He's a great player. One of the best defenceman in the league. The season Chara won the Norris was 2008-09 and he WAS an offensive juggernaut. His second consecutive 50-point season and 11 powerplay goals, a career high. Has he been as vital to Boston's defence as Girardi has been to his? I don't think so. (More later).

Okay, but that's somewhat a moot point; when I was referring to being an 'offensive juggernaut' I meant a nearly point-per game season; something that Mike Green has achieved twice in his career. Byfuglien and Lidstrom are also on pace to do that this year. Chara had 50 points the year he won; it's very unlikely that sort of production would lead the league. Heck, Edler is on pace for 50 points this season and no one is going around screaming "OMG EDLER IS DA OFFENSIVE BOMB".

Second, Lidstrom. I'm going to ignore the "retirement prize" argument because we're not throwing awards away. Is Lidstrom still good? Yes, in a pick-up game I'd probably pick him over everyone. But he does give away the puck. He has 17 recorded giveaways. He's not flawless, and comparing this season to year's past, he just hasn't been as good. Sometimes I think his reputation, not unwarranted, precedes him, but I think other players have been better this year. Case in point, Datsyuk winning the Selke last year, when I think, quite convincingly, Kesler was the superior two-way player.

Third, Bieksa. We're going to have to agree to disagree because I do think Edler's a more well-rounded defenceman. Bieksa's been great but he struggled early in the season while Edler's been his usual, quiet, dependable self.

On Girardi... Tortorella's teams thrive on playing the body and blocking shots. It's a big reason why they have such a stingy defence and a good PK. And the best player on their team at doing that is Girardi. The Rangers rely on him and Staal (wasn't considered because I think Girardi's been better, both offensively and defensively) more so than the B's on Chara and the Wings on Lidstrom. The B's have 4 players who average more than 2 minutes per game on the PK: Chara, Ference, Stuart, and Boychuk. The Wings have 2 with more than 3 minutes (Lidstrom, Stuart) and 2 with more than 2 minutes (Kronwall, Salei). The Rangers have 2 with more than 3 minutes (Girardi, Staal) but everyone else plays half that, with Rozsival (traded, so now Sauer) and Eminger rounding out the top 4. Because the Rangers' second unit PK is so weak (Eminger and Sauer... seriously?), Tortorella has had to rely much more heavily on his top pair than Babcock or Julien. Giradi's blocked shots and hits make up a higher % of the Rangers' total output than anyone else for their respective teams (as the chart clearly shows). Overrated by the defence beside him (laughable, other than Staal) and the goalie behind him? The Rangers do have Lundqvist, but Thomas and Howard have been good as well. It's not like Lundqvist is significantly better than either.

You make some great points here; I am beginning to understand some of your reasoning. I do have a candidate who fits my criteria, for best 'unheralded' Norris candidate: Stephane Robidas. I won't bother describing his stats but he's had some interesting numbers playing for a Dallas club which isn't exactly known for having good defenseman, nor for playing a defensive style (Remember Crawford?).

"Why not choose a defenseman who manages to be great defensively on an defensively challenged team? That would indicate a better talent."

Because there's no one worthy of picking from Atlanta, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Colorado, or the Islanders. A defensively challenged team has nobody that has been great defensively. I would rather much rather pick the defensive MVP on a good defensive team, one that obviously doesn't work by committee, but rather an alpha dog top pair/player. And picking a defenseman who manages to be great defensively on a defensively challenged team may be an indication of TALENT (still very unlikely), but not PRODUCTION.

Well I certainly think my question poses an interesting challenge. I do think Mark Streit had a great season two years ago where he was a +6 on a horrible Isles team, and he had more than 50 points. (I just checked, he was +5 with 56 points! He led the team in scoring. He also had 100+ blocked shots AND hits. He had 17 excess takeaways, which isn't all that bad considering he played 25 minutes a game on that horrible team.)

No one every talked about him, and the fact he makes only 4.1 m would attest to the genius of that signing. It's too bad we couldn't have acquired him; for that money he would be a great addition to our team.

I'd just like to mention that I do like your blog posts; having a good debate is always fun for me. Hope to see more from you Jason. Cheers.

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That's a bit unfair. Backup goalies shouldn't really in consideration. Although in fact, Mason has been really horrible for Atlanta this year, so based on your own point Pavelec ekes out everyone else (literally Mason's stats are scary at like .892 and 3.78 GAA D:)

Well, his less wins probably is a result of playing way less games. In actuality, the two top pairs of both teams are a lot closer tan you think. I've created a little list:

Lydman and Visnovsky

total blocked shots: 172

total hits: 119

combined +/- = 31

excess giveaways: 38

Enstrom and Byfuglien

total blocked shots: 141

total Hits: 96

combined +/- = 9

Excess giveaways: 13

So, in nearly every single category except giveaways the Ducks' D is in the lead. I don't buy the argument that Hiller has a weaker D.

Also, the fact that the Atlanta D is much more higher scoring whilst having worse +/- probably indicates the Thrashers are overmatched 5 on 5, which is not good for Pavelec's win potential. Again, proving he's playing in a harder situation.

I guess I will have to disagree with the italicized sentence. I think that team achievements are team achievements. So, if a guy manages to score 50 goals on a team without any decent centre, he has had a more valuable season than a guy who scores 60 playing with Sidney Crosby. I guess that's my outlook. Your argument about not making the playoffs is also wrong, in my mind. Why stop there? Why not just give the Vezina to the goalie who wins the cup? After all, that is the ultimate goal and he has had the most success. What's to stop me from disqualifying all forwards who don't play in the Stanley Cup Final? Your argument can be taken to some absurd levels, which makes it considerably weaker. When Ottawa beat New Jersey in 2007, did that mean Emery had outplayed or is/was better than Brodeur? Of course not, anyone who watched that series can attest. We'll have to just agree to disagree.

Okay, but that's somewhat a moot point; when I was referring to being an 'offensive juggernaut' I meant a nearly point-per game season; something that Mike Green has achieved twice in his career. Byfuglien and Lidstrom are also on pace to do that this year. Chara had 50 points the year he won; it's very unlikely that sort of production would lead the league. Heck, Edler is on pace for 50 points this season and no one is going around screaming "OMG EDLER IS DA OFFENSIVE BOMB".

You make some great points here; I am beginning to understand some of your reasoning. I do have a candidate who fits my criteria, for best 'unheralded' Norris candidate: Stephane Robidas. I won't bother describing his stats but he's had some interesting numbers playing for a Dallas club which isn't exactly known for having good defenseman, nor for playing a defensive style (Remember Crawford?).

Well I certainly think my question poses an interesting challenge. I do think Mark Streit had a great season two years ago where he was a +6 on a horrible Isles team, and he had more than 50 points. (I just checked, he was +5 with 56 points! He led the team in scoring. He also had 100+ blocked shots AND hits. He had 17 excess takeaways, which isn't all that bad considering he played 25 minutes a game on that horrible team.)

No one every talked about him, and the fact he makes only 4.1 m would attest to the genius of that signing. It's too bad we couldn't have acquired him; for that money he would be a great addition to our team.

I'd just like to mention that I do like your blog posts; having a good debate is always fun for me. Hope to see more from you Jason. Cheers.

Hiller has 22 wins in 39 starts, Pavelec has 15 in 30. And I think the Ducks are in a tougher conference with a significantly weaker defense. Anaheim: Visnovsky, Lydman, Fowler, Lilja, Mara, Mikkelson, Sutton, Sbisa, Brookbank. Atlanta: Byfuglien, Bosogian, Enstrom, Oduya, Sopel, Hainsey. The Thrashers have a much better defined top six with two players garnering Norris talks, two dependables in Oduya and Sopel (I thought I'd never say that for Sopel, but he was great with Chicago), a potential franchise player in Bogosian, and an overpaid yet still playable Hainsey. The Ducks have a great PP QB in Visnovsky, two journeymen vets in Lydman and Lilja, a blue chipper in Fowler, and a mish-mash of no. 6 and 7 defenseman. I would take the Thrashers' defense in a heartbeat over Anaheim's.

The Vezinas, Harts, Jack Adams, etc. are based on regular season play, which, in a way, makes the case for the Conn Smythe as the most important individual trophy. Some goalies are great during the season but absolutely look lost in the playoffs, like Evgeni Nabokov, a Vezina finalist but not a playoff winner. The reason I would never consider giving a MVP to a losing/non-playoff team is because if he really is THAT good, his team should be in the playoffs. Pretty simple. A player who scores 50 with a decent centre is far superior than a Petr Sykora-type who scores 60 with Crosby, but in that scenario that MVP obviously goes to Crosby, and if you score 50 goals and you can't make the playoffs, then I wonder about what kind of player you may be (an Ovechkin? a Kovalchuk? In other words, not a winner). I think my biggest case in point is Kovalchuk, actually. Without him in the lineup Atlanta is considerably weaker, and he is one of the most talented players in the league, but never in a million years would he get my MVP vote. And more often than not, teams that deserve to be in the finals (Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago the past 2-3 years) don't necessarily rely just on their goaltending. Teams that really don't deserve to be there, the Ducks with Babcock, Edmonton and Carolina in 2006, have done it with amazing goaltending. It should be no surprise then, that in those years the Conn Smythe were given to goalies (although Brind'Amour should've won it over Ward, but that's another argument. Zetterberg, Malkin, Toews were the MVPs all other years. The only exception I would make for goalies is Patrick Roy, because he is the best goalie in NHL history.

Green is in a class of his own. Like I said, if you're a defenseman that regularly plays against top opposition and top PK, as Girardi does, and still put up a decent number of points (only 24 totaled over 40 points last year, that's less than 1 per team) you're great in my books. Nobody has had the same offensive output Green has since... well, I think the 80s. He's putting far superior numbers than all of his generational peers. Edler is not an offensive juggernaut, but he is a threat. Much like how Salo doesn't put up 50, 60, or 70 points, his offensive game does change the dynamic of the game and special teams.

Robidas is good, but he's up and down a lot. I frankly think he's overrated because Crawford (an offensive wizard, a defensive cement head) can't put anyone else in other situations. He's got Daley, Niskanen, and Grossman down the road but Robidas' his best option. I was a little shocked Robidas got invited to the Canada camp in 2009.

I'm glad you brought up Mark Streit. He is FANTASTIC. I couldn't believe it when the Habs let him go and he chose to go to Long Island (obviously not a winning team, but perhaps the pull of living in NY was too much). He's one of the most underrated players in the league. His defensive game isn't polished enough to be Norris material, but he's great offensively and defensively he does his job.

(I think his BS stats were inflated in NY because like Robidas in Dallas, the Isles didn't have anyone else. In neither year Streit did crack the top 30 in league blocked shots. This is a little different from Girardi, whose given the opportunity based on his playing style/skill AS WELL AS need (weak depth - brackets within brackets - I've reached a new low) and has excelled. Girardi was 6th in the league last year and will probably finish 1st this year).

I was wondering what was going on in Montreal's front office in 2008 when Streit put up 62 points and still let him go. I think what worked against him were 3 things: 1) people think Streit's numbers were a byproduct of Kovalev's play, when really I think it's the opposite, 2) that team also had Komisarek, Markov, and Hamrlik (overrated), three players who garner much more attention than Streit because they're not Swiss and have become big names by then, 3) Montreal's had enough experience with offensive defensemen like MA Bergeron, Brisebois, and perhaps they thought Streit was just another one of those. I'm not sure what happened, but that 2008 squad has no resemblance to their squad today anyway. Only 2 players from the 2008 squad that were top ten in team scoring remain (Plekanec, Kostitsyn).

And, most importantly, thanks for reading.

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