Friday, March 25, 2011

My Trophy Ballot

I know the playoffs aren't supposed to factor in to voting, but they probably do, so here's my un-biased, pre-playoff trophy ballots, for the hardware which recquires a vote, not including the Lady Byng. Each trophy gets a top three and an honourable mention.



My logic: Weber deserves more credit than he gets.  They have a deep defense and play a team-d style but when your top d-man is your top scorer, and brings the skill set that Weber does to the table, not to mention being your unconditional leader as you again gritt your way in to a playoff spot...who else but Weber?  Keith Yandle is in a similar situation, but he doesn't have all the physical/intangible skills of Weber, and there's just no way you could keep Visnovsky off the ballot given his stellar plus-14 rating on a porous Ducks defense.  Letang has been nothing short of heroic for the banged up Pens, which is just enough to get him the HON over a number of other worthy candidates.



My Logic: So much has been made about this trophy being the defacto throw-in for the Art Ross winner, but that's a bunch of crap.  By definition this is for the player most valuable to his team.  Tim Thomas has garnered a lot of consideration here, and the knock is that goalies have their own award.  With Thomas the reality is that Rinne could step in and do just as good of a job, not to take anything away from his accomplishments.  When I sat down to write this blog entry Eric Staal as MVP was farthest from my mind but have a look at that team and their conference and then tell me what you think of my pick for MVP.  He's a big physical all-situations centre, a captain, a leading scorer of a very young and talent-thin team.  Jeff Skinner is an amazing talent but when a raw rookie is second on your team in scoring the guy in first is probably a work horse.  Henrik Zetterberg has been Mr. Everything to the Wings this year as they've suffered injuries to key players again and again. The team leader in scoring is amazing two way threat and a rugged player. You've already heard the praises I have for Weber and if he doesn't deserve to be in the running then tell me who deserves it more?  Sid the Kid gets the HON because he's the runaway winner if he didn't spend half the season playing martyr for the concussion cause.  How the league has failed him so badly is beyond me.  How David Steckel can still walk without a cane is beyond me.  What happened to this league?



My Logic: This selection isn't based entirely on Kess' increase offense numbers which are almost entirely dedicated to his new designation on the Nux top powerplay unit, but if you look at his over all play he is the obvious choice.  His usual competition, Pavel Datsyuk and Mike Richards have had sub-par and injury plagued seasons while his play has escilated.  David Backes' plus/minus is schokingly good when you look at his non-playoff bound Blues' teammates.  Korpikoski has been a revelation this season and it was a fine line between him and the unheralded one, Franz Nielsen.



My Logic:  In my opinion this was the hardest trophy to award.  The offensive leaders are all within a hair of each other but when you look at the team around him and the adversity he's faced this year the mature rookie Michael Grabner in the doldrum that is Nasseau Coliseum has been a bright light.  He simply deserves this trophy more than his competition, despite his age advantage.  PK Subban would have won it if not for Grabner.  His offensive performance has been stunning, he's been counted on so heavily in a decimated Habs' back-end and has handled the scrutiny and spotlight of MTL like a seasoned veteran.  Jeff Skinner has to be atleast third.  The former figure-skater with the much questioned skating stride (go figure) was an all-star and a joy to watch.  Logan Couture is a special player and deserves the HON. Many would pick him to win, and in the difficult position of power forward where maturity time is almost as long as goaltenders he has stepped in relatively quickly and seemlessly.  In my opinion the depth of talent he gets to skate with has helped that transition, compared to Grabner who was on three teams this season and ended up being passed over by more than that only to be picked up by the Isles.



My Logic: Again, very difficult to choose who deserved consideration, but it's King Henrik's time. The league leader in shutouts is as much an MVP candidate as Tim Thomas; where would the rag-tag Rangers be without their King?  Win, Sv % and GAA aren't as good as others but he's the best when it means the most.  Rinne might do a Dominic Hasek on this award in years to come.  A team can be as good as it wants defensively but in that system the key component is between the pipes and if you score as little as Nashville you better keep the puck out the best if you want to win, impossible without Rinne.  Thomas' numbers are stunning and while Hiller gets the HON despite his vertigo it was so difficult to keep Price out of it but that's my decision.



My Logic: Lemaire, in third, lead an unlikely charge back to respectability for the Devils.  Bob Hartly took a motely crew of castoffs and nearly willed them in to the playoffs, but they fizzled leaving him second to the man who in the same season lost Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, and still kept his team in home-ice playoff advantage, and challenging for the conference lead: Dan Bylsma (insert slow clap here); I don't know how he did it.  Alain Vigneault was a strong candidate, but there were many.  He gets the HON and could arguably get more as his Canucks won the Presidents Trophy while using the most players in the course of a season, losing pretty well every starting defenseman in the process and the leagues best faceoff man.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I think there needs to be more notariety amongst depth forwards, but these guys character traits would probably make it the least desired award in the league, even less than the Lady Byng, since they're lunch-pail attitude is their biggest asset, and how do you single someone out and award that?

That said I'm naming my bottom six team, amassed of players in their natural position, that I would take on  my roster come playoff time, from teams in playoff contention.

Scott Hartnell       -  Jordan Staal        -  Dustin Brown
Shawn Thornton  -  Manny Malhotra  -  Cal Clutterbuck

Honourable mention to Jamie Langenbrunner, Brandon Prust, Travis Moen, Curtis Glenncross, Jon Madden and Travis Moen.

This group I can see might not have a true, by definition veteran, but many of them have been to the dance before.  My third line have all scored twenty goals in a season more than once.  Clutterbuck will this year and him and Brown are ferocious checkers.  Manny Malhotra is one of the best in face off winning percentage and I had to take Shawn Thornton just incase things get heated, he is a true fighter that has impressed so much this year, and a veteran.  So tough to leave Moen and Madden off, but I like my group.

Depth = Cup

After the deadline several teams made moves to beef up their depth forwards corps.  Depth forwards have shown their worth in the playoffs every year, and so this year will be no different.  This list is compiled now for playoff contending teams, for us all to look back on after the Cup Winner is named in June.

Criteria for bottom six rankings: Versatility, Offense, Physicality, Special Teams Play, Experience, Puck Battles, Speed, Face Offs, and play in all zones. 

It was very difficult to seperate.  So many teams had very solid groups offering very similar options and qualities but without further adieu, and with much deliberation, here they are:

1 - Philly: Too much talent, and tons of gritt and experience, plus extras if there are injuries.  Daniel Briere is techinically the third line centre to give an idea of the depth Philly has. Hartnell is strong two way player who can put up 30 goals, and his playoff beard is unrivaled. Ville Leino is a safety net for skill in the top six if need be and Blair Betts is a tremendous two way centre.
2 - Montreal: David Desharnais has emerged as an option in the top six, Pouliot has developed some gritt.  Jeff Halpern's experience is invaluable and we've seen Travis Moen's sandpaper in the playoffs too many times.  Matthew Darche and Tom Pyatt are great depth options with speed.  I was surprised but I couldn't dethrone Montreal from second.
3 - Chicago: This area became very difficult to seperate but Chicago won out on the basis of experience, gritt and speed, and ample talent in their bottom six with the likes of Dave Boland and Bryan Bickell, Fernando Pisani has been there before, and the newly acquired Mike Frolik will fit well once he gets up to speed. Vik Stalberg has replaced many of the depth guys that got the job done for Chicago last year.
4 - Boston: This group was bolstered by GM Peter Chiarelli in the days leading up to trade deadline day.  Newly acquired Rich Peverly and Chris Kelly only compliment a group that would've probably been top five anyway.  Their depth is great, but the size and offense of Mike Ryder, the emergence of Gregg Campbell and Shawn Thornton as gritty guys with some hands, and solid play of rookie Tyler Seguin make this a very formidable bottom six.
5 - Vancouver: GM Mike Gillis' down to the wire acquisitions of Max Lapierre and Chris Higgins on deadline day bumped his team up in to the top five.  You can't argue with the third line.  Second best faceoff man in Manny Malhotra, and big, fast hitting machines on his wing, Raffi Torres (former 20 goal man and cup finalist) and Janik Hansen.  Tanner Glass has played with a rotating group on the fourth line, but he'll do well with Lapierre who showed his worth with MTL in last year's playoff run, and Higgins, who could also step up as a top six if need be after re-discovering his game in FLA this year.
6 - San Jose: Possibly the toughest fourth line makes this group 6th overall just because teams will hate to face: Scott Nichol, Ben Eager and Jamal Mayers - experienced and physical.  Joe Pavelski will step up to the plate in the playoffs, and Kyle Wellwood was probably Vancouver's best forward in the playoffs two seasons ago.
7 - Minnesota: Again, we're splitting hairs from 3 - 11.  The more I analyze Minny's depth the more I like it.  Two words sum it up: Jon Madden.  Don't forget Chuck Kobasew healthy and ready to contribute, Cal Clutterbuck the hit machine with a goal scoring flair, Matt Cullen's experience and versatitlity.  This group is cemented in a playoff spot and they're for real.
8 - GM Glen Sather went out and picked up a rugged contributor in John Mitchell, but he'll have a tough time cracking the bottom six with names like Prust, Boyle, Avery, the fleet of foot Zucarello Aasen and of course Mr. Playoffs Chris Drury.
9 - Pittsburgh: They're top six is heavily depleted, even with the acquisitions of Jamie Benn and Alex Kovalev, so much so that a solid group of bottom six players may not be enough to get the job done, but these guys are ready for the challenge: Max Talbot who scored the only two goals in the deciding cup final game two years ago, Mike Rupp, Craig Adams and Aaron Asham are solid vets with physicality and smarts, and Dustin Jeffery and Chris Conner don't look out of place.  Jordan Staal has been thrust in to the top six, but he's really the third line centre of this group, and probably the best in that role in the game.
10-Calgary rounds out the top ten, and should they make it it will be in large part to the gritt and speed of their bottom six which include: Curtis Glencross and Tim Jackman.  Tom Kostopolous can agitate and the new addition of Freddy Modin brings experience and an option on the PP point. Mike Backlund is energetic and skilled, and the real Matt Stajan needs to please stand up.
11- Detroit: This team knows the importance of the bottom six probably more than anyone.  They had the great grind-line of the Avs/Wings rivalry days.  Todays version brings a little more skill in guys like Mursak, and Drew Miller, Darren Helm and Justin Adbelkader could all switch jersey's and no one would notice; their dogged pursuit of pucks is probably the best as a group of all teams in playoff contention. Ben eaves is a solid two way guy, and Kris Draper, the orginial grinder, is still getting the job done.
12- Dallas: Adam Burish has got a cup ring, and this year he's not only gritty but goal inclined.  Paired with Steve Ott these guys are simply hated, and rightfully so. They skate on a third line that features Jamie Langenbrunner, who helped this team to their first cup a decade ago. The fourth line brings even more gritt with Brian Sutherby and Kris Barch, and Raymond Sawada might just stick.
13- Buffalo: Griere and Neidermyer are an experience depth combo, and McCormick and Kaleta have some sand paper, Paul Gaustad can play a good two way game but the much maligned tim connoly isn't a great fit as third line centre.
14- Pahlson, Clark have experience, boll brings physicallity and this lunch box group have chipped in offensively too
15- Tampa Bay: Adam Hall, Dana Tyrell and Nate Thompson area  good trio, and Dominic Moore is the consumate bottom six guy.  This group could get the job done.
16-Nashville: Dumont and Ward have some offense but this group is kind of a hodge-podge.  The whole team is like a bottom six forwards core so they will survive.
17-LA: Handzus, Brown and Clifford are a solid trio, and there's enough speed and gritt in this group to go all the way.
18- PHX: Belanger and Stempniak are going to drive teams nuts and make it tough to match as their offense in the bottom six is solid.  Taylor Pyatt has scored a few goals this year and Biz-Nasty is going to be a playoff monster.
19-ATL: Thorburn, Cormier and Stapleton are a great gritty fourht, buttoo much flash and not enough experience in this group if they even make it.
20-CAR: Young and small, they make up for it in speed, but not enough.
21-WSH: Move to add Arnott cost top faceoff man Dave Steckel. Young group is willing, but are they able?
22-TOR: Armstrong and Brent are great...little thin after that.
23-NJ: Who are these guys?  NJ has made a late push but are lacking in the depth forward dept.