Sidney Crosby NHL’s most outstanding player, but is he the MVP?
Yakupov’s strong finish may garner him some votes as top rookie
Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates past Jussi Jokinen during Friday’s practice at Canonsburg, Pa.
Photograph by: Keith Srakocic, AP
Confession time. I voted for Sidney Crosby for the Hart Trophy, although I’m not too sure why.
Crosby deserves the MOP (most outstanding player) maybe more than the MVP (most valuable player). He scored 56 points in 36 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins before teammate Brooks Orpik’s slapshot ripped off the stick of New York Islanders winger Brad Boyes and caught Crosby flush in the mouth.
The Penguins were 7-2 without Crosby, who suffered a busted jaw, so how valuable is he?
Crosby will probably still win the award, which would give him two Harts, only one fewer than his boss, Mario Lemieux, and one more than teammate Evgeni Malkin and former Penguin Jaromir Jagr. He’s Pittsburgh’s band-leader.
The Hart Trophy is the hardest to figure out, especially in a lockout season when the voters only see the players in their own conference, unless they catch a game on TV.
Should the Hart go to a player who makes an ordinary team good, like New York Islanders centre John Tavares, or a shockingly bad team into a playoff contender, like Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky? What about the guy who’s the No. 1 player on the best team, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, or the winger who has come back from the dead with a goal-a-game numbers the last two months, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals?
Here’s my top 5 for:
the Hart Trophy:
Crosby — If he doesn’t get the puck in the face, he gets 75 points in 48 games.
Bobrovsky — The Blue Jackets were another bottom-feeder without The Man Called Bob.
Tavares — The Islanders captain has figured in 34 per cent of his club’s goals.
Toews — Maybe the most complete player in the game, and also one of two or three best leaders.
Ovechkin — Written off two months ago, he’s going to win the Maurice Richard Trophy as top scorer.
Norris Trophy (best defenceman)
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Duncan Keith, Chicago
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
This is the most wide-open race and it could go to a player who has never won it before.
Suter is proving he can play without his old Nashville Predators partner, Shea Weber, and he’s doing such a good mentoring job with Jonas Brodin that the Swedish teenager might win the Calder Trophy as top rookie. Suter, who has played more than 30 minutes in nine games and averages 27:13 this season, makes the game look easy like Nicklas Lidstrom did, although he’s not as good offensively as Lidstrom was.
Keith, who is not playing with usual partner Brent Seabrook, won the award in 2010 and has the best plus/minus of the top defenders, but he’s got more to work with than Suter.
Letang is the best defenceman on the second-best team in the league, and most likely on the Canadian Olympic.
People take Chara for granted. He’s the toughest D-man to beat one-on-one and could easily play 30 minutes a night in Boston, but the Bruins have cut him back to 25.
Subban, the most dynamic blue-liner in the league, leads the defencemen in points and goals and is also plus-10.
Calder Trophy (top rookie)
Jonas Brodin, Minnesota
Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Brendan Gallagher, Montreal
Brandon Saad, Chicago
This is another race that is too close to call. It usually goes to a forward, 16 times in the last 25 years.
Defencemen have won it four times (New York Rangers’ Brian Leetch, now in the Hall of Fame; Barret Jackman, who had Al MacInnis tutoring him in St. Louis when MacInnis won the Norris Trophy; Tyler Myers with the Buffalo Sabres; and Bryan Berard with the Islanders).
Five goalies have won: Martin Brodeur, Eddie Belfour, Evgeni Nabokov, Steve Mason and the forgettable Andrew Raycroft, who would later be traded from the Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tuukka Rask in one of the more lopsided deals.
This year, there are no forwards averaging a point a game, which has opened the door for Brodin, Oilers’ prospect Oscar Klefbom’s former Swedish League partner. Brodin is the youngest defenceman in the league at age 19 and playing the off-side. He played 29 minutes recently against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings with their heavy lineup.
Yakupov, 19, finished with a bang, with two goals against Minnesota on Friday and his first NHL hat trick Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, to lead all rookies with 17 goals on only 81 shots. He also tied Huberdeau for top spot with 31 points.
Gallagher was second in goals, with 15, 12 of them even-strength. Huberdeau also had 12 of his 14 goals five-on-five. Saad scored 23 points at even-strength.
A late closer was Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz, who finished with 27 points, tops among rookie D-men and 12th in the league for defencemen.
Vezina Trophy (best goalie, voted by GMs)
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus
Tuukka Rask, Boston
Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
Bobrovsky single-handedly got the Blue Jackets into the playoff race and is due a huge raise in a new contract this summer.
Rask has proven he can be a starter after Tim Thomas decided to take the season off and was dealt to the Islanders.
Lundqvist keeps the Rangers in games despite their popgun offence. Niemi has played more games than anybody and has had a bounce-back year. But for a bad knee, Anderson might have won this award, but he’s going to play only half the games, albeit with a goals-against average under 2.00
Jack Adams Trophy (Coach of the year, broadcasters vote)
Joel Quenneville, Chicago
Todd Richards, Columbus
Paul MacLean, Ottawa
Randy Carlyle, Toronto
Michel Therrien, Montreal
Quenneville has the horses, but somebody has to show the Blackhawks the way when they leave the barn and he shepherded them through the first 24 games with stunningly no regulation losses.
Richards was on the hot seat when the Blue Jackets brought in a new president, John Davidson, and general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, but he’s had his team playing hard every night. MacLean, the ultimate good guy coach, somehow kept Ottawa in the playoff hunt without Jason Spezza, EriK Karlsson and Anderson. Carlyle and Therrien have done nice jobs with two teams that weren’t expected to make the playoffs.
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