All right Arthur, great things come in pairs: winners and losers, goals and saves, Kariya and Selanne, and GOATS and GOATS . . . Okay that didn't work the way I'd hoped. Recently, we each pointed a finger at the person who is most responsible for the epic failure of the Ducks' season, now it's time to applaud the person who gave the best effort and did everything in his power to save the season. So Arthur, who is your choice for the Ducks' most productive player this season?
Well, on paper, the top line has produced. Corey Perry's 74 points and 262 shots are proof enough of that. But I think the obvious answer here has always been Saku Koivu. He's fourth in points with 50, but he leads the team in plus/minus with 13 (which is six ahead of Sheldon Brookbank). He also leads the team in gamewinners (6), overtime goals (2), shooting percentage on 100 shots or more (15.7%) and faceoff percentage on 300 draws or more (51.4%). He's only played 18:35 per game in 70 games, but he also leads all forwards in shifts per game (25.4), showing that he's a go-to guy about as much as anyone else on this team.
But going beyond the statistics, beyond the fact that he hustles and creates scoring chances every time he's on the ice, beyond the fact that he battles for the puck despite being my size, he's also done it under tremendously challenging circumstances. This was a completely new system in a conference he'd never played in before, just months after the team he captained for a decade told him he could no longer contribute. Yes, he got to play with Selanne, but he was also saddled with Carlyle's attempt to foist combinations like Lupul/Selanne on him, not to mention the orange armband heat that was Evgeny Artyukhin. And he (with Lupul) was also put in charge of the experimental (read disastrous) penalty killing unit that the Ducks employed to start the year. Basically, until Carlyle put Koivu on a traditional line with a skilled speedster (Sexton) and banger (Ryan), no one was really trying to help him adjust.
But he did. And Koivu was hot when the team needed him to be. The Ducks' built winning streaks on his production, whereas they seemed to find losing streaks despite the production of the top line. If anyone did his best to stop this ship from sinking, and could maybe be credited with keeping the ship afloat and trying to inspire his teammates (at least with his play) despite being completely unfamiliar with these waters, it was Saku Koivu.
I agree that Saku Koivu is the most obvious choice, but I have another forward in mind: Matt Beleskey. He's done everything we've asked of him. The kid drops the gloves, forechecks hard and when he was on the top line, he was putting the puck in the net. Yes, a rookie should be expected to move up and down the depth chart. However, Beleskey performed that task flawlessly. He played Ducks hockey, something not a lot of people can say this year. He also made an appearance when a few people, myself included (but not you, obviously), were beginning to doubt what the Ducks were keeping in the cupboard. Especially after we drafted Peter Holland in the first round. Beleskey was a breath of fresh air, and he didn't have to stay in the Top 6 to be effective like Dan Sexton.
I appreciated Beleskey's effort this year. There were flashes of brilliance, and that wrist shot is going to get downright scary. I'm excited to see what he brings in the coming years, and I applaud his effort to this point. Honorable mention goes to Sheldon Brookbank; he got batted around a bit, but still became a productive part of a struggling, if not tattered, defensive corps.