Greetings, fellow Anaheim Calling readers. I’m Chris Kober, and I hope to be the newest contributor to this fine blog. I’ve been a Ducks fan since seeing the original Mighty Ducks movie at the age of six or seven, and nearly 20 years later, I’m a full fledged hockey fanatic. In my spare time, I cover NHL matters for Josh Brewster’s Hockeytalk.biz and write my own silly little Ducks blog over at District5hockey.wordpress.com, which brings me to the point of my post.
Earlier in the season, I wrote a post imagining that only the Ducks were eligible for each of the NHL’s individual awards, and I handicapped who would win each one. The idea makes a little less sense now that Corey Perry is a legitimate Hart Trophy contender and Lubo is actually getting some consideration for the Norris, but it should be good for some interesting comments on my first post here. So, let’s get to it.
Vezina (Goalie of the Year):
This one is a lot closer than I could have imagined on Dec. 1. Ray Emery’s numbers (2.28 GAA, .926 Sv%) are the best of the five goalies that the Ducks used this season, not to mention he and Dan Ellis saved the season from the abyss we faced with Curtis McElhinney in goal. However, this one still has to go to Jonas Hiller. At the time of his mysterious injury, Hiller was on the verge of becoming a true Vezina candidate. While the rag tag defense was finding itself in October and November, giving up ridiculous amounts of shots, Hiller was keeping the season alive. Emery gets the runner up nod, and a well-deserved shout-out for going 6-0 to start the Anaheim chapter of his career, but he doesn’t have the body of work to challenge Hiller.
Calder (Rookie of the Year):
Fourth on the team in time on ice per game (22:07) with 10 goals and 40 points as an 18/19-year-old in the NHL makes this one a no-brainer. Cam Fowler won’t be nominated for the actual Calder, mostly because of his minus-25 and the fact that there are a lot of rookies scoring a lot of goals elsewhere this year, but he’s on track to become a real force in this league if he can get a little stronger and round out his game a bit.
Having said all that, if this were one of those awards given to someone who "did the most with the least," it would be all about Brandon McMillan. The kid seemingly came out of nowhere and has really impressed. He stood in admirably on the top line while Ryan Getzlaf was out and has been a pretty strong presence down low, especially for a smaller player. I really believe that, with more ice time, he could become the next Chris Kunitz.
Art Ross (Point Leader) ‘Rocket’ Richard (Goal Leader):
These obviously go to Perry with 98 points and 50 goals, he finished third in the actual Art Ross race and will pick up the real ‘Rocket’ in Vegas this summer. Apparently I didn’t see that coming, as I figured Ryan Getzlaf would get his act together and take over the Ducks’ scoring lead and that Bobby Ryan (the goals leader at the time) would stay ahead of the pack.
Selke (Best Defensive Forward):
This one’s a close race between Saku Koivu and Todd Marchant, but I’ll stick with my "mid-season" pick and say Koivu has been the Ducks’ best defensive forward this season. The Selke is a hard award to quantify. Both are great penalty killers and faceoff specialists, but Koivu’s 52.8 faceoff percentage gives him the edge over Marchant’s 48.0. It also doesn’t hurt that my man-crush for Kovu is almost reaching Sammy Pahlsson levels. Perry could be a dark-horse candidate here with his emergence on the penalty kill, but 1) he’s already got enough of these fake awards and 2) I don’t really believe in giving the Selke to an offensive superstar (Hey, Pavel! You’re gonna get it!)
Norris (Top Defenseman):
Lubo is getting some talk for actual Norris consideration. However, I think it peaked with his hat trick and since has been a throw in because he led the league in scoring, so the analysts are obligated to consider him (that’s just the feeling I get). He has all the glamour stats, but I don’t think he would have been able to do it without his partner in crime Toni Lydman. So, I stick with my "mid-season" choice and say Lydman for Ducks’ Norris. His plus-32 (tied for 2nd in the league) stands out, but his effect on the team as a whole is more important to me. The defense was an absolute mess out of the gate, but with the addition of some stay-at-home defense from Lydman (and Andreas Lilja) things settled down a lot. He may not be very noticeable (what’s his number again, 32?) but he does a lot for this team, and he does it well. Toni Lydman is to the Ducks as supply and demand are to free market economics; the invisible hand that guides us toward equilibrium.
Masterton (Comeback Player of the Year):
Each team nominates one player for this award, and naturally, Ray Emery was the Ducks’ nominee. I’m not sure how he won’t run away with this award. After missing a whole year of NHL hockey with a traumatic injury and rehab that should have ended his career, only to be plopped into the most pressure packed time of the regular season and win six games in a row, he is bound to join Teemu, Saku and Jason Blake in the Ducks’ Masterton Club.
Back in December, I said the Ducks’ nominee would be Joffrey Lupul based on his injury/illness ordeal, but he got traded and apparently third/fourth line journeyman (and former Duck) Tim Brent was deemed more worthy by the Leafs.
Hart (MVP to his team):
When I started this exercise, I had Hiller as my Ducks’ MVP, with Corey Perry a close(ish) second. Obviously, this has changed. There are about 8 kabillion blogs, articles podcasts etc. on why Corey Perry should (or should not) be the actual Hart winner, so I’ll just leave it at that. But I have to add that while I think he should win, he’ll probably be overcome by East Coast/Canadian/anti-douchebag* bias.
*Regardless of the fact that he has curtailed his douchiness greatly since October/November.
Lady Byng (Most Gentlemanly Player):
I didn’t include the Byng on my original post, but I’ll give it to Cam Fowler, because he seems like a polite young man. I would, however, like to see him get more rugged as he progresses in his career. I always considered smart use of the body to be one of Scott Niedermayer’s underrated qualities, and if Cam is going to follow in his footsteps, then he needs to get a little more physical.
So, there you have it, the NHL Awards if the other 29 teams were ignored.
Maybe it’s just me, but with Perry, Lubo and Hiller (at one point) all vying for the actual hardware, I guess clinching home ice in the first round shouldn’t have been as much of a shock as it was.