The season is half way over, well half +1 now, which means it's time to hand out half season awards. The Ducks have vaulted beyond pre-season predictions, floated by hot starts by some highly unlikely players. Whatever the reason, the Ducks are leading the division and are fighting to become a legitimate Cup contender...maybe. So without further pomp and circumstance, the awards.
Most Valuable Duck: I can make this choice in my sleep. It's Saku Koivu. Koivu is the engine that drives the Ducks third line. His defensive responsibility keeps that line moving forward. He distributes the puck well and has managed to find the back of the net more than his fair share. The important thing is that Koivu kept this team energized while the Twins got to their usual slow start. That slow start didn't last as long this season, but if Koivu doesn't have that third line and the PP moving in those first 5-6 games, the Ducks season might have gone a little differently. Instead, they've stockpiled confidence and convinced themselves they are a deeper team than they are. If people want to celebrate the Ducks' intangibles, they should start by celebrating Saku Koivu. He's a defensive anchor, an offensive threat, and he's done the most important thing an MVP should do, make the guys around him better. You're welcome Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik the torrid offensive pace you're on right now. Sincerely, Saku Koivu
Least Valuable Duck: Andrew Cogliano. I kid. I kid. I think it's been Devante Smith-Pelly. Sophomore slumps happen, and I'm not entirely sure this one is his fault. He wasn't really allowed to work through whatever perceived problem he was having, which is tough to identify when you consider how well he was throwing the body. The Corsi numbers were tough for the entire 4th line. It was a five game audition for a guy who played almost 50 games in the NHL last year. There's been a lot of shuffling going on in the bottom 6, and the fact that Devo didn't scratch the score sheet when everyone else was, made him seem less productive. He was still hitting and blocking shots at a decent pace, especially hitting. However, when a guy hasn't been in the lineup a year after playing 50, you have to say he hasn't been providing value to the club. I'm sure he'll turn it around as soon as the Ducks give him the opportunity again.
Biggest Surprise: Bobby Ryan has been my biggest surprise this year. He pretty much looks like the same Bobby Ryan, but he's stopped doing some of the ridiculous things that used to infuriate me so much. There's less stickhandling into 3 defenders, less shooting high and wide on the PP, less holding the puck until he can't do anything with it. His physical game has improved, but overall he's just a less selfish player, unless he's playing with Selanne. Bobby Ryan couldn't set up Teemu Selanne on a 2-on-0. It's seriously ridiculous. As much Ducks fans probably don't want to admit it, I think playing with Anze Kopitar in Europe did wonders for Bobby. I'll be slightly less happy when we inevitably trade him to afford Perry and Getzlaf, but you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs :)
Biggest Disappointment: I've been pretty underwhelmed by Bryan Allen. He's second among our blueliners with 2.2 giveawyas/60. He's 4th on the blueline in Blocked Shots/60, behind Lydman, Beauchemin, and Lovejoy, and Sbisa is only .4 BKS/60 behind him. He's also fourth among blueliners in Hits/60. His defenders will point to the GA/60 of 1.94 and say he's doing what he's supposed to be doing: keeping the puck out. I think that over the course of the season that number will continue to rise and we'll see where it ends up. In the meantime, the Ducks have played pretty well without him at 3-0-2, including two shutouts. It's not that he's been completely useless, which is why I haven't named him LVD, it's just that I was expecting a larger impact for one of the bigger free agent signings in recent memory.
The Prediction: Ducks/Kings neck/neck for the division. Murray loads up for Cup run, sacrifices live goat to hockey gods hoping he can get one more Cup out of Perry in case he ruins negotiations