With four days until Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, you can expect to see a plethora of articles discussing the possible Conn Smythe candidates for both the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils. These articles are all going to be fairly similar: Dustin Brown, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jonathan Quick, Martin Brodeur.
So let's talk about the guys that won't be on that list, not because they're underrated, but rather, because they're really not playing all that well.
This article is interested in the Non-Smythe candidates, the guys that haven't stood out, even though they probably should have -- the guys that would be on the hot seat right now if their team were doing exit interviews rather than preparing for the Final.
(In case you were wondering what the Non-Smythe trophy looks like, by the way, we made you a mock-up at right. It's a Conn Smythe trophy with a bronze bust of Tomas Kaberle and a green 'participant' ribbon pinned to the front of it. Hope you like it.)
Here is each team's top candidate for the Non-Smythe trophy.
Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
Frankly, I don't think there's been a truly weak link on this Devils team, but I'll name Elias the Devils' Non-Smythe candidate.
The Devils' centre entered the postseason on a 5-game point streak, during which he put up 8 points. He has yet to match that total in the postseason. Elias has 6 points in the playoffs, and just 4 in his last 15 games.
Elias struggled versus the Rangers especially, contributing just one point, a lucky goal that went off his leg in Game 5, and finishing the series a minus-five.
In his defence, Elias's underlying numbers are pretty great. His Corsi (effectively, plus/minus for shots directed at the goal rather than only the ones that go in) is among the best on the team. While he may not be producing, the Devils are still controlling the puck when he's on the ice, which is good news since he's seeing the tough matchups in every series.
That's some consolation, but his offence is a big part of New Jersey's game, and with Elias averaging 18:18 a game -- including 3:07 on the power play -- he should be providing more.
Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings
Like the Devils, the Kings are in the Final because they're getting contributions from everybody. But Carter is the standout non-standout.
He's got 4 goals and 5 assists in 14 games, which isn't too bad until you consider that he scored 3 of those goals in the same game. That's 1 goal in the other 13 for the Kings' forward.
But Carter's relative ineffectiveness doesn't really stand out until you dig deeper. While Elias is bailed out by a strong Corsi, Carter's underlying numbers make him the Non-Smythe frontrunner. His on-ice Corsi is a team-worst minus-16.78, and his Corsi relative to his teammates is an even worse team-worst minus-27.1. In short, the Devils will rejoice when Dustin Brown's line changes for Carter's.
Apart from the hat trick game, Carter has effectively been a passenger during this run. It doesn't matter too much right now -- 12 postseason victories can cover all manner of sins -- but he's being paid a hefty sum to ride this train. If the Kings don't win the Cup, expect fans to remember that Carter's under contract for a decade very quickly.