January 11, 2011
After Tuesday night, every team in the NHL will have reached the midpoint of the 2010-11 season.
It's a time for midseason honors, as Y! Sports' own Nick Cotsonika gave out his hardware this week. (Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) never won a Lady Byng? Nutty.)
So with half the season in the books, we've decided to bestow 30 mini-Hart Trophies on 30 different players in our Midseason MVP countdown. There will be some obvious ones (see: above, left). There will be some surprises. There will be at least one New Jersey Devil, which wasn't easy. Enjoy and post your own in the comments.
The Puck Daddy staff selected most of these names, but we reached out to some of our favorite team-specific blogs for a hand when necessary.
And here ... we ... go.
Anaheim Ducks: Jonas Hiller(notes), G. Forwards Corey Perry(notes) and Teemu Selanne(notes) are both rolling at a point-per-game pace, but Hiller's been one of the League's stealth MVPs: 21 wins (second in the League), 2.39 GAA, .929 save percentage (third in the NHL) and 4 shutouts. All that and the best looking murdered-out goalie mask in hockey.
Atlanta Thrashers: Tobias Enstrom(notes), D. There have been many heroes for the Thrash this season. Consider goalie Ondrej Pavelec(notes), as the Thrashers keeper began the season a stretcher and then, through his next 28 starts, won 15 games with a.930 save percentage (second in the NHL) facing an average of 31.5 shots per appearance. Consider Dustin Byfuglien(notes), the revelation on defense with 41 points in 45 games. But the nod here goes to Enstrom. He leads the team in ice time with 24:20 on average per game and specifically on the power play with 4:46 per game. He's got 38 points in 45 games, including a team-leading 21 points on the power play. His partnership with Byfuglien had allowed the former Blackhawk to blossom on the blue line. He hasn't gotten the headlines for Atlanta, but he's the glue this season.
Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas(notes), G. The comeback story of the season. After following his Vezina Trophy season with a year that saw him one game under .500 and riding the pine behind Tuukka Rask(notes), Thomas reclaimed his gig and his place among the NHL's elite keepers: 18-4-6, 1.84 GAA, a .944 save percentage and five shutouts. And he was perfect in October.
Buffalo Sabres: Thomas Vanek(notes), LW. With Ryan Miller(notes) good but not great in 32 games, we'll give the MVP to Vanek (10 goals, 15 assists). His 15 power play points lead the team. He's also been a model of consistency month-to-month. Six points for the Sabres since Derek Roy(notes) went down.
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla(notes), RW. The captain began
the season quite terribly: 2 goals in 11 games. Since then, he's had 15 goals
in 31 games, leading the Flames with 37 points. Stick tap to Mark Giordano(notes),
second leading player in average ice time and on a career-best pace points-wise
Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal(notes), C. He's got 41 points in 41 games, with 20 goals (4 for which were game-winners). The Canes have played him with several different forwards and he's juiced their scoring in the process.
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp(notes), C. As Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago wrote, it comes down to Sharp vs. Jonathan Toews(notes). But Sharp gets the nod because he's got 25 goals and other intangibles: "He's had few droughts, playing as consistent hockey as anyone on the team. With 18 assists, he's also on pace for an 80-point year. That can't be overlooked."
Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene(notes), C. Point-per-game pace (43 points in 43 games) for the Avalanche sophomore. As Mile High Hockey wrote in giving him an A-plus: "Solid defensively and amazing offensively, Duchene has scored a number of big goals and is starting to show leadership on the ice."
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash(notes), LW. Ask this question at the end of November, and the answer may have been goalie Mathieu Garon(notes). But he's crashed back down to earth as Nash continues to thrive, with 34 points in 41 games that including a scorching 10 goals in 11 games in November.
Dallas Stars: Brad Richards(notes), C. From a team perspective, the stunning Stars have gotten solid play from their goaltenders and blue line. But individually, it's Richards that's led the way with 18 goals and 31 assists. His 20 power-play points leads the team, and he's averaging an astounding 5:23 per game on the man advantage, second only to Crosby and Malkin among forwards. His effect on Loui Eriksson(notes) and James Neal(notes) on their line is palpable. In the words of Teddy KGB from "Rounders": "Pay dat man his money."
Detroit Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg(notes), C. He's got 49 points in 43 games to lead the Red Wings, but that doesn't tell the whole story. As usual, he's one of the best two-way forwards in the League at a plus-12. But when Pavel Datsyuk(notes) went down on Dec. 22, Zetterberg showed what he's made of: 16 points in 11 games, including six goals. And he's battled through some injuries, too.
Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Whitney(notes), D. Total pisser that he went down for a month with a bum ankle, because he was having one of his best seasons as a pro. A leader on defense and in ice time (25:20 per game), he had 27 points in 35 games.
Tomas Vokoun(notes), G. Just edging out
Dennis Wideman(notes) (jokes), Vokoun is 15-15-1 in 32 starts with five shutouts. He
faces over 30 shots per game, and it's not as if he's getting stellar offensive
support with a Panthers' power play that's clicking at an 8.8-percent conversion rate. Best of all: No
Keith Ballard to scramble his eggs.
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick(notes), G. Not an easy call, with Anze Kopitar(notes) posting 45 points in 42 games and Jack Johnson(notes) having a career year on the blue line. But our buddies at The Royal Half told us that has been the backbone of the team, holding off a challenge from fellow blue-chipper Jonathan Bernier(notes) to hang on to his gig and post a 19-10-1 record.
The man is a machine this season. Second on the team in goals, second in the league in goals from a defenseman. Leads the league in shifts per game, and leads the team in TOI. He is the top player on the team in even strength TOI, second in SH TOI, and second in PP TOI. His PP TOI will likely be tops on the team by the end of the season as Marek Zidlicky(notes) is out for at least 6-8 weeks, likely done for the year.
Burns return should not be surprising, but after missing multiple lengthy chunks of time, it is good to see him returning to form, and leading the team's defensive crops. If Mikko Koivu(notes) were suddenly out the picture, Burns would be the captain of this team.
Wow. Clutterbuck and Havlat are also in the conversation.
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price(notes), G. With Jaroslav Halak(notes) in St. Louis, there was legit concern about what Price would give the Habs this season as the starter. OK, mostly concern from those knuckleheads who booed him in the preseason, but concern nonetheless. All Price has done since is go 22-14-3 in an NHL best 38 starts, posting a 2.31 GAA and a .921 save percentage with 4 shutouts and at least one B-Boy pose. He struggled a bit in December, but he's been money otherwise.
Nashville Predators: Ryan Suter(notes), D. The obvious call would be goalie Pekka Rinne(notes). But Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck called Suter the "savvy choice" for midway point MVP: "While he was injured the team was a mess, but since his return the D have been stabilized and Shea Weber(notes) has been terrific. While he doesn't put up eye-popping numbers, Suter controls the flow of a game like a poor man's version of Nick Lidstrom."
This disaster wrapped in a catastrophe wrapped in a sweater that used to symbolize a level of competence and dignity probably doesn't deserve an MVP. But Patrik Elias'(notes) 30 points in 41 games leads the Devils, as he's the only player on the roster with more than 30 points. He's also only a minus-11, which is significantly better than other players on the roster who may or may not be making $100 million over the next 15 years.
New York Islanders: Frans Nielsen(notes), C. John Tavares(notes) leads the Isles with 28 points and is tied with Matt Moulson(notes) with 14 goals. He'll likely represent them at the All-Star Game, too. But for our money, Frans Nielsen has been the most valuable player to the Islanders in the first half: Contributing 19 points in 37 games, playing big minutes shorthanded (3:22) and on the power play (2:55), and facing off against opponents' top players. A grunt, and a valuable one.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist(notes), G. King Henrik has started 32 games and has a record of 18-12-3, posted a 2.33 GAA, a .920 save percentage and five shutouts. Through injuries and inconsistency in front of him, Lundqvist has been a rock for the Rangers. And speaking of rocks.
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson(notes), D. He got 25 points in 40 games, good for second on the team. According to Graeme Nichols of The 6th Sens: "Hands down. On an underachieving, veteran team, his combination of youth and skill gives Senators fans some glimmer of hope moving forward."
Philadelphia Flyers: Danny Briere(notes), F. We put this question to the Flyers fans in the readership, and the answers were all over the place -- which speaks volumes about the Flyers' balance. Forwards Mike Richards(notes) (37 points), Claude Giroux(notes) (36), Jeff Carter(notes) (34), Ville Leino(notes) (29) and defensemen Andrej Meszaros(notes) and Kimmo Timonen(notes) were all mentioned. But Briere's been dynamic and clutch in scoring his 21 goals to lead the team. He gets the nod here, if only because Sergei Bobrovsky(notes) and Brian Boucher(notes) can't share the award (because they certainly deserve to).
Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan(notes), RW. Some injuries and a suspension kept him off the ice, but when he was on, he was on. Doan has 10 goals in 32 games for the Coyotes, scoring 14 points in the team's wins and 14 in the team's losses with him in the lineup. His December was torrid: 16 points in 14 games. Special nod to grunt Taylor Pyatt(notes), whose 11 goals in 39 games put him right behind Scottie Upshall(notes) for the team lead,
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby(notes), C. No debate necessary. This selection is being emphasized as the Penguins lose without Sidney in the lineup. When he plays, he's had a monster regular season: 66 points in 41 games with 32 goals.
San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture(notes), F. How far down the
rabbit hole would the Sharks be right now were it not for this kid
games of playoff experience and his 19 goals on the season,
including five game-winners?
St. Louis Blues: David Backes(notes), RW. In a season that's seen the roster ravaged by injuries, Backes leads the Blues with 33 points including 12 goals. He plays in all situations and is keeping things Inglorious with 117 hits on the year.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos(notes), C. There was a moment of hesitation here as we considered whether Marty St. Louis deserved the nod. Fact is that St. Louis has assisted in 18 of Stamkos's 31 goals. But many of those helpers came on the power play, and Stamkos's ridiculous October (19 points in 10 games) was accomplished without too many St. Louis helpers. In the 25 wins he's played in, Stamkos has 44 points. He makes a difference.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski(notes), C. In chatting with our boys at Pension Plan Puppets, the consensus was that Grabbo gets the MVP for 17 goals in 40 games and at least one shootout tally that boggled the mind. Plus, he's living proof that Cliff Fletcher could, in fact, get a steal.
Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Kesler(notes), C. The Sedins have more points, posting 54 in 41 games each (because they simply have to take the twins cliché that far). But this is Kesler's star-making season: Playing the same kind of two-way game that's made him a perennial Selke contender while posting 23 goals in 41 games. He doesn't wear the ‘C' but he's been a leader for the best team in hockey during the first half.
Washington Capitals: John Carlson(notes), D. The Capitals had ebbs and flows of heroism in the first half. Michel Neuvirth in September. Alex Semin in November. Semyon Varlamov(notes) in December. But when we asked JP from Japers' Rink to determine the one true MVP of the first half of the season, he said the rookie defenseman wins the prize, with 17 points in 42 games and playing well over 22 minutes in most games.
Tomorrow on Puck Daddy: The first-half goats for each NHL team.