Countdown: Three Calder Nominees, Two Teams Fighting, One Lost Tooth

Before you take a look at my post on The PensNation, I want to add a quick tidbit. In my article I didn’t state my opinion on who should win the Calder Memorial Trophy. Now that I’m on my own blog, I want to formally endorse Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau was phenomenal all season, despite playing on Florida Panthers, the team with the worst record in the NHL. Huberdeau also tied Nail Yakupov in rookie scoring. Pretty impressive considering the talent Yakupov has on his line in Edmonton. I also know that Huberdeau is a great person from working on some of his marketing materials during my time interning at Octagon. Overall, a great choice for the Calder, and he would’ve had my vote.

Without further ado, here is today’s post on The PensNation: http://bit.ly/15lLrfD 

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NHL Awards Preview, Messier Leadership Award

For my 3rd installment of NHL Award Previews (see Norris trophy and Calder trophy articles), I will cover the Messier Leadership Award. It is the newest award, with its introduction in 2007. The Messier Leadership Award has been presented to Chris Chelios, Mats Sundin, Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby, and reigning awardee Zdeno Chara.

What do these players have in common? They have all stepped up to lead their teams when they were needed most. Chelios won in 2007, the year after Steve Yzerman retired. Yzerman was not only the longest serving captain of the Red Wings, but the longest serving NHL captain of all time with a 20 year tenure. Those are some big shoes to fill, and Chelios did that without even wearing a “C”. When Chara won the award last year, he was both the captain of his team and a recent Stanley Cup winner.

Messier’s choices show a wide range of players. Some have formal leadership roles, while others step up when they see fit. Some players are defensemen, while others are forwards. Some leaders thrive in community initiatives off the ice, while others see on-ice success. Winners of the award have also been from a wide array of countries including Canada, USA, Slovakia, and Sweden.

According to Messier, this year’s candidates are Dustin Brown of the LA Kings, Ryan Callahan of the NY Rangers, and Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes.

  • Dustin Brown helped lead the Kings to their Stanley Cup win. He has respect from his teammates and rightfully so. Kings defenseman  Matt Green said (about Brown), “Well, he’s not a rah-rah guy, we don’t have too many of those guys in the room. But he knows how to lead, and he does it by example.”
  • Ryan Callahan led the Rangers into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Callahan inspires his team by getting down to work and scoring goals when his team needs it. He is also an important leader for Rangers fans as the first NY native to wear the coveted Rangers “C”.
  • Shane Doan was instrumental in gaining the Coyotes first ever division title. The Coyotes also had an amazing playoff run despite low fan engagement and ownership issues. According to Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, “You don’t see all the things happening behind the scenes, in the dressing room, the inspiration he is to the other guys there, how he cares about this team and winning”.
All three players are fit to win the Messier Leadership Award. They are inspirational, talented, and are the go-to man for their respective teams. So who will win? Logic tells me it will be Doan who has faced so many club/off-ice issues and yet so much team success. However, it is hard to imagine that Mark “We are going to win it” Messier not choosing a Ranger as talented as Ryan Callahan.

NHL Rundown: Update for the Ultimate Hockey Fans

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What is going on in the hockey world you ask? Simply, a lot. With LA’s Game 1 OT win over the Devils in the Stanley Cup final, the NHL Combine taking place this weekend, the EA Sports Cover Vote coming to a close, and Lidstrom announcing his retirement, fans are in the thick of tons of hockey news.

Here are the most important headlines:

1. LA Kings win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in overtime. Kudos go to Kopitar who scored on a breakaway goal. See here: 

  • Sidenote: The Kings have never won a Stanley Cup. For those of you who think that is no big deal, consider the fact that the Kings became a NHL team in the 1967 NHL expansion with the California Seals.

2. Nicklas Lidstrom announces his retirement from the NHL (the year before the Red Wings play in the Winter Classic- do I see an alumni game all-star in the near future?)

  • Sidenote: Lidstrom has played 20 seasons with the Red Wings, and is still just as good as he was way back when. I mean, he won 7 Norris Trophies for being the league’s best defenseman. Check out his first goal ever here.

3. The NHL Scouting Combine finished up interviews with potential players and have now moved on to test athletic ability. The Combine takes place in Toronto from May 28th until June 2nd. TSN draftcenter is covering everything you could ever want to know about the Combine.

  • Sidenote: Teams are increasingly worried about drafting high profiled Russian players for fear that they will choose to play in the KHL rather than the NHL. What? You think someone named Yakupov or Grigorenko would want to play in Russia? I wonder why they are worried…
  • Various players in the top of the scouting class have injuries that are not quite healed. No one knows just how the injuries will effect the players’ draft position (Most notably Alex Galchenyuk’s knee injury). Yeah ouch. 
  • Sidenote: Malcolm Subban, PK Subban’s brother was at the Combine. He plays goalie. Who knew?
  • Sidenote: Top defenseman prospect Ryan Murray ended up vomiting after the Combine’s bike test to check oxygen consumption during intense exercise. To reporters he stated, ““I lost a little bit of my breakfast…too much bacon this morning.” Sounds like a comment an 18 year old would make. Oh yeah, he’s 18. Younger than my younger brother. Scary.

4. EA Sports Cover Vote for NHL 2013 has been narrowed down to only 2 candidates: Flyers’ Center Claude Giroux and Predators’ Goalie Pekka Rinne. Voting lasts until June 4th and the support for both candidates on Twitter is ridiculous. Giroux put out a message to fans on his own Twitter account, while celebrities like Carrie Underwood have come out in support of Rinne.

5. The NHL Draft and the NHL Awards are on the horizon. Not too much to say about this, other than I am getting excited. I am attending the draft this year. Let me know if you will be there and come ask me if I agreed with the choices at the Awards show (or tweet me @Fiveforboarding <shameless plug>)

6. Trades to watch out for: Rick Nash, Jordan Staal (Headed to Carolina with his brother?), Ryan Suter (Lidstrom’s replacement?), and Zach Parise (unrestricted free agent this summer).

  • Sidenote: And what about all this Tim Thomas craziness? Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that “There’s a strong chance he’ll [Thomas] be taking the year off.” Why? Because he is Tim Thomas and he does what he wants. That was clear when he didn’t go with the rest of the Bruins team to the White House. Does he want to be traded? His no-trade clause does expire on July 1st… Time will tell.

NHL Awards Preview, Calder Memorial Trophy

As many of you know, last week I made the journey to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Overall, it was pretty impressive- all the greats, some awesome videos, and even a replica Montreal Canadiens locker room. One of the highlights of the trip was checking out the highly recognized NHL trophies. When I saw the Calder I made sure to take a photo, and I promised myself I would finally get to writing this article. But before I can discuss who should be considered for this highly-esteemed award, I need to discuss the award itself.

Right next to the trophy, was this displayed text: “Calder Memorial Trophy- An annual award to ‘the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.’ Winner selected in 1 poll by the Professional Hockey Writers’Association at the end of the regular schedule. From 1936-37 until his death in 1943, Frank Calder, NHL President, bought a trophy each year to be given permanently to the outstanding rookie. After Calder’s death, the NHL presented the Calder Memorial Trophy in his memory. To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league. Beginning in 1990-91, to be eligible for this award a player must not have attained his twenty-sixth birthday by September 15th of the season in which he is eligible”.

That might tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the Calder, but I think it is important to know the significance behind these awards (and how many stipulations there are- gees!). Many hockey greats and current superstars have won the Calder in the past. These players include Terry Sawchuk, Bobby Orr, Ken Dryden, Mario Lemieux, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Ray Bourque, Pavel Bure, Daniel Alfredsson, Teemu Selanne, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin.

But on to the candidates… There are 5 rookies that I believe are in the running to win the Calder. Each player has specific strengths that make them a great candidate for the trophy. The five players include (not in any order):

  • Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
  • Matt Read, Philadelphia Flyers
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
  • Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils
  • Cody Hodgson, Buffalo Sabres

Points: Advantage Nugent-Hopkins

When looking at point totals and scoring, Nugent-Hopkins has the advantage. Nugent-Hopkins is tied with Gabriel Landeskog for the rookie lead with 52 points, even though Nugent-Hopkins has played 20 less games.

Goals: Advantage Matt Read

Matt Read had the most goals for a rookie in the regular season. He tallied 24 goals this season. Even more impressive was Read’s clutch plays. He scored a whopping total of 6 game-winning goals. He is an integral part of the Flyers goal-scoring team and is constantly converting his shots. He has a 15.5% shot percentage which is above all the other rookies in the running for the Calder this year.

 

Defense: Advantage Gabriel Landeskog

Landeskog finished the regular season with a +20 +/-. This stat just proves how cognizant Landeskog is when he is out on the ice. He is an all around player and is involved in both ends of the play. Landeskog clearly has the advantage in this category.

Powerplay: Advantage Cody Hodgson

This season, Cody Hodgson finished with 7 powerplay goals. This is especially impressive because these goals have been spread out between Hodgson’s time with the Canucks and the Sabres. He is consistent on the powerplay no matter who he is playing with. He has great vision on the ice, and is comfortable leading in the PP.

Shorthanded: Advantage Adam Henrique

Henrique converted 4 short-handed goals this season. He is the leader in this category among all rookies and is tied with only 2 vets for the lead (Cal Clutterbuck and Mike Richards). Part of this advantage is due to Zach Parise’s innate ability to strip players of the puck, but Henrique is always very alert and ready with a solid shot.

Opinions? Anyone think Hagelin should be on this list? Who do you think will win?

NHL Awards Preview, Norris Trophy

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In Las Vegas, on June 20, 2012 the newest NHL awardees will be crowned. Various trophies will be awarded to both players and coaches throughout the league. Although there is still a decent amount of hockey left before June, here are some of my predictions for who could be winning the prestigious James Norris Memorial Trophy (for greatest all-around defenseman) and why.

  • Last years winner: Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings)- Could Lidstrom win again? Probably not. I would argue that this was not Lidstrom’s year. Although he is always a solid defenseman, and one of the best to  play the game, I don’t think he will take it this year (although its never wise to count him out, he has won it 7 times). He is getting older and with an injury to his right ankle, Lidstrom missed 11 games in a row in March. This has given him a solid set back to winning the title for the second year in a row.Other defenseman are making more of a splash this year with their power and offensive-strength. Here is one of Lidstrom’s better plays from earlier this year: 
  • Front-runner: Shea Weber (Nashville Predators). Benefits of Weber: He is on track for career-best offensive numbers (only two points away from his final regular season point total from last year when he was the runner-up for the Norris). Weber is a major leader for the Predators team as Captain. He is also highest scoring defenseman on the Preds and plays a solid average of 25 minutes of ice-time per game.  And we all know Weber has a ridiculous slap shot (we saw just how fast during the NHL All-star Skills Competition when he shot over 104 miles per hour and gave Chara a run for his money).
  • Front runner: Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators). On the other hand, Karlsson is having a break out year. Karlsson has already surpassed his point totals from last season, and has the 2nd highest point total on the Senators. He is young and is proving that he might be the d-man to watch for in upcoming years. Although Karlsson’s +/- isn’t quite as good as Lidstrom or Weber, he is still a serious contender because of his point totals. Karlsson is currently sitting at a staggering 73 points.To put this in perspective: when looking at point totals this season, Karlsson is the only defenseman in the top 80. This is even more impressive because Karlsson is number 11 (right in between Jordan Eberle and Henrik Sedin). Even though Karlsson has all those points, Weber still has a good chance of coming away with the win. Being a goal-scorer doesn’t necessarily win you the Norris. Here is a nice set-up for a Spezza goal made by Karlsson earlier this season: 
  • Other potential candidates: Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins), Ryan Suter (Nashville Predators)

Agree/disagree? Anyone think Letang has a chance even though he was out with injuries for so long?