Tag:Jonathan Quick
Posted on: February 25, 2012 10:50 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:03 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Coyotes, Kings and Capitals



By: Adam Gretz


There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

1. Phoenix Coyotes: Is it too soon to give Dave Tippett the Jack Adams Award? Maybe, but it looks like he might have another one coming his way if this continues in Phoenix.

With their 3-1 win against the Oilers on Saturday afternoon the Coyotes won for the ninth time in the past 10 games, a stretch that has seen them go without a loss in regulation, and thanks to San Jose's loss in Nashville, they actually moved into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division. For now, anyway.

And this is a team that looked like it may not make the playoffs as recently as three weeks ago.

[Related: Coyotes 3, Oilers 1]

2. Los Angeles Kings: Jeff Carter's debut with the Kings was a rather large success. He didn't record a point in the Kings' 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, of course, but the fact the Kings scored four goals in a single game is impressive enough. Entering Saturday night they have scored just 18 goals in their previous 11 games.

Leading the was captain Dustin Brown as he did his part to respond to recent trade rumors with a hat trick, scoring two power play goals and a shorthanded goal, while also assisting on Willie Mitchell's second period goal.

Big-time performance for a Kings team that desperately needed it. Oh, hey, and another shutout for Jonathan Quick.

[Related: Kings 4, Blackhawks 0]

3. Washington Capitals: A fast start and a huge road win -- 4-2 over the Maple Leafs -- for what has been one of the worst road teams in the Eastern Conference . It's only the third road win for the Capitals in their past eight road games, and it allows them to keep pace with Florida and Winnipeg in the race for not only the No. 8 spot in the East, but also the top spot in the Southeast Division.

[Related: Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 2]

4. Wojtek Wolski and the Panthers: On the same day that the Florida Panthers acquired him from the New York Rangers, Wojtek Wolski was in the lineup for his new team and he not only scored his first goal of the season, it came with less than two minutes to play in the third period to tie the game at two, sending the game to overtime where the Panthers would eventually win in a shootout. That's how you make a debut and make an impact for your new team.

[Related: Panthers 3, Hurricanes 2 -- Wolski traded to Panthers]

Losers

1. Tampa Bay Lightning: Entering Saturday's game the playoff chances for the Tampa Bay Lightning were slim, especially now that the team has established itself as a seller. Their 8-1 loss to the Penguins can be described using only one word: Woof.

[Related: Penguins 8, Lightning 1 -- Malkin's highlight reel goal]

2. Toronto Maple Leafs: In what was a classic four-point game in the standings for both Toronto and Washington, the Maple Leafs got off to a slow start giving up two goals just three minutes into the first period and were never able to recover on their way to a 4-2 loss to the Capitals. The Leafs have now lost four in a row and eight out of their past nine. Perhaps being a buyer at the trade deadline isn't the best course of action for Toronto at this point.

Then again, Ron Wilson did his part to throw James Reimer in front of the bus during his post-game press conference, and seemed to be begging for a goaltender to be added. It could be an interesting 36 hours in Toronto.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:07 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 1:42 am
 

How the Kings reunited Richards and Carter

CarterRichardsKings

By: Adam Gretz

Between 2005 and 2011 Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were two of the cornerstone pieces of the Philadelphia Flyers organization.

They were both drafted by the team in what turned out to be one of the best draft years the NHL has ever seen (2003). They made their debuts during the same season (2005-06). And for the better part of six seasons they were two of the best players in Philadelphia, until they were both traded last summer in separate deals on the same day, with Richards going to the Los Angeles Kings and Carter being sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

On Thursday night, the two were reunited once again in Los Angeles as the Kings continued to do their part to seemingly move the Flyers westward one player at a time.

In the end, it took three separate transactions involving three teams, six players and four draft picks to make it happen. And here is how it all went down.

June 23, 2011: The Flyers started their massive roster overhaul by trading Carter to Columbus for forward Jakub Voracek, Columbus' first-round pick in 2011 (No. 7 overall, which the Flyers eventually used to select Sean Couturier), and a third-round pick in 2011 (which the Flyers used to select Nick Cousins).

June 23, 2011:Not long after Carter was shipped to Columbus, the other shoe dropped in Philadelphia with the bombshell that Richards, their captain, would be sent to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forwards Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn and the Kings second-round pick in 2012.
NHL Trade Deadline
More NHL coverage


February 23, 2012: The Kings reunited Carter and Richards by sending defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick to Columbus in exchange for Carter, just eight months, 39 games and 15 goals after the Blue Jackets acquired him.

When you get right down to it, the Kings traded what amounts to Schenn, Simmonds, Johnson, a second-round draft pick and what very well could be a mid-to-late first-round draft pick for Carter and Richards. That doesn't seem all that outrageous of a price for two big-time, two-way forwards that should be able to provide above average offense and strong defensive play for the foreseeable future. While also being signed long-term (in the case of Carter, very long-term. Through 2022).

Go back one year, Kings fans, and ask yourselves if you would have taken that deal to land both players. It's very possible, if not likely, that none of the players given up will ever be as good as Carter and Richards currently are, and it didn't involve them giving up any of their own franchise players (Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown). 

Of course, that's not to say things haven't worked out OK for the Flyers, as Simmonds is having a breakout year in Philadelphia and Couturier (acquired as part of the original Carter trade with Columbus) looks as if he has a shot to be a really strong player in the future, already playing a decent role for the Flyers as an 18-year-old rookie.

But the team that appears to come out on the short end of it all is the Blue Jackets.

Over the past eight months Columbus has essentially traded Voracek and the draft picks that turned out to be Couturier and Cousins and come away with only Johnson and the aforementioned draft pick from the Kings (which, again, may be at the back end of the first round). With eight months of Carter thrown in the middle. General manager Scott Howson said on Thursday he doesn't regret the initial trade for Carter, just that it didn't work out. And perhaps Carter deserves some (or a lot) of the blame for it not working out better than it did. But at this point, it's hard to look at Columbus and not see a ship that's aimlessly floating around without any real direction.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Carter traded to Kings
Blue Jackets trade Vermette to Coyotes
Lates Nash Dash: Would he fit with Sharks?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 1:04 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Last year's winner Corey Perry poses with the Hart Trophy. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Rankings. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

The Hart Trophy is the king of trophies, the biggest and best (outside of the Stanley Cup and playoff awards, of course) in the game. It goes to the league's most valuable player.

And here's the thing about it this season: It is going to be one heck of a race to the finish to determine it. The top of the points leaderboards are scrunched. So are the playoff pictures. That means the Hart race is in the same squished mode too.

The difference between a lot of guys right now in the Hart race is like differentiating between a Lamborghini or Ferrari, you really won't go wrong either way. Then you have Mercedes Benzs, Audis and Lexuses in the conversation too. So many great choices, so few winners. Just one, in fact. We aren't Jay Leno here and buying them all.

These rankings are reflective of where they stand now. They are certainly subject to change. For example, Steven Stamkos didn't crack the list here, but if the Lightning actually overcome their five-point hole and grab a playoff spot despite selling seemingly half their team, he'd have to be in consideration without a doubt.

Keep in mind the Hart race is incredibly tight with a ton of contenders at this point. There is an argument to be made for a lot of other players as well as for the order here to be changed. I'm sure you'll make those arguments below. This is just one man's opinion.

The Hart starts with a guy who hasn't won it yet despite some awesome seasons recently. But he was hindered by another spectacularly awesome teammate who hasn't been there much to help this season.

We also look at the Vezina, which isn't anywhere near as tight as the Hart race at the top but the fighting for the finalists is fierce.

Award watch
Hart Vezina
Evgeni Malkin The Penguins have had to deal with more injury loss this season than any other team, including two of their top three centers. The third is Malkin. He leads the league in points and is second in goals. He's been the best player in the league. But this race is very tight and has a long way to go. Henrik Lundqvist The Rangers are arguably the top team in the league and Lundqvist is a massive reason why. He is tops in the league in save percentage at a whopping .940 and has a goals against of 1.78. He's separated himself from the field ... and the Rangers from the East field as well.
Henrik Lundqvist Yes, I think he's been good enough to be seriously in this conversation. He's incredibly valuable to the Rangers, that's not a question for anybody. With scoring down so much in the NHL, this is a perfect year for a goaltender to win the Hart again. Jonathan Quick He means as much to the Kings as Lundqvist does to the Rangers and I'm not going to penalize a goaltender for his offense's lack of production. His 1.96 goals against and .931 save percentage are very good. He's the only reason Los Angeles is still fighting for a playoff berth.
Claude Giroux He was asked to carry a lot more of the load in Philadelphia this season and he has. Despite missing a few games with a concussion, the 24-year-old Giroux is set to pass his career highs very soon with 23 goals and 47 assists already despite playing just 55 games. He's had to with Philly's defense. Jimmy Howard Despite recently missing three weeks in February with a broken finger, Howard is still second in the league in wins with 32 (one behind Pekka Rinne). He is having a career season with a 2.03 goals against average and .924 save percentage and is a big reason why the Wings have returned to the top of the West.
Radim Vrbata Why not? He has 30 goals and counting on the season for the Coyotes, a team that otherwise relies on defense. That's 12 more than anybody else on the team. Aside from Ray Whitney, everybody on the team is at least 16 points behind Vrbata. For a team expected to be in the basement, he deserves a lot of credit. Brian Elliott The only thing keeping Elliott this far down the list is the fact that he splits almost 50/50 in St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak. But his 1.65 goals against average and .937 save percentage are obscene. However he'll be hurt by Halak's success as well as the Ken Hitchcock argument ... he makes all goalies look good.
Jason Spezza The assumption before the season was that the Senators were going to be in the running for the best lottery position, not the Northeast Division crown with the Bruins. But here they are and Spezza's 27 goals and 39 assists are a massive reason why. So is Erik Karlsson, but he'll show up elsewhere. Tim Thomas Last year's runaway with the Vezina, Thomas isn't having the season he did a year ago. But in his defense, nobody ever had before him either. He's still excellent with his .929 save percentage and 2.21 goals against. For now he barely beats out Mike Smith and Pekka Rinne in this race for me.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom.

Calder: Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Read.

Jack Adams: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews

Top GM: Dale Tallon, Glen Sather, Don Maloney.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:52 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:55 am
 

Winners & Losers: Coyotes, Jackets, Flames

By: Adam Gretz

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

1. Phoenix Coyotes: A 3-0 deficit against Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings seems like like it might be impossible to overcome with the way this season has progressed. Not the case for the Coyotes on Tuesday night as they continued their winning ways with a come-from-behind, 5-4 shootout win. It was their eighth win in the past nine games, and their ninth straight game with at least a point in the standings. It also moves them into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division with the San Jose Sharks, a team that had their lunches handed to them by our next winner, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets: In what has become a lost, disappointing season, the Blue Jackets had their most complete and impressive performance of the year on Tuesday night with a 6-3 win over the Sharks. R.J. Umberger completed his first career Gordie Howe Trick scoring a goal, assisting on another and dropping the gloves … all in the first period. And it took him just 4:11 of ice-time to accomplish it. Talk about efficiency.

3. Another high-scoring Jets-Flyers game: Somehow, the Winnipeg Jets had a chance to move into the top spot in the Southeast Division (and the third spot in the Eastern Conference) with a regulation win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

They didn't win, but they still managed to gain a point with a 5-4 overtime loss and move into a tie with the Panthers, which is still pretty amazing. Are the Jets buyers? Sellers? A team that does nothing? Who knows at this point, but they're still in it thanks to the collective mediocrity that is the Southeast Division. But the most entertaining thing here is the Jets and Flyers played another high-scoring, back-and-forth game. In their four-game season series this year the two teams combined for 38 goals. That's an average of 9.5 goals per game in a league where the average game features just 5.46.

It's like 1985 all over again when these two teams get together, and as of now, a first-round playoff matchup isn't entirely out of the question.

We can only hope.

Losers

1. The Anaheim Ducks playoff chances: Much had been made of the fact the Anaheim Ducks were only five points out of a playoff spot entering Tuesday night, but here is why it's going to be next to impossible for them to catch up: Even with one of the best stretches in the NHL they're still back to being six points out and are still in 13th after Tuesday. Their best two-month stretch of the season has seen them gain four points and move up one spot in the standings since early December. Those points are just too hard to make up, and a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay doesn't help.  They have no margin for error, and losing to a team that's in selling off players every other team and makes the hole they're in even deeper.

2. Calgary Flames: There was one team on the ice on Tuesday night that looked like it was fighting for its playoff lives, and it wasn't the Calgary Flames in a 6-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. These are the points that the Flames need if they're going to earn one of the top eight spots in the West, and this one was a clunker.

3. The New Islanders slow starts: Scoring first is a big deal in the NHL, and no team seems to get off to slower starts on a nightly basis than the New York Islanders. They were down 2-0 just three minutes into Monday's game, and then on Tuesday against Buffalo they fell behind just 1:12 into the first period of their 2-1 loss to the Sabres. It's tough to win games when you're spotting the other team a one-goal lead almost right off the opening faceoff every night.

Goal of the Night: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins.

New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella said this goal by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, his 33rd of the season, was the result of "a dumb play by Michael Del Zotto." His turnover may have led to it, but it's still a big-time move on a play that involved two of the NHL's MVP favorites going one-on-one.



For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: February 18, 2012 10:42 am
 

The Kings need to find some offense

RichardsBy: Adam Gretz

The Los Angeles Kings have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this season, and a pretty solid defense anchored by young star Drew Doughty.

Unfortunately, they're running the risk of letting it all go to waste with what has been one of the worst goal-scoring teams the NHL has seen over the past 14 years.

Entering Saturday's game against Calgary, the Kings are clinging to the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference, just two points ahead of the Flames team they're hosting. If not for the stellar play of Jonathan Quick it's worth wondering if this team would even be in playoff contention right now.

Quick, who is currently third in the NHL in goals against average and save percentage, has been the very definition of a hard luck loser. He has had 10 games this season where he's allowed two goals or fewer and still come away with a loss, whether it be in regulation or in overtime/shootout.

That includes Thursday's 1-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, the third time in the past month-and-a-half he's been on the wrong side of a 1-0 decision. There is only so much he can do.

As of Saturday morning, the Kings are averaging just 2.07 goals per game, by far the worst total in the NHL. And this is a team that has had the 6th most power play opportunities in the NHL. Granted, it's not exactly been a great power play (23rd in the league), but they've had more chances on the man advantage than most teams. Outside of that, there is almost no 5-on-5 scoring to speak of with a league-worst 76 goals during 5-on-5 situations this season. The second-worst team, the Minnesota Wild, has 84.

But how does this season stack up against recent goal-scoring shortages? Since the start of the 1997-98 season, only three teams have finished a full season averaging fewer goals per game than '11-12 Kings are currently averaging: The 2000-01 Wild (2.05), 2001-02 Blue Jackets (2.00) and 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning (1.84). Keep in mind, that Wild team was in its first year of existence, while the Blue Jackets were in their second year of existence.

At their current pace, the Kings would finish the regular season with just 169 goals, a total that would actually fall nearly 50 goals short of what would be the league average. This is a big problem.

The last time the lowest-scoring team in the NHL actually qualified for the playoffs was the 1988-89 Vancouver Canucks after finishing with a 33-39-8 record to claim the fourth and final playoff spot in the Smythe Division. It's only happened three other times since the NHL expanded beyond the original six in 1967 -- the '86-87 Detroit Red Wings, the '70-71 Minnesota North Stars, and the '68-69 Philadelphia Flyers.

Feeling optimistic?

Great goaltending will only take you so far. In the end, you still need to score goals.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 28, 2012 11:28 pm
Edited on: January 28, 2012 11:35 pm
 

NHL skills contest results, highlights

By: Adam Gretz

The NHL wrapped up its Super Skills competition on Saturday night with Daniel Alfredsson's team, loaded with all of the hometown Ottawa Senators, picking up the overall win by a 21-12 margin. Below is the complete list of winners in all of the invidual events, including Patrick Kane in the Breakaway challenge and Zdeno Chara taking home yet another championship (and record) in the hardest shot contest, as well as some of the highlights (and lowlights) from the night.

2012 NHL Super Skills Results
Competition Winner
Fastest Skater Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers)
Breakaway Challenge Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks
Shot Accuracy Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)
Skills Challenge Relay Team Alfredsson
Hardest Shot Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins)
Elimination Shootout Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Zdeno Chara makes the hardest shot contest the must-see event: I understand what the NHL is trying to do with the breakaway challenge (it's basically the Slam Dunk contest, in hockey form) and at times on Saturday night it was the highlight of the night, whether it was Kane putting on the Superman cape, Anaheim's Corey Perry busting out the knee-hockey stick and using it to score a goal, or Montreal's Carey Price stopping a shot with his back turned to the shooter. Great stuff.

But the must-see event, at least as long as Chara is taking part in it, remains the hardest shot contest, If for no other reason than to watch in amazement at the freakish speeds these guys can fire a piece of frozen rubber across the ice. Watching Chara in this event right now is like watching a home run hitter get himself in a rhythm and hit one titanic fly ball after another in a home run derby.

At this point it's his event, and everybody else is just taking part in it for his amusement. Even Shea Weber, a guy that hit 106 on the radar gun Saturday night, couldn't get near him. Chara has won the event five years in a row, and not only does he keep winning, but his shots keep getting faster and faster, and he keeps shattering his own records.

It's worth asking if 110 MPH is in play next season in Columbus. I wouldn't bet against it.

Change that wasn't an improvement:
The NHL used a new format for the fastest skater contest this season, having the players line up side by side, skate in a straight line down the ice, make a narrow, short turn, and then head back in the opposite direction. In years past the players would simply skate all the way around the ice, the complete length of the rink, making it easier to compare players and their times from year-to-year. The new approach almost seemed to slow the players down because it didn't give them enough of a chance to really show what they can do speed-wise.

On a positive note, for the second year in a row goalies competed in one of the rounds, with Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick blowing away Detroit's Jimmy Howard. And yes, they have to skate with all of their equipment on, which definitely adds a bit of unintentional humor.

Fortunately for the two keepers this year neither one of them took a spill in the corner like Boston's Tim Thomas did last season.

Event that doesn't seem to work: The Skills Challenge relay. Dump it. It's basically a giant obstacle course that involves just about every skater on the two team's taking part in a series of events, including passing, one-timers, shot accuracy and puck control. Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to work or generate much excitement.

It's by far the longest event from start to finish, taking nearly two-and-a-half minutes for one team to complete the course, and it seems to suck a lot of the life out of the crowd.

Helmet camera's are always cool: St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott, who received a nice ovation from the Ottawa fans as one of the many former (and current) Senators to play in the game, had a helmet cam throughout the night -- along with Howard -- to give a first-person look at some of the events. That included during the breakaway challenge when Elliott was in the cage attempting to stop Kane's slapshot with what turned out to be a trick puck that broke into four pieces on its way to the net.

Of course, given the way that Elliott is playing this season for the Blues it's not much of a surprise that none of the pieces ended up in the back of the net, while he even managed to glove one of them out of the air.



Previously at Eye On Hockey

Kane's Superman wins breakaway challenge
Chara sets another record
More 2012 All-Star Game coverage

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 26, 2012 9:23 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 11:42 am
 

2012 NHL All-Star Rosters

By: Adam Gretz

We knew which players were going to be taking part in the All-Star game this season, but we had no idea which team they would be playing for and who they would be playing against. It was all settled in Ottawa on Thursday night as Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson and Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, the two captains for this year's game, made their selections as you can see below in the order they were picked.

Chara won the coin toss and ended up with the first selection and chose Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk, and continued to load up on offense in the early rounds going with Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa and Phil Kessel.

Kessel, of course, was the last pick in the All-Star draft a year ago, but went in the eighth round this season. The last man standing this season was San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture

Two developments that should not have been a surprise to anybody: First, The Vancouver-Boston rivalry that started in last year's Stanley Cup Finals, and carried over into this season as we saw in their regular season matchup a couple of weeks ago, continued on as Chara did not pick a single Canuck.

That means that unlike last year when they were split up, the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, will play on the same team as they've always done throughout their time in the NHL.

Also not a surprise: Alfredsson made sure to pick every Senator in the game, ending up with Erik Karlsson (his first pick), Jason Spezza (his second pick) and Milan Michalek.

2012 NHL All-Star Rosters
Team Alfredsson Team Chara
Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers, Goalie)* Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs, Forward)*
Erik Karlsson (Senators, Defense) Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings, Forward)
Jason Spezza (Senators, Forward) Tim Thomas (Bruins, Goalie)
Jonathan Quick (Kings, Goalie) Evgeni Malkin (Penguins, Forward)
Claude Giroux (Flyers, Forward) Marian Hossa (Blackhawks, Forward)
Kris Letang (Penguins, Defense) Kimmo Timonen (Flyers, Defense)
Steven Stamkos (Lightning, Forward) Corey Perry (Ducks, Forward)
Brian Elliott (Blues, Goalie) Carey Price (Canadiens, Goalie)
Shea Weber (Predators, Defense) Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs, Forward)
Daniel Sedin (Canucks, Forward) Ryan Suter (Predators, Defense)
Dan Girardi (Rangers, Defense) Jimmy Howard (Red Wings, Goalie)
Keith Yandle (Coyotes, Defense) Brian Campbell (Panthers, Defense)
Milan Michalek (Senators, Forward) Patrick Kane (Blackhawks, Forward)
Henrik Sedin (Canucks, Forward) Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs, Defense)
James Neal (Penguins, Forward) Jarome Iginla (Flames, Forward)
Alex Edler (Canucks, Defense) Dennis Wideman (Capitals, Defense)
John Tavares (Islanders, Forward) Marian Gaborik (Rangers, Forward)
Scott Hartnell (Flyers, Forward) Jordan Eberle (Oilers, Forward)
Jason Pominville (Sabres, Forward) Tyler Seguin (Bruins, Forward)
Logan Couture (Sharks, Forward) Jamie Benn (Stars, Forward)

(*Assistant Captain)

More NHL All-Star Game Coverage


For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 10:43 am
Edited on: January 10, 2012 2:25 pm
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

By Brian Stubits

On Monday night, the NHL season went over the hump and the second half officially began.

The league has been a Wild ride through only half a season as the Maple Leafs fell from the trees and onto your lawn. Stars have been dropping all over the place, too. Some teams have been singing the Blues as they’ve gone down in Flames while others have been surprising high Flyers as if they were in Jets. You'd almost think they made deals with the Devils or something.

OK, enough with the ambiguous team-name puns, time to get our Ducks in a row here.

In the first half of the season alone the NHL has seen seven head coaches fired, plenty of surprises, has memorized the introduction to a Brandon Shanahan video and had a memorable Winter Classic (we can thank NBC for that, right Torts?).

Now comes the fun part where everybody and their brother has their own candidate for each award, but here are the Eye on Hockey midseason awards as handed out by myself, Brian Stubits and my colleague Adam Gretz.

See that commentary space at the bottom? That's for your write-in candidates. Don't be shy (as if you needed the encouragement).

Hart (Given to the Most Valuable Player)

Stubits: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux has had absolutely no problem filling the scoring void left by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in Philadelphia. His 48 points are 11 better than the next highest on his team (Scott Hartnell) despite missing four games with a concussion and he has the Flyers in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference.

Gretz: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

I know the history. I know that goaltenders don't generally win this award, and that you can probably count on one hand the number of times it's happened, at least over the past 30-40 years. But we're talking about MVP's of the first half of the season, and I'm not sure where the Rangers would be without him at this point. He faces a heavy workload and he's their best player every night.

Vezina (Given to the most outstanding goalie)

Stubits: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

I had a tough time here with him and Henrik Lundqvist. Considering Quick has carried more of his team's load and has twice as many shutouts clinches it for me. As for Tim Thomas? Hard when Tuukka Rask's numbers are even better. Brian Elliott has been splitting too much. Jimmy Howard another close call. Hard to make a bad pick for Vezina this year.

Gretz: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

The last four goalies to win the MVP (Jose Theodore, Dominik Hasek -- twice -- Jacques Plante) also won the Vezina Trophy that same season, so if I have Lundqvist as my mid-season MVP, it only seems fair to give him the Vezina as well. Boston's Tuukka Rask has better numbers at this point, but he's also only appeared in 14 games.

Norris (Given to the top defenseman)

Stubits: Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Offensively speaking, he's one of the best you'll find in hockey. Defensively speaking, he's one of the best you'll find in hockey. What else could you want in a defenseman? Zdeno Chara comes in a close second for me with Brian Campbell a surprising third.

Gretz: Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

He's one of the leading scorers among defensemen in the NHL and one of the guys Nashville leans on to play heavy minutes (among the toughest in the league), which makes his ability to put up points even more impressive.

Calder (Given to the top rookie)

Stubits: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers

As of now, that's not a terribly tough call, I don't think. Nugent-Hopkins has been great for the Oilers this season, particularly on the power play. He's on pace for around 75 points if he were to play 82 games (which he won't). It will get more interesting as the season wears on and Nugent-Hopkins remains sidelined. Watch for Adam Henrique in New Jersey.

Gretz: Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils

Offensively, his numbers are nearly identical to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton with seemingly far less fanfare. I give the edge to Henrique because he's played in tougher situations and is a regular on New Jersey's penalty kill, which happens to be the best in the NHL. He's tied for the league lead (among all players, not just rookies) in shorthanded points.

Jack Adams (Given to the best coach)

Stubits: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues

How can your choice be anybody else? The Blues were 6-7-0 before he was hired, 18-5-5 since. St. Louis has allowed the third-fewest goals in the NHL behind the Rangers and Bruins. Paul MacLean is my second choice. Kevin Dineen and Mike Yeo slipped with sluggish Decembers.

Gretz: Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators

Nobody had any preseason expectations for the Ottawa Senators other than that they would be competing for the No. 1 overall pick. Did anybody have them competing for a playoff spot at the halfway point? Or at any point? He also wins the Lanny MacDonald award for best mustache in the NHL.

Selke (Given to the best defensive forward)

Stubits: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

There are some great choices, but you can't go wrong with Bergeron. The Bruins defense is outstanding and he's part of that. Guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews have arguments here too but the best defense should be rewarded in some fashion.

Gretz: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Bergeron has been climbing up the Selke voting in recent years, slowly but surely, and he's the best defensive player on one of the best defensive team in the league. Even though he plays some of the toughest minutes on the team, he's only been on the ice for 10 goals against at even strength. He kills penalties, wins faceoffs ... he does it all. One of the best two-way players in the league.

Best surprise

Stubits: Florida Panthers

The Panthers have been in first place of the Southeast Division for almost two months running. Let those words soak in. Sure, the division hasn't been very good as a whole, but this team was ripped pretty mercilessly for the offseason overhaul and here they are. Other good choices: Jets, Senators, Wild.

Gretz: Ottawa Senators

For the same reasons I have Paul MacLean as mid-season coach of the year. Nobody expected anything from the Senators this season other than for them to be terrible.

Biggest disappointment

Stubits: Buffalo Sabres

They aren't the worst of the candidates -- Ducks, Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Lightning -- but they had some very high expectations and have been incredibly pedestrian. They just aren't scoring much, their 107 goals the second fewest in the East. Very big things were expected of them, a point-per-game pace doesn't fit the bill.

Gretz: Columbus Blue Jackets

Well, this seems easy. Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski were supposed to be difference makers at two spots they needed the most help at, and while I didn't think they would be any sort of contender, I at least thought they would have a shot at the playoffs. At the halfway point, they're the worst team in the league.

Best offseason acquisition

Stubits: Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues

It was very close for me between him and another Brian, Campbell down in Florida. But Elliott, an afterthought on the goalie market this offseason, has been sensational in St. Louis, even before Hitchcock came aboard. He'd be my favorite for the Vezina if he weren't splitting so much with Jaroslav Halak.

Gretz: Ian White, Detroit Red Wings

There were questions as to how the Red Wings would replace Brian Rafalski on the blue line, and Ian White at an average annual salary of $2.75 million over two years has been a bargain for the production and quality of play he's provided.

Worst offseason acquisition

Stubits: Tomas Kaberle, Carolina Hurricanes

To be honest, I was looking for somebody other than Ville Leino, who is likely the runaway choice for this. But Kaberle was almost as bad, the only difference was that his contract isn't the long-term commitment that Leino's is. That didn't stop 'Canes GM Jim Rutherford from fixing his mistake before the All-Star break by trading Kaberle to Montreal. Under the radar pick: Re-signing Dwayne Roloson in Tampa Bay.

Gretz: Ville Leino, Buffao Sabres

This seemed like a dubious signing from the start. Buffalo gave Ville Leino six-years and $27 million based on one full season of production in the NHL. In 30 games this season he has 10 points.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com