Tag:Patrice Bergeron
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 19, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 3:45 pm
 

NHLPA poll really likes Pavel Datsyuk

To recap: Datsyuk is a joy and a pain to play against all at once. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

This Pavel Datsyuk fellow is a pretty good player.

In the NHL Players Association's annual poll, Datsyuk was voted as the best in six of the superlative categories. In addition to being named the most difficult player to play against and the league's smartest player (with a strong 45 percent saying as much) he was also voted the hardest to take the puck from, toughest forward to play against, the cleanest to play against and he was voted the toughest to stop by goaltenders.

What, no interesting man in hockey?

The Bruins and Rangers were also popular among the players for some of the superlatives. No surprise here, but Zdeno Chara was named the hardest shot, Milan Lucic called the toughest player in the league (ahead of teammates Chara and Shawn Thornton), Patrice Bergeron the most underrated player and Chara the toughest defenseman to play against.

For the Rangers, Marian Gaborik was called the best skater as well as the fastest, Henrik Lundqvist was named the most difficult goalie to score on and John Tortorella was voted as the coach who demands the most from his players.

There are a lot more categories that were voted on and you can check them all out here, including the top five vote getters in each category.

But another worth sharing here is definitely the biggest surprise in my eyes. A total of 53 percent of the players do not think the instigator rule should be removed from the game. Considering how vocal a lot of players have been in their dislike for the rule, it was certainly an eye-opener for me.

What wasn't shocking, however, was to see Datsyuk dominate the voting. Fans love the guy because he's a joy to watch, media members love the guy because he's a good quote and apparently players love the guy because he does everything well. If there were a player that this stupid cliché ever fit perfectly, it's Datsyuk: He plays the game the right way.

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

Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:05 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 11:13 am
 

Don't get too excited about that 2nd round pick

Shea Weber is the exception, not the rule for 2nd round success (Getty Images)
By: Adam Gretz

The most popular piece of currency that gets passed around (or is rumored to be passed around) the NHL this time of year is the second-round draft pick.

On Thursday alone we saw two deals go down involving such a pick when San Jose picked up Dominic Moore from the Lightning, and the Flyers acquired defenseman Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars.

It's pretty much the going rate for a veteran rental that can provide some depth, and if your team is one of the ones that ends up coming out of the trade deadline season with such a pick, it's probably best to keep your expectations within reason. Because there is a pretty good chance that it will turn out to be nothing. Or next to nothing.

Just taking a random 10-year sampling of NHL drafts, there were over 340 players selected during the second-round between 1995 and 2005. Of those players, 122 of them never played a game in the NHL. Or, in other words, over 35 percent. That, of course, doesn't count the players that did appear in the NHL but never established themselves as regulars. There were another 122 players that made an appearance in the league but have played fewer than 100 games.

Add those two groups together and that's roughly 70 percent of the players that were selected in the round over a full decade. Not exactly great odds, especially when you consider that the picks exchanging hands in these situations are more often than not near the middle or back end of the round. Most of the impact players that were chosen during the stretch I selected here (guys like Shea Weber, James Neal, Patrice Bergeron, Derek Roy, just as a few examples) were picked within the first 15 picks of the round.

If you think your team is a contender, the thought of giving up a mid-to-late second-round pick shouldn't be much of a concern or stop you from making the move, which is probably why you see so many of them moved every February.

So why would the team on the other side be so willing to accept it? Well, that's simple. If you have a player like Moore that's set to become a free agent, and you know you're going to lose him in the summer, and you know your team is going nowhere for the remainder of that season, it's better to get an asset that gives you a chance (even if it's as low as 30 percent) of finding a future NHL player than losing an asset for absolutely nothing, which of course gives you a zero percent chance of finding a future player.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Moore traded to Sharks
Grossman traded to Flyers
NHL Trade tracker

Latest NHL rumors and news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 26, 2012 11:38 am
Edited on: January 26, 2012 5:08 pm
 

What would all-Quebec team look like for Habs?

By Brian Stubits

Go back a few weeks when Randy Cunneyworth's "hiring" in Montreal was all the rage. Literally, rage. It led to organized protests against the Canadiens organization, not just Cunneyworth (although that was the impetus).

Those who didn't support Cunneyworth's hiring because he doesn't speak French were upset not only with the Cunneyworth promotion, but what they called the entire Anglicization of the Montreal Canadiens, Quebec's only team since the Nordiques became the Avalanche.

The list of complaints went beyond the coach not speaking French, however. Here is what the Canadian Press reported about the protests.

Protesters also complained the music played at the Bell Centre is in English, that announcements are in both languages and that the team has few francophone players.

I laughed when I first saw that. Would the people of Quebec rather have a team of Francophones that stink than a team of Anglophones that wins (of course they have neither right now)?

So that got me to thinking: What would an all French-speaking, Quebec-born team look like? I wanted to take a look and see how good of a team I could put together, keeping salary cap restraints in mind. (Hey folks, it's the All-Star break, just having some fun here.) Consider this my own All-Star fantasy draft.

Let's just get right to it, shall we?

Head coach

Alain Vigneault is the guy. The Quebec City native has actually tried coaching the Canadiens before, making the playoffs only once from 1997-2001. He was fired midseason in the 2000-01 campaign. But he's found success since moving on to Vancouver, winning the Jack Adams once and coming in as a finalist in 2011 (he was also a finalist in 2000 with the Habs). A return trip to Montreal will hopefully go better this time.

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury, Jean-Sebastien Giguere get the nod here. Now this is a position where I have a lot of choices. Fleury I think is a pretty clear starter based partly on his age, but for the second spot there are a lot of veterans: Giguere, Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore, Martin Biron, Mathieu Garon and Jonathan Bernier. They can stop pucks in Quebec, that's pretty clear.

In terms of salary, Fleury takes up $5 million, Giguere only $1.25. So $6.25 million in goal is a decent price to pay, but not bad.

Robidas has spent time in Montreal already. (Getty Images)

Defensemen

I'm going with (in no particular pairing order) Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Francois Beauchemin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Stephane Robidas and Marc-Andre Gragnani. Letang leads the scoring punch while Bergeron, Beauchemin and to an extent Vlasic adding some more points. Defensively, Vlasic and Beauchemin highlight a pretty good two-way corps. But if anybody goes down, it gets thin after that.

As a whole, the defensemen don't cost that much. Beauchemin ($3.8 million), Letang ($3.5 million), Robidas ($3.3 million), Vlasic ($3.1 million), Bergeron ($1 million) and Gragnani (550,000) come in at a total of $15.25 million.

Center

Now this is a group of guys I like: Patrice Bergeron, Danny Briere, David Desharnais and Maxime Talbot. You'll notice one pretty big omission here and that's Vincent Lecavalier, but that $10 million per year is too big of a burden, I don't know how the Lightning do it. But I still have two guys who can score, arguably the best defensive center in the game, a young and promising player in Desharnais and a solid worker in Talbot.

Naturally this is costing me some cash here. Briere ($6.5 million) is costly, then add Bergeron ($5 million) before getting a little reprieve with Talbot ($1.75 million) and Desharnais ($850,000). In total, they take up $14.1 million.

Right wing

OK, I take it back about center. This is where my team is really loaded. Check out this lineup of Martin St. Louis, Jason Pominville, P.A. Parenteau and Alex Burrows. That's some serious scoring ability on the wing. I didn't have room for Maxim Lapierre or Pascal Dupuis at this position, but more on them later.

As you'd expect, this is the most expensive per-player corps on the team. St. Louis commands a cool $5.625 million, Pominville takes $5.3 million, Burrows costs $2 million and Parenteau a very reasonable $1.25 million. Total bill: $14.175 million.

Left wing

Here we have an Achilles' heel. The lineup we could toss out is Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Alex Tanguay, David Perron and Guillaume Latendresse, but that's an awfully risky group of players. Each of Bouchard, Perron and Latendresse have dealt with concussions while Tanguay has been suffering with a neck strain. So to add a little stability, I'm going to convert Dupuis to the left side and leave out Bouchard -- more expensive than Latendresse.

The good news is this group doesn't cost a whole lot. Tanguay ($3.5 million), Latendresse ($2.5 million), Perron ($2.15 million) and Dupuis ($1.5 million) run up a bill of $9.65 million.

Scratches

Since he didn't make the list at right wing, Lapierre is going to serve as our daily scratch. But really he's likely going to be playing a lot at left wing with the injury potential. What he also gives is a physical presence. He's at least not averse to dropping the gloves, having five fights this season for Vancouver. Maybe we could try and talk Georges Laraque to coming back and serving the enforcer role, but undoubtedly sitting in press row most nights.

Lapierre comes in at an even $1 million.

Overall

The total salary for this team checks in at $60.425 million, giving our GM (we'll just keep Pierre Gauthier) a little room to maneuver or sign maybe another defenseman that would likely sit in the press box most nights.

Moreover, the top prospect in the system would have to be Jonathan Huberdeau, the player who went third overall to Florida in the last NHL Draft. He's likely to be in the NHL next season and right now projects to be a center but he can also play on the wing, so he could help out with the weaker left side.

In the end, it's actually a much better team than I thought it could be. It might be a little lacking in the physical department, but the team has a lot of ingredients: It has some big-time scorers (seriously, a top two lines of Tanguay-Bergeron-St. Louis and Perron-Briere-Pominville isn't bad at all), it has some agitators (I'm looking at you, Burrows and Lapierre), is good defensively and I think it's solid in net.

And don't forget, everybody speaks French!

More from Eye on Hockey

Yes there were protesters in Montreal
Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire
Owner: Bilingual coach is important

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

Posted on: January 25, 2012 3:14 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 3:29 pm
 

Bruins hit the break on slump by their standards

Boston goes to the All-Star break 5-4-1 in its last 10. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- No team is ever as bad as it is at its worst moments nor as good as they look in their best moments. I hate clichés, but remember, they are all born out of truth. This one is no exception and is important to remember.

I bring this up in reference to the Boston Bruins, the defending Stanley Cup champions. I'd like to take you back to the beginning of the season, if I could. You'll remember the Bruins began the season 3-7-0 and people were beginning to wonder what was going on. There wasn't much but even a little doubt setting in about their chances.

Fast forward a month or two and the Bruins were on one of the most incredible stretches of hockey I've ever seen. They rattled off a 21-2-1 stretch that vaulted them back up atop the NHL perch and ran their goal differential to gaudy levels, leading many to crown them for a second time in as many years.

Like most everything, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Of course the Bruins weren't 3-7-0 bad or 21-2-1 good. But you knew that.

They leveled off and found a bit of that medium now by finishing the first half with a 5-4-1 stretch, including the final game pre-All-Star break being a 5-3 loss to the undermanned Washington Capitals on Tuesday night in D.C.

The surprising thing about that closing stretch is the where the defense has gone for the Bruins recently. This is a team that not only scores goals galore on teams but doesn't allow others to score. That's why they led the league last year in goal differential and are doing so again this season. They are truly a two-way team, elite two-way players like Patrice Bergeron fit the bill.

When the conceded five goals to the Caps -- minus Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, mind you -- it marked the third time in five games the Bruins gave up five goals. So of course I had to ask coach Claude Julien about his team's defense.

"Talk about our defense? There was none," Julien said after the loss. "The way we played tonight we gave them their goals, there's no question about that. The turnovers from our Ds, the type of goals we gave them certainly are disappointing for our team."

It's certainly out of character to see the Bruins giving up as much as they have lately. It's not their style. So with how porous the defense has been of late, I'd say it's a pretty good testament to how strong this team is even when they aren't playing very well that their not riding a losing streak.

In the 10 games since their 9-0 clobbering of the Flames on Jan. 7, Boston has surrendered 33 goals, an average of 3.3 goals per game. That's not exactly up to their standard. It's safe to say that for the second time this season, the B's have hit a slump, the thing is they are scoring enough this time around to avoid another 3-7-0 stretch.

"Bottom line is we've got to play better, we know that," Julien said. "Saying that is one thing, you just have to make sure you make it happen. Hopefully in a week that will happen."

One thing I have not seen mentioned much with the Bruins in the first half of the season: They actually had it pretty easy from the schedule makers. They had a little spurt of games before the All-Star break that brought them closer to the rest of the league in terms of games played. For the majority of the season they had played a lighter schedule than all the other teams with many games in hand.

Moreover, they were spending a lot of time at home in the comfy confines of Boston. Even after playing six of the last seven games on the road, they still have played three more home games than away. So maybe it's no coincidence that they have hit another bump in the road.

"It's not the way we wanted to head into the break and we realize we have to be better," Bergeron said. "We can't just rely on playing a good first, bad second and just think everything is going to come up in the third period and we're going to win the game. It's not going to happen all the time, we've been lucky when it did and now we need to realize that."

I'd say there hasn't been much luck involved for the Bruins. You don't get those kinds of goal differentials by way of luck. It's teams like the Panthers, who are minus-14 in scoring, who have been a bit lucky to have their playoff position. I mean, the Bruins still have the league's best plus/minus mark at plus-69, an incredible number through 47 games.

Slumps happen, obviously even to teams that seem slump-proof. The difference between the Bruins and most of the other teams is that they can sustain a .500 pace even through the bad times, such as now.

"We need to be better," Bergeron said.

That's because 5-4-1 is seen as not good enough with these Bruins. That's a serious standard. That will go a lot further in telling you what kind of team the Bruins are than any stretch of play this season. They have downs and a lot more ups. But it's that understanding that treading water isn't good enough that shows how good they are to me.

More from Eye on Hockey

Recap: Caps 5, Bruins 3
Thomas called selfish, speculation starts
Bruins honored in White House visit
Thomas explains skipping White House

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

Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 4:24 pm
 

All-Star Game: Dissecting the picks; predictions

By Brian Stubits

The NHL announce its full list of All-Stars on Thursday in about as poor a way as it could have. Remember when Mario Lemieux called the NHL a garage league? Maybe he was thinking of days like this.

The NHL had ample opportunities to put this front and center. They could have announced the selections on Wednesday night using NBC Sports Network and TSN. Heck, they could have made the announcement using the NHL Network instead of running a replay of a game from last night.

All of that would have been better. Instead, the All-Star selections started leaking one at a time. The first was the Florida Panthers announcing Brian Campbell would be representing them. Then the Blackhawks followed with the Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The leaks continued until the NHL finally released the entire list of players about an hour later.

It's almost like it wasn't planned.

Anyway, on to the guys who were selected. These are the guys who will head to Ottawa for the All-Star Game and will be part of the second NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, much like the way you would pick teams for kickball at recess with two captains selecting players until they're gone.

As usual, there are a few head-scratchers in here.

Forwards

Jason Spezza (Senators), Milan Michalek (Senators), Daniel Alfredsson (Senators), Jamie Benn (Stars), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Marian Gaborik (Rangers), Claude Giroux (Flyers), Marian Hossa (Blackhawks), Jarome Iginla (Flames), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs), Mikko Koivu (Wild), Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins), Logan Couture (Sharks), Alex Ovechkin (Capitals), Jason Pominville (Sabres), Daniel Sedin (Canucks), Henrik Sedin (Canucks), Tyler Seguin (Bruins), Corey Perry (Ducks), Steven Stamkos (Lightning), John Tavares (Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks).

Defensemen

Erik Karlsson (Senators), Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs), Dustin Byfuglien (Jets), Brian Campbell (Panthers), Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Alexander Edler (Canucks), Dan Girardi (Rangers), Shea Weber (Predators), Keith Yandle (Coyotes), Dennis Wideman (Capitals), Ryan Suter (Predators), Kimmo Timonen (Flyers).

Goaltenders

Tim Thomas (Bruins), Brian Elliott (Blues), Jimmy Howard (Red Wings), Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers), Carey Price (Canadiens), Jonathan Quick (Kings).

For those wondering on the breakdown, that's 24 players from the Eastern Conference, 18 from the Western. The six vote-ins all coming from the East helps with that bit of disparity, though.

Now, on to the superlatives ...

Biggest snub

You never know who actually said no to the invite. That's the caveat here. But if nothing else the players should get the honor and then decline to appear (I get the murkiness of it, but they deserve the honor).

With that said, wow, where do I begin? Teemu Selanne? Nicklas Lidstrom? Well they asked out, so no use getting bent out of shape there. So moving on ...

I understand that Nicklas Backstrom (the Capitals center, that is) is injured at the moment, but he's day to day and the game isn't for another few weeks. There is zero doubt that he has been the Capitals' best player this season, not Ovechkin, who made the roster ahead of a long list of players that probably deserved it more.

I scratch my head a little with the selection of Byfuglien on defense. Not that he is bad by any stretch, but I probably would take a few guys over him. From the Jets perspective, I would have liked to see Evander Kane more.

You could make a case -- probably not a great one, however -- for Florida's Jason Garrison, as well. He leads defensemen in goals with 11 and has a slap shot that might possibly stand a chance in the hardest shot competition against Chara and Byfuglien.

There are a few more in the forward role who seem to be more deserving. It's going to continue to come back to Ovechkin because he's the high-profile name with mediocre numbers. Thomas Vanek in Buffalo? Scott Hartnell in Philly? Kris Versteeg in Florida? Patrik Elias for the Devils? Patrice Bergeron in Boston? Patrick Sharp (who was reportedly not picked before injury concerns) Or even Radim Vrbata from the Coyotes? The lists goes on.

It goes to show how even when the fans aren't voting, star power is a big factor. It's always about a little more than just performance.

Least deserving

To make room for the snubs you obviously have to decide who shouldn't be on the list, otherwise they aren't a snub, right? Well that is pretty tough to do.

I do not think Ovechkin deserves his selection based on merit alone. But again, there's more to it than just the stats. Ovechkin gets in based on the star power and marketing more than anything else. I don't necessarily like that, but I can accept that. I think Kane falls into this category to an extent, too. All things being equal, a few of the snubs probably deserve the honor more than Kane this season, but he has a little star power that, say, Versteeg doesn't have.

I'm not terribly high on the other Caps pick of Wideman either. He's had a good season offensively, which is what this game values most, so in that regard it's OK. But even he admitted he was surprised when he was told, he thought he was getting traded.

After them (not counting the guys voted in) it gets pretty tough. Not any wholly undeserving guys (not even the above mentioned).

Keeping in mind that every team gets represented through the All-Star Game or the rookie selections, some guys are safe. That makes it tougher.

Who will be Mr. Irrelevant?

We know this much: It won't be Kessel again. Absolutely no way to predict this accurately, so my stab in the dark is going to say Couture. He's the only member from the Sharks, he is young and plays at the position with the most players, on the wing.

Who will be the captains?

The official announcement will come in a week, so for now we're left to speculate. Alfredsson is a given seeing how the game is in Ottawa. Take that one to the bank. The other was likely going to be Selanne, but now ... Iginla? Maybe you go with an old Senator in Chara? I'd take my chances it's Iginla.

Or maybe Kessel? That would be interesting.

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

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

Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: December 29, 2011 10:06 am
 

Watch: Joe Thornton messing with Henrik Sedin

By Brian Stubits

One of the more understated rivalries in the NHL lives on the West Coast and has been bred through playoff hate, the battle between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks (those Canucks sure do seem to have a lot of rivalries). So it's not above the players on those teams, even the captains, to engage in a little gamesmanship.

See: Joe Thornton.

The two foes remade acquaintances on Wednesday night in San Jose (a 3-2 Canucks OT win) and it was what hockey people love to call a chippy contest. Lots of shoving, hitting and animosity. But don't forget taunting. Take a look at Thornton during a captain's meeting with he, the referee and the Canucks' Henrik Sedin.

Oh Jumbo Joe, classic move. It harkened back memories to the Stanley Cup Final from the summer when there were all sorts of taunts revolving around Alex Burrows' finger bite of Patrice Bergeron and then also the little pounding that Daniel Sedin took thanks to Brad Marchand.

I laughed at seeing Thornton's schoolyard bully tactics here, reminded me of what a big brother would do to his younger brother, harmless teasing. Obviously Henrik wasn't terribly pleased afterward, barking some words at Thornton as they skated back to the benches.

But this is when I wonder why the Canucks are despised so much. I get why teams aren't fond of them, on-ice action can do that, but the seeming universal hatred doesn't compute with me. It seems more often than not to me the Canucks are the tauntees, for lack of a better word, than taunters. Sure, Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre (maybe Ryan Kesler to an extent) are pesky and annoy, but the Canucks seem to take a lot more than they give.

It just occurred to me, maybe Thornton was trying to show the referee some of the amazing merchandise left over from the Sharks Shopping Network?

Video courtesy of The Score

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

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