Members of the Stoop Sports’ hockey staff pick their front runners for the four major NHL awards.
1. Who is your favorite to win the Hart Trophy?
Ryan Pavlicek- Sidney Crosby continues to prove to the world why he’s the best hockey player there is. Even after sustaining multiple concussions and missing so much time over the last two seasons, Crosby leads the league in points with 45 in 26 games played. This is nine more points than the second place points getter in Steven Stamkos. What’s also worth noting is that Crosby has a six-point cushion in assists over Martin St. Louis with 33. There was a time when some thought Crosby’s career would have to be cut short because of his severe concussions, but that’s proving to be so very wrong. As early as before this season began, many believed Evgeni Malkin would continue to make Crosby not even the best player on his team, but once again everybody was wrong. Crosby has the Penguins in first place in the Atlantic division, and that’s even with Malkin missing time due to his own concussion and upper-body injuries. If Crosby keeps up this pace, which he will, it will be very hard to vote against him as the league MVP, especially after taking into account that this is considered a comeback season for the superstar.
Anthony Pucik- As of now my favorite to win the Hart Trophy is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins were without Crosby for most of last season, leaving the load of the offense on Evgeni Malkin. Malkin was able to answer the call, and in the end won the Hart. Now, Malkin is hurt and the offense is looking to Crosby to produce like he should be, and he is. Crosby leads the league in points with 45 and assists with 33. Without Malkin at his side, Crosby is the man the Penguins look to when they need a goal much like Malkin was last year when Crosby was out. Because the Penguins are doing so well this year, and Crosby is doing most of this without Malkin, he is my favorite to win the Hart at the halfway point of the season.
Corey Cahill- My favorite to win the Hart Trophy is the pretty obvious choice right now in Sidney Crosby. Crosby has his team leading the Atlantic Division and leads the league in points with 45 points in 26 games, almost an incredible 2 points per game. Crosby does it all. He has a +16 rating which speaks to his defensive ability to shut down opposing top lines, he has won 55.8% of his face offs this year, and has taken only 6 penalties. He has been playing on a line with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, and has increased their production as well. Kunitz is having a career year so far, with 17 goals and 19 assists, good for 3rd in the league in scoring. A lot of that can be attributed to Crosby, who has assisted on 13 of Kunitz’s 17 goals. He makes everyone around him a better player while being able to put up stellar numbers himself. With some doubts coming into the season about whether he would be able to return to normal after his concussion problems last season, “Sid the Kid” has dismissed any doubts and has shown why he is the best player in the game. If this were a full season, Crosby would be on pace to smash his career best record in points, with about 139 points.
Jake Chernok- The Hart Trophy at this point in the season should go to Penguins’ star Sidney Crosby. Crosby not only has a significant lead in the points race with 45, but also leads in assists with 33. Sid the Kid has had to pick up the slack this season with Evgeni Malkin sidelined with a concussion and upper body injury. At his current pace, Crosby will total 83 points over the course of this 48-game season, which would tie for 5th in the league last year over the course of an 82-game season. This depicts the truly remarkable season that Crosby is having, and proves that as of today, he is the runaway winner of the Hart Trophy.
2. Who is your favorite to win the Vezina Trophy?
Ryan- I’d love to give it to the rookie of the Anaheim Ducks, Viktor Fasth, but his sample size is much smaller than Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. Here’s a guy who was the subject of offseason concern for the Bruins after former Vezina trophy winner, Tim Thomas, declared he would take a year off from hockey. Rask was always a solid back up, but there was concern if he could carry the load as an every day starter, especially in a shortened season. With 18 games played for Rask and a record of 13-2-3, accompanied by a 1.96 goals against average, it’s hard to say he’s not the Vezina front-runner. Rask could’ve been the man to hold the Bruins back, but instead he has the Bruins only one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Eastern Conference with three games at hand.
Anthony- My favorite to win the Vezina Trophy is Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price. While the Canadiens have not been doing well in recent years, they could always count on Price to keep them in games and at least give them a chance to win. This year however, they are doing exceptionally well and Price is a big reason why, as he leads the league in wins and has recorded two shutouts in 20 games. He is always one of the top goalies in the league, and this year he is playing well and the Canadiens are winning games, making his play more recognizable.
Corey- My Vezina trophy winner so far this year would have to be Craig Anderson. He was my winner in my quarter season awards, and continued to play well after I wrote that piece. Anderson hasn’t started a game since Feb 21st against the Rangers when he left with a leg injury. Anderson has started in 15 games, where he has posted a 8-4-2 record to go along with a stunning 1.49 GAA and .952 save %. He has been the backbone of this Ottawa team when he has been in net. Without him the Senators may be towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference with Erik Karlsson out for the year. Even though Anderson has started fewer games than all other goaltenders, his numbers are far better than any other goalies’.
Jake- As of right now, my favorite to win the Vezina trophy is Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks. Coming into the season, the main question surrounding the ‘Hawks’ was whether or not their goaltending would hold up, and Crawford has answered that question with a resounding yes. Crawford currently has a 1.91 GAA, which places second in the NHL to go along with 11 wins, which places fifth. Long story short, Corey Crawford has played a large role in the Blackhawks’ record-breaking start to the season, and should continue his success between the pipes.
3. Who is your favorite to win the Norris Trophy?
Ryan- There’s a reason that the Pittsburgh Penguins are envied by so many teams’ fan bases. They have a team that’s loaded with star power on the offensive end, but they also have a defenseman who is the talk of the position. Kris Letang is leading the Penguins defense with incredible numbers both offensively and defensively this season. People argue that the Norris Trophy only goes to a defenseman with great offensive numbers, but Letang has that along with the valuable defensive work he provides. Letang is on the ice for over 26 minutes a game on average which is especially amazing in a shortened season. With that time on the ice, he’s been able to rack up 26 points, proving to be a key part to the Penguins star-studded offense.
Anthony- My favorite to win the Norris Trophy is Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Kris Letang. Much like Crosby, a heavy burden has been placed on Letang, with the absence of Malkin, to score for the Penguins. Letang is certainly doing his part, leading all defenseman in the league in points with 26, and assists with 23. Letang is also fourth amongst defenseman in the league averaging 26:09 time on ice per game, so his defensive numbers are just as impressive as his offensive. A great two-way defender who has great vision on the ice and can play upwards of 25 minutes every game, Kris Letang is my Norris Trophy winner favorite.
Corey- This is a tough one. In my quarter season review, I had Erik Karlsson winning, but that was right before he tore his achilles. If you want to measure this on offense, I would go with Kris Letang. If you wanted to go with more defense and some offense, I would go with Alex Pietrangelo or Dion Phaneuf. If you want to base it on all around play, which I am going to do, let’s go with P.K. Subban. After missing the first six games with a contract issue, Subban has been fantastic in 20 games played. He has tallied 6 goals, 12 assists, and a +4 rating for the resurgent Montreal Canadiens. Although he is not the most physical defenseman, Subban uses his speed and agility to knock forwards off the puck and move it up the ice quickly. He has been fantastic for the Habs’ power play, with 4 of his 6 goals coming on the PP, and 9 of his 12 assists. Even though he has played five or six less games, he is still tied for fourth in scoring among defensemen. P.K. Subban means a lot to this Montreal team and Marc Bergevin made the right choice by signing him for another two years. If Subban continues to play the way he is, he will be locked up for a lot longer.
Jake- Kris Letang is currently my favorite to win the Norris Trophy because of his exceptional play on both ends of the ice, but especially in the offensive zone. Despite playing in only 23 of Pittsburgh’s 26 games, Letang leads all defensemen with 26 points, and is third in the league with 23 assists . It is remarkable to see a defenseman so high up in the league in assists, and represents Letang’s terrific play in the offensive zone. What gets lost amongst his skills offensively is that he is fourth among defeseman in average ice time, logging more than 26 minutes a game. He is underrated in his own end and terrific on the forecheck, which is why he is my favorite for the Norris Trophy.
4. Who is your favorite to win the Jack Adams award?
Ryan- Michel Therrien has to be the choice here at the half way mark. Therrien took a team back that he coached early in the 2000′s and has brought them from worst to first in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens finished dead last in the East last year, which sparked the coaching change for the 2012-13 season. Therrien has changed the way hockey was played in Montreal over recent years, and now they’re an offensive machine ranking fourth in the league in goals for. This is a team that didn’t do much over the offseason, yet is finally giving goaltender Carey Price the support he needs to rack up wins for the club. Hockey is all about how a team plays together, and that’s why some of the most un-talented rosters on paper can surprise, while the most talented can disappoint. The Canadiens aren’t just surprising people, they’re scaring the rest of the league with how well Therrien has them playing on a consistent basis.
Anthony- The winner of the Jack Adams at the moment has to be Chicago Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville. Any man who coaches a team that went on a 21-0-3 run to start the season has to be the coach of the year. With an injury to goalie Corey Crawford sidelining him for a good chunk of this short season, Quenneville did not panic and utilized backup goalie Ray Emery very well in order to keep his team in games. He also has exhibited great resilience because his team would go down early in games and somehow come back from nearly every deficit and force games to overtime. It’s the coaches job to decide who goes on the ice when and measuring the situation at hand and figuring out the best way to go about taking it on. No one in the league has done this better than Quenneville. Although Montreal Canadiens’ coach Michel Therrien is also doing an amazing job with his team, taking them from worst to first in the Eastern Conference, if they begin to falter I cannot see how Quenneville cannot take home the Jack Adams this year.
Corey- My coach on the year is Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks. I had him as my coach of the year in my quarter season review and nothing has changed since then. He has done an excellent job with this veteran team. Click here to see more of my take on Boudreau and this year: http://stoopsports.com/2013/02/14/nhl-quarter-season-awards/
Jake- My favorite right now to win the Jack Adams award is Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens, who has led the team to the top mark in the East. He has done an incredible job of developing his talented rookie forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, two strong candidates for the Calder Trophy. The team scores the fourth most goals per game in the league at 3.19, and has found a way to win close games. They have the third highest winning percentage in the league when it comes to winning after ending the first period trailing on the scoreboard. This is a sign of good coaching, and a team that plays 60 minutes, and better as the game goes on.