In lieu of my usual Tuesday blog post, I’ve decided to go a different direction… although it’s not too different from what everyone else is doing right now.
We are sitting around the midway point of the season. From the Blackhawks’ outstanding 24-game regulation unbeaten streak to the shutdown mentality in the Ottawa net, the shortened 2012-13 season has been a thrill-ride since opening night.
So without further ado, I present you with the Storm The Crease Midseason Awards.
GM of the Year
Joe Nieuwendyk – Dallas Stars
The Stars caught a lot of flak over the extended summer for their questionable moves of getting older rather than younger. Bringing in veterans Derek Roy, Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr and Aaron Rome, Nieuwendyk’s new team makeup has a win-now attitude that works for the present. Although the team may be stripped in the next three or four years, they are currently in the midst of the Western Conference playoff battle as they sit just four points out of the fourth playoff spot. Nieuwendyk deserves some credit, especially after he turned Steve Ott and Adam Pardy into Derek Roy, who is currently tied for the team-lead in assists (12).
Honorable Mentions: Marc Bergevin (Montreal Canadiens), Jim Rutherford (Carolina Hurricanes)
Jack Adams Award (Best Coach)
Michel Therrien – Montreal Canadiens
For someone who was run out of town in Pittsburgh, Michel Therrien has stepped in to Montreal and provided a winning attitude. The Canadiens finished dead last in the Eastern Conference standings last season, creating an overhaul in management and behind the bench. Rookie GM Marc Bergevin hired Therrien and he has led his new team to a Conference-high 17-5-4 start, creating a topsy-turvy in the standings. The goals are coming in bunches (5th in the league in goals-scored) with 18 different players scoring goals throughout the season. A balanced attack from a team that looks average on paper earns Therrien this honor.
Honorable Mentions: Bruce Boudreau (Anaheim Ducks), Randy Carlyle (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks had a tremendous start to the season with rich goaltending, solid defense and a steady offense. Contributing to two of those three points is Captain Jonathan Toews, who has posted 23 points (11G-12A) and a plus-13 on the season. Toews seems to always be the first to get to a loose puck behind his goalie, yet he always is the first one breaking into the offensive zone. His quick stick and superior hockey sense are what has earned him the captaincy in Chicago, while also gaining respect across the league as one of the NHL’s most well-rounded forwards.
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Staal (Pittsburgh Penguins), Saku Koivu (Anaheim Ducks)
Calder Trophy (Best Rookie)
Cory Conacher – Tampa Bay Lightning
The rookie leader in points, Conacher has played a sound game in an otherwise dismal season for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Scoring 13 assists and 20 points, Conacher has teetered between the first and second lines. He has been rewarded with some time on the power-play, usually on the second unit with players such as Vincent Lecavalier and Victor Hedman. Conacher may not be scorching the back of the net, but his ability to find the open man earns him top honors.
Honorable Mentions: Brendan Gallagher (Montreal Canadiens), Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers)
Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie)
Craig Anderson – Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators goalie just refuses to throw in the towel. With injuries to top players Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza, the Ottawa Senators are the face of resiliency. This can all be traced back to the man between the pipes, who has posted a league-leading 1.49 GAA and .952 save percentage in 15 starts. Thanks to Anderson, along with backup Ben Bishop, the Senators are currently the only team to allow less than two goals per game (1.96). Yes, Anderson has been on IR since late last month, but he fits about the minimum eligibility for the award to this point. He was that good.
Honorable Mentions: Kari Lehtonen (Dallas Stars), Antti Niemi (San Jose Sharks)
James Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Francois Beauchemin – Anaheim Ducks
A suprise winner, Beauchemin has been the steadiest defenseman in the league to this point. He has been the Ducks’ leader in ice-time (23:34 per game) and has seen the other team’s top line every night. Once considered the third defenseman on the Ducks, Beauchemin has stepped his game up in every role imaginable. He, along with pairing partner Sheldon Souray, are tied for the team lead with a plus-17 and his 14 assists tie him for third on the team with Saku Koivu. What is probably the most intriguing point in Beauchemin’s play is that he has achieved all of this while only committing five penalties in 24 games played.
Honorable Mentions: P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens), Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
Hart Trophy (League MVP)
Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
Just barely narrowing out Crosby for the win, Patrick Kane has been everything that a coach could want his sniper to be. Playing mostly on a line with Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell this season, Kane has posted 14 goals and 16 assists in 26 games played. He has been the go-to-guy when the Blackhawks need to sustain pressure in the offensive zone, while also being the biggest threat to score from anywhere on the ice. He may not be the league-leader in points, but his 20:18 average ice-time speaks volumes as to how good he has been. Kane’s offensive spark was reason #1 for the Blackhawks’ storybook start to the season and he doesn’t look to stop anytime soon.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)