Monday, June 28, 2010

Capitals Free Agents

A quick glance, in order of priority, as I see it. Salary information via Capgeek, rounded to the nearest hundred-thousand dollars and only applying at the NHL level (players on two-way contracts have a different AHL salary). "Salary" = cap hit, for purposes of simplicity, here.

Check out the Japers' Rink Rink Wraps for more information on most of these players (some did not meet an arbitrary games played requirement). There are also the ReCapsules on the Capitals' official website.

By the way, in reality, there isn't a guy who will absolutely not be traded, for sure, on this list. Anyone could be moved for, say, that second line center or top-four veteran defenseman.

Note: today (June 28) is the final date to submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents (and thereby retain their rights).


Jeff Schultz (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $700k
The Skinny: Led the league in plus-minus at +50, meaning he was on the ice for lots of even strength and shorthanded goals for and not many even strength and shorthanded goals against. He finished on the top pairing along Mike Green. His skating and mobility have improved as well. NHL Fanhouse thought he was good enough to be a finalist for "defensive defenseman of the year." He projects to a solid top-4 defenseman on any team.
What to expect: A new contract, either for decent money and decent term or another cheap, short contract, probably not more than $2 million per season. He's been rumored to be negotiating a multi-year deal with the Caps.

Eric Fehr (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $800k
The Skinny: He once again produced quite a bit in very limited ice time, topping the twenty-goal mark. He's also a bit of a rare breed within the Capitals organization, a guy in the mold of a Tomas Holmstrom--maybe not quite the net presence, but with a better release on his wrist shot too (albeit with slight durability issues as well). He projects to a solid top-6 forward, but there's not much to support that he can produce at the same rate in more ice time. Hopefully, he can.
What to expect: A new contract, probably one taking him into his final RFA-eligible or first UFA-eligible offseason, in the whereabouts of $2 million or less per season. He's been rumored to be negotiating a multi-year deal with the Caps.

Tomas Fleischmann (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $700k
The Skinny: Flash is the Alex Ovechkin of the AHL (according to Bruce Boudreau), a guy with great skill and a nice shot. Unfortunately though, he seemingly lacks heart and strength, two disadvantages holding him back from being a perennial 30-goal scorer. He's started each of the last two seasons strong but become weak by the end. Bruce Boudeau's scratching of Fleischmann, his favorite it seems, for Game 7, says it all. Fleischmann, if not contributing offensively, is not really doing much, as he's not a good defensive player or boards player and in the stints he's had at center, can't win faceoffs consistently.
What to expect: On an team not lacking at all offensively, Flash is expendable. I think George McPhee will re-sign him on a pretty cheap deal and look to trade him, or at least trade his rights. No way they let such a young skilled player go for free by not giving him a qualifying offer.

Boyd Gordon (RFA)
2009-2010 salary:
The Skinny: Gordon is a good 4th line player. He wins draws at a top-5 rate, has pretty good defensive stats, is a good penalty killer, and can chip in with some forechecking pressure as well. He also is the only right-handed center the Caps have at the moment--having both Gordon and Steckel on the same line strikes me as something good to have, as depending on which side the draw is on the guy with the right handedness can take it (left, Steckel, or right, Gordon). Moreover, Gordon is clearly better than his replacement, Steckel, with better skating, speed, agility, and ability to improve (Gordon is younger). What he lacks is Steckel's size (most people do), reach, and more importantly, durability (I think we've found that Steckel's great 2008-2009 postseason was a fluke, or just great chemistry that shouldn't have to happen again).
What to expect: I can't see management passing on Boyd Gordon. If he's healthy for the playoffs he's quite solid with Bradley on that fourth line, whereas Steckel's even strength defense could use improvement.

Patrick McNeill (RFA)
2009-2010 salary:
The Skinny: McNeill is the Caps' last hope at salvaging something from their 2005 draft (as of now no Caps draft pick from that class has played an NHL game). While taking his time to develop, he's become a solid top-4 defenseman for Hershey in this recent Calder Cup Finals run. Mark French, the head coach of the Bears, absolutely lauds McNeill's skating, something good to have in the "new" NHL. He could be on the top pairing in Hershey in the fall.
What to expect: While he may not crack the roster soon, he sure has a shot in a few years and may get called up in case of injury as soon as next season. He'll should be re-signed.

Andrew Gordon (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $700k
The Skinny: Gordon has had a strong playoffs for Hershey, playing on the top line with Giroux and Aucoin and putting up big numbers all season long, a lock basically for a point a game. While he may not have the skill to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, he could prove to be a Matt Bradley type, a good bottom-6 forward with decent two-way ability.
What to expect:  He's going to get re-signed. I can't see management passing on Gordon.

Wouldn't be a bad idea:

Milan Jurcina (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $1.4 million
The Skinny: Jurcina played quite a bit on Columbus this season and was traded back to Washington for a conditional pick that ended up being nothing (at best, it would have been a 6th round pick). Hence, we can see the Jurcina isn't exactly an eye-popping free-agent. What he is is a good third pairing D entering the prime of his career, already having been solid in the playoffs for Washington in the 2008-2008 postseason with decent all-around stats. He brings a hard, heavy shot that is effective if on net (a big if) and a nice physicality and size. His skating isn't great but he'll clearly be the "defensive" partner on a pairing, meaning that as long as he stays back and doesn't draw a matchup like speedy Montreal he should be effective if his competition isn't too tough.
What to expect: From having a surplus of NHL-level defensemen, now the Caps are short one (Sloan I don't think should be the 6D or even the 7D on a Cup-contender). I wouldn't be surprised to see him back another season, since he can come somewhat cheap, but George McPhee probably wants more of an impact player, so the Caps' top-4 going into next season isn't Green, Poti, and two guys who were rookies this past season. That being said the more pressing need is clearly second-line center, and there probably won't be enough money to sign a guy like Volchenkov or Hamhuis, so Jurcina could be re-signed, or just as easily some other cheap but legitimate third-pairing D. All signs so far are that Jurcina will be let go, as the team has shown zero interest in bringing him back.

Shaone Morrisonn (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $2 million
The Skinny: Morrisonn is a solid top-6 defenseman who penalty-kills well, can move the puck decently, plays physically, and skates very well. He though is a little undisciplined, especially while shorthanded.
What to expect: He's gone. I imagine management will keep one of Milan Jurcina and Morrisonn if they can be had for cheap, but not both, and given Jurcina's playoff performance in 2009 as well as salary, I think he gets the edge over Morrisonn. Morrisonn's agent informed the press that the team hasn't started any negotiations with Morrisonn, so there's little interest from the Caps side.

Jay Beagle (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $900k
The Skinny: He's an okay player. Hockey's Future has him ranked pretty much even with the next guy on this list, and he plays a similar role, though he's more of a grinder and Bourque a scorer. He could be a future fourth liner.
What to expect: He's RFA, may as well try to get him back. Fourth liners grow on trees, but good, cheap ones don't, and since it's so tough to judge the guys (so influenced by team, when they're played, linemates, etc), might as well accumulate as many as you can until you find good ones (which the Caps did and now have in Bradley and Gordon and Steckel).

Chris Bourque (RFA)
2009-2010 salary: $600k
The Skinny: Bourque lights up the AHL. While not quite Ovechkin at that level, he is like a, let's say Kessel at a minimum. He plays an all around game with lots of energy. Although undersized (that's an understatement), he played with tenacity and reckless abandon, not caring in the least that the guys he's hitting have fifty pounds and six inches on him. And if nothing else, his daddy (yes, the hall of fame defenseman) could give Mike Green some tips. He's probably not making the NHL as a top-6 winger (as he couldn't do much with Evgeni Malkin as his center) but could fill in on an above-average (offensively) line.
What to expect: He's still kind of young, and fills in with lots of energy when given the chance, so I expect him to get another look.
(Note: It's been reported that Chris Bourque has signed with a team in the KHL, though the Capitals have said they have not been informed of such a decision)

Eric Belanger (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $1.8 million
The Skinny: Belanger was a deadline acquisition and played decently. He did not help the penalty kill, but he did play solid hockey (with regards to the standards of being a third-liner), showed chemistry with Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr, and won two-thirds of his faceoffs in the playoffs. And he gave up eight teeth for his team after taking a stick to the mouth.
What to expect: He could stick around, but is likely gone. Between Mathieu Perreault, David Steckel, and Boyd Gordon, the Capitals have three candidates for the final two center spots and probably would prefer spending money on a top-6 center instead. If Belanger takes one-third or one-fourth pay cut, he could stick around. He's been rumored to be negotiating a three-year extension with the Caps, but the sides aren't close.

Zach Miskovic (RFA)
2009-2010 salary:  $900k
The Skinny: In his first professional season, Miskovic was alright as a third-pairing D for the Bears. He is decent two-ways, but plays a rather unrisky style which leads to his ceiling being "unknown." He probably needs to get better in all zones and be more aggressive offensively to make an NHL roster, as it won't be as a shut-down stud defenseman. He could see some top-4 time in Hershey if brought back and is still very much a work in progress.
What to expect: Hockey's Future isn't the be-all-end-all of understanding a player, but it speaks volumes that he was ranked lower than Joel Broda, whom the Capitals didn't value enough to even offer a contract to (Broda as a result will re-enter the entry draft). However, his skating doesn't seem to be an issue as with Broda, which could make him a borderline NHLer, or better, in the future. Might as well bring him back considering he's still young enough to be RFA.

Kyle Wilson (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $500k
The Skinny: Wilson is a guy who could in the future fill in as a depth center. He's just entering his prime and while not offensively gifted enough to get an extended NHL look, he's cheap and a good player.
What to expect: He could improve a bit more, so they probably bring him back, though if some other team offers more McPhee might as well walk away. Nothing to get heartbroken about here.


Brendan Morrison (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $1.5 million
The Skinny: Morrison started the season strong, but since December or so really cooled off, scoring something like two goals from January onward. In the playoffs, he was scratched twice. While early on he looked like a great bargain at the 2C spot, he showed his age and health status (injured the last two seasons) later on, much to the Capitals' chagrin.
What to expect: He's likely gone, as he's not looking like the answer for second-line center. The Capitals need someone who can fill in at 1C if needed, not a guy who can fill in at 3C but not 1C. You can be sure that George McPhee will address the issue at second line center with either a trade or signing (or promotion of, say, Mathieu Perreault) in time for next year's playoffs, likely with someone better than Morrison. That's what really matters.

Scott Walker (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $2.5 million
The Skinny: Walker was a deadline pickup and played well whenever he got the chance to get in the lineup. He plays a high energy game, gets in hard on the forecheck, has decent skill, and brings series-winning experience to the lineup.
What to expect: He's a nice depth player, but the Caps probably want to go younger than the 36-year old Walker, and reports say Walker is not negotiating with Washington. He's gone.

Quintin Laing (UFA)
2009-2010 salary:
The Skinny: Laing doesn't have good hands, good skating, good awareness offensively, or good awareness defensively, save in one aspect--shot blocking. Laing's intangible as a complete team guy, happy whether or not he plays, giving it his all every night, game in and game out, wearing his heart on his spleen sleeve, is what makes him worth signing. But sorry Q, you're just not an NHL level player. I'd love to have you as a call-up, but if my team is close to the cap, you're not spending the entire year on the NHL roster like you did this past season. And next year, the Caps will be close to the cap.
What to expect: Either a cheap deal prior to being stashed in Hershey or no contract at all. Not really much point skill wise, but the hope is that his team-first attitude rubs off on everyone. I think the young prospects and even some of the NHL-level players in the organization could use that. The NHL made a "History will been made" video about Mike Richards: "What if Richie wasn't relentless?" (referring to his takeaway from Niklas Hjarmalsson in the Stanley Cup Finals and resulting goal). I for the moment can't say the same about any of the Caps, but hopefully with the attitude Laing brings I will be able to, as well as a more positive vibe in general.

Oh, please no:

Alexandre Giroux (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $500k
The Skinny: Giroux is Brett Hull at the AHL level, but is best to scratch at the NHL level. He doesn't have the skill, speed, skating, or mind to play a top-6 role at the NHL level, and is too much of a defensive liability at the AHL level.
What to expect: He's either gone or re-signed "just like that" (at least that's how I perceive it). He's not going to be playing an NHL role in Washington anytime soon. Maybe, though, he will in a place starving for offense but great on defense. Likely he'll try and hold out for a nice NHL deal like last season but instead settle for a cheap one-way or even two-way contract, or even go to Russia.

Joe Corvo (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $2.6 million
The Skinny: Corvo was a deadline pickup by George McPhee from Carolina for a second round pick, prospect Oskar Osala, and pending-UFA defenseman Brian Pothier. He's a right-shooting puck-moving defenseman with a heavy shot and who looks better in the playoffs than in the regular season.
What to expect: He was acquired for depth purposes and will be in a new place come September, as reports say Washington has zero interest in re-signing him. Washington needs to devote capital to more pressing needs.

Jose Theodore (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $4.5 million
The Skinny: Theodore has lost exactly one game in regulation this year. He's gone 28 starts without posting a regulation loss, going 20-0-5 in that span (counting the Game 1 loss to Montreal as in overtime, and with three no-decisions, which ended as two losses and one win for Semyon Varlamov), the longest run in franchise history. The last time a goalie started 45 games or more in a season and won such a high proportion of his games was in 1995-1996 (Chris Osgood). He's won the Masterton Trophy for dedication to hockey in light of how he's responded to the tragic death of his infant son, setting up "Saves for Kids." Through all this he's dismissed his inconsistency issues in the Capitals fanbase in favor of, well, being well-liked.
What to expect: Theodore could stay around if he takes a significant pay cut, but management (and I) think it's time to give the reins to Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. He'll be playing in a new city come September.

Boyd Kane (UFA)
2009-2010 salary: $500k
The Skinny: He's UFA and won't develop much more. He's 32 and has only played in 31 NHL games, 3 this past season. He's not going to improve much, if at all. For guys like Kane and Giroux the only real value is ability to call the guy up, and if the Caps need to call up a forward they will have several choices before Kane, including Keith Aucoin, Andrew Gordon, Mathieu Perreault, Stefan Della Rovere, and others. He's an AHL vet, not an NHLer.
What to expect: With regards to these mainly minor league deals, I'm not sure how George McPhee decides who to sign and who to let go, but my guess is McPhee lets him go. Not really much point in making a signing more or less for the minor league team.

Mike Green Needs a Mentor

Brad Park. Ray Bourque. Rod Langway. Scott Stevens. Scott Niedermayer. Brian Rafalski. Sergei Zubov. Chris Pronger. Nicklas Lidstrom

What do these defensemen have in common?

Yes, they were all terrific defensemen for a long time (three still are). But they also all had great "mentors."

Park had the best defenseman ever, Bobby Orr. Bourque had Park, who later was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (HOF). Langway had one of the most prolific scoring defenseman and HOFer Larry Robinson. Stevens had Langway, a HOFer too and also well known as one of the best defensive players ever, if not the best. Niedermayer had Stevens, who later went to the HOF, not to mention Ken Daneyko. Rafalski had both Stevens and Niedermayer, and Niedermayer will be inducted into the HHOF in three years for sure. Zubov could make the HOF and had HOFer Brian Leetch. Pronger had HOFer Al MacInnis. Lidstrom had Igor Larionov Konstantinov, one of the best Russian defensemen ever and also a HOFer. Heck, Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom briefly have had Chris Chelios, a lock three years from when he retires.

Notice a pattern?

Not to say that the Capitals must pick up a HOF caliber defenseman but it seems like having a guy who was himself a great defenseman helps move along younger defensemen. Obviously, guys with tons of two-way talent already don't need a mentor as much--I don't see Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith with a bona-fide mentor, though Doughty has flourished playing with Rob Scuderi. But guys with holes in their games--like Green with his positioning, decision making, and relationship with the media--look like they need such a player. Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Niedermayer all weren't exactly defensive studs early--Lidstrom also didn't have great playoff stats his first three playoff years, all short runs for the Red Wings--but they improved as someone who had "been there, done that" helped them improve.

From the list above, it's preferable that the mentor play the same style as the mentee--of the players on that list, it seems only on the Langway/Robinson and Niedermayer/Stevens pairs do the mentor and mentee play drastically different styles. It seems clear that Scott Niedermayer is the best choice for Green--the comparisons have been made between young Niedermayer and Green, they both like to jump into the rush and "rove" in the offensive zone, have good offensive instincts, and are prone to getting beaten when forced to play positional defense. Unfortunately though, it's highly unlikely Niedermayer comes out of retirement. He's won all there is to win and doesn't seem like the Brett Favre type.

So who else could we look at? I bolded the names I think are actually worth seriously looking in to possibly signing or acquiring.

Nicklas Lidstrom ^ (Detroit Red Wings)
Lidstrom is the second best defenseman ever. But considering he's already won a Cup with Detroit and mentored a young defenseman in Nicklas Kronwall, he will retire having played his entire NHL career in Detroit or go play in Sweden where his son is signed up to play hockey.

Brian Campbell*^ (Chicago Blackhawks)
Campbell is a smooth skating defenseman of not great build but solid all-around play. He's made the Conference Finals twice with Buffalo and twice with Chicago, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. He is also massively overpaid, taking over $7 million per season for the next half dozen years or so.

Mattias Ohlund^ (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Ohlund is a smooth skating Swede who is good all-around. He battled similar troubles with public perception during his time in Vancouver, though obviously not to the degree Green has had to. Unfortunately, Ohlund too is on an expensive contract and was himself signed to mentor young Victor Hedman.

Paul Martin^ (New Jersey Devils; UFA)

He's really good all around and the premier defenseman on the free agent market this season. He probably though is looking for a longer type deal, which will not suit the Caps unless they're willing to sacrifice a defenseman later (Green, Schultz, Alzner, Carlson) or some significant pieces up front (Fehr, Fleischmann, Semin, second line center, Laich). He could fit the bill though.

Wade Redden*^ (New York Rangers; UFA)
Redden is the perfect mentor for Green. He will show him how to earn a big contract and fail to live up to it while at the same time forgetting how to play hockey. Quite a juggling act indeed.
Redden is the example of what not to be, and I don't think Green needs to play with Redden, as he can watch TV.

Kimmo Timonen^ (Philadelphia Flyers)

Timonen is a top-15 defenseman in the world at the moment, but is too expensive for the Caps at this point in time.

Marek Zidlicky (Minnesota Wild)

Zidlicky is a bit of an unknown at this point, as he racked up almost all his goals this past season, if not all, on the power play, where he did most of his damage. Can he still play at even strength? Is he strong defensively? Probably not all that great. From Behind the Net the Wild were better with Zidlicky off ice, so there goes that.

Dan Boyle^ (San Jose Sharks)

The most common adjective used to describe Boyle outside of San Jose is "a-hole." Umm, no thanks. Plus, Green is better than him in all facets of the game, except slew-footing.

Adam Foote (Colorado Avalanche)

Foote is an intriguing proposition. Colorado, starting hot last season, made it into the playoffs as the eight seed and gave San Jose some trouble (though a cursory glance at shot totals plus other advanced measures shows Colorado was territorially dominanted, just shot well and got great goaltending from Craig Anderson). They could be looking to take the next step with a similar team, but they also could look to remove a veteran and add a younger player in the back end (for some reason Denis Grebeshkov came to my mind quickly). Foote played easy competition with weak teammates and still the Avs were better with Foote off ice than on ice, according to Behind the Net. I'm not sure how good he'll be for Washington, but a third pairing D partner for Tom Poti or John Carlson sounds good. He does have a no-trade clause, but I don't doubt he'd waive it to go to Washington.

Chris Philips^ (Ottawa Senators)

Philips is one of the best defensemen in the league, capable of playing against tough competition (better than Anton Volchenkov even) and also putting up solid offensive number. Ottawa unfortunately will not let him go unless they get Green or Carlson in return, though, I'd guess.

Tomas Kaberle*^ (Toronto Maple Leafs)

You'd like the veteran to be better than Green in the first place. Not the case here. Plus, Kaberle is completely redundant in this role.

Stephane Robidas^ (Dallas Stars)

Dallas is only shortly removed from being a conference finalist, but they're now in rebuilding mode. They traded for a new goalie in Kari Lehtonen and look to the future with James Neal, Fabian Brunnstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Brendan Morrow, and Jamie Benn leading the charge from the front. Robidas, now Dallas' best defenseman, could be expendable if Dallas gets the right parts, but likely those parts will need to be high quality and plentiful.

Sergei Gonchar (Pittsburgh Penguins; UFA)

Word has it that Gonchar and the Penguins are far away on talks, which is good for the Caps. Surely, Gonchar, though regressing, is not as poor a defenseman as he looked down the stretch this season, as just the season before he was very solid. He, like Green, garnered the reputation of a one-way offensive defenseman in Washington, before his defensive game became strong under Michel Therrien in Pittsburgh. While he may come expensive, the Caps can afford him on a short deal, and moreover he just might get the trust of Bruce Boudreau to part-time quarterback the power play and play at even strength, thus reducing Green's minutes and keeping him fresher for the playoffs.

Mark Streit^ (New York Islanders)

No chance New York moves one of the best defensemen in the world unless they extract a king's ransom, which McPhee wouldn't give them. That being said Streit, while offensively dissimilar to Green (Streit plays more traditionally, not like a hybrid forward-defenseman), is also a smooth skater who quarterbacks a power play and is solid defensively.

*Just kidding.
^Highly unlikely in the near future or otherwise

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Awards Picks: Byng, Selke, Adams, Masterton, Lindsay, Messier, Foundation

Tonight the NHL Awards show will come to you from Las Vegas. Alex Ovechkin is up for the Hart and Lindsay (renamed this year, from Pearson), Mike Green the Norris and Foundation, and Jose Theodore the Masterton.

Lady Byng Trophy

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season and each individual voter ranks their top five candidates on a 10-7-5-3-1 points system. Three finalists are named and the trophy is awarded at the NHL Awards ceremony after the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The finalists: Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis

Favorite: Datsyuk
Who should win: St. Louis

The common definition of this award is basically who played best with the least PIMs. All three had similar PIM numbers this season (more than 10, less than 20) so I will restrict it just to highest playing ability. St. Louis had the most points, and while he may not be the player Datsyuk is, he also contributed heavily to the emergence of Steven Stamkos as a top-notch goal scorer, setting him up time after time. Datsyuk and the rest of the Red Wings didn't have a very impressive first 50 or so games of the season, and Richards I think was just not as good as either of the other two.

Selke Trophy

The finalists: Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, Jordan Staal player bios

Favorite: Datsyuk
Who should win: Datsyuk

In my mind a guy more under the radar, like Mikko Koivu, would have been more deserving. Anyways...

All three are excellent defensive players that frequently play against the other teams' top lines and do well not just defensively, but offensively as well (offense is the best defense).

Jack Adams Award

The Jack Adams Award is an annual award presented by the National Hockey League Broadcasters' Association to the NHL coach judged to have contributed the most to his team's success. The winner is selected in a poll among members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association at the end of the regular season.

The finalists: Joe Sacco, Barry Trotz, Dave Tippett

Favorite: Tippett
Who should win: Tippett

Which team was the most popular pick for 15th in the West?


Which team finished 4th in the West, with terrific production all through their lineup, great play in overtime and shootout, and solid defense that overcame a poor offense?


Tippett is their coach. While Sacco and Trotz are both deserving--Sacco doing similarly, with a younger lineup and finishing lower with his Colorado team, and Trotz once again getting Nashville to overperform salary and talent on paper (maybe that's why they're so cost-efficient...)--Tippett should get this one unanimously.

Masterton Trophy

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.

The finalists: Jed Ortmeyer, Kurtis Foster, Jose Theodore

Favorite: Theodore
Who should win: Theodore

In short: Ortmeyer has to inject blood thinners into his stomach every day, knowing any cut could be serious, Foster recovered from a horrific femur injury (you may recall he was pushed into the boards in a race to negate icing) to post an excellent season for Tampa Bay, and Theodore lost his son to post a very good season in goal for Washington.

Slover for the Sporting News argued that Ortmeyer deserves this award because Theodore did not show as much "dedication to hockey." I disagree. Mental focus--"There's not a day" that Theodore doesn't think about his lost son Chace--plus regaining the starting job in Washington and going on a 20+ game unbeaten streak to end the season is dedication to me. That's tremendous mental fortitude--not necessarily physical like Ortmeyer or Foster, but sometimes mental is even tougher.

Ted Lindsay Award

The Ted Lindsay Award is presented annually to the "most outstanding player" in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players' Association.

The finalists: Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin

Favorite: Ovechkin
Who should win: Ovechkin

Ovechkin led the league--by far--in points per game and goals per game, plus was the captain and go-to guy offensively for the league's best offense and top power play, as well as President's Trophy winner with 121 points (the only season in which a non-Original Six team topped 120 points). Sedin and Crosby were both very good, but I don't think there's much argument against Ovechkin here, though the anti-East coast bias backlash that writers use to favor Sedin may come back to give him the award.

Mark Messier Leadership Award

The Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone has been awarded since 2006-07 and is awarded "to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season."

The finalists: Sidney Crosby, Shane Doan, Ryan Miller

Favorite: Toss-up
Who should win: Miller (?)

I really don't know enough to say there's a definite favorite. I do know Miller is also up for the Foundation award, which means he went out into the community to expand interest and opportunities in hockey. I'm guessing on-ice Doan and Crosby are roughly equal with Miller--it's almost impossible to judge how forwards compare to goalies in value, let alone leadership--and Miller wins off-ice, so he's my winner here.

Foundation Award

The NHL Foundation Player Award is awarded annually to the National Hockey League (NHL) player "who applies the core values of (ice) hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community".

The finalists: Dustin Brown, Mike Green, Ryan Miller

Favorite: Unknown
Who should win: Unknown

It seems like each player has done a lot off the ice to help his community, and I'm not in a good position to judge the impact each player has had. It looks like Brown has tried more, but Miller has had more success (financially, at least). Any of these three players would be deserving.

Other awards:

Art Ross Trophy: Henrik Sedin (most points)
Rocket Richard Trophy: Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby (most goals)
Jennings Trophy: Martin Brodeur (fewest goals against)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Awards Picks: Hart, Vezina, Norris, Calder

The NHL Awards show will be Wednesday night in Las Vegas. Here's my take on the candidates for the Hart, Vezina, Norris, and Calder, formatted similarly to the picks of Ray Slover for the Sporting News.

Look at the Awards homepage for more.

Hart Trophy:

The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.

The candidates: Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Henrik Sedin bios

The favorite: Crosby or Sedin
Who should win: Ovechkin, in a tight one

You really can't go wrong with any of these three guys, but Ovechkin seems the best choice to me. He led the league in points per game and goals per game, narrowly missing out on the Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophies while missing 10 games (4 due to suspension, 6 due to injury). He was named captain of the Capitals in January and the Capitals absolutely tore up the NHL thereafter, massing about 80% of the available points for the rest of the regular season. He was the most valuable player and best player on the best team, the centerpiece of the league's best offense, a catalyst on the league's best power play. Moreover, he was a +45 on the season, meaning the Caps were allowing nary a goal against at even strength while Ovechkin was on the ice. He also set a career high in assists and helped Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble to career best goals per game rates.

Ovechkin is mainly hurt by playing for a very deep, strong team, and having gotten little penalty killing time (though Sedin and Crosby didn't get much either), with very strong linemates.

Crosby at first glance has the best candidacy, if you ask me. He scored 51 goals to tie for the Richard with Steven Stamkos, with easily lesser teammates than either Ovechkin (Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Knuble) or Sedin (Daniel Sedin, Alexandre Burrows) or Stamkos too (Martin St. Louis, Steve Downie). Pittsburgh as a team was nothing special this season--a strong team, to be sure, but no terrific offense like Washington or Vancouver, no superstar goalie like in Vancouver, and so on. What Crosby did was be the go-to guy on offense on a contender, one on which the wingers did little to nothing and the secondary scoring wasn't rampant in a down year for Evgeni Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury, while possibly better than in years past, was still annoying Penguins fans to no end, and the Pittsburgh defense was going through trouble as well as top minute man Sergei Gonchar started showing his age, and also emerging as a top faceoff man for his team and in the league. All this while playing tough minutes with weak teammates (by QTeam and QComp).

What ruins Crosby's candidacy for me are a few inconsistencies. First, without Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, Crosby struggled, scoring nowhere near a point per game and in fact closer to 0 points over 82 games than 82 over a season. He also had a large discrepancy in terms of goals at home versus goals on the road--a bit larger than normal, perhaps even acceptable, but Ovechkin showed a lot more balance in his goal scoring. Nitpicky, to be sure, but that's the nature of this award.

Henrik Sedin won the Art Ross Trophy playing in the tougher conference and going one-fourth of the season without his twin brother Daniel on his line due to Daniel Sedin's injury. No other Western Conference player comes remotely close to Sedin's point totals, and that's with Sedin also not even playing 20 minutes a game, significantly less that Ovechkin or Crosby, and playing less on the power play as well. He also averaged better than an assist a game, and you have to think that with Daniel in the lineup all season Henrik Sedin would have hit the 90 assists mark and possibly made a run at 100 (a special mark indeed).

While the West is certainly better, sometimes the difference is overstated. Sedin's QTeam and QComp show him to play with very strong teammates against below average competition. While these measures are imperfect and break down when line matching (checking vs scoring) is in place, the sheer difference between the numbers for Sedin and for Crosby/Ovechkin says to me that Sedin had a bit of an easy time at even strength, since those are too big to be made up by occasional line matching. Moreover, Sedin scored only 29 goals this season, while his competitors scored 50 each while amassing similar point totals. Considering goals are rarer than assists, this is another knock on Sedin. He too played on a deep team in Vancouver, one with a better defense on paper than either Washington or Pittsburgh, yet managed a +34. While good in a vacuum, Daniel Sedin was also +34, meaning over about 20 games which Daniel missed Henrik Sedin was roughly a break-even player at even strength (+0). Not even close to good enough. He gets a lot of praise for that time, but if he was scoring a goal every two games, a point a game, yet +0 a game, then something is wrong. The Canucks as a team stepped up without Daniel Sedin, Henrik didn't just carry them on his shoulders.

Vezina Trophy

The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs.

The candidates: Martin Brodeur, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Miller bios

The favorite: Miller
Who should win: Miller

Brodeur gets the nod because he's Martin freakin' Brodeur, but in reality more deserving of the nomination would be Tuuka Rask or Tomas Vokoun, the most underrated goalie since the lockout. Vokoun had a terrific save percentage and even-strength save percentage (special teams save percentage varies quite a bit from year to year, so ESSv% is the best indicator of a goalie's talent), well above the other candidates.

Back to the candidates--Brodeur started a lot of games for a good team coached by the master of the trap, Jacques Lemaire. Hence his numbers will look good.

Bryzgalov is an interesting case. He finished second in shutouts to Brodeur (with 8 fewer games played, so a tie could have been conceivable) while posting a better save percentage and even strength save percentage on a team that was much younger and much worse on paper than New Jersey. Phoenix, in fact, finished in the bottom 5 in goals for, yet finished 3rd in goals against, in large part due to great goaltending as Phoenix finished with 50 wins and 107 points, good for 4th in the West and well ahead of New Jersey. If New Jersey hadn't been so well disciplined Phoenix would have allowed fewer goals than New Jersey.

The knock on Bryzgalov is that his backup, Jason LaBarbera, posted good numbers as well, hinting that maybe the team defense on Phoenix was more to credit than the goaltending, much as we all love stories of goalies picked up on waivers who later win Vezinas.

So that leaves Miller. Last season Buffalo fell out of the playoffs without Miller, but this season with a healthy Miller they made the playoffs, meaning he certainly has value over replacement. He posted stellar all around numbers, including a ridiculous (and unsustainable over the long term) shorthanded save percentage. The Olympics only served to show again that he is the real deal.

Norris Trophy

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.

The candidates: Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Duncan Keith bios

The favorite: Keith
Who should win: Green

This is a very tight race. First thing to note is the time on ice numbers. Keith played much more than either Doughty or Green at even strength and on the penalty kill, while Green played much more than either Keith or Doughty on the power play.

Green led the three in goals, assists, points, power play goals, power play assists, power play points, and plus-minus, and his +/-ON/60 at 5-on-5 was the best of the three by about a goal and a half. The even strength and power play offense Green can provide, in short, is amazing.

On defense at 5-on-5, though, both Keith and Doughty are better. Doughty per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 time was giving up under two goals, compared to close to 2.4 for Green and 2.75 for Keith. Of course, competition matters as do teammates, and fact is Green played with the best teammates and against the easiest competition. Keith played the toughest competition with the worst teammates, while Doughty fell in between.

On the PK, Keith really shines. Under 5 goals against per 60 minutes of 4-on-5 time, plus about 2.3 goals for as well. Doughty gave up more than 6.5 while Green was just above 7, all this with Keith playing more than half his team's PK time. This lead in defense by Keith is somewhat mitigated though by the fact that he played on the best team by Fenwick%, had the best defensive forwards on his team, and played with the best defensive partner in Brent Seabrook (as opposed to Jeff Schultz for Green and Rob Scuderi for Doughty).

Doughty comes out ahead in the general perception of physicality--hits, blocked shots, and so on, though that may not always be the case. He, unfortunately, led (along with Green) the three in giveaways, meaning Keith was more responsible with the puck; then again, Green handles the puck more than almost any other player. Keith and Green had similar takeaway numbers (Green coming out ahead by equating games played) while Doughty came in behind.

In short, Green wins on offense, Keith on defense, and Doughty brings both well. For me though, Green's prolific offense outweighs his average defense. At one point post-Olympics, Green at 5-on-5 was +40, while Keith was +4 (remember that CHI scored a lot of shorthanded goals, which give players +1), for example. That difference is huge. Finally, Green post-Olympics was hands-down the best defenseman in the NHL by my visual analysis, while Keith struggled.

Calder Trophy

The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season and each individual voter ranks their top five candidates on a 10-7-5-3-1 points system. Three finalists are named and the trophy is awarded at the NHL Awards ceremony after the playoffs.

The candidates: Matt Duchene, Jimmy Howard, Tyler Myers bios

The favorite: Myers
Who should win: Myers

This one is easy. Duchene is automatically out for me since general knowledge is that defense and goalie are harder to come in and play than forward, and both the goalie (Howard) and the defenseman (Myers) put up not just impressive-for-a-rookie numbers, but impressive-for-anyone numbers.

Myers finished second in points to Duchene, while playing against seriously tough competition. This is a defenseman, folks. Howard had a great team ahead of him, one which really turned it on down the stretch (leading to Howard love; before, though, he was more of a dark horse candidate). Furthermore, defense is the hardest to come in and play, by conventional wisdom. This one is a slam dunk.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Non-NHL Awards Part 3

The Wade Redden Award is the player who, signed to a new contract coming into effect in the season just passed, underperforms expectations the most.

The winner: Jay Bouwmeester!

Bouwmeester was highly coveted prior to last year's free agency period, so much so that the Calgary Flames traded impending free agent defenseman Jordan Leopold and a third round pick for the rights to negotiate with Bouwmeester a few days before July 1. He signed a 5 year deal worth $33.4 million, a cap hit of about $6.7 million per season, and put up 3 goals and 29 points for Calgary. The Flames were supposed to have the second best if not the best top-3 in the NHL this past season, with Robyn  Regehr, Bouwmeester, and Dion Phaneuf, but instead ended up out of the playoff picture, in cap aches, and having traded Phaneuf and top defensive prospect Keith Aulie to Toronto for a package involving Matt Stajan and Ian White.

At the very least, while Bouwmeester wasn't even close to worth his salary (the Capitals got similar if not better play from Jeff Schultz for about $6 million per season less in cap hit) he wasn't a complete liability like Redden turned into.

Runner up:

Vincent Lecavalier--Lecavalier entered the first year of an 11 year, $85 million contract as captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning. If he had performed even close to expectations the Lightning would have made the playoffs, Rick Tocchet would still have a job, and the Capitals would have been in the Stanley Cup Finals. Instead, he went 24-46-70, not even close to good enough for a guy with a cap hit close to $8 million per season for the rest of his career and who made $10 million in raw cash this season. So thanks, Vinny.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bears 2, Stars 1 (OT)

The Hershey Bears, after dropping both games at home to start the series, have now taken all three in Texas. Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) will be back in Hershey, broadcast on Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic and NHL Network too as the Bears have two chances to win their second consecutive Calder Cup and third in the last five years.

Alexandre Giroux scored in overtime to win this one, a good goaltending duel between Matt Climie and Michal Neuvirth.

Hershey leads series 3-2.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bears 3, Stars 2

Hershey ties the series 2-2, with Game 5 in Texas this week before Game 6 and possibly Game 7 back in Hershey.

After falling behind and being on their heels for most of the second, a Jay Beagle goal got the Bears' legs going, and a goal by (who else?) John Carlson, deflecting a Keith Aucoin shot in front of the net past Matt Climie, stood for the game winner late in the third.

 Photo by Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Other great pictures.

Blackhawks 4, Flyers 3 (OT)

Chicago wins the series 4-2, and wins the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961.

We see why Michael Leighton is a temporary and not permanent fix. Weak goal given up, straight along the ice from an angle. The only defense he has is it was a backhand shot (which is tough to read) (Edit: Kane is a lefty: it was from his forehand) from Patrick Kane, cabbie puncher goal scorer. (I'm not annoyed about the cabbie incident, and I applaud how he responded to it, but I like making that joke. Plus, he strikes me as a punk)

Jonathan Toews wins the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP(though if you ask me, Duncan Keith would have been a better choice).

Congratulations to the Blackhawks organization and their fans for a spectacular season of 2009-2010.

Now, just for this itty bitty problem.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Author

I'd like to welcome my cousin, BlackAndGoldForever, as a new writer with us. He's a life-long Penguins fan who'll, I hope, be occasionally contributing content "from the other side."

So cut out the Crosby jokes, fun as they are.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bears 6, Stars 3

Hershey trailed 3-1 before scoring 5 straight. They were completely dominant, as was expected before.

Texas leads series 2-1, with Games 4 and 5 this week in Texas before heading back to Chocolatetown for the final two games, if necessary.
Via Chris Gordon (Caps Snaps)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blackhawks 7, Flyers 4

I didn't catch the game, but it looks like Quenneville's decision to split up Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dustin Byfuglien worked.

(via Down Goes Brown)

And apparently the same effectiveness issues are plaguing the Flyers as well, since Laviolette ended up splitting up Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne.

The Blackhawks will need to find an answer for the line of Scott Hartnell, Daniel Briere, and Ville Leino though. They've been great every period of this series.

Chicago leads series 3-2. The Stanley Cup will be in Wachovia Center for Game 6.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Flyers 5, Blackhawks 3

Seriously, who expected it'd be tied after four games?

Either the Hawks are sucking or the Flyers are playing some **** good hockey. A bit more of the former, I think. Philly's D is also stepping it up; while their top-4 is logging big minutes (Pronger went 27+ minutes in Game 4, and second-pairing D Braydon Coburn logged even more) their third pairing is playing well enough as well (Krajcek saved a goal with his stick in the right place).

Best of three now. Game 5 is Sunday, head to head with the NBA Finals Game 2.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Flyers 4, Blackhawks 3

And...we have a series again!

Chicago leads series 2-1.