Good to hear from ya. Things are well as they can be from my mom’s basement. The furnace makes a funny noise sometimes that makes it hard to sleep. It’s also good see to hear you’ve given up your addiction for egg nog and have instead switched to Christmas crack. If the NHL appointed you to hand out trophies at the end of the year, there would be rioting in the streets of Manitoba that would make the 1968 Democratic National Convention look like a World Peace Conference. I’m going to start with your decisions that I disgree with the most (i.e. the ones which caused my eyes to bleed the most)
I’ll start with your choice for the Vezina. Mike Smith, while an ‘outside the box’ selection, is nowhere near the elite goaltenders up for this award. In fact, I would rank my top 3 goalies as follows: Tim Thomas, Niklas Backstrom, and Nikolai Khabibulin. Niklas Backstrom gets the award in my book, though, as the workhorse goalie gets rewarded for starting more than 65 games. During a time in the league when many teams are going to a two-headed monster, Backstrom has already started 28 games, tops in the Western Conference thus far. Not to mention, his stats are nothing to scoff at, with 2.28 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Smith will have no such luck playing on an inferior defensive team and his numbers will start to inflate as he sees more rubber than a Las Vegas hooker during March Madness.
I said it last week and I’ll say it again, Joel Quenneville is the best coach in the NHL this season. I could probably get about 38 wins out of San Jose throwing out Thornton, Marleau, and Setoguchi every 2 shifts. Quenneville has done more, in what could have been an explosive situation, than any other coach in the league this year. Brent Sutter will get some love for keeping New Jersey competitive when they could’ve packed it in after Brodeur went down but he’s still got nothing on Coach Q. He took over a young, raw team after three games, and has turned them into one of the most dangerous and explosive teams in the league. As far as I’m concerned, there hasn’t been a finer coaching job since a man in a cowboy outfit led a rag tag group within one goal of the 1999 Midget AA Illinois State Tournament.
It’s hard to argue against Alex the Great as the Hart Trophy winner but Evgeni Malkin makes it pretty easy when you take a look at his stat line. In 32 games, he has 55 points which puts him on pace for 137 points. That scoring output would be the highest the NHL has seen since Mario Lemieux had 161 for the ’95-96 Penguins. Sidney Crosby may get all the media’s attention but Malkin gets the opposing team’s attention. He’s taken his game to a whole new level this year by looking to set up the play and his 40 assists are proof of that. And my goodness, he is only 22. This guy may have the market cornered on this award for the next decade.
For the Selke, I think you have to look at the teams that play the boring, trapping defensive style. You had the right idea in John Madden, just the wrong team. Marc Savard has turned his defensive play around dramatically under head coach Claude Julien. He’s leading the league in +/- this year which seems like more than enough reason to give him an award that most people have no idea how to hand out. (I mean, seriously, who watches every game for solid defensive play by forwards. Most of the time, the voters make their selection based on word of mouth.)
Since you knocked Derek Brassard out for the year by naming him your Calder Trophy winner, I’ll try to do the same for his teammate, Steve Mason. Mason is the best young goaltender in the game and has almost single-handedly kept Columbus within the same area code for the 8th seed. He’s sporting a razor thin 1.92 goals against in 16 games while making saves at a 93% clip. As long as he stays on the roster and the Jackets don’t send him back to Syracuse, he’s my pick for the Calder with an honorable mention to Blake Wheeler who has turned his career around in Boston.
I have a hard time disagreeing with you for the Norris. Duncan Keith is as deserving as anyone else but maybe if he doesn’t win, the ‘Hawks may be able to save a few bucks on his contract extension, so I’ll make Shea Weber my choice for top defenseman. He is a beast of a man finally starting to pay off on his potential by staying healthy this year. Standing at 6-3, 213 pounds, Weber is second in points among defensemen, and is on pace for 28 goals. Did I also mention he shuts down the other team’s top line? There’s no doubt he has come into his own this year and looks like a force to reckoned with for years to come (Assuming he can stay healthy).
Do I seriously have to pick a winner for the Byng? Ok, how about Zach Parise, he’s only got 6 penalty minutes on the year and looks like the type of guy that picks up the occasional check at dinner. Nothing more gentlemanly than that.
Well Bob, I resisted the urge to name a Blackhawks to every award. It was hard and it was difficult but I am a better man for it. On the other hand, I also shot down almost every one of your award selections and your choice of Mike Smith for the Vezina almost caused me to launch myself off my roof. We should do this again some time or maybe we could start a website and subject other people to our odd hockey thoughts. Have a happy holidays and whatever that saying in ‘Blow’ was between Johnny Depp and Ray Liotta before they would have a drink, that’s what I say to you my friend.