Malkin deserves Hart Trophy
By Jim Matheson, edmontonjournal.com
April 8, 2012 8:01 AM
Pittsburgh Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin
Photograph by: Ric Erenst , PNG files
Who’s Hot: Penguins’ Pascal Dupuis, not exactly a household offensive threat, had a 17-game point streak to end the season. Longest streak by anybody this season.
Who’s Not: Kings forward Jarret Stoll went 34 games without a goal until popping one against San Jose Thursday night.
Penguins vs. Flyers, who definitely don’t like one another, in the first round of the Eastern playoffs. Let the venom begin.
The Red Wings meet the Predators in another 4-5 seed battle that could go seven games.
Penguins centre has carried team during injuries to key players
Several years back, a U.S.-based hockey writer was asked why Jarome Iginla hadn’t found his way onto their list of the top five Hart Trophy candidates, even though he had won the scoring title with the non-playoff bound Calgary Flames.
“There are no winners on losers,” said the reporter.
That’s a little harsh. But voting for the league’s most valuable player is always a tricky endeavour. It doesn’t always go to the player who has the most goals and assists over the regular season — only about 50 per cent of the time, actually, over the last two decades. Jaromir Jagr won the scoring title four years in a row for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1997-98 to 2000-01 and only won the Hart once. Buffalo Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek beat Jagr in 1997-98, St. Louis defenceman Chris Pronger in 1999-2000 and Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic in 2000-01.
Iginla had 96 points in 2001-02, six more than Vancouver Canucks’ Markus Naslund, but Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore, who got his team into eighth place in the East, won the Hart that year in a controversial vote.
This all brings us to this season. Is it the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, who’s going to win the Art Ross Trophy for most points or Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, who’s got a lock on the Maurice Richard Trophy for most goals? Or New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, maybe? He’s the best player on the best team in the league.
Malkin’s Penguins are a Stanley Cup contender. Stamkos’s Tampa Bay team is out of the playoffs.
I’m one of those guys who think your team should be in the post-season to win the MVP. Malkin carried the Penguins on his back for months while Sidney Crosby was sorting out his concussion issues, Jordan Staal was hurt, and defenceman Kris Letang — who would have been a top-five Norris Trophy candidate if he hadn’t only played half a season — was missing, Stamkos figured in almost 30 per cent of his team’s goals, and scored 60.
Malkin finished second twice to Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin. It’s his time.
Here are my picks for the NHL’s award-winners
Hart Trophy (for most valuable player):
1. Penguins’ Malkin;
2. Lightning’s Stamkos;
3. Rangers’ Lundqvist;
4. Ottawa Senators’ Jason Spezza;
5. Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick.
Maybe Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who used to run the bench in Washington and saw Malkin and Stamkos all the time, has the best feel for the MVP voting. He figures Malkin should win, but he’s a huge Stamkos fan.
“Stamkos would be the most valuable player if they had (goalie) Mike Smith again (who has been dazzling for the Phoenix Coyotes after being a Lightning backup last season) … they would be right in the hunt (for a playoff spot),” said Boudreau. “(Dwayne) Roloson had a tough stretch and Mathieu Garon, as much as I like him, is a good No. 2. But Stamkos is an incredible player. He’s not big, he’s not overpowering, but he’s fast, has a tremendous release and his desire to score is right there with Wayne Gretzky. Tampa had the game won the other night against Washington and Stamkos goes down the boards, gets checked with two seconds left, and he’s on his knees and the desire to score is so great, he puts it in (empty net). When Wayne was around, if the score was 5-1, he’d become hungrier instead of letting up. Same thing with Stamkos. Crosby is the same way.”
Stamkos’s scoring heroics aside, Boudreau feels Malkin is just a cut above the Lightning centre.
“In a season where Pittsburgh has stayed elite and they’ve done it without Crosby and injuries to people like Staal, Malkin is the defining factor. So he’s the MVP of that team and I think the league,” said Boudreau.
Here’s a look at the other major awards:
Norris Trophy (for top defenceman):
1. Senators’ Erik Karlsson;
2. Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara;
3. Nashville Predators’ Ryan Suter;
4. Predators’ Shea Weber;
5. St. Louis Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo.
It pains me not to have Detroit Red Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom, who has won the Norris seven times, on this list, but youth has to be served. Karlsson is a point-a-game defenceman in Ottawa, also solidly a plus.
“What’s not to like.? He’s not afraid to try and make a play. The real talent is getting up the ice with the puck. He’s slight, but he’s built for speed, man,” said three-time Norris winner Paul Coffey.
Chara, who won the Norris in 2009, tries to holster the other team’s top guns night in, night out, and that’s a chore because he’s also expected to give the Bruins about 40 points at the other end, but Karlsson runs the show in Ottawa. Suter and Weber in Nashville are interchangeable to me. Weber shoots harder and is tougher, but Suter has an economy of motion; in a lot of ways he’s like Scott Niedermayer was. Pietrangelo is the best defenceman on one of the NHL’s top three clubs in St. Louis.
Calder Trophy (for top rookie):
1. Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins;
2. Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog;
3. New Jersey Devils’ Adam Henrique;
4. Philadelphia Flyers’ Matt Read;
5. Rangers’ Carl Hagelin.
OK, call me a homer. Nugent-Hopkins has as many points (52) as Landeskog and Henrique in 20 fewer games and is the NHL’s baby, not turning 19 until Thursday. Landeskog has NHL captain written all over him in a few years; he’s smart, tough-minded and loves to shoot. Henrique has 50 points. I go back to what Wings general manager Ken Holland said about Nugent-Hopkins very early in the season when asked what he thought.
“Superstar,” said Holland. This will be a very close vote, and the Oilers have never won a rookie-of-the-year award.
Vezina Trophy (for top goalie, as voted by the league GMs):
1. Rangers’ Lundqvist;
2. Kings’ Quick;
3. Blues’ Brian Elliott/Jaroslav Halak;
4. Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury;
5. Predators’ Pekka Rinne.
Tough category. You couldn’t go wrong picking any of them. Without Lundqvist, there’s no way Rangers would be the top team in the East. Without Quick, there’s no way the Kings would be anywhere near the playoffs. Elliott and Halak have 15 shutouts with the Blues, but how do you go for one over the other?
Selke Trophy (for top defensive forward):
1. Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron;
2. Blues’ David Backes;
3. Rangers’ Ryan Callahan;
4. Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk;
5. Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews.
This is really a misnomer. It used to go to players who didn’t put up a lot of points, like the estimable Bob Gainey, who won it the first four years it was handed out, and Steve (the not-so-friendly-ghost) Kasper, but it has evolved into a two-way award. Canucks’ Ryan Kesler won it last year, Datsyuk, three years before that, Carolina Hurricanes’ Rod Brind’Amour twice, Jere Lehtinen three times. Bergeron leads the Bruins in points and is in the top five in faceoff percentage. Backes is the ultimate hard-nosed, big centre and the Blues captain. Callahan is the indefatigable Rangers captain. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock says it should go to his guy or Callahan. I will go with Bergeron.
Lady Byng Trophy (for gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of play):
1. Oilers’ Jordan Eberle.
2. Dallas Stars’ Loui Eriksson.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs’ Phil Kessel.
4. New York Islanders’ Matt Moulson.
5. Sabres’ Jason Pominville.
All these guys play in traffic and put up points. There’s no perimeter players here to keep the penalty minutes down. I’m going with Eberle because I see him more than anybody else, but Kessel, who has been in the top six or seven in scoring for a long while, will give him a push.
Nobody has to twist Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry’s arms to play for Canada in the world championship in Stockholm and Helsinki. The 2010 Olympians have already volunteered, in Getzlaf’s case because he’s had a miserable season in Anaheim.
“I’ve always tried to play if healthy and if given the opportunity I’ve tried to support Canada. It’s been a tough year and I’m not ready to hang up the skates,” he said.
Getzlaf, Steven Stamkos, and John Tavares in the middle?
“Not bad, I guess,” said Getzlaf, chuckling, should Stamkos and Tavares also express a desire to play. Throw in Jamie Benn, too, but he can play wing.
Nobody has been officially named to the team, but here’s a list of possibles at forward on teams out of the playoffs:
Getzlaf, Perry, Stamkos, Tavares, Benn, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jarome Iginla, Curtis Glencross, Jason Pominville, Tyler Ennis, Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Ryan O’Reilly, Michael Ryder, Steve 0tt, Matt Moulson, Martin St. Louis, Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Ryan Smyth, Cal Clutterbuck, Mike Cammalleri.
There’s not as much to choose from on the back end or in net:
P.K. Subban, Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester, Francois Beauchemin, Dion Phaneuf, Stephane Robidas, Eric Brewer. Tyler Myers would be there but he’s got a bad foot.
Cam Fowler, Alex Goligoski, Jack Johnson, Tom Gilbert, Tim Gleason, Erik Johnson, Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian are all possibles for the American team.
Goal: If Carey Price (concussion) can’t go, then Cam Ward becomes the front-runner. Devan Dubnyk, Josh Harding and Dwayne Roloson are possibles.
This ‘n that:
• Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t see Edmonton Oilers’ Taylor Hall in the flesh Thursday in the Ducks’ win, but he could be president of Hall’s booster club. “He’s the next Messier,” said Boudreau, with the caveat that Hall has to stay healthy.
• Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi was asked by L.A. Times scribe Lisa Dillman if he’d ever seen anything like Ryane Clowe stopping a Jarret Stoll rush up the boards with his stick, reaching over the boards from the San Jose Sharks bench. “In a beer league,” Lombardi said. Needless to say, referees Stephen Walkom and Brian Pochmara were sheepish after missing Clowe’s sleight of hand. So was Clowe. “Brain cramp. Lucky I didn’t get a penalty and cost our team,” said Clowe.
• Minnesota’s Tom Gilbert played a career high 34:17 in the Wild’s shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. “Good thing he had to get his skate repaired or he’d have been up around 37 minutes,” said Minnesota coach Mike Yeo. Gilbert played 30 or more minutes seven times in his 20 games with the Wild after being traded by the Oilers for Nick Schultz.
• The Ducks are sniffing around last year’s free-agent flavour of the day, Swedish goalie Viktor Fasth, who didn’t want to come to North America last year but does now.
With the Kings making the playoffs, the Columbus Blue Jackets can take their first-round slot this June or in 2013 as part of the Jeff Carter trade. Presumably, it’ll depend on whether the kid the Jackets want at about No. 20 in this year’s draft is still there.
• Dave Semenko watches players kicking a soccer ball around in the hallway before games with a bemused air. “We’d be having a smoke,” said the former Oilers heavyweight, who was part of the brigade of smokers around the NHL back in the 1980s. “Ronnie (Low) and I would be sitting on chairs in the washroom between periods smoking.” I remember seeing Al Iafrate lighting cigarettes with the blowtorch the players use to bend their stick blades. He’d have two ciggies going at the same time. Now, you’d be hard-pressed to find ONE NHLer who smokes.
• If you want to take Carter in your playoff pool, he’s still limping with a bad bone bruise on his ankle, but when asked if he’d be ready to start the post-season, he gave it the two thumbs up. “No problem.”
• Best Blackhawks player by far this season: Marian Hossa, who missed only one game, in mid-October (upper-body); it’s the most games he’s played in five years. He is definitely a Selke candidate, close to a point-a-game player.
• It’s not a good time for the St. Louis Blues to be slumping, with their invincibility at home slipping too, getting whipped 5-2 by the Jackets and 4-1 by the Coyotes in the last week. Their power play has gone bone dry (It’s two-for-the-last 25). If Blues draw the Detroit Red Wings in any playoff round, it’s the one team that’s given them trouble. Detroit has beaten them four straight times. Right now, St. Louis is completely healthy, carrying 26 players, 16 forwards, but they’ve lost their workboots. They’re not exactly in loafers, but they’re not as hard on the puck as they’ve been for months on end.
Stamkos, one of only seven guys to score 50 twice before they were 23 — Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Bure, Mike Bossy, and Joe Nieuwendyk were the others — finished with 60 goals this year. Ovechkin is the only other player in the last 15 years to hit 60 or more. Most goalies feel Stamkos’s greatest strength is his one-timer accuracy. “When we played them in Tampa he put it (shot) in exactly the same spot six times in a row, right beside my arm,” said Oilers’ goalie Devan Dubnyk. “They look easy, one-timers but they aren’t. And Stamkos’s span (where he can get the shot off) might be twice as wide as anybody else. No matter where he gets it, he can hammer it.” He doesn’t need a room-service pass down the middle of the plate. Scotty Bowman has said Stamkos reminds him of Bossy, who only had 570 goals in 10 NHL seasons. Wonderful praise.
The sculptors haven’t built a bronze statue of Rob Daum outside the quaint hockey rink in Linz, Austria after the former Oilers minor-league coach/NHL assistant coach/University of Alberta Golden Bears head coach took the small payroll squad to the league championship while the high-roller Red Bulls of Salzburg (Pierre Page is in charge there) and in Klagenfurt fell by the wayside. But Daum can probably get a table at the best restaurant in town now, no matter how long the line is to get in.
“There was a parade and a gathering at the city centre, just like in an NHL city, on a smaller scale. The entire city was insane. We didn’t have a rink big enough. We were turning people away,” said Daum, who signed a four-year contract, with out clauses to return to North America. The first two years of the deal there are no options to go elsewhere in Europe. He admits that when he walks the streets of Linz now, people know who he is. It wasn’t the case, except for rabid hockey fans, earlier in the year. Daum will be in Slovenia for the IIHF B Pool tournament shortly, as Austrian assistant coach. Former Oilers assistant coach Kevin Primeau coaches the Slovenian national side.
This ‘n that:
• If Patrick Roy’s in the picture for the Canadiens general manager or coach job next year, it could have a bearing on Montreal’s draft picture. Russian centre Mikhail Grigorenko plays for Roy in Quebec City with the Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Not everybody’s a fan, though. Grigorenko doesn’t bring it every shift.
“He’s high-end talent but he takes time off. Mind you, (Evgeni) Malkin had that a bit in his draft year,” said one amateur scout.
• New York Islanders winger P.A Parenteau’s sprained right ankle might keep him from world championship team consideration, with linemates John Tavares and Matt Moulson as automatics if they want to go.
• I know the Buffalo Sabres liked Zack Kassian’s toughness before they moved him to the Vancouver Canucks, but why was Marcus Foligno in the minors so long? He has thirteen points in his last 13 games. He’s a horse at 225 pounds and was on the ice in that mad scrum where Buffalo tied it against the Toronto Maple Leafs this week and won in overtime. “I think the ref was in awe how many times I got punched in the face,” said Foligno.
• If anybody was wondering if New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur had the right stuff to play another year, he racked up his 30th win in Detroit on Thursday. That’s 14 30-win seasons for Brodeur, who has a 2.42 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. He’s got a lower average than Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Ryan Miller and Ilya Bryzgalov.
• If Florida Panthers unrestricted free agent defenceman Jason Garrison gets a big contract (a $4-million salary, over three or four years) this summer, he should give Brian Campbell a nice tip. Campbell is his partner and quietly has 54 points. Florida GM Dale Tallon took a gamble taking Campbell’s $7.1-million salary off the Hawks last summer because he had to get to the cap floor, but Campbell should get some Norris Trophy love from voters ... With former Edmonton • Oil Kings goalie Doug Soetaert stupidly being cashiered as GM with the Western Hockey League Everett Silvertips, with a rebuilding team that still made the playoffs, where will he wind up? There’s talk that Marc Habscheid, who has the coach/GM job in Victoria might want to just be coach. Maybe Soetaert will wind up there.
• The Winnipeg Jets, who grossed about $100 million this year in the NHL’s smallest rink (a capacity of 15,0004) with huge merchandising numbers and very good TV revenue, have a captive audience with one of the three highest average ticket prices among Canadian teams. And prices are going up three per cent. The word is they want the season ticket money in another week, too. That’s a tough nut for fans there. They’ve got 8,000 folks on a waiting list. They are still in the honeymoon period, but the fans will be expecting the playoffs next year, rest assured.
By the numbers:
635: Panthers centre Stephen Weiss had played that many games without making the playoffs.
20: Shootouts for the Wild this season, tying Phoenix’s league high in 2009-10.
54: Mike Smith’s saves against the Blue Jackets were the most-ever by a goalie in a shutout.
He Said It:
“I didn’t want to dig myself any deeper. I was tired already and figured I’d sleep on it.”
Ryane Clowe on playing dumb immediately after his stick derring-do from the bench.
Matty’s Short Shifts:
• Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith looks like he’s getting into the heads of the opposing shooters like the Anaheim Ducks’ J.S. Giguere did in 2002 when he stoned the Detroit Red Wings and Curtis Joseph in a first-round shocker. A huge plus for the Coyotes, not a good thing for teams playing the Desert Dogs. He stopped 161 straight shots over four games before Patrik Berglund beat him as the St. Louis Blues were totally frustrated by Smith on Friday night. Hindsight is always 20-20 but if the Lightning had signed Smith last summer when he was an unrestricted free agent, they wouldn’t have to move heaven and earth to get Cory Schneider or Jonathan Bernier as a No. 1 goalie next season. Then again, maybe Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke deserves huge props for turning Smith into a rock-solid starter. Maybe if he had stayed in Tampa, he wouldn’t be this good.
• Chicago’s Jonathan Toews (concussion) missed his 22nd straight game Saturday in the Blackhawks’ finale against the Detroit Red Wings. There are no guarantees he’ll play all or any of their first-round playoff games. “It’s progressing, I guess,” said Toews. Can a player who’s been out six weeks, step right into the playoff fire? The Blackhawks went into the Wings game 12-5-4 without their captain, but they can’t hope to go deep without his leadership.
• It has been an expensive last few months for New York Rangers coach John Tortorella. A $30,000 fine in January for ripping referees Dennis LaRue and Ian Walsh’s work in the Winter Classic and now $20,000 for going off on the Pittsburgh Penguins after Brooks Orpik’s knee on Derek Stepan, especially Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, calling them “whining stars.” Crosby, called “a punk” earlier in the week by Mike Milbury, and now this from Tortorella, is getting ticked. “It’s garbage,” he said. In the 1980s, they used to call No. 99 “Whine” Gretzky too, for trying to get penalty calls. If you can’t beat them, complain about them, I guess.
• I suspect Lindy Ruff, who was part of Canada’s 2010 Olympic coaching squad, will move to the head of Canadian world championship team GM Kevin Lowe’s list now that the Sabres are out of the playoffs. Other candidates: Tom Renney, Kirk Muller, Guy Boucher, Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Randy Cunneyworth.
• If the Oilers are picking No. 2 in the draft, I can see them trading back to No. 3 for an established player because they can still get Griffin Reinhart or Ryan Murray with their pick. Unless I’m way off base, the Oilers are taking either the Oil Kings defenceman Reinhart or the Everett Silvertips captain Murray.
• It’s interesting that Carolina Hurricanes’ coach Kirk Muller says Guy Carbonneau, working as a TV analyst, should be back in the NHL. I always thought that Brenden Morrow’s father-in-law would make a better GM than a coach because he’s a sharp guy. It didn’t work out as a coach in Montreal (they’ve fired some pretty good people there — Alain Vigneault, Claude Julien, Michel Therrien, Jacques Martin), but he certainly deserves a spot in the grocery list of candidates for the Habs GM job.
• Congratulations to defenceman Steve Staios for reaching 1,000 games Thursday in the New York Islanders’ win over the Winnipeg Jets. Great warrior, lots of miles on that body.
• Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray doesn’t think the door has been slammed on signing hotshot college defenceman Justin Schultz, even though most people figure he’s going to unrestricted free-agent status on July 1 because the University of Wisconsin puck-mover hasn’t signed with the club that drafted him. He also doesn’t think Schultz, who is represented by Jason Arnott’s brother Wade, has strung the Ducks along.
The Ducks plan on moving Saku Koivu to third-line centre, next year which means they’re looking for a No. 2 pivot to play behind Getzlaf. Would they have interest in Oilers’ Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano’s buddy? Speaking of Cogliano, I don’t imagine they signed the ex-Oiler to a three-year deal to be a fourth-liner with George Parros and Rod Pelley, but that was where Cogliano was Thursday against the Oilers.
• Drew Doughty’s fight with Jumbo Joe Thornton (two Olympians) Thursday was his NHL fistic baptism but Thornton, who always comes across as this laissez-faire hard-to-rile guy has had 25 fights. He’s good at it.
• A name to remember for next year’s junior draft: six-foot-four, 180-pound defenceman Darnell Nurse. “He’s Donovan McNabb’s nephew. From the back, you watch him skate and he’s so much like Chris Pronger,” said Kevin Prendergast, the Hockey Canada chief scout, who has put the Canadian under-18 squad together for the worlds in the Czech Republic, starting this week. The Canadian squad is holding one forward spot open, likely for centre Nathan MacKinnon, the early choice as top pick in the 2013 draft, if his Halifax junior squad goes out quickly to Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts in this playoff round.
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