My picks for the best players of the half-season.
Hart Trophy: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers. He’s been the most dynamic player on the Flyers, and while his 48 points (as of January 11) put him in a tie for second in the league scoring race, he got that number in fewer games than leading scorer Henrik Sedin. If not for a concussion injury in December, Giroux would be leading the scoring race. His development in three short years from promising young forward to elite player has been impressive.
Selke Trophy: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk have better plus-minuses, but Toews logs nearly three minutes more ice time per game, and has a better faceoff percentage by three percentage points. That’s important in defensive situations and tips it in Toews’ favor.
Norris Trophy: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins. The Bruins captain is among the league leaders in scoring for defenseman, is the league-leader in plus-minus (+27), plus is second on the Bruins in hits, and is among the league leaders in PP goals. He’s been the best all-round defenseman in the league so far.
Vezina Trophy: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings. It’s been very close to call right now, but overall Quick at mid-season is among the league leaders in games played, wins, save percentage and goals-against average, plus leads all goalies in shutouts with 6. Without his strong play throughout the first half, the Kings would’ve been in a much deeper hole than they were prior to their coaching change. Quick will be hard-pressed the rest of the way, with the NY Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, Detroit Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard, and Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas (winner of the Vezina in two of the last three seasons) also jockeying for position as the league’s top netminder.
Lady Byng: Brian Campbell, Florida Panthers. Most folks don’t seem to care about the Bynd award for most gentlemanly player, but it’s still noteworthy, especially for players who can contribute at a high level of skill and competition without taking a bucket-load of costly penalties. Campbell – one of the main reasons for the Panthers improvement this season, with 33 points in 42 games – has only 4 PIMs so far this season.
Calder Trophy: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers. “RNH” was the rookie of the month in October and November, and as of January 11 was the leading scorer for all rookies, though he’s now sidelined with a shoulder injury. Even without the injury, he was being pressured by New Jersey’s Adam Henrique, but Henrique is 21 years old and more mature physically. Not to belittle Henrique, but the slender, 18-year-old Nugent-Hopkins has been more impressive.
Adams Trophy: Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators. Ken Hitchcock has done a fine job with the St. Louis Blues, as has Kevin Dineen with the Florida Panthers, but those clubs are mainly veteran-laden teams, and were expected to show some improvement this season. The Senators, in the midst of a major rebuilding program with youth, weren’t expected to be anywhere close to a playoff berth, yet at mid-season, they’re smack in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. That’s a credit to MacLean’s ability to mesh a team of youngsters and veterans into a cohesive offensive club. Now, if he can only get them to improve their defensive game and goaltending…