A few quick notes on team and league awards, here at the end of the season.
San Jose Sharks:
MVP: Patrick Marleau. No, CAPTAIN Patrick Marleau. While this year’s team was really an ensemble piece, if you have to choose one guy, it’s an easy choice. Mike Rathje is my second choice.
Rookie of the year: Tom Preissing. rookie defenseman. Undrafted, free agent rookie defenseman; and he made it look easy. Very impressive.
Most improved: you could consider Marleau, actually. But going into the season, most of us were hoping for an improvement from Jonathan Cheechoo — to maybe 15 goals or so. yeah, right. Cheechoo almost singlehandledly replaced Owen Nolan in production AND in the physical factor. And I think he still has a noticable upside. Second choice: Alexander Korolyuk, who had a lot to prove (starting with “is he really an NHL-caliber top six forward?”), and who did so after a rough start. But once he started believing in himself, it was fun to watch.
Top defenseman: Mike Rathje: 28 minutes a night, against the other team’s top offensive lines every night, every shift, every game — and go look at his +-. He may not be flashy, but he gets the job done wonderfully.
MVP: Kiprusoff in Calgary, St. Louis in Tampa, Klatt in LA, Turco in Dallas. Tough call; I’ll take Kiprusoff. Without him, calgary isn’t in the playoffs.
Rookie of the year: Raycroft in Boston or Michael Ryder in Montreal. Trent Hunter a distant third. This one is easy: Raycroft, both for his contribution to the success of the Bruins, and to the difficulty of the position he’s doing it in; if he takes the Bruins deep, it’ll be the first rookie goalie to do that since some guy named, um, Dryden.
Best Defenseman: Mike Rathje, Zdeno Chara in Ottawa, Nik Lidstrom in Detroit. I’m partial: I’ll give it to Rathje, not that he’ll win it.
Coach of the year: lots of candidates: my three favorites: Ron wilson in san jose, darryl sutter in calgary, andy murray in LA. and I’ll choose Murray, because he had a team where his first line started the season injured and stayed injured, and his team racked up more days lost to injuries than some divisions — and he held it together and kept them in the playoff race until the very end, when I think most people wouldn’t have blinked if the team called it early and mentally packed it in. His job was maybe the toughest.
Best goaltender: Kiprusoff, Marty Turco, Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour. And I’ll give the nod to Marty Turco, and hope he doesn’t prove it in a playoff round against the sharks this year…