As I always say this time of year, it’s hard to believe the first quarter of the NHL
season is already gone, but it’s true. With most teams having played at least
21-22 games, the predictions on leading candidates for the usual awards like the
Hart, the Vezina, the Calder and more are flooding Internet chat rooms and
online forums everywhere. Everybody’s got an opinion it seems – least of all
All of this talk about who should win
what has made me as nauseous as having to think about Christmas in September (OK
truthfully? Perhaps that would have been the smart thing to do!).
But it got me to thinking, and by now, you should all know this is potentially a
recipe for disaster whenever it concerns me and this column. Well maybe not.
In any event, for better or for worse, here are just some of the awards you
won’t see presented at next June’s formal ceremony, but they are worthy of
honorable mention in their own right. Read on for more.
Presented to the
Philadelphia Flyers – They’re doing more than their part in helping the “Philly
Flu” make a comeback of epidemic proportions. So far, they lead the NHL in
penalty minutes, not to mention number of man games lost to suspension.
Goes Around Comes Around” Award
Sean Avery of the New York Rangers – He can’t leave well enough alone, and now
he’ll sit for a month or so with a separated shoulder. That’s really earning
the new raise isn’t it?
Derek Boogaard of the Minnesota Wild – for his “Pinky & The Brain” reference to
Vancouver’s Daniel & Henrik Sedin. "Their so-called agitators were taking
liberties," he said. "As soon as I stepped on the ice, they just sort of spread
out and scattered to their holes almost. They don't want to come near me or talk
to me. But they think they can slash and stick and punch our skill guys. I'm not
going to stand for it. Maybe I can go after, or check Naslund and those Pinky
and the Brain twins." And the rivalry continues…
The “Did You
See That”?! Award
Presented to Sam
Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers – For some of the sickest shootout moves you’re
liable to see all season long, maybe ever!
Original Way To Score A Goal” Award
Also an Oiler –
Dustin Penner, for deflecting a shot from the hash marks into the net – from his
lower lip!!! This was against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, no less!!!
The “Who Is
That Masked Man”?! Award
Pascal Leclaire of the Columbus Blue Jackets – What a difference an off season
makes, especially in the Goaltending department. As of this writing, Leclaire
has backstopped his team to ten wins, six of them shutouts (and counting), and
has managed a very stingy goals against average of 1.88 goals per game, with a
save percentage of 0.931 – good enough for 3rd overall in the league
– not to mention he plays in a division forever dominated by those Men from
Motown. If he keeps this up, pretty soon everybody will know who he is,
especially if the Jackets can make the playoffs for the first time.
Martin Gerber of the Ottawa Senators – Enough said.
Earning That Hefty Paycheck, Or Else”!! Award
Dustin Penner of the Edmonton Oilers – Somewhere out there, Brian Burke is
laughing all the way to the bank. Honorable mention goes to Chris Drury and
Scott Gomez, both from the New York Rangers, and although it might be unfair
given his announced battle with Leukemia, Jason Blake of the Toronto Maple
The “I Wish I
Had A Mulligan” Award
Brian Burke, I’ll bet he’s wishing he hadn’t put Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers…
The “Well, At
Least We Got One Point” Award
Bryan McCabe of the Toronto Maple Leafs – for his own goal in overtime against
the Buffalo Sabres, and for the goal he gave up to Montreal up the middle, again
in overtime. He’ll never live either play down, especially if the team misses
the playoffs by one point, again.
D’Ya Mean What’s Wrong With Me” ?! Award
Martin Brodeur, who, having won his 500th career game and who is
edging ever so much closer to the all time shutout and wins record, has helped
backstop his New Jersey Devils team back into the playoff race (if they were
ever out to begin with). The Brent Sutter transition may have taken longer than
expected, but through no fault of the veteran goalie.
Zamboni Driver” Award
whoever it was at the helm of the Zamboni at the Air Canada Centre as the Habs &
Leafs were headed to a shootout. By the time Montreal goalie Carey Price made
the final save, 75% of the fans had already headed for the exits.
Alright Boys, We’re Still In First Place - For Now”! Award
Presented to the
Ottawa Senators – winners of 15 of their first 17 games, have been anything but
hot since. On the other side of the ledger, everyone’s waiting for Detroit to
go through a similar streak of futility, but somehow it’s not happening – and
they’d better watch their backs because the Central Division is easily this
year’s most improved.
Look At Me, I Didn’t Tell Them To Print That”!! Award
Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment president Richard Peddie for somehow allowing
the media to report both coach Paul Maurice and general manager John Ferguson Jr
were next on the NHL’s chopping block.
Bettman “I Promise The Fans We Will Fix It” Award
Presented to the
general manger who cast the deciding vote towards a schedule reminiscent of what
it was before the lockout. I know I’ve said it before, but to me the season
isn’t complete until every team gets to play against every team at least once.
Next year we will go back to six divisional games per team to allow this to
happen, and now there’s even talk about going back to 84 games. But, evidently
after 2010 the Olympics could become a mere legend. Can’t have everything I
guess. Stay Tuned.
Of The Year” Award
of the San Jose Sharks, fought a very personal battle with alcoholism, and got
himself in the best shape of his life to prompt the Sharks to give him a tryout,
and later a contract. If he’s not the front runner for the Bill Masterton
Trophy at this point, I don’t know who is. Maybe Fernando Pisani would come a
close second after battling back from a bout with ulcerative colitis.
ALONG THE BOARDS
tell Jason Spezza he’s not doing his share of community service. Not only was
he the cover man for the new NHL 2K8 video game, but he also recently made an
appearance at a Best Buy grand opening in Kanata. Now for those of you who
don’t check the box scores, this extra community attention on Jason’s part
hasn’t been the reason for the Senators’ struggles of late – throughout the
recent mini skid, Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel Alfredsson’s line has still
been very good. In fact, if you want my vote for the Hart right now – give it
to Alfie. Win or lose, he just brings it every night. I’m sure he’ll get some
healthy competition from Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Roberto
Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks before all is said and done.
Blackhawks forward Tuomo Ruutu
gave new meaning to the age old question “who was that masked man?” when he was
mistakenly arrested and detained briefly as a suspect in a robbery attempt in a
Chicago suburb. Evidently, an armed man dressed in a black jacket, black pants
and a black hat entered an apartment complex close to the United Centre and
demanded cash from the manager. Well, later on in the day while Ruutu went out
for a jog, guess what he was wearing? – a black team sweat suit and black cap.
“I was just in the wrong spot at the right time. It happens all the time,”
Tuomo was quoted as saying. Clearly understanding it was all a
misunderstanding, upon his release from police custody he gave autographs to
anyone who asked.
a question for the Washington Capitals, and I’m being serious. How do you
honestly expect to get back on the winning track by hiring a former “Slap Shot”
movie extra as your head coach? Think long and hard about that one before you
answer. I mean, seriously, wouldn’t that be the same as replacing Wayne Gretzky
with Mike Keenan? At least Glen Hanlon was trying, but then again, results are
what everybody looks at. Yet Bruce Boudreau has about 2 more wins than Hanlon
had in the same amount of games. I don’t know about you, but when you start the
season in first place and end up in last place before the 10 game mark, there’s
a bigger problem there than coaching – especially when you consider they have
two of the most exciting and dynamic players in the entire league. Why do I get
the feeling Alex Ovechkin won’t be a Capitals player much longer?
all wouldn’t be well with the
hockey world without some controversy over in Montreal, now would it? You have
the press calling out captain Saku Koivu for his alleged troubles with the
French language (which by the way he speaks fluently, I’ve seen it); you have
former Habs star Guy Lafleur criticizing the current edition of the team,
stating something to the effect they’re a team with four 3rd or 4th
lines; coach Guy Carbonneau fuming over recent losses to New Jersey and
Nashville (I mean what coach isn’t upset after a loss); and goalie Huet saying
they’re a fragile team. Sounds like everything is just fine in Montreal to me,
don’t you think?! Now if they could ever do something about their record
against the rest of the Northeast Division.
Good Bye &
Good Luck – To the man who has and
for many years to come will continue to belt out the lyrics to “Cum On Feel The
Noize” in Hockey Rinks everywhere – recently Quiet Riot’s front man Kevin DuBrow
suddenly passed away at the tender age of 52. Often imitated, never duplicated,
I know bands have carried on before after losing their lead singers, but there’s
just no replacing the voice. I’m expecting a tribute CD, or at the very least a
remastered version of “Metal Health” to hit store shelves any day now.
Night & Good Luck goes to Wes
Walz. It seems players are taking a little longer to decide if they can still
play at a high level (Scott Niedermayer anyone?), but I guess it’s best to be
totally sure rather than fall victim to the Michael Jordan syndrome.
As if you
needed any more reason to make alternate arrangements this holiday season if
you’ve had a little too much cheer, you can look no further than former NHL
player Rob Ramage. In 2003, his drunk-driving accident resulted in the death of
former Chicago Blackhawks star Keith Magnuson. Magnuson’s wife and two children
were just this past week awarded $9.5 million by a St. Louis jury as the result
of a wrongful death lawsuit. As much as the money will help, it won’t replace
the memory of one of Chicago’s best all time defensemen. Ramage, 48, has also
been convicted in an Ontario court on five charges, including impaired driving
causing death. Along with the hefty settlement, he faces up to 14 years in
prison. So folks, if you’re going to indulge in the bubbly this holiday season,
for heaven’s sake, don’t drive. As I’ve always said, I want to talk to you, not
is almost over! Where did it go!? In any event, it’ll be sure to be yet
another classic holiday season in the great tradition of holiday seasons. You
can rest assured I’ll be back with more hockey talk before you can say “Seasons
Greetings”! I do know this – 2008 promises to be another great year on the ice,
starting on January 1 in Buffalo with the next Outdoor game. I was beginning to
worry it wouldn’t be cold enough, but those worries were laid to rest last week
when the white stuff started falling, and this week ice pellets are in the
forecast – in fact, they’re already here! Just groovy! In any event, wherever
you are, whatever holiday you celebrate, and whoever you’re spending it with,
just have a good one – we all deserve it.
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