This year, the Nations Network is handing out some virtual hardware to end the season. Slip into your favourite yelling pants, put on a cloak of incredulity, and check out our nominees below. Vote for your favourite, our writers will do the same, and we’ll unveil the winners and our personal picks in the days to come.
Most Valuable Player
Nominees: Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, The Fans
Honourable Mentions: Tobias Enstrom
The case for Andrew Ladd is pretty clear. Ladd led the Jets in assists (28) and points (46), and led forwards in RelCorsi (+9 per 60), all while playing the toughest competition among forwards alongside Bryan Little (1.17). He tied for 18th in league scoring, was 21st in the NHL for minutes played by a forward, and played in all three disciplines. Of the 18 other players tied with or ahead of Ladd in total scoring this season, just three played more minutes shorthanded. Ladd still delivered a memorable and effective season in a power-vs-power role. Still, his PDO was 3rd highest among regular forwards, and his on-ice shooting % was #1. In other words, luck clearly played a role in the captain’s offensive output.
Blake Wheeler is a singluar player on the Jets roster, and by eye, has the best vision of the forward group. His slow-up plays, soft-touch passing, and controlled zone entries drive offense for the Jets in a way no other player can. It’s not an accident that he led the team in goals (19) and led all forwards in powerplay points (7). He was also second on the team in points with 41. Wheeler’s RelCorsi was 3rd among regular forwards (+3.3 / 60), and his PDO was sub-1000, though his personal shooting % was the highest of his career at 14.7%. Where Ladd brings toughness and two-way play, Wheeler was driving offensive results for that top line.
Kane was third on the team in scoring (33), but trailed 2nd place Wheeler by a wide margin (8 points). Still, Kane was clearly given the lesser linemates, and yet led the team in shots (190) by 48! That’s 1 whole shot per game average over second place Byfuglien. His personal shooting % was 9th among regulars, and his on-ice sh% was 8th – both the second lowest of his 4 year career – owing in part to playing with Olli ‘Black-Hole’ Jokinen, and Antti ‘Anti-Offence’ Miettinen. Kane drew penalties at a high rate (1.1 per 60), but took even more (1.5 penalties per 60). His penalty minutes reflect his toughness, but they also put the Jets on the PK too often.
Bogo played the toughest minutes (QoC 1.12) among defencemen alongside Ron Hainsey, and did considerably better than his partner, scoring one more point (14) than Hainsey in 14 fewer games and registering 85 shots on, second among defencemen. WIth Bogo in the lineup, the Jets were 18-13-2. Without him? 6-8-1. That might be the best stat in Bogo’s favour.
Big Buff has been a controversial figure for the Jets this year, with some calling for his immediate trade for his inconsistent play. Nevertheless, by eye, he clearly has a game-breaking ability that few players have at the world’s top level of hockey. He can create offence from anywhere in the opponent’s zone and drive the play into that zone single handedly. He led the Jets defence in goals (8) and scoring (28), and tied Shea Weber for 9th in defencemen scoring league wide. He led the team in powerplay scoring (10), was second in shots (142), and led in average TOI (24:24). He did all that in just 43 games. Still, in 22 wins, Big Buff had 21 points and was +15. In 21 losses, he had just 7 points and was -16. A bit Jekyll and Hyde
We watched it happen, from hope to heart break. More than that, we held the team accountable when their home performance was clearly below their ability. In a Collective Armchair GM vs. Actual GM competition, I think we win. Jussi Jokinen off waivers clearly would have been a good idea. We all fear that Cheveldayoff is going to let the UFAs walk for nothing when that’s clearly poor asset management, and in general, we demanded some action at the deadline. Remember those back to back games against Washington? Of course you do, since you sat through all 6 hours of the torturous affair. You didn’t do it for the recognition, but maybe you deserve some anyway.
Nominees: Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Bryan Little
Honourable Mentions: The 4th round pick we got for Alexei Ponikarovsky
The cases stand for Ladd, Wheeler, and Kane above.
Little was 4th in team scoring with 32points – 1 back of Kane. He also faced the toughest competition among forwards, drew 10 penalties for the 2 he took himself, and was +8 on a team that was -13. He led forwards in SH TOI, and had 5 powerplay points for 3rd among forwards. He was also 51% in the faceoff circle, and took the most faceoffs on the team (842). Only one other player (Slater) was over 50% in 100 attempts or more. Little was a key contributor on a team without any help at centre.
Nominees: Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey
The cases for Bogo and Big Buff stand as before.
Poor, poor Enstrom. For years, Enstrom has been a critical part of this franchise’s success, including two 50 point seasons with the Thrashers. Since coming to Winnipeg, he’s struggled with injury. This season was no exception – he started with 13 points in his first 13 games prior to injury, including 6 powerplay points. In his return to the lineup, Enstrom struggled – getting 2 goals, 0 assists in his last 9 games before being injured a second time. In his 22 games, Enstrom did do something remarkable. He took Byfuglien from a sub-50% corsi player to a 52% corsi player. Getting the offence into the right zone is a key ability of the diminutive defenceman, and his absence from the lineup could be argued as a reason for the Jets’ struggles.
Hainsey is another controversial figure, with many seeing him as a key problem on the back end. The fact, remains, however, that he played the most minutes on the PK at nearly 3minutes per game, faced the toughest opposition, and was trusted to switch sides when Bogo was out of the lineup. His RelCorsi was worst among the defence (-8.7), but his zone starts were also the hardest (44%) and his zone finish jumped a relatively incredible 10 points to 54%, We’d all like Duncan Keith instead, but as defensive defencemen go, Hainsey pulled his weight.
Nominees: Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome, Kyle Wellwood, Alex Burmistrov, Charlie Huddy
Honourable Mentions: Tobias Enstrom
The case stands for Hainsey.
Clitsome had a tough year in many ways – moving from third pairing to first pairing depending on Enstrom’s health. He was a whopping +10 on a team that was -13, doubling Mark Stuart, and one of two defencemen with a plus rating the end the year. He was also one of three regular defencemen with a positive RelativeCorsi (+2.3), and was second in defencemen scoring (16).
Wellwood had an underappreciated season. Kinda like all of his other seasons ever. He was 6th in forward scoring despite a paultry 13 minutes a night of ice time. While Mittens struggled on the second line, Wellwood was making offence happen with Antropov and random bodies on the third. With a move up to play with Kane, Wellwood managed 7 points in 9 games through April (9 games that garnered the Jets 13 of a possible 18 points, I might add). He may have been the short-term solution to that second line, but didn’t get much of a chance to prove it.
Burmistov also had a weird season. I guess that’s the meaning of the category. He was a health scratch, was almost never given prime minutes or quality linemates, and yet performed quite well for a young player. He was a key penalty killer (3rd in minutes among forwards), was even in plus/minus despite only scoring 10 points, and was second among Jets regular forwards in Relative Corsi (+6.5 per 60) while facing the 8th hardest competition (0.04). Can we please give this guy some minutes?! Oh, and did I mention he’s 21?
The man in charge of the defence. He delivered Bogosian from the clutches of an early career trade, and turned him into what we see today. I think there’s an argument that guys like Mark Stuart and Grant Clitsome are performing above expection under Huddy. He has a talent for getting NHL players out of bubble talent, but Bogo’s impressive season is enough to warrant a nomination for Huddy.
Best Young Player
Nominees: Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Adam Lowry, Eric O’Dell
79 points in 45 games, Scheifele was named Most Dangerous in the Goal Area, Best Shot, second in Faceoffs, and second in Best Shootout Shooter in the OHL Coaches Poll this year.
In the Hockey News Future Watch feature, HN canvassed NHL scouts to rank prospects from the 2012 draft. If the draft was re-done, Trouba would jump from #9 to #4 behind only Yakupov, Galchenyuk, and Murray. Trouba had 29 points in 37 games at University of Michigan, continued his punishing play, and turned pro at the end of his year.
Lowry exploded in his fourth season with the Broncos, scoring 88 points in 72 games, and adding to his power forward reputation with 102 PIMS. His draft year he had mono, his 19 year old season had a fractured wrist. His 20 year old season he dominated. ** UPDATE: Lowry was named WHL player of the year for 2012/13. Not bad, Adam Lowry. Not bad.
O’Dell had his best offensive season of his young career, amateur or professional. He led the hapless Ice Caps with 55 points in 59 games, and was +9 on a team with a -42 goal differential.
Goat of the Year
Nominees: Olli Jokinen, Ondrej Pavelec, Ron Hainsey, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Claude Noel, Pascal Vincent, the Injury Bug, the 4th line
Honourable Mentions: The Washington Capitals
Oh man, so many reasons for all of these people. How about Jokinen’s -19 and funny head? Pavelec being worse than several teams’ backup? Cheveldayoff let Jussi Jokinen just pass through waivers while Slater was on IR, the team had a massive hole at LW, and Olli Jokinen still had a funny head. Claude Noel kept playing Antti Miettinen at RW despite that being an obviously terrible idea. Pascal Vincent was in charge of the powerplay – the league’s worst powerplay, despite being tied for 8th most goals 5on5. I missed Tobias Enstrom, and the Injury Bug should feel guilty for that. The fact that Bogosian came back the very game Enstrom got hurt was ruinous. And the fourth line… Slater got hurt, and to that point it was struggling. Even with sheltering, mixing, injury, call ups etc, the group of Slater, Ponikarovsky, Thorburn, Wright, Tangradi, Santorelli, Cormier, Peluso, and even the hero Gagnon combined to be -24 with 11 goals and 12 assists in 189 total man games. Un-real.
Cast your votes and check back for the winners, our picks, and our justifications!