Best players of the 2013 NHL season
Formerly published in The Other Press. Apr. 16 2013
By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer
For a moment there in early January, hockey fans were ready to call it a year; but after a significant portion of the season, the lockout is now fading in the rear view mirror. Still, the shortened season has produced some magnificent performances from some of the games most experienced players and young up-and-comers. It will not only be an interesting playoff run, but also a tight race for the players’ trophies awarded at the end of the year.
Hart Memorial Trophy: Despite breaking his jaw in a game against the New York Islanders, Sidney Crosby is the prime candidate for the NHL’s version of the MVP. But if voters are feeling generous, they might turn their sights to an unexpected candidate: Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. After losing star forward Rick Nash in the summer, Bobrovsky has displayed heroic numbers with a 2.01 goals against average, a .932 saves percentage, and a record of 16–10–6. If the Blue Jackets are able to sneak into the playoffs, consider him the contender.
Calder Memorial Trophy: The top rookie award is a three-player race between Florida Panther’s Jonathan Huberdeau, Ottawa Senators’ Cory Conacher, and St. Louis Blue’s Jake Allen. Huberdeau and Conacher have been neck and neck all season. The league can flip a coin on those two young forwards and do no wrong, but the wild card is Allen. The 22-year-old goalie has carried his team at various points throughout the season, while veterans Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak were coping with injuries and poor play. The Blues would not be in playoff contention if it weren’t for Allen’s 9–4–0 record.
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Many would be surprised at the beginning of the season if one were to say Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks would be considered among the best defensemen of 2013. But that is exactly what they are. Beauchemin is spotting his first positive plus minus season since 2006-07 with a +24. But other teams are not forfeiting the title to the Ducks so hastily. Often awards are given not just by performance, but also by reputation—and few have a better reputation than Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara while others believe that P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens has a good chance, leading all defensemen with 32 points.
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Awarding a player based on how they consistently perform in games, rather than on statistical prowess, is a hard one to select… in theory. But there’s no denying that Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings is the main candidate. Few players can play like Datsyuk, with his shifty style he can steal a puck, finesse it, and score a goal before the opposition even knows what happened.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: It would be a surprise for Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks to be rewarded the player with best sportsmanship, mainly because of his past reputation. But his miniscule four minutes of penalty and 46 points proves that he is a maturing player, focusing more on winning games than showboating. Another player worth recognition is Matt Moulson from New York Islanders, who has 37 points and also four minutes of penalties.
Vezina Trophy: This is the year where back-up goalies have come into full form. Although Bobrovsky is the touted favourite, Tuukka Rask from Boston is really calling for attention in the league with a .928 SV% and a 1.95 GAA. Ray Emery of Chicago Blackhawks may be the dark horse, but with a 14–1–0 record in the season so far, how can anyone deny his proficiency?