I don't think anyone on the New Jersey Devils is up for serious consideration for any of the major trophies that the NHL awards for the 2009-10 season. That's not necessarily a bad thing, the Devils' own record speaks for itself. That the Devils could end up with 100 points in a season where they suffered so many injuries is impressive on it's own.
While the 2009-10 season isn't over yet, it's been pretty clear as to who has been the Devils' best players this season. I highly doubt what will happen in the next four games will sway opinion. I think a fun little pre-playoff-stretch-run exercise would be to name the which Devil would receive the major NHL awards based on this past season: MVP, best defenseman, best defensive forward, best goaltender, and best rookie. I came up with my own thoughts as well as a few "offbeat" awards after the jump. Please read them and respond in the comments as to who should receive what.
Hart (Team MVP): Zach Parise
|2009 - Zach Parise||77||36||40||76||19||32||9||1||4||19:52||329||10.9|
In a season where so many notable players have succumbed to injury at one point or another, such as Paul Martin and Patrik Elias, you need your very best players to stay healthy and productive. Zach Parise has done exactly that in 2009-10. He has missed only one game all season, manages to maintain a close-to-point-per-game pace, and be the second most prolific shooter in the league. Parise scores the majority of his goals up close, taking all the abuse that comes with playing down low, and yet remaining tall night after night.
When Parise is on, which is more often than not, he is in seemingly constant motion - looking to take the puck at all costs. According to Behind the Net's even strength on-ice/off-ice stats, the shots for per 60 jump from 23.4 to 32.0 and the goals per 60 rocket up from 1.85 to 3.21. When Parise steps on the ice, offense happens. And that's crucial considering the team didn't become fully healthy until the second week in March.
The team named him the most valuable player, according to the official site. I cannot disagree.
Norris (Best Defenseman): Andy Greene
|2009 - Andy Greene||75||6||29||35||8||14||4||0||4||23:42||79||7.6|
The most impressive part about Greene's season was how he came about. He didn't even start at the beginning of the season, sitting in the press box for Cory Murphy. When Murphy didn't initially impress, Greene did and never looked back. When Paul Martin suffered that fractured arm, who did Lemaire decide to take Martin's spot: Greene. And he has looked very good for the most part.
He has logged more total minutes than any Devils defenseman this season with 1,777 minutes and 35 seconds; and that includes an average of 2:35 on power play time on ice per game and 1:50 shorthanded time on ice per game. While he's not soft along the boards, Greene has been exceptional to avoiding calls by only taking 7 minors all season. Greene also stepped in admirably offensively, leading the blueline in goals, assists, and points - a group that even with Paul Martin, the offense was lacking on paper. His points have helped. In terms of advanced statistics, Greene stood out as well. Based on the even strength on-ice/off-ice numbers at Behind the Net, the shots against per 60 did rise when Greene stepped on the ice: 24.9 to 25.6. However, the goals against per 60 fell when he was present, dropping from 2.25 to 1.68. All with a respectable QUALCOMP of 0.031.
I will agree that Paul Martin is the better defenseman and I am happy he is back to lead the blueline. Moreover, based on Behind the Net's even strength numbers alone, Colin White and Mike Mottau compare favorably. However, Greene literally stepped up when he was asked to do so and has exceeded expectations throughout the whole season. For that, I can't help but think he has been New Jersey's top defenseman.
Vezina (Best Goaltender): Martin Brodeur
|2009 - Martin Brodeur||73||4260||42||24||163||2.30||1925||1762||.915||8|
He broke the NHL's all time record in minutes, game played, and shutouts this season. He continues to make ridiculously difficult saves on a regular basis. He's as dependable of a goaltender as you can find in hockey today. He's Martin Brodeur and, as usual, he makes this a no-brainer of a category.
Calder (Best Rookie): Mark Fraser
|2009 - Mark Fraser||58||3||3||6||4||34||0||0||0||12:11||22||13.6|
In a way, Fraser wins this by default. While the Devils have had a number of injuries, the only call-up who has stuck around is Vladimir Zharkov. A fast winger with good vision, but seriously needs to work on his shot. As much as I like how he's done and his potential, he unfortunately has produced nothing more than 10 assists in his 40 games with New Jersey. Niclas Bergfors was on his way to win this in a walk until he got traded - that he did next to nothing in January didn't help either.
Not that Fraser should be unhappy about this. Yes, Lemaire has limited his minutes; but he made the team filling in the #6 spot vacated by Andy Greene's ascending to the top pairing in Martin's absence. He's a defensive defenseman who plays with a physical edge and has been steady for the most part. While he goes up against weak competition, when he steps on the ice in even strength situations, the numbers aren't so bad at Behind the Net. The shots against per 60 only goes up from 24.6 to 25.7 and the goals against per 60 drop from 2.20 to 1.65. This further suggests that he's not a liability on the blueline; and that's perfectly fine for a third pairing defenseman playing mostly as a regular in the NHL for the first time.
I'm sure Fraser has an inside track for keeping a job for next season, as he'll have more experience and the Devils can ease him into more responsibilities. As recently as Saturday, when Lemaire wanted to play one of his scratched defensemen to keep them in form, he chose Fraser first. I don't think he did that for no reason. He may very well have a useful future here in New Jersey.
Selke (Best Defensive Forward): Travis Zajac
|2009 - Travis Zajac||78||23||39||62||17||22||6||0||4||20:19||198||11.6|
Zajac has grown in so many ways as a player since his arrival a few seasons ago. Zajac always looks to take the puck away from a player, going for stick-lifts from behind while backchecking. It's no accident he leads the team in takeaways with 49, even while Parise or someone else has been the main forechecker on his lines. Zajac has also become the Devils' top faceoff man, taking the most draws on the team (1,321) and winning 52.8% of them. When you need to win a tough draw, Zajac has been the best at them. Zajac has also become a regular on the penalty kill with an average of 1:51 shorthanded ice time per game. According to Behind the Net's penalty killing on-ice/off-ice stats; the shots against per 60 in penalty killing situations remains even at 37.8 and the goals against per 60 rises from 5.72 to 6.30. That may seem like a lot, but it's the second lowest number behind Rob Niedermayer on the team.
On top of all this, when Zajac steps on the ice at even strength according to Behind the Net, the goals against per 60 drops from 2.27 to 1.65 - the lowest goals against per 60 among all regular forwards. Granted, the shots against per 60 increases from 24.5 to 26.3; but the drop in goals against suggests that these aren't quality shots and given that Zajac is on a scoring line, this goes along with an increase in both shots for per 60 and goals for per 60. Not to mention that Zajac's QUALCOMP is the third highest on the team at 0.089.
Quite frankly, Zajac works hard to re-take possession for the team and he's the furthest thing from a defensive liability on the ice. Plus, he contributes more than enough offensive production to keep teams honest so he is more than just a simple checker. Therefore, who else would be deserving for the Selke on the Devils?
Here are a few awards I just made up based on how this season has went. Feel free to come up with your own in the comments, or discuss these further.
Best New Signing of 2009-10: Rob Niedermayer - $1 million.
Right in the middle of training camp, Lou decided that the team's current center depth was lacking a proper checking center. He took a risk and signed someone who has mainly played at wing on Anaheim's checking line for several seasons, Rob Niedermayer. However, he has filled in perfectly on the Devils third line. He's no John Madden, but he has been the team's top penalty killing forward and a decent faceoff taker (50.3%). Not bad for a million.
Worst New Signing of 2009-10: Andrew Peters - $1 million/2 years.
About a week or so ago, James O'Brien of Pro Hockey Talk asked me (and other bloggers) who on their team frustrated them the most. I went with Andrew Peters because he has done nothing of positive value all season. Go read it, I still stand by it. Even Ilkka Pikkarainen put up a little offense on the fourth line. How Peters' agent managed to swing a second year to this deal is mind-boggling.
Most Disappointing Devil: Brian Rolston
Granted, he didn't get that second line right wing spot I thought he'd get way back in August 2009. But he's also not getting 25 goals short of a torrid final four games from him, much less the 30 he wanted way back in August 2009. Yes, he has more points than what he has had last season he certainly has been shooting with 225 shots on goal (second most on the team); but he only has 18 non-empty net goals for his efforts. He definitely didn't replace Brian Gionta, and Jacques Lemaire didn't see him that way either. He what he is, a tertiary scorer who has some wheels and still possesses a good hard shot, but he's unfortunately not going to break out in the next few seasons.
Most Surprising Devil: Andy Greene
Well, I did name him the best Devils defenseman in this regular season. Considering that I said he was a third-pairing guy right from the start, I surely didn't think I'd think he'd break out as much as he did.
Best Cup of Coffee (Call Up with Less than 20 Games): Patrick Davis
Eight games and averaging 12:36 of ice time as a fill-in player? Very good. Lemaire must have been impressed with what you shown out there to warrant more than just limited minutes. A goal in eight games is still more than Vladimir Zharkov's 40 games and all other call-ups except for Matt Halischuk (1 goal in 20 games).
Best Devil Who Suffered an Injury: Patrik Elias
|2009 - Patrik Elias||54||16||29||45||17||34||2||1||4||0||132||12.1|
You know, if he didn't miss the beginning of the season, it wouldn't surprise me if he was producing both offensively and defensively as well as, say, Travis Zajac. 45 points in 54 games with no training camp and missing a few weeks due to a concussion in January is impressive in it's own right.
Most Surprising Advanced Stat: Vladimir Zharkov's CORSI REL of 14.5
From Behind the Net, Zharkov still reigns supreme in CORSI REL. He's the perfect example of why stats need to be taken in context because with only 54 shots on net, an average ice time of 11:26, and only 10 assists in 40 games, it's not as if Zharkov has been an offensive machine.
Most Unfortunate Decline on the Team: Jay Pandolfo
I expected Pandolfo to bounce back and be a fairly solid checking winger, like he has been for much of his career. His on-ice/off-ice numbers at Behind the Net haven't been bad. However, he's clearly lost a step on the ice, he doesn't always draw the tough assignments. The biggest evidence is that it's April and he's now relegated to being a spare forward.
The Sergei Brylin Award for Versatilty: Dainius Zubrus
He's been on all four lines as a center and a winger at some point (which should help explain why his CORSI REL has only been 2.3) He's worked hard regardless of his position or ice time, clearing space down low and winning battles along the boards. Amazingly, the shots against per 60 in even strength dropped from 25.4 to 22.3 when he was on the ice. Perhaps that explains Lemaire's use of Zubrus on the bottom lines for several games? Still, it's a shame that he missed 30 games due to a kneecap fracture, because he could have made this season his best yet as a Devil.
The Best In Lou We Trust Reader: You
Yes, you. Give yourself a pat on the back for reading all that I've written so far. (Assuming you have been, of course.) Especially if you're wearing a sweet ILWT shirt while you congratulate yourself.
Now that you won something, let me know what you think of my selections for these awards as well as these miscellaneous, meaningless awards I just made up. Feel free to add your own and justify your picks in the comments. Thanks for reading.