The 2010-11 is (mercifully) almost over, but I think is now a good time as any to hand out some meaningless awards for the New Jersey Devils for this past season. The final two games of the season isn't going to change that much in terms of who was the best. Tom, Matt, Kevin, and myself at In Lou We Trust named our picks for a Devils-based version of season awards. I highly doubt any Devils are in the running for any league awards. At least, I don't think any should be. Not after this season.
As with last year's awards post, these will consist of the major awards and some miscellaneous and offbeat ones. We voted on most of them, came to an agreement on most of them, and we all have our own "special" awards to hand out. Please continue after the jump to find out what they are and why we selected who we selected.
Hart (Team MVP): Patrik Elias
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Patrik Elias has enjoyed a fine season among his own standards regardless of how bad the first half was, despite a below-average shooting percentage (he only had 2 full seasons where he had a lower shooting percentage). Elias is the team's leading scorer, one of two Devils to have 20 or more goals this season, scored the lone hat trick for the Devils this season, and leads the team in assists. Just getting above 60 points to lead a team in scoring may not be laudable, but consider that the Devils have struggled to score all season long.
What makes his season truly stand out are his advanced stats at even strength. Per Behind the Net, Elias leads the Devils (who have played 20 or more games) in on-ice Corsi with a mind-boggling great 13.71. Look at the on-ice/off-ice differentials on that same page while you're at it. He's the team leader at on-ice shots for per 60 at 28.8 and on-ice shots against per 60 at 20.4. When he gets on the ice, both rates rise and fall by at least 3, respectively. That's huge. It gets better when you check the quality of competition at Behind the Net at evens. Elias has the second highest quality of competition on the team (behind linemante Brian Rolston) and is one of two forwards who has a relative Corsi Quality of Competition higher than one. Elias has got the job done against relatively tough competition, which explains why Jacques Lemaire kept going to a line of Rolston, Elias, and Zubrus for difficult match-ups this season. All this plus prime time on the power play and penalty kill.
When Elias was on the ice, good things kept happening. That's important in a season where a lot went wrong for New Jersey. Therefore, no one else can be named the most valuable player.
Norris (Best Defenseman): Henrik Tallinder
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While we found Tallinder to be a unanimous choice, it's not as clear cut as Elias as MVP. After all, Tallinder often got caught in the wrong position or not making a play for goals against throughout the first half of the season. However, Tallinder has really blossomed to be a top defender for the Devils. He currently leads the Devils defense in average ice time per game at 22:31 and is only behind Andy Greene for shifts per game at 27.9. Lemaire has trusted Tallinder to take on big minutes and he's come through dramatically well.
The advanced stats further justify this selection. Among the 8 defensemen who played at least 20 games for the Devils this season at Behind the Net, Tallinder has the third lowest on ice shots against per 60 rate at 22.6 and has the second best differential of on-ice/off-ice shots against per 60 rate at -1.4 - one of only three defenders to have improvement in that stat when they come on the ice. On top of that, he has the second highest quality of competition value among defenseman on the team. You may read that and think, "Then why not Mark Fayne for this award, who has better on-ice/off-ice numbers than Tallinder and a similar quality of competition rate?" Good question. There are two main reasons why we picked Tallinder over Fayne. The first is minutes played. Tallinder has played throughout this whole season playing at least 20 minutes a night, whereas Fayne was called up and bounced around the lineup before being paired with Tallinder. The second is Corsi. Per Behind the Net, Tallinder's on-ice Corsi rate of 8.9 is the third best on the entire team and leads the defense. Like Elias, when Tallinder was out there, the puck kept going in the right direction. Combine the two and so we gave Tallinder the edge.
Calder (Best Rookie): Mark Fayne
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Well, if there is case that can be made for Fayne being the team's top defenseman this season, then surely he must be the best rookie this season? The defender got called up in late November to fill a roster spot on defense. From mid-January onward, he established himself in the team's top 4 along side Tallinder. The duo have done quite well together, as noted by the closeness of their advanced stats mentioned in the upper section. Fayne averaged 17:25 per game, put up an on-ice Corsi rate of 7.73, showed that he's got a good, low shot, and demonstrated that he knows where he needs to be despite his inexperience. For a rookie that didn't make the team out of training camp, Fayne's had a season he can be proud of.
Incidentally, we split on this award - so I'd like to toss an honorable mention to Mattias Tedenby. The rookie winger had some trying times, being scratched for several games back in January. However, he's worked his way onto the roster and has showcased his exceptional speed and stickhandling when he has played. He has a not-bad on-ice Corsi rate of 4.79 to go with his 8 goals, 14 assists, and 12:22 of ice time per game. Tedenby's only 21 and has much to work on (strength, defense), but his offensive skill set already makes Devils fans drool at what it could be some day.
Vezina (Best Goaltender): Martin Brodeur
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As if there was any doubt as to who this could be. Johan Hedberg did better than I honestly expected and his hot February still drives his 91.2% save percentage. Both goalies got hung out to dry numerous times in the first half of the season, which drove both their numbers down into a deep hole (like the team's record). Yet, Brodeur was Brodeur-like even if the numbers suggest otherwise. Example: Once Brodeur was available by the end of February when Moose played out of his mind, he started each game in March and deserved each and every one of them. I have a feeling he (and Moose) will be vindicated when I review the goals against this season.
Selke (Best Defensive Forward): Patrik Elias
According to Behind the Net, when Elias was on the ice, shots against per 60 dropped like an anvil off a cliff this season. 3.9, to be precise; the best differential on the entire team. On top of that, Elias led the team in on-ice shots against per 60 with 20.4. That's simply fabulous. The same also happened in 4-on-5 situations. Leading forwards in shorthanded ice time per game at 2:09, when Elias was out there, the shots against per 60 rate dropped from 41.7 to 32.5. per Behind the Net. That's a gigantic drop of 9.2. That's the lowest shots against per 60 rate and the biggest drop among regular forwards on the PK. That's worthy of naming Elias the top defensive forward for this season.
The Sergei Brylin Award for Versatility: Patrik Elias
Elias played against tough competition at even strength, endured significant minutes on the power play and penalty kill, stood out on the team both on offense and defense, and lined up both at left wing and center this season. While his faceoff winning percentage has not been good (44.8%), Elias has done what he's been asked to do and has done it well in a variety of areas.
Best Devil Who Suffered from Injury: Zach Parise
One of the biggest "what if"s from this season is "What if Parise wasn't hurt this season?" He's still one of the most talented players on the team. If anyone was truly missed by way of injury, it has been Parise considering how great he was in the last two seasons. Hopefully, he'll be at 100% and in Devil red for years to come.
Best Signing of 2010-11: Ilya Kovalchuk - $100 million/15 Years
Snark all you want about the petulant NHL dragging out the contract saga this summer, but two realities must be accepted. First: the Devils got an all-world sniper who still put up 30 goals despite the team's shooting percentage nearly historically tanked for a cap hit less than $7 million/season. Second: Imagine the Devils' offense without Kovalchuk and Parise. As great as Tallinder eventually turned out and as pleasant as Hedberg was in relief, the Devils would be significantly worse off without Kovalchuk this season.
Worst Signing of 2010-11: Adam Mair - $515,000/1 Year
Strange that a one-year deal for just above the NHL minimum salary would be called out as the worst signing. Well, the fourth liner was just bad all season long. Offense died when Mair was out there (recent games excepted); and getting pinned back seemed to be his main contribution to the team. His on-ice Corsi is the third worst on the team at -6.73 per Behind the Net. In retrospect, the Devils should have just called up a forward from Albany and saved themselves a contract on their 50-man contract reserve limit. Tim Sestito could have done (and did, come to think of it) just as poor as Mair, after all.
Most Disappointing Devil: David Clarkson
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The only part of his season I can be pleased with was how he kept firing pucks on net. That was good. What wasn't was how he played himself into a bottom six role so consistently. Sure, he's been sandbagged with some horrible linemates (the aforementioned Mair, Sestito) at times; but even away from them, you're left wanting more from Clarkson. He even seemingly replaced his Clarkarounds for the Clarkfalldowns. I was floating the idea of trading him back in February and not much he's done (he shined in exactly one game) since then has really changed my mind. I really hope Clarkson can turn it around next season; especially since he'll be making $3 million next season.
Most Surprising Devil: Mark Fayne
Did anyone else expect the 2005 5th rounder, graduate of Providence College, to make the most of his opportunity and play his way into the top 4 on defense? To repeat: he didn't make the team out of training camp and he only got into New Jersey because of injuries on defense. And here is, the best rookie the Devils of this season and rolling with Tallinder. Fayne was the biggest - and most pleasant - surprise of the 2010-11 season.
Second Half Hero: Ilya Kovalchuk
The New Jersey Devils were 10-29-2 in their first 41 games of the season. Kovalchuk had 10 goals (3 that won games) and 11 assists on 116 shots (8.6%). Since then, Kovalchuk has scored 20 goals, put up 17 assists, fired 136 shots on net (14.7%). While he still has 2 more games to add his totals, no one sparkled in the second half of the season for NJ quite like Kovalchuk did, playing like an absolute beast in several games.
These are more offbeat awards each of the voters came up with. I've included them without much comment. Feel free to add your own in the comments, or to argue otherwise.
Most Likely to Fall Down For No Reason: David Clarkson
Most Likely to Miss An Empty Net Goal: Vladimir Zharkov
2010-11 Unsung Hero: Johan Hedberg (JF Note: He was the superhero of February.)
Waiver Wire Comeback Award: Brian Rolston
Gary Bettman's Bring Down the Devils Award: John MacLean
Prudential Financial Dasher Boards and Glass Insurance Award (Most likely to miss the net): Vladimir Zharkov
Barry Melrose Award for Coaching Futility and/or Incompetence: John MacLean
Wayne Gretzky Memorial Award for Worst Player Turned Coach: John MacLean
Most Likely to Host a Segment on ESPN with Mike Milbury: John MacLean
(Aside: Is it me or did it just get cold in here?)
Unicorn Prize for Wish One Thing Was Better This Season: The Devils overall shooting percentage.
They Miss Dean McAmmond Award: Vladimir Zharkov and Rod Pelley (tie)
The I Don't Need Coat-Tails Trophy: Travis Zajac
Worst Assistant Coach: Adam Oates
Coach of the Year: Jacques Lemaire
Goal of the Season: Ilya Kovalchuk's breakaway goal on February 18, 2010. Here's the video of greatness.
The In Lou We Trust Reader of the Year: You, presuming you're a Devils fan. If you're not, then you've made a mistake in life.
Now that you're a winner (probably), let me know what you think of our selections for the major, miscellaneous, and superlative awards. Which ones do you agree with? Which ones do you think we're really off on? Do you have any of your own awards to name? Please feel free to give your answers to these questions and/or add your own awards and justify your picks in the comments. Thanks for reading.