Now that our beloved pack of roustabouts, monkeyshiners, gadflies, frozen gypsies and upstarts have unbelievably inserted themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff discussion I think its high time we took a look at some plausible (and not so plausible) scenarios and evaluate their potential for dream-coming-tru-ness. Also my job of screwing the heads on He-Man figures on this assembly line has expectedly gone slack following the xmas rush. To wit:
1. Colin Greening wins rookie of the year!
-Why it won’t happen: Well for starters Richard Greenco sits 8th amongst rookie scorers with a tepid looking minus -5. While being one of the better two way players on the list, he currently trails wunderkinder like Henrique and Craig Smith while playing on a line with premiere playmakers.
-Why it will happen: Injuries (Oooh right in the Nuge!) and a hot streak are just about the only things that can bolster Colin’s candidacy, considering Ottawa is already a high scoring team it’s unlikely to think he can summon even more impressive feats of twine bulgery (Sports writing, ha!)
Probability: 5% Not sure who started the Greening for Calder talk at the start of the year but that shouldn’t dampen Sens fan’s enthusiasm for the big winger’s development.
2. Coach Paul MacLean wins the Jack Adams
-Why it won’t happen: Considering the league is lousy with stories of team turnarounds this year the stache has some stiff competition. You have to think he needs a playoff spot to guarantee even a nomination. Stories out of St.Louis, Florida and Minnesota are just as heart warming and could possibly usurp the plucky mustachioed one.
-Why it will happen: Pretty much everyone with a ham radio and an eye for NHL prognostication predicted this team would finish near the basement of the eastern conference and maybe even the league. His deft handling of the Filatov situation (honest assessment and zero kowtowing to skill) and his ability to maintain the focus of essentially a bunch of young third liners has been impressive.
Probability: I’m calling it now! 66.6 percent if he gets these hardscrabble cockney newsboys into the “get hammered by Boston” sweepstakes
3. Alfredsson wins the Lady Byng
Why it will happen: So this would probably be more of a life time achievement award type deal. Alfie’s having a stellar season and has displayed outstanding form at an advanced age, this alone should merit consideration for one of those new “leadership” awards (I think it’s the Messier award?) But Alfie’s only taken 5 minor penalties this year which is within the realm of feasibility considering two time consecutive winner Marty St. Louis currently has one fewer. Toss in the fact that he’s made his dignified way through a couple of career milestones recently and this selection makes sense from a league showcase perspective. (but we kinda have the all-star game for that too)
Why it won’t happen: This award is weird, there are tons of guys who stay out of the box and never get consideration because it’s about performance too. Plus with the fact that the supplemental discipline era of the league is upon us, who’s to say the definition of gentlemanly play won’t also undergo a radical change? This one is hard to tell.
Probability: I think he could get nominated, then again Milan Michalek is in the thick of the scoring race and has taken one fewer penalty, I dunno. I’ll give Alfie 15%. Dude’s a lock for the “Cheez-its Mortgage Insurance cuuuuuuteest kids in hockey” award tho.
4. Karlsson wins the Norris
Why it will happen: Has anyone else noticed the NHL seems to be undergoing some sort of hormonal imbalance? I’m not a physiologist but plate tectonics theory is pointing at some major upheaval going on. “Adjusts glasses” Dudes are straight wildin’ out right now! The concept of defensive hockey is confined to a gimmicky zone trap and refs are calling stuff so tight I’d argue a powerplay puck mover on the back end is more valuable than a shutdown guy. Take defencemen ranked by plus minus, half of the top 12 are from Boston. Coincidence that Boston scores the most while allowing the fewest? Are all of those guys shutdown guys? None of those dudes is in the top 15 for ice time per game? I think it’s time to readjust the Shutdown concept. There’s an award for goalie tandem and goalies individually right? What about an award for defensive tandem? I guess pairings change so frequently, but I bet there’s an advanced metric for that. Okay, maybe I got off topic there, good thing this is a blog and not a thesis.
Why it won’t happen: Honestly he has a better shot at the heart trophy. Why? See above. Apparently our special little guy is not a shut down type and I agree, especially since the sens aren’t exactly a shutdown type team. While it puts butts in the seats, the fact that Ottawa leads the league in 3rd period comebacks will not help one’s Norris candidacy. My argument is, aside from Chara and maybe 2 or 3 other guys, who else would you rather have on your team?
Probability: I’ll give him a 20% chance just to get nominated, he doesn’t fit the mold of the blueliner coveted by Brian Burke and his cabal of broken nosed, old timey NHL pranksters. HEEEEEEEEEE’S A PRETTTTTTY BOYYYYYYYYYYY.
5. Ottawa Makes the Playoffs
Why it will happen: The question on everybody’s sultry, honeysuckle lips (oh sorry got my Streetcar Named Desire fan fiction mixed up in this one) Basically what derailed Ottawa last year was a lack of consistent messaging and communication from behind the bench and injuries. So far they’ve managed to avoid both, they’ve increased their depth and added some secondary scoring. It’s also worth noting a couple of the East’s premiere teams have regressed. I think there’s room for the best team in Canada (Important, non-rioting division)
Why It won’t happen:
Take the exact opposite of everything I’ve written in the last paragraph and reverse it. Bizarro prognostication!
Probability: Let’s try 55%, they’ve benefitted from the schedule makers and may watch as teams catch up.
And now a word from James while I run see to a clog in the torso chute:
1. I find that judging rookie seasons as a fan and not an analyst pretty tough unless 1. The rookie is on the team you follow 2. Plays for a rival of your favorite team and you see them play a lot (you can usually tell how good a season they are having by how much you hate them) or 3. If they are having an undeniably amazing campaign and have as such become a much talked about media sensation (ie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or last year’s winner Jeff Skinner). Outside of this, can anyone tell me about how the rookies are doing on the Dallas Stars? Are we just assuming any rookies on the Blue Jackets are doing horribly? Or that the rookies on the Red Wings are developing perfectly? Basically what im saying is I’m lazy and not made of following all the teams. I’m also trying to say that despite being a top line player most of the season and having a strong start, I don’t really think anyone knows who Colin Greening is. I base this largely on things like my not knowing if Nazim Kadri or Louis Leblanc are currently in the NHL or AHL and the Senators play Montreal and Toronto every 45 minutes (they are playing a triple header right now).
I have been watching a lot of Edmonton games this season because I can stay up as late as I feel like and I have to say, recent injury included, there is no way Greening gets the award over Nuggie-Hopscotch. He’s their like their Erik Karlsson. Undeniable and regularly sonning seasoned NHLers all while being the size of Milhouse. RNH is a lock as far as I’m concerned. If there is one Senator I think should be in the Calder discussion as of this date, its unequivocally Jared Cowen. I find it absolutely amazing that with only 10 AHL games under his belt he has in his rookie year bumped Chris Phillips down the pecking order at one of the most difficult positions in hockey.
2. Now this I would absolutely LOVE to see. As I am typing this I am getting visions of John Tortarella picking up this award for basically getting a bunch of superstars to play well for once. Paul MacLean is the most underrated Ottawa Senator. I would imagine any Sens fan no matter what their understanding of coaching would affirm that the already beloved Paulrus pretty much completely changed the culture of the team overnight. I don’t know if I’ve heard one disparaging remark or read a negative comment about him yet. That, my friends, is amazing. His work, though obviously a little hard to notice at times as games are so focused on players, is incredibly impressive if you consider a number of areas. He has got the team motivated game in and game out beyond anything we’ve seen in the past few years (aside from that 10 game winning streak a couple seasons back I suppose). The team has a clear identity now, as hard as that identity is on one’s central nervous system. You gotta love the pesky, never quit game of the Sens. As much as I rag on him I believe Kovalev when he said he didn’t understand the system under Clouston. I also believe he wasn’t listening too but I digress. Funny how all of a sudden the team can score and Phillips, Gonchar and Kuba are fine defencemen again. Curious. Probably my favourite thing about MacLean is how he has the guts to be his own coach and do things like put Smith out there on the power play if he’s hot, try Konopka on a key draw at the end of the game, put Rundblad or Butler in a shootout, or put Anderson back in net if even if he’s played a few bad games. To me these are the kind of moves that show the players you believe in them and as such will make them run through a brick wall for you. I am not surprised at all when the chips are down after the second intermission the team comes out swinging. How I’d love to see this guy coach in the playoffs. I would be happy just to see him nominated as an acknowledgment of the job he’s been doing. You guys, I think I want to have his baby.
3. Is it just me or is Matt Cooke actually kind of the guy to beat for this award this year? Dude has 12 penalty minutes this season. Yeah, Mr. Knee on Knee. Also according this tweet I just got from Dear Leader day is also now night and freedom = slavery…so there’s that. I’m not entirely sure that the Byng is just automatically given to an awesome player with the least penalty minutes but after a quick glance at perennial favourites Pavel Datsyuk and Martin St. Louis, Alfredsson definitely in the neighbourhood. It would be fantastic to see Alfie win another individual trophy to keep his Calder company. It would be another feather in his cap when Hall of Fame talk is …getting talked.
4. People are starting to talk about this. When the season is at the halfway point and you are a defenseman producing at a near point per game clip, that talk is not unwarranted. Of course, the trouble is, and could be for a long time, is that Karlsson has a reputation as a “defensive liability.” I gotta say, I have watched almost every Sens game this year and I have to say, yes, Karlsson is an offensive defenseman who uses his speed to join (or even lead) the rush and makes risky pinches. This is his job. He used to get exposed for his inexperience. Yup. K. I dont really feel like thats so much the case anymore. You dont get 37 points in 41 games without taking some risks and giving up some turnovers but overall for a guy with that much of an offensive focus and who is also undersized, I think EK has been very respectable defensively. Remember that game a few months back when he absolutely dominated Alex Ovechkin? He could not do that in previous seasons. Now I cant help but mention his absolutely brutal -30 rating last season. What worries me is that he may never shake that minus -30 rep or at least might not for a long time. Look at Jason Spezza, for the last two seasons he has been a changed man in his play to the point of earning himself some time on the PK UNDER CLOUSTON. Despite his clear dedication to improving his overall game while maintaining his point a game pace, I think a lot of people outside of Ottawa (and even within Ottawa) have made up their minds that Spezza is the dipsy doodle dandy and that can sink you when it comes to awards. I can see a Niklas Lidstrom Award I mean Norris Trophy in Karlsson’s future. Give it a couple years for sure.
5. Its gunna be tight in the East all season. Its gunna be tight. Its gunna be goddamn goddamn goddamn tight!
Conrad, what say you?
1. I agree with James, but especially the point about Cowen. The weird x factor when judging rookies is the flashy-v-reliable aspect. RNH scores at will, and Edmonton still stinks and will finish bottom five this year. It’s unfair to hang that on him, but at the same time, if the Sens make the playoffs this year it will have something, at least some little thing, to do with Cowen occasionally playing 30 minutes a night and not making enormous, obvious mistakes. He won’t win it because he’ll have something like 12 points at the end of the year, but I think there’s something to the steady, reliable, half-a-game player. Although, having said all of that, even we judged rookies using that metric, I guess Adam Larsson would win. He’s been a beast in New Jersey.
2. Stache will be in the top five of Adams voting if the Senators don’t come back to earth. (Aside: Ottawa plays Philly, Pitts, New York, Boston, LA, San Jose, Dallas and Phoenix in January. Eeeeeeeeeeesh.) But he’s got some intense competition. Hitchcock has really turned St. Louis around (though I feel you James: he’s just getting a team that is supposed to be competing to compete), Sutter is doing the same in LA. Yeo in Minnie is a frontrunner if they hang on. How about Dineen in Florida? Dude is 3rd overall with some old chess pieces he found in a dumpster.
3. I have no idea how this thing is awarded. Sure, give it to Alfie.
4. This be a meaty question. The argument for is obvious: leads all defencemen in points by a wide margin. The argument against is the same that kept the Norris from Mike Green – that he’s supposedly an ‘offensive specialist’ – except that Karlsson has about an even +/- on a team with a terrible goal differential and awful goaltending, and he plays on the PK, neither of which was true of Green. Karlsson is absolutely deserving of the award this year, though I still think it goes to Shea Weber. A lot of people felt he was robbed last year, so look for them to make up for their sentimental Lidstrom pick with a sentimental Weber pick this year. (Not that he’s isn’t also an astounding defenceman.) Karlsson is young and has a lot of years to win the Norris, or so the thinking will go.
5. Ask me after January. This next month is make-or-break. Sens have been gangbusters….at home against shitty teams. On the road against the best of the East? That’s gonna be tough. If they go .500 over the next several games, then I’ll say they make it. (One of those websites who crunch stats that I don’t understand said they’re 50% right now, and another which doesn’t take goal differential, a tie breaker, into account put it at 60%.) They have a lot of games in hand against the teams beneath them, and suck on the tie-breaker. They’re currently on pace for 94 points. Which is juuuuuuust at the cut-off. This year is gonna take years offa my life.