Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Changing of the Guard

While it's unfathomable that the scoring leaders will change for the next five years, we are definitely seeing the transition of winners from angles of Norris and Vezina. I'd add the Adams Trophy in there, but with there only five multiple winners of the award (Pat Quinn twice, Scotty Bowman twice, Jacques Demers twice, Jacques Lemaire twice, and Pat Burns thrice), odds are you won't see multiple winners when it comes to the Coach of the Year.

Especially this year, it seems that the race for the Vezina and Norris could be wide-open. Maybe even with names you'd probably never expect to be uttered in terms of individual awards. But all it takes is one good year. Jim Carey can attest to that, for sure.

Starting with the Norris, last year's finalist Mike Green is making a strong case to win it this year. Odds are with his 17 goals, 70 points, and +30 rating, he'll be the front runner. You can never discount the ability of Nicklas Lidstrom, who has had an off-year in Lidstrom terms with only 45 points and a +20 rating, and is really in the twilight of his storied career in the NHL. The resurgence of the Hawks and the stellar play of Duncan Keith in Chicago could have him with Green as the new line of every-year competitors for the Norris. Keith has taken over the role as top dog on the blue line, as well as his ability to control the play in the offensive zone (64 pts. and +20).

While you can throw the Chris Pronger into that group as well, you also could throw a dark horse like Vancouver's Christian Ehrhoff into the mix. Ehrhoff already has a career-high in goals and is on pace for a career-high in points. His game has seem to become more consistent while in his first year with Vancouver and his +26 is telling of that, for sure. It's a definitely long-shot, especially with him being in the West Coast; but it's definitely a chance.

As far the Vezina race, the likely suspects of Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, as well as Ryan Miller could be in the hunt, but as far as this year-- the unlikely suspects have been coming out in droves this campaign. Starting in Phoenix, where the waiver case Ilya Bryzgalov has flourished into a top-notch goalie. With 39 wins and at the top of the charts in GAA, save percentage, and shutouts-- Bryzgalov could be the shocking upset special, even though he could be considered a front-runner, too. In the same division, Jonathan Quick has been spectacular for the breakout Kings this year. Quick also has 39 wins, tops in minutes played, and has given up the least goals against so far this season.

While there's a case to be made for Craig Anderson in Colorado, his rapid pace from the beginning of the season has slowed down a bit. Odds are with the stories of Quick and Bryzgalov could overtake him for feel-good story candidate.

When it comes to the Adams Award, if there's anyone who can overtake the story of Dave Tippett in Phoenix, they'll be hard-press to even take the award then. The Coyotes have flourished with Tippett at the helm, recording their first 40 win season since the 2001-02 season and their highest win total (46 as of March 23rd) since the franchise was called the Jets and played in the WHA. The inclusion of maybe Joel Quenneville in Chicago and Cory Clouston in Ottawa are just merely formalities when it comes to going against Tippett.

The Norris and Vezina candidates we all came to know and love are fading away, while the new crop is staking their claim right now. We'll always have a wild one-hit wonder in the field every so often, the likelihood of not having the regular candidates every year is a far-fetched idea. We're looking at the new era of the NHL finally coming to completion. Out with the old, in with the new.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think those last two sentences are spot on. The new NHL is almost the only NHL left. Give it what 3 more seasons and will there be anyone left that actually played pre-lockout except Chelios?