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Morning Skate: Midseason Awards

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci has covered hockey for Rotowire since 2002 and is the author of Blue Line Buzz since 2011 as well as being the co-author of Morning Skate. He also is a contributor to Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils blog and podcast. He is an English teacher and formerly wrote for The Coast Star in Manasquan, New Jersey where he and his sports section won several New Jersey Press Association awards. Dan Pennucci is a supporter of the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC. He's attended sporting events in six countries.

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.


From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
Sent: Sunday, March 10
Subject: Handing Out Hardware

Dan,

It's the midpoint of the season and there so many things to discuss. I'd been thinking a lot about injuries after the Marc Staal eye injury (as you know from last week's chat) when I saw Evgeni Malkin get rocked by James van Riemsdyk on Saturday night. Geno looked like he had little birdies floating around his head as he mulled over the end of the third period, overtime and the shootout from the bench. I don't have a good feeling about that injury -- you? There have been a lot of big names hit the IR this season -- Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Cam Ward, Patrick Sharp, Marc Staal and Mike Green to name a few. Heading into the weekend, there was close to $300 mil in salaries on the sidelines because of injuries. We knew this season would be crazy with injuries, but this is nuts. What's your prognostication on Malkin's injury? What happens to the Pens if Geno is out for six weeks?

Now let's take an early look at the NHL awards. I'll provide the nominations and my thoughts on the winners. You provide your critique, both of the nominees and my choices.

Calder Trophy

Nominees: Cory Conacher (TB), Alexander Galchenyuk (MTL), Brendan Gallagher (MTL), Dougie Hamilton (BOS), Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA) and Justin Schultz (EDM)

Winner: Huberdeau

Why? He's a man among boys on a bad Florida team and he's only 19. And his 12 goals are 10th in the NHL overall. I'm so happy I own him in my two keeper leagues.

Best Fantasy Future? Huberdeau may end up with the best fantasy production from the 2011 draft. Ditto Galchenyuk from 2012 ... yes, ahead of Nail Yakupov.

Norris Trophy

Nominees: Zdeno Chara (BOS), Duncan Keith (CHI), Niklas Kronwall (DET), Kris Letang (PIT) and Alex Pietrangelo (STL)

Conspicuous by their absence? Shea Weber (NSH) and Erik Karlsson (OTT)

Winner: Chara

Why? It was a tough call, but Chara is a guy that other teams alter their game plans just to avoid him. His offense is down a bit, but he's a monster on the blue line. Pietrangelo is my second choice and would've gotten my nod if his plus-minus was better.

Best Fantasy Producer? Karlsson can change a game and pull people from their seats. He scores like a forward and does so with ease. Letang is second as long as he stays on the Pens ... and there's no guarantee of that.

Hart Trophy

Nominees: Sidney Crosby (PIT), Patrick Kane (CHI), Jonathan Toews (CHI), Eric Staal (CAR) and Steven Stamkos (TAM)

Conspicuous by his absence? Craig Anderson (OTT)

Winner: Sid the Kid -- he's miles ahead of everyone on the scoring list except Stamkos. And his leadership on the Pens and their playoff position gets him the nod over Stammer. Anderson would have been in the discussion had he not suffered that injury.

Best Fantasy Producer? Stamkos (yes, I expect a debate). I'll always go with the goal scorer in fantasy -- they're far rarer than set-up men. Malkin is at two; Crosby is three.

Vezina Trophy

Nominees: Craig Anderson (OTT), Corey Crawford (CHI), Victor Fasth (ANA), Antti Niemi (SJ) and Tuukka Rask (BOS)

Conspicuous by his absence? Pekka Rinne (NSH)

Winner: Anderson IF he can return in 10 day or so with the same gusto he showed before he was hurt. His GAA and save percentage are beyond elite. Fasth if Anderson can't rebound quickly.

One word: wow.

Best Fantasy Producer? Carey Price (MTL) and Rinne. Both will be elite for another five-to-eight years. I cannot say the same for the others.

The puck's in your end now, my friend. Don't chip it over the boards.

Eagle out

From: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Tuesday, March 12
Subject: Crazy Shootouts and Awards Picks

The injuries are getting a bit out of hand, I'd figured there would be more nagging groin and high-ankle sprain-type injuries than long devastating ones. Also, how many players would you presume are playing through those types of nagging muscle pulls, strains and sprains given the shortened season? I mean, Ryan Clowe must be injured. Honestly, with the truncated slate of games, there have to be players hiding non-head related injuries because they don't want to miss any time whereas during a regular season, they might sit out a contest or three.

I have to say I loved watching Kaspar Daugavins shootout attempt against the Bruins on Monday night with an Ottawa win on the line. The sheer skill to handle the puck with the toe of your stick like that and the Savard-ian spin-o-rama, wow. Speaking of groin injuries, lost in the discussion for the attempt, was the split Tuukka Rask pulled to stop it. I still can't see how the spin move is valid given that the puck needs to be moving forward, but it's better than the snowshower move Danny Briere pulled on the Devils a few years ago.

Biggest Award first....

Hart Trophy: Stamkos, Sid, Kane, Toews, E. Staal .Other potential nominees: Ryan Getzlaf, Matt Duchene, Pekka Rinne, Carey Price: I have to agree with you on Sid getting the award. Lost in the vitriol that surrounds talk of Crosby is his work ethic. He's one of the hardest working players for every shift. He takes a lot of crap from everyone but he battles along the boards and in the corners when he has to.

Fantasy MVP: Yes, I will be disagreeing with you. Has to be Crosby, guy is almost at two points-per game this season and has as many assists than the fourth player in the Art Ross race has points heading into Tuesday (Martin St. Louis). Yes, getting five assists against the Islanders certainly helps your totals, but remember he was by far leading the league in goal scoring (32 in 41) when he got his concussions two years ago after bagging 51 in 2009-10, so he can score. Combine that potential with an insane point-per-game pace, I'll take Crosby over Stamkos every time.

Vezina Trophy: I can't see Crawford getting the trophy after all his detractors citing that he wasn't the sole reason for the 'Hawks amazing start, although Crawford was outstanding in the game against Detroit a few weeks ago. Other potential nominees (for argument's sake): Not Mike Smith, Not Henrik Lundqvist (although, is there any goalie more than Hank that you wouldn't doubt to carry a team into the playoffs?), Not Anders Lindback.

Winner: I'm going with Rinne over Anderson while an argument can easily be made for Niemi given how San Jose's attack has disappeared. Rinne's stock may be falling with Nashville's tenuous playoff position, but he's had to do this with a mediocre group of scorers and no Ryan Suter. Sure, Shea Weber is still there, but he's made a claim. Anderson was outstanding before injury and he's due back soon.

Fantasy Vezina: Out of the group you listed, I'm going largely by wins meaning Crawford. Especially when you consider where owners were able to grab him this year and the value he's provided. Anderson and Rask after those two.

Norris Trophy: Other nominees: Not any Devil or Flyer defender, Not Mike Green. Shattenkirk will get consideration and it's hard to ignore what Francois Beauchemin is doing in Anaheim.Can we include P.K. yet?

Winner: I see your argument on Zdeno Chara and it's valid. I'm going with Nick Kronwall. Detroit is still very much in the Western Conference playoff hunt. Kronwall has stepped in wonderfully on a depleted Detroit team (yes, I know it's one player, but one Nicklas Lidstrom is basically four average human hockey players). Kronwall is dishing the puck well, but he is a minus-5. I'm a huge fan of Alex Pietrangelo and Duncan Keith has been giving the Hawks an all-around effort with his scoring rate falling off. I can't find holes in your Chara argument, much like the opposition when he's on the ice. (I love seeing Brian Gionta go at it with Chara, it's always entertaining and Gionta holds his own considering the tale of the tape).

Fantasy Norris: In a world without Erik Karlsson, it has to be Letang. Only player that can keep even a semblance of a pace similar to Karlsson's.

Calder: Other nominees: Not Mikhail Grigorenko. Not Mikael Granlund. In all seriousness, Jonas Brodin deserves consideration as well as Gallagher and Galchenyuk (if either of those win it, a piece belongs to Brandon Prust).

Winner: I have to give it to Dougie Hamilton simply because adjusting as a rookie defenseman is so hard, especially after jumping right from junior. Sure, Justin Schultz didn't have Zdeno Chara ushering him in, but Hamilton has been impressive. Schutlz has the numbers, but heading into Tuesday's game with the Pens, Hamilton owns 12 points although Schultz is seeing close to five minutes more per-game on a worse team. Conacher won't get the consideration he deserves because of his more advanced age, like Matt Read last year.

Fantasy rookie: I'm a sucker for defensemen and I like Dougie Hamilton for years to come with Schultz a close second. Hamilton's numbers will be similar and he'll cost much less on draft day.

With this being the halfway point for all intents and purposes who's been your biggest bust? Best value? Fantasy only.

-DAN-

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
Sent: Tuesday, March 12

You're 100-percent right about adding Ryan Getzlaf to the Hart mix -- he escaped my mind when I put the other names in pixels, but I woke up today with him on my mind. He's been outstanding. And I won't judge you for some of your selections ... although I could. LOL.

Your comment about Corey Crawford being the fantasy goalie MVP twigged something for me and I think it's something that a lot of fantasy owners debate. Are goalie wins more about the team than the goalie? And if so, should they be ignored in favor of the individual counting stats, namely GAA and save percentage?

I'll tell you where I stand and it's tied to my approach to pitchers in my fantasy baseball league. Wins for both goalies and pitchers are team-dependent, so those counting stats are the ones that help paint a picture of the individual impact of a single player. Roberto Luongo in Florida is a perfect example. Bobby Lou was long considered an elite twinetender while wearing a kitty on his chest, but he only once topped 30 wins. And that was arguably his worst statistical year ever. What say you on this topic?

Now for your bust question. Ryan Miller is the first guy who comes to mind -- what happened to this guy? I know the Sabres are struggling, but his counting stats are very unMiller-like. Do you think it has something to do with his summer 2011 marriage to that super-hot actress? He's in Buffalo and I would have to guess she's on the left coast -- the city of fires isn't exactly the best place to get acting gigs.

Brian Elliot is a guy who also comes to mind as a bust, but that would suggest I believed in him in the first place. And I didn't. I'm also a little concerned about Phil Kessel -- his owners expected so much more. He had two goals tonight (Tuesday), but those were numbers eight and nine. He should have five or six (or seven) more by now. I'm convinced James van Riemsdyk is his anchor. But I digress.

Best value? Jakub Voracek has been nothing short of sensational. I picked him up in the supplemental round of our 14-owner THL league -- and that was after we went through a whopping 16 rounds! That was after guys like Stephane Robidas, Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter (of all people). He was a top-10 scorer before Tuesday's games. Now that's value.

So spill your busts and value picks. And while you're at it, you can tell me about those guys who could be moved at the trade deadline and what that means for fantasy owners.

Eagle out.

From: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, March 13
Subject: Busting Out

Yes, I know some of my suggestions were a bit outlandish, but wanted to throw some names in there that won't get any pub otherwise. Judge away.

Getzlaf is a rich man now and not leaving Orange County and I saw that Darren Dreger was on NHL Live today talking about the Ducks moving a player like Corey Perry. I have to think they won't simply because they're contending but I don't see many avenues that will allow Bob Murray to keep both Perry and Getzlaf.

Players that can be moved: Is it that time of year to talk about Calgary trading Jarome Iginla again? Seems like it's usually a few weeks before the trade deadline the chatter starts. If he's actually traded this year, I can see Iginla having a solid impact wherever he lands.

While Iginla is always rumored to be traded, it seems a foregone conclusion that Jay Bouwmeester will be moved to a contending team in need of a veteran defender. (Detroit) Bouwmeester's looked solid and I'd assume Calgary and Jay Feaster would love to get out from under that contract.

Could the Sabres look to trade Ryan Miller? Speaking of contracts they'd like to get out of, Drew Stafford could go somewhere, but I can't see him being reinvigorated somewhere else.

I honestly think we're going to get a better picture of what players will be dealt in 10-14 days when the standings start to paint a clearer picture of who is right and who is dead.

Right now, there are few teams that are legitimately out of it. I would have said Columbus 10 days ago, but they've been on a tear lately. I wouldn't go overboard with players that get traded for fantasy purposes, most are going to get maybe 10 games with their new teams.

Lastly, Ryan Clowe has to get traded. I'd assume. He still has no goals. This is a guy that put up over 50 points in recent memory. Either way, he's out of Silicon Valley.

With wins, they are team related and Crawford's peripheral stats were solid for most of the Hawks' winning streak. I do not look at wins as the measure of a netminder's talent, as save percentage is more of an indicator in my mind. Even GAA has a team component to it, but wins, yes, as you said, are a team stat.

There have been plenty of goalies over the years that have had great averages and only modest win totals. Pekka Rinne was one up until the Preds started making the playoffs consistently, Henrik Lundqvist too before the Rangers were a legitimate threat last season and Jon Quick a few years ago.

I'd rather have a goalie lose a game 2-1 than win 5-4, in a roto league of course. In our THL league, if I actually have a goalie, any win will do. I'd rather have a goalie impact my averages more than get a win and damage the counting stats. Typically, I target goalies on better teams rather than taking a flier on a starter on a lesser team like a Sergei Varlamov or Ondrej Pavelec. You have to figure that good averages will help you in two categories while wins only affect one.

It's similar in baseball with pitchers, where there is much more data to make the argument that wins are hardly even remotely reliable in determining a pitcher's skill level. Look at Felix Hernandez a few years ago on the hapless Seattle Mariners. All his metrics were better than CC Sabathia of the Yankees, who had more wins and King Felix got the Cy Young.

Bust pick: I always look for guys drafted high that haven't panned out. Early in the season you could make the argument for King Henrik or Jonathan Quick, but it has to be Alexander Ovechkin. Ovi is probably in his last year as a first-round pick and, when you consider he was drafted around players like Crosby, Malkin and Stamkos, you'd expect more than what he's delivered. Claude Giroux fits there too. Not that the Devils' Travis Zajac was anywhere near the early rounds of a draft, but guy's been invisible.

Best Value: Craig Anderson has to be one considering some of the goalies after whom he was drafted; guys like Cam Ward, Ryan Miller and Braden Holtby. I know I passed on Anderson in a few leagues. When he was healthy, he was delivering Vezina-like numbers and some MVP chatter. I was going to use Voracek, but can't now....Andrew Ladd has been a nice player to own and very consistent for the Thrashers Jets, figuring most owners took a flier on him late.

Your thoughts on the Ducks' Perry quandary? What teams are going to start falling off? Bouncing back?

-DAN-

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
Sent: Wednesday, March 13
Subject: Quack Quack Quack

I agree with you about the quandary faced by most teams, including the Ducks. But for very different reasons. There aren't many teams that are actually out of the race at this point -- hey, the Jackets are 13th in the West, but only three points from eighth. There will be few sellers and many more so-called buyers. The prices go up dramatically in those situations. And unjustly so. There will be regret.

And speaking of regret, let's turn to Corey Perry.

The Ducks are done no matter what they do ... unless they win the Cup. And they might even be done then. Let me explain. Perry becomes the Ducks' Brad Richards if they hold onto him [Dallas Stars GM] Joe Nieuwendyk's decision to keep Richards beyond the deadline [in 2011] left serious burns. Trade Perry and you enter a rebuild (which they actually have to do with an overachieving Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne -- aren't they like a combined 100 years old?). Queue fan revolt. That leaves one option -- win the Cup. But two things happen there -- his price goes up and he embarrasses the club by leaving anyway because they can't pay him.

So what about a deal with Toronto? The Ducks might have to add a second-round pick. Here's the package:

- Phil Kessel, who has a year left on his deal and would score 40+ or even 50 goals with Getzlaf's big body dishing him the puck.
- Jake Gardiner, who burned the Ducks once, but has fallen out of favor with Randy Carlyle (or so it seems).
- Nikolai Kulemin: a left-coast style player who moves up to the top-six [in Anaheim], or Tyler Bozak, who replaces Koivu.

This is pure speculation, of course. But that's an above-average rebuild.

I'm a little worried your Devils might slip to ninth before the season is over -- their goal-differential is seriously skewed in the wrong direction and I just think that's going to come back and bite them. The Leafs will falter, too, but could sneak by the Devils for eighth. I think the Jackets stress-out some teams, but ultimately fall short. The Sharks fall away and the Wild concern me the same way the Devils do -- they need to score more goals.

Enough of my musings -- who do you see falling back or surging forward? Are you hurt by my inclusion of your horned homeys on my worry list? Did my new fave Adam Henrique just wake up?

Eagle out

From: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Thursday, March 14
Subject: Redrawing The Lines

Your proposed deal with the Ducks and Leafs makes a lot of sense, but you're correct when you say the Ducks are cooked regardless of what they do. You don't want to trade one of your best players when you're a legitimate Cup contender, maybe a sign-and-trade on draft day. You have to figure that Perry will command Getzlaf-like money and the Ducks could be signing him at the detriment to the rest of building their team. If they do, they'll likely make good on those Bobby Ryan trade rumors, but with Koivu and Teddy Flash coming off the books, that should clear some up. (Not to mention the $3.66 mil they pay Sheldon Souray for the next two years).

I'm reacting with my head and not my heart here regarding the Devils...after Wednesday, I'd like to propose that they play the Flyers every game the rest of the season. Their goal-scoring woes are worrisome, no doubt, but I think the Devils have the experience and the skill to outlast the Leafs and Sens, who both are playing above their skill level...the Buds more so.

I had a good shock the other day when I saw Minny was ahead of Vancouver in the Northwest standings. Basically it was assumed the Canucks would roll. I'd love to see Columbus keep it up, but they are not going to get in. I see Detroit battling for a final spot along with Phoenix and St. Louis and San Jose. I'm saying the Sharks are going to be on the outside.

Eastern Conference: I can't see Montreal sustaining this, but that team is good. I'm still going with Boston out of the East. Devils get in, Philly and Ottawa out.

I am crying profusely right now with your nixing the Devils from the postseason, need a sandwich from Wawa to console me. Yes, Henrique looked great last night against the Flyers. Nice to see him get going and he's a player that's very likable. Seems like you took a shine to him during his Windsor days as well.

Parting shot: Realignment: It's great news for Dallas, Detroit, Columbus and Winnipeg, but some of it doesn't make sense, such as adding the Florida teams to the Northeast Division plus Detroit. I'm glad some rivalries were kept intact in the Atlantic Division and the Central Division actually lines up with the map of the United States. I don't like the NHL trying to manufacture rivalries such as Columbus-Pittsburgh and Minnesota-Winnipeg, although there's the old Jets and North Stars Are we going to assume that Vancouver will instantly hate Anaheim and that Dallas and Winnipeg will start a blood feud, same with the Red Wings and Panthers...Bruins-Habs will have nothing on that Wings-Kitties. It's a good step until two more expansion teams are added (hello Seattle), and it's easier to make the playoffs in the West right now.

-DAN-

Question of the Week: What should the names be for the new divisions?

Check Out Janet Eagleson's Frozen Fantasy and Dan Pennucci's Blue Line Buzz, both on RotoWire.

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