RALEIGH — This week the NHL takes pause with the All-Star game in Raleigh, N.C., nicely past the halfway point of the season.
With little more than 30 games to play for most teams, is it too early to identify the individuals at the front of the line for the end-of-season hardware?
How different the line looks from a few of weeks ago, when Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby was threatening to run away from the pack, a lock to win the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart and probably the Rocket Richard, to complete the hat trick.
The picture is fuzzy, following the concussion suffered by Crosby early in the new year. Crosby may yet come back to assume his place as the man to beat, but considering how long he has been inactive, unable to perform even moderate exercise, it could be weeks before he’s seeing game action.
Off a dominating first half, Crosby remains the front runner for the MVP award, but the nature of concussion injuries has thrown the race wide open. It won‚t be long before Stamkos or even Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas becomes the frontrunner, although goalie candidates tend to be controversial.
3. Daniel Sedin
In the conversation: Tim Thomas, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Richards, Henrik Zetterberg, Tim Thomas.
What were just discussing? Oh yes, the Crosby question. Sid had a 10-point lead on Jan. 8, but Stamkos has closed the gap during Sid’s unwanted sojourn, and eased into the lead by a single point heading into the break.
3. D. Sedin
4. Henrik Sedin
In the conversation: Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Zetterberg, Corey Perry.
Because it’s not based on numbers (or at least, it shouldn’t be) the award for top defenceman usually goes down to the wire. Lidstrom, the old stalwart, has been tremendous for Detroit while Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang has blossomed into an all-around talent. Byfuglien is a great story, returning to defence after helping Chicago with a Stanley Cup as a power forward.
1. Nick Lidstrom
2. Kris Letang
3. Zdeno Chara
4. Dustin Byfuglien
In the conversation — Lubomir Visnovsky, Tobias Enstrom, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith.
Who doesn’t love a fresh face on the NHL scene? This is always one of the most highly anticipated awards — even if it is prone to Runaway Syndrome. Not this season. At least half a dozen players are still in the race. Taylor and Tyler? Not so much, although Taylor Hall has been a productive player for the Edmonton Oilers. Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins is completely out of the running. Instead, crafty Jeff Skinner, the former competitive figure skater, is doing triple axels on some of the draft board leaders, utterly unfazed by the leap to the NHL. Logan Couture, the former Ottawa 67′s centre, is not just San Jose’s best rookie, he’s been the Sharks best forward a lot of nights. Let’s not forget about the defenders — Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, playing 22 minutes a night on defence, Washington defenceman John Carlson and Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. As they say in Philly — What about Bob?
1. Jeff Skinner
2. Logan Couture
3. Cam Fowler
4. Sergei Bobrovsky
In the conversation: Derek Stepan, John Carlson, Taylor Hall, Bryan Bickell, Tyler Ennis.
It would be nice to think that Steven Stamkos would have given Crosby a run here, even without the concussion, now he has a serious lead, 38 goals to 32. Like a lot of pure goal scorers, Stamkos is streaky, and he’s been hot lately.
3. D. Sedin
In the conversation — Ryan Kesler, Patrick Sharp, Daniel Briere, Eric Stall, Perry.
With his play over the first four months, Tim Thomas already has his fingers on the hardware, trying not to drop it. Doubt he will. Not this year, when he’s stopping, and grabbing, everything in sight. Numbers are off the charts — 1.81 goals against, .945 save percentage. Would take a complete collapse for Thomas to lose this race, and I don’t see it happening with a defensive team like Boston.
2. Pekka Rinne
3. Jonas Hiller
In the conversation — Marc-Andre Fleury, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick.
It’s time for Barry Trotz to finally get some love from voting broadcasters for this award (yes, he was runnerup to Claude Julien last year, but enough of the bridesmaid role). Does any coach in the NHL accomplish more with less. Tight budgets, no legitimate scoring threat, a defenceman as the club‚s top point producer? No problem for Trotz, the no-excuses coach, who again has his team in a solid playoff position in the tough Western Conference. Good piece on the Hockey News site this week about how Trotz has had four different scoring leaders over past six seasons, yet has recorded at least 40 wins every year since the lockout.
1. Barry Trotz
2. Peter Laviolette
3. Marc Crawford
In the conversation — Mike Babcock, Craig Ramsay, Dan Bylsma.
Subscribers can read previous columns by Wayne Scanlan at ottawacitizen.com. He can be reached at email@example.com