Time flies when you’re having fun, they say. Well, the first half of this season must have been a blast because it seems like only yesterday they were dropping the puck in Boston to kick off the campaign.
Here’s a look at who’d nab the NHL’s prominent individual hardware if the season ended today:
Hart Trophy (MVP) – Marian Gaborik, Rangers
It’s tough to give the nod to a player on a team that’s struggled so badly at times, but just how bad would things be on Broadway if not for the Slovakian sniper? Gabbo’s 28 goals are first in the league and 18 more than his closest teammate (and his 53 points is 21 more than No. 2 Vinny Prospal). Plus the 27-year-old is staying healthy, which certainly represents the exception to the rule in his nine-year NHL career. Wild fans must be pulling out their hair.
Runners up: Ryan Miller, Buffalo; Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix
Vezina Trophy (top goalie) – Ryan Miller, Buffalo
The numbers speak for themselves: 2.05 goals-against average, .934 save percentage, five shutouts. Miller also has 24 of the Sabres’ 27 wins this year, helping them to first in the Northeast and second in the conference. The skinny 29-year-old entered the year as No. 2 on the Olympic depth chart, but there’s no question now as to who’ll start between the pipes for Team USA in February.
Runners up: Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary
Norris Trophy (top defenseman) – Duncan Keith, Chicago
He’s surrounded on all sides by the league’s best collection of talent, but you can’t hold that against the Winnipeg native. Keith, 26, has done it all and done it well in the Windy City this season; his 37 points is second among blueliners and his 26:38 of average ice time is fourth in the league. Olympic gold and a Stanley Cup is a realistic goal.
Runners up: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles; Mike Green, Washington
Calder Trophy (top rookie) – Tyler Myers, Buffalo
Many expected a much greater learning curve for the 19-year-old due to his mammoth 6-foot-8 frame and the fact he plays a position that most don’t master until their late 20s (anyone remember Zdeno Chara as a young pup?). But Myers has stepped right in to become the Sabres’ No. 1, averaging more than 23 minutes a night and leading the club in blueline scoring (he’s also tied with Thomas Vanek for fourth overall in team scoring). The challenge now will be to not fade in the second half.
Runners up: John Tavares, Islanders; Tuukka Rask, Boston
Jack Adams Award (top coach) – Joe Sacco, Colorado
It was a complete head-scratcher when the former journeyman NHLer was named as Tony Granato’s replacement, but clearly GM Greg Sherman knew something we all didn’t. Sacco has taken a group light on talent and heavy on youth and made them a serious contender in the West, despite their early-season expectations.
Runners up: Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey; Lindy Ruff, Buffalo
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.