Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Puck Stops Here: The Award Ceremony

Giving fantasy awards is one of my favorite topics as a fantasy writer. It allows me to look back on the year and really see how right or wrong I was with my preseason expectations. Before jumping into the awards let's take a look at how I did with some of my preseason predictions. If you take a look back at my Welcome Back article, you will see I made a few predictions on some late round players that could help your team.

I would not say I was completely right on any of them, but the only major miss was Jack Johnson. The best pick of the bunch was Joni Pitkanen, who found himself as serviceable third or fourth defensemen throughout the entire season. Giroux, Cole, Williams, and Letang have all been useful to teams during the stretch run and fantasy playoffs. Williams has been on fire since being traded to Columbus and Cole has been equally hot in Carolina. Letang has been a solid third or fourth defenseman over the last month, and Giroux has been producing over the last two or three weeks. I will admit that I was probably a year too early for Giroux. He will be one of my favorite sleepers heading into next year.

Well, let's get to the awards. Remember, when I give awards, I consider draft value and position scarcity.

MVP: Zach Parise, LW, New Jersey Devils
Runners Up: Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Jeff Carter

This decision came down purely to draft value. If you take that out of the equation, the award goes to Ovi. However, Parise has produced comparable numbers while being drafted about 80 picks later. Parise is second in goals, fifth in points, eighth in +/-, and top 20 in assists. That kind of production is unheard of from an eighth rounder. Drafting Parise this year was like winning the fantasy hockey lottery. My only knock on Parise is he has cooled off down the stretch when his owners need him the most. I hope you enjoyed drafting Parise in the eigthth round because he is a sure bet first rounder come next season.

Best Defenseman: Mike Green, D, Washington Capitals
Runners Up: Zdeno Chara, Rob Blake, Shea Weber, Sheldon Souray

This was a pretty easy decision. When goals come at a premium, lighting the lamp 30 times from the blue line is infinately valuable. Among defenseman, Green had eight more goals than the second and third and had 13 more goals than anyone else. Green was also second in power play points, seventh in +/-, and also added a very respectable 64 PIM. Green was so good, he was more valuable than most forwards this year, with an overall rank of ninth. The inclusion of Rob Blake, Shea Weber, and Sheldon Souray in the Runner Up section proves my point that you don't need to pay for defense. A smart owner can always find strong defensive talent late in drafts.

Best Goaltender: Steve Mason, G, Columbus Blue Jackets
Runners Up: Tim Thomas, Niklas Backstrom, Pekka Rinne, Cam Ward

This decision is slight more difficult than Defense, but remains a no brainer. The race for Vezina is tighter, but when you consider the cost of each goaltender, Mason soars above the rest. Mason went vastly undrafted, yet is second in GAA, sixth in S%, first in shut outs and ninth in wins. Thomas' numbers may have been slightly better, but you had to actually spend one of your top ten draft picks to get Thomas. Mason was just sitting there for free on the waiver wire. It might mean taking risks, but when see a young goalie with a strong pedigree get a chance, you should jump on him. This year you would have been rewarded with Mason and Rinne. Again, pay the premium for offense and multi-tool forwards.

Best Rookie Not Named Steve Mason: Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators
Runners Up: Steven Stamkos, Bobby Ryan, Kris Versteeg

I didn't want to give this to Mason because I wanted to highlight how good Rinne has been. Rinne is right up there with Mason in most statistics but trails in wins and shutouts. Had Nashville realized how good Rinne was from the start, wins and shutouts may be even. Although Veersteeg and Ryan were both very solid rookies this year, Rinne runs away with this as being a top five goalie. Between Versteeg and Ryan, I'll give the nod to Versteeg for his ability to help out in PIM as well. The 2008-09 rookie class didn't have the headliners we have grown accustomed to over the past few years, but it built a solid base for future production. I think Versteeg develops into a Brendan Morrow type stud.

Biggest Disappointment: Olli Jokinen, C, Phoenix/Calgary
Runners Up: Senators Trio, Dion Phaneuf, Thomas Vanek,

Before I start, I am ruling out players from consideration that lost significant time to injuries. This was almost as tough as choosing MVP, but Jokinen stooped below all others. Jokinen cost fantasy owners a fourth or fifth rounder, but never even sniffed that kind of value. Even when things began to look optimistic in Calgary, he rewarded his owners with two points over his last ten games. Just ask a disgruntled owner who traded for Jokinen after his hot start in Calgary. Jokinen disappointed at every stage of the season. I was also very close to given this award to Heatley, but he just barely missed the cut. However, the Senators' big three should be ashamed of their woeful play this season.

Best Goon: David Backes, RW, St. Louis Blues
Runners Up: Scott Hartnell, Alex Burrows, Daniel Carcillo, David Clarkson

This was a tough choice between Carcillo and Backes. On the one hand, Carcillo had 51 more PIM than anyone else and 91 more than Backes, but on the other, Backes topped 30 goals and had 41 more points than Carcillo. I have to go with Backes because he didn't cost you any categories and could win you PIM. Some will roster Carcillo for his PIM, but you know he isn't going to ever help anywhere else. While an abundance in fantasy is never a bad thing, you would have been dominant in PIM with Backes, but Carcillo would have been overkill that isn't worth the loss on offense. Burrows comes in third, but not by much. I like Burrows and Backes as guys who could fly under the radar during drafts next season and be even better.

I hope you enjoyed the awards. This will be the last of the weekly Puck Stops Here columns until next season. However, I am sure I will make a return at various points during the offseason. Keep an eye out for articles around the end of the playoffs, the NHL draft and the during free agency. Until next time, The Puck Stops Here.

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