RotoRob 2008 Hockey Awards
By MIKE CHEN and STEVEN OVADIA
Welcome to the third annual RotoRob Fantasy Awards, one of the most magical times of the year when our writers get to make their picks in various important and other not-so-vital categories. There’s not a player alive who doesn’t dream of taking home a prestigious RotoRob Golden Supporter. This year, we kick off our awards gala by handing out the hockey hardware. Baseball, Basketball and Football will follow in short order.
Fantasy Stud of the Year
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Sure, pretty boy Sid gets all of the press, but Malkin’s the man who stepped it up when Crosby went down with a high-ankle sprain (we won’t mention that Crosby stepped it up in the playoffs while Malkin slowed down as each series progressed). Malkin continued his hot streak into this season, where he and Crosby are neck-and-neck for the NHL scoring race.
Fantasy Dud of the Year
Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers: Okay, so you can look at Kovalchuk in the calendar year of 2008 and say, “Hey, that dude’s not too bad. He’s a point-per-game player.” That’s the problem — in a lot of pools, Kovalchuk isn’t drafted to be a point-per-game player, he’s a highly drafted goal-scoring machine. And his numbers simply aren’t reflecting that. In the 2007-08 season, Kovalchuk’s numbers (and his interest in the game) seemingly dipped when BFF Marian Hossa left for greener pastures in Pittsburgh. This season, Kovalchuk is putting up more assists than ever but his goal-scoring still needs a surge. Whether he just needs a shot of Red Bull/vodka or if he needs to don different duds, something’s gotta change for him to return to form.
Fantasy Rookie of the First Half 2008-09
Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets: Finding a reliable starting goalie is pretty damn hard in this league. Finding a guy that makes an impact in his first season while not being able to legally drink booze? That’s even tougher. When Pascal Leclaire went down with an injury, Mason stepped in. A star in the Canadian junior circuit, all Mason’s done is brought the Blue Jackets back to the cusp of the playoffs with a wicked glove hand and quick pad saves. Despite his excellent season last year, Leclaire is struggling to stave off the rook, and one look at the numbers will tell you why — Leclaire’e GAA is almost exactly double that of Mason (3.83 vs. 1.92). ‘Nuff said.
Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks: It’s hard to find a top-level player who had a worse 2007 than Marleau. Butting heads with the coach, public floggings, trade rumours, and a dismal start to the season; it all looked downhill from there. Around February 2008, Marleau got his head out of his butt, became a point-per-game player again, finally grew into that whole leadership thing in the playoffs, and is one of the top offensive players in the league for the 2008-09 season. Don’t call it a comeback? Nah, we’ll call it a comeback.
The Fantasy Isn’t Reality Award
And the winner is: the Tampa Bay Lightning. You know how fantasy owners constantly say, “Man, I could manage better than those guys.” In Tampa Bay, you’ve got owners running their team like a
fantasy team, and you know what? It’s failing miserably! In fantasy, you can make roster moves every day and the only thing that shifts is your starting lineup. Try that in real life and you’ll find that budgets, team morale, and locker-room chemistry are about as consistent as Sean Avery’s mood. Should you find yourself in the lucky situation of owning a major league sports franchise, try to hold back your desire to manage it like a fantasy team — you’ll be better off for it.
The Buyer’s Remorse Award
Yeah, that sad-sack Tampa Bay Lighting sure isn’t winning but it’s not Mike Smith’s fault. The young goaltender has taken the ball and run with it, putting up one of the league’s best save percentages — all the more significant considering how awful his defense is. Meanwhile, in Dallas, who jettisoned Smith for centre Brad Richards, Marty Turco’s season has been a laughing stock and Richards isn’t exactly threatening any scoring records. Since Turco couldn’t stop a beach ball earlier in the season (he’s gotten better lately), you think the Stars wish they still had Smith?
Kiss of Death Award
All defensemen have bad nights, but how many have nights as often as St. Louis’ Eric Brewer? He finished last season at -18 and this season he’s a -14. No defenseman in the NHL finished last season in the bottom 10 of +/- and is also still in the bottom 10 now. Opposing teams must breathe a small sigh of relief when they see Brewer hop over the boards. Oh, we should say something nice about the kid; alright, he’s already got a goal this season, matching his season total from a year ago. Woo hoo!
Tiger Williams Award
Phoenix’s Daniel Carcillo has managed to put up very impressive penalty minutes without playing a ton of games. At the end of last season, he had 324 penalty minutes in just 57 games, an average of 5.7 minutes a game. This season he’s slowed down a bit, with a mere 87 minutes in 29 games, an average of just three minutes a game. We guess Carcillo will be setting his sights on the Lady Byng soon. Unfortunately, his production (13 goals, 24 points last season) has slipped (just two goals and four points this season) along with his prodigious sin bin exploits.
Department of Redundancy Department Award
The Chicago Blackhawks picked up goalie Cristobal Huet in the offseason, even though they still had Nikolai Khabibulin signed for another year. The Hawks dubbed Huet their number one goalie, even as they didn’t trade Khabibulin. Khabibulin has outplayed Huet and Chicago seems content to pay a sick amount for dueling goalies. You know. Rather than maybe look into filling weaknesses in their lineup.