2012 RotoRob Hockey Awards
By Chris Wassel and RotoRob
Look at who they let out of the four by six prison cell, ladies and gentlemen. The reason for our hiatus, of course, is because the 2012-13 NHL season has been “on hold” for months. When does it start? Certainly it will not be in December so the awards this year are sort of half full or half empty. This all depends on your perspective. Now is the time to kick off this year’s RotoRob hockey awards. Now go through on a sequined gown or monkey suit — whichever you look better in.
Fantasy Stud of the Year
The Conn Smythe? Meh. How about Jonathan Quick’s RotoRob hardware?
Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings: There are always tons of arguments when a goalie is chosen in this type of category, but remember that we take into account the playoffs for some of our more hearty Fantasy hockey fans. The biggest assist was his 16 wins in the playoffs along with his goaltending from January to April which kept the Kings from missing the second season entirely. At one point Los Angeles could not even muster two goals a game at home. Yet Quick was a stalwart between the pipes and his slick goals against average and save percentage (1.95 GAA, .929 save percentage) were vital to Fantasy teams. Those were his overall numbers. It is tough to measure, but Quick’s quality starts (two GA or less) were tops in the league. Consistency wins out over flashy numbers sometimes and this was one of those cases.
We placed Mike Smith on this list for the unbelievable two-plus month run he had in Phoenix where he was virtually the sole reason they made the playoffs. Smith also led the team to the conference finals which honestly seemed like an improbable scenario. A player that runs an entire month without losing (in February, Smith had 11 wins including two shutouts) normally would be tops in the category but Smith was a bit too inconsistent in January to take home the award. It is a tough debate and Quick did best him head to head in the playoffs so that is why we made the decision. It’s not an easy call, but given the lockout and the lack of hockey this season, that’s how we judged things.
Lastly, we also considered Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He created his own offense and had a knack of turning in big games when it counted most. Normally 30 points from March 1 until the end of the season would have sealed the deal but again, this is a unique scenario because of the lack of a 2012-13 season so far. Malkin was good in the playoffs as well but some defensive lapses in his game made it tough to give him top honours. Still, this dude had 65 points from January until the end of the regular season. Undoubtedly this will cause much debate, but when a player tends to vanish for stretches, that is not taken too kindly. That was also the reason why Henrik Lundqvist was passed over. He was too inconsistent in March and April and there are so many factors to be considered.
Fantasy Dud of the Year (Alexei Kovalev Memorial Award)
Hey, Ville: don’t yell at our hardware just because you sucked.
Ville Leino, LW, Buffalo Sabres: This was a set up for failure from the beginning but the Leino signing by Buffalo did not pass the sniff test to me for a variety of reasons. First of all, he was kind of insulated in Philadelphia and allowed to do his own thing more or less. The results were obvious and the 53 points were not necessarily a fluke. However, Buffalo wanted him to become a more complete player and that just was not in the cards as Leino struggled again and again to find that touch. He had 15 points in the calendar year and only five goals (none in February). Also, Leino was demoted to the point where he only had one power play point the entire year. This was from a guy who had 11 power play points with Philadelphia the previous season and was on the cusp of even better numbers. Things very quickly went south for Leino.
As far as true duds go, there really were not many that could compare to Leino, but since we are in the Christmas spirit let’s throw a couple names on the Yule Log.
Scott Gomez always finds his way onto this list and this year was no exception as he just could not stay healthy or score. However, his teammate Rene Bourque is another one of those what-happened-to-him candidates. Bourque was traded from Calgary to Montreal and just nosedived. His eight points in 38 games for the Habs was bad enough but his -16 and lack of physical play made people think he was the forward version of Patrice Brisebois. Another definite dud had to be Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets who had a dismal .878 save percentage this calendar year and ultimately will have to fight for the starting job next season, whenever that is. A GAA of nearly 3.50 and a lack of concentration may have been the final nails for many, even in Columbus.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year
Gabriel Landeskog did it all as a rookie.
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado Avalanche: It is so rare that a rookie has a 20-20-20-200-200 season, that Landeskog was the first to be able to accomplish this feat. What are we talking about? The talented Swedish sensation had 20 or more goals, 20 or more assists, was a +20, had over 200 hits, and over 200 shots on goal in his rookie campaign. Consider his mere 8.1 per cent shooting percentage and Landeskog definitely has room for improvement as well. He is going to be a perennial force in the NHL for years to come and it will be fun to see how he grows into that 205-pound frame — that may be the scary part for opposing teams, Landeskog is only going to keep getting better.
Adam Henrique was almost the logical choice to win the award but he fell just short, unless of course you consider the famous phrase “Henrique, it’s over!” that bellowed from Doc Emrick’s vocal cords after the Game Six series winner in the Conference Finals. Henrique had a 51-point regular season, but will be remembered for his series clinchers against the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. His goal against Jonathan Quick in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals almost turned the tide of the series.
Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year
Brian Elliott’s career turned around under Ken Hitchcock.
Brian Elliott, G, St. Louis Blues: This is another in the long line of classic controversies, but Elliott’s career was thought to be dead before arriving under the arch. Insert Coach Ken Hitchcock into your system in year one and bang! Elliott had a season of seasons with a ridiculous 1.56 GAA and .940 save percentage. Granted he only had 36 starts under his belt but the netminder had nine shutouts (one for every four starts). In this calendar year, Elliot had five shutouts in 17 starts with a GAA of 1.82 and save percentage of .934. In a year when a solid second or third option was tough to come by, Elliott was a refreshing saviour for Fantasy owners. Can he do it again in the 2012-13 season? Well, there has to be a season first.
Pittsburgh really believed in James Neal, but no one in the Fantasy hockey world was ready to project 70-to-75 points on a left winger that had unfulfilled promise. Add in the disappointment that was his 2010-11 season and you could understand why. Neal then went out last season and posted a 40-40 campaign on his way to 81 points. This included 18 goals on the man advantage and 329 shots on goal. Neal had 10 goals from March 3 on, including a hat trick and five goals on the power play. Then there was Michael Ryder of the Dallas Stars who scored 35 times which was more than his previous two years combined (34). He saved his best for 2012 when he turned the red light on 18 times between February and April. That included seven goals in the third period or later and no one saw that coming in Dallas.
Best Planking During a Hockey Game
David Clarkson know a thing or two about planking.
David Clarkson, RW, New Jersey Devils: It was a goal everyone still talks about every so often — especially in New Jersey — but here is the planking effort that sparked all the talk. It was a game New Jersey had to have and it happened to be a series turning goal. When Clarkson scored the game winner, he actually did a Superman, or he planked on top of the net. It was truly a sight to see and though Flyers fans were stunned in horror, most hockey fans were pleasantly delighted by the funny display.
This was truly a spectacle unlike anything I had seen in some time. Yes there have been some incredible hockey celebrations but this was just that unexpected. Did you want the definition of planking? Here it is.
Planking (or the Lying Down Game) is an activity consisting of lying face down — sometimes in an unusual or incongruous location. Both hands must touch the sides of the body. Some players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play. The term planking refers to mimicking a wooden plank. Planking can include lying flat on a flat surface, or holding the body flat while it’s supported in only some regions, with other parts of the body suspended
Although the net is truly not a flat surface, Clarkson’s effort qualified and was one of the quintessential humorous moments of the playoffs.
Rick DiPietro Band-Aid Award
Andrei Markov’s knees are legendary, and not in a good way.
Andrei Markov, D, Montreal Canadiens: In the last two or three years, Markov had endured just about every infection and issue related to a knee that could ever possibly be imagined. If it was not one thing, it was another. People started to doubt his return and yet it did finally happen on March 10. Markov was largely ineffective and many said he was still not entirely 100 per cent. His play in the KHL so far this year seems to support that contention. The man has suited up 65 times in the last three campaigns which has some calling him the “DiPietro of Canada.” Yes, it is unfair considering how Markov was remarkably healthy until recently, but it is what it is. Since Markov is a repeat winner, here is his injury list.
There really is not much more to see here other than the man himself, Rick DiPietro, getting injured yet again. If you played the board game Operation with him just go for the knee, hip, and groin, you’d win every time. The latest series of injuries for the goalie may be the final nail in the coffin. But DiPietro is not the only one whose career is in jeopardy. Scott Gomez has now entered into this category for what was a mild concussion in place of an ego injury. He went a hair over a year without scoring a goal, something which spawned Twitter accounts and even a website. Finally Gomez would net a couple tallies before succumbing to an injury that no one thought was much of anything.
The Easy Button Broke Award
Gary Bettman is the face of yet another potentially lost NHL season.
This one goes to the NHL and NHLPA for turning a negotiation that should have been reasonably simple with — at worst — minimal season loss, to its present mess. As of now, games through January 14 are cancelled and the next cancellation may be the grim reaper on the season. That would be the second season lost in just eight years. Staples would be disgusted even with the pace of negotiations and how many upturns and downturns we have all seen. When you see the KHL on TSN, MSG, and ESPN among others, it is a sign that people are just starving for hockey.
This is all the doing of two sides that just do not want to come to an agreement. They are closer than it appears but neither side wants to really budge when they should be keeping the interest of the fans, businesses, and workers in mind. If all these two sides had to do was press the “Easy Button” they would probably fight over it and break it. That is the kind of negotiation it has been. What was once so close now seems so very far. When we can laugh about all this, it probably has gone beyond the point of no return and landed somewhere near the realm of bizarre.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger Award
Pierre Gauthier wasn’t fond of hearing his players speak the truth.
This one goes to Pierre Gauthier, general manager of the Habs, who last season were perilously close to the bottom of the Eastern Conference when they wound up firing their coach Jacques Martin, and bringing in — gasp — a unilingual coach in Randy Cunneyworth. The real kicker came when star forward Mike Cammalleri told it like it was: “I can’t accept that we will display a losing attitude as we’re doing this year. We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it’s no wonder why we lose.”
Having the guts to stand up and voice his frustration earned Cammalleri an immediate ticket out of town as Gauthier shipped him to Calgary. Le Journal de Montreal’s headline the next day (translated into English)? “One Less Loser.” Yes, they take hockey seriously in Montreal. — RR
The Overreaction to a Bad Call Award
Ladislav Scurko is not a fan of referees.
Hey, we’ve all seen players lose their shit when a bad call is made against them. But how often does that player exact revenge by stabbing the referee 14 times? That’s exactly what happened in 2008 to referee Marek Liptaj, a case that was settled in mid-July when former Philadelphia Flyer prospect Ladislav Scurko was convicted of the murder and sentenced to eight years in prison. Because Scurko was deemed temporarily insane at the time of the crime, he received a reduced sentence. Call us crazy, but to us, that makes him an ideal Flyer. Hey, he’ll still only be 34 when he gets out of prison. Just sayin’… — RR
We hope to see you at the NHL Draft in Newark sometime this summer. In the meantime, your only moment of hockey zen is the 2013 World Junior Championship. Until then, aloha!