Sunday, November 21, 2010

New York Rangers Awards For First Quarter of Season

With last night’s game being in the books the Rangers have now completed just over one-quarter of the season and with that we are going to take a look at the way we see the Rangers team awards to this point in the year.  The team sits at 11-9-1 and it will be because of the play of many of those listed here that they have gotten to that point both good and bad.  This might be a little different than how some of you normally think of who should win, and we will have most of the standard awards with some new categories.

MVP: Brandon Dubinsky – This was a pretty easy choice for me as in the early season Dubinsky has done everything for the Rangers whether it be carry the offense in terms of goal scoring, winning huge draws, killing penalties or being good on the power-play all while increasing his consistency and leadership in the room.  There was no player on the team who responded to the void that was created by the injury to star Marian Gaborik offensively or the void on draws and penalty kill created by Chris Drury’s absence in the way that Dubinsky did.  Dubinsky’s 12 goals is tied for 4th in the NHL and his 19 points puts him in a tie for 29th league wide.  In addition to the scoring Dubinsky leads all forwards in ice time at 20:34 per game, has 10 special teams’ points (7 on the power-play, 3 shorthanded) and is the only Rangers play with an over 50% faceoff percentage, while taking virtually every big draw.  The only other guy that would merit consideration for the award could have been Ryan Callahan.

Norris: Dan Girardi – Coming into the season this award was gift wrapped for either Marc Staal to win because of his prowess as a shut-down defenseman or if Michael Del Zotto if he could improve defensively to match the huge numbers he was supposed to put up on the offensive side, but clearly someone forgot to tell Dan Girardi.  Over the teams 21 games Girardi has been the most consistently good defenseman the team has had while be an absolute workhorse at 24:34 a game, good for 14th league wide.  Other high ranking for Girardi include ranking 12th among defense in the league with his 47 hits and leading all players with his 65 blocked shots.  Girardi has also chipped in on offense this season with 1G and 10 assists which would put him on an excellent 43 point pace if he continued throughout the season.

Vezina: Martin Biron – This one might be a surprise to some because this is the Rangers and in the end the team will only go as far as Henrik Lundqvist carries them and I agree with that, but it has Martin Biron who has played better in the first section of the season and has brought stability to the backup position.  Biron has had 6 starts so far this season and other than his clunker against the Thrashers in which he gave up five goals he has not surrendered more than two goals in a start.  His overall numbers are 4-2 with a 2.33 goals against and .907 save percentage, which if he can keep that up and the Rangers get Lundqvist consistently back in form will be a tremendous lift to the club.  There is no debating that the more talented and more important goalie for this club is Henrik and he has had some outstanding games so far this season, but now it is time for him to start putting the good ones together consistently and making the mediocre ones the outliers.

Calder: Michael Sauer – In a very close race I am choosing Michael Sauer over Derek Stepan for the rookie of the first part of the season though Stepan did make a furious charge the last three games and will likely win the award as the year progresses.  The reasons for choosing Sauer are simple for me much like the game that Sauer plays because of the simple consistent plays that he makes every game he is in uniform and every shift he is on the ice.  For a rookie defenseman who was shuffled in and out of the lineup early in the year to play as consistently has while chipping in 3 points and being a plus 7 in 15 games is very impressive.  In the absence of Michal Rozsival, Sauer has also handled his increased in work load very well and I cannot remember a bad game he has played this year.  He will not wow you with the highlight plays but he will be the definition of a defender when he is in the lineup and because of his consistent performance he edges the skill and promise of Stepan to this point of the year.

Most Improved: Brian Boyle – This is a combination of a no brainer categories and a close race as last year Brian Boyle was one of the whipping boys for fans including myself for his failure to use his size effectively and in my case for the fact he cost a third round pick to get.  The Rangers have been so effective in the draft of late that watching Boyle last year would anger me to know instead of a prospect we got that guy.  This season Boyle entered camp on the outside looking in, but his work in the offseason not only had him make the team, but he has been a huge contributor all over the ice.  Offensively Boyle is crunching people on the fore-check and chipping in with a career high 8 goals already, which puts him 2nd on the club.  If Brian Boyle can end up with 15-20 goals by the end of the year that is found money as far as I am concerned.  The other guy in the running was Artem Anisimov, but because we all knew the skill was there for Artie, Boyle gets the nod despite the tremendous improvements Anisimov has made in his second season showing that he capable of being a top flight center in the league. Honorable mention to Steve Eminger for his improvements from the beginning of the season until now

Most Disappointing: Michael Del Zotto -  This is a tough category because in large measure it is based on what the expectations for a player were heading into the year and in that regard MDZ is joined in the running with Alex Frolov and yes Henrik Lundqvist.  Frolov is saved by his recent work since the Gaborik return and finally scoring a wrap-around and Henrik because he has had some tremendous games this year though giving up 3 or more 9 of 15 starts is unacceptable for someone of his quality.  We come back to Del Zotto who is tremendously talented and shown flashes of defensive progression, but the defensive mistakes are still there in large quantities and his offensive contributions have not been to the expected level.  Last night’s game hopefully was a sign of snapping out of those facts and by the time we get to mid-season he will no longer be in this space.  Honorable mention to Sean Avery for his last 10 games or so.

Beyond The Box-score: Brandon Prust – If there is one player on this club who personifies what it should be about other than the obvious one many would think of in Ryan Callahan it is Brandon Prust.  There is no player on this team who has exhibited more toughness and heart this season while doing most all the heavy lifting in terms of standing up for teammates than Prust.  Last night he basically played on one to the point that after the game it was reported he could not even straighten his leg and earlier this season after taking a stick inches from his eye he did no miss a game instead wearing a visor.  Each time this season a teammate had to be stuck up for it has been Prust who did it, most notably in Philly against Carcillo after Carcillo went at the head of Fedotenko.  If getting Brandon Prust was the cost and reward for putting up with half seasons of Chris Higgins, Ales Kotalik and Olli Jokinen then it was a price well worth it.

Let me know what you think of the awards, who won, if you had different categories or choices in the comments.