• MISTAKEN AWARDS, PART ONE: Since NHL awards fail to take into account three months and four rounds worth of playoffs, the prizes become less than meaningful. A classic example has to be the mistaken vote for rookie-of-the-year. I say “mistaken” because playoff performance is omitted.
That’s why The Maven says that Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog winning the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year is a joke. Consider this; Landeskog and his Avalanche didn’t even make the playoffs. By contrast, no player was more responsible for New Jersey not only making the post-season but reaching the Final Round than Adam Henrique. The kid who seamlessly stepped in to top center Travis Zajac’s regular-season role from the get-go merely scored two series-winning sudden-death goals over Florida and the Rangers respectively. Talk to me about Landeskog when he can come close to equalling Henrique’s feats.
• MISTAKEN AWARDS, PART TWO: The Norris Trophy was meant to be given to the best DEFENSEman in the NHL; not a backliner who really plays more like a rover than a defenseman. Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson is a talented lad, but only going in one direction; forward. Let’s face it, this kid hasn’t a clue about how to play behind his blue line, nor how to hit. Shea Weber of Nashville and Zdeno Chara do and either qualified for the best defense prize.
The Maven watched Karlsson closely in seven playoff games against the Rangers. If one player cost his team a series wins, it was Karlsson who was conspicuous by his ineffectiveness from the start to the end of the tournament. As a power-play quarterback, he was an abysmal failure and he wasn’t so hot in all other key categories. Chara would have been a more meaningful choice, assuming that defense still counts.
• SURPLUS AWARDS, PART ONE: When does an award fall into the “One Too Many” category? Answer: Right now!
Can you believe that alongside the coveted Hart, Lady Byng, Norris and Calder Trophies, Bettman, Inc. now includes — I kid you not — what they call The EA Sports NHL13 Cover Athlete prize. You’ll be happy to know that this year’s winner was Philly’s Claude Giroux. Me? I was rooting for Ilya Bryzgalov; but don’t ask me why!
• SURPLUS AWARDS, PART TWO: There’s a Mark Messier Leadership Award and Captain Shane Doan of Phoenix was the legitimate winner. That’s fine and dandy and it should be sufficient. But, no, the league also gives away a King Clancy award — I couldn’t make this up — for leadership and “contributions to his community” given to the Sens’ Daniel Alfredsson Wouldn’t you agree that one leadership award is enough?
As for Alfredsson, please note this for the record, Ottawa was leading the Rangers three games to two in the opening playoff round, minus Alfredsson. Then, captain Alfie returned for Game 6. Leadership? The guy had a seen-by-all tantrum at the bench, humiliating his coach, Paul MacLean. From Alfie’s return to the finish, his Senators lost two a row and exited the playoffs Stage Left. Me? I’d go with the Messier Leadership Award. Everybody knows Mark. I remember King Clancy as a terrific defenseman, colorful referee and decent coach. Forget about leadership; why not a King Clancy Terrific Defenseman-Colorful Referee-Decent Coach award and get it over with!
• PEACE, IT’S WONDERFUL; MAYBE: There are about 2,289 theories about how the upcoming labor negotiations will go between Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. They are all wrong because nobody — and I do mean NOBODY — knows for sure how the Collective Bargaining Agreement schmooze will go. One insider, familiar with these talks, tells me that there’ll be a “crisis” sometime this summer when all will appear gloom and doom. This chap insists that before the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. at the Sept. 15 deadline that a deal will be cut. But since nobody really can figure this in advance, The Maven will merely listen and hope.
• DOES ANYONE WANT TWO J’S? Every year on the year, Jaromir Jagr puts himself on the auction block. One year, the Kontinental Hockey League beckons; and Jags goes. Last season, it was the Flyers and Jaromir gave Ed Snider his money’s worth, especially in knocking Pittsburgh clear out of the playoffs and into Ohio.
More recently the center of Jagr-speak is Calgary where somebody planted the rumor that Two J’s would be a good fit for the Flames. Maybe yes, maybe no. But if I’m GM Jay Feaster I’d name a coach — anyone say Brent Sutter? — first before fitting JJ in with a leader he may not like.
• DRIVING A NASH: It’s been so long that a Nash automobile was manufactured that the only place you’ll find one these days is in a car museum. Likewise, it’s been so long since we started hearing Rick Nash trade rumors it seems as if the buzz-buzz started in another century.
The key here is less the player and more the general manager, Scott Howson. With his job tenuously on a gossamer string, Howie has to obtain more than a skating prune for Large Rick. The Blue Jackets’ return has to be enough to suggest that an elusive playoff berth is at least possible; if not probable for Columbus. Which is another way of saying Howson must get a marquee name who’ll play; and not a Jeff Carter either.
• AND A GOALIE, TOO: By the way, Columbus is about as weak in goal as Edmonton which means that believing Steve Mason can be a number one is roughly equivalent to naming Lady GaGa assistant coach of the Habs. (Lady can’t speak French!) The Maven figures that Howson will take a long look at either Scott Clemmensen or Marty Biron, if the Jackets are serious about moving up in the goalie world.
• ARIZONA WEATHER REPORT: The good news out of Phoenix-Glendale is that the 2012-2013 NHL schedule provides for 41 home games at — love this name! — Jobing.com Arena. That means, barring the Jobing.com Arena’s roof blowing into New Mexico, Dave Tippett’s beloved Coyotes will skate for another year in Arizona.
Ah, but the bad news is that the black cloud hovering over this embattled organization still is the troublesome Goldwater Institute which endlessly has nitpicked away at the Coyotes; and continues to do so. Until the Goldwater franchise-feeders are dismissed out of hand and Greg Jamison’s alleged fancy financiers are approved by Bettman, Inc. Phoenix-Glendale will remain Maybe-Hockey-Country. No more, no less!
• NICE GUYS DON’T ALWAYS FINISH LAST: Once upon a time a baseball manager named Leo (The Lip) Durocher utter a deathless comment — “Nice guys finish last!” — that has endured through sports history. The Lip was only partially correct. Winners of several NHL awards proved Durocher wrong.
Henrik (Vezina) Lundqvist, Ken (Adams) Hitchcock, Brian (Lady Byng) Campbell and Max (Masterton) Pacioretty are among the sweethearts of our business. If you don’t believe me, just ask media types who cover them daily. Win, lose or Shootout, Lundqvist always makes himself available, post-game, because he’s all class. The professorial Hitchcock will talk hockey with you ’til the cows come home. Campbell and Pacioretty also rank high on my NHL Goodfella Ladder. Or, as composer George Gershwin once wrote, “Who could ask for anything more?”
• THE LONG ISLAND SLEEPER: There are no “sleeping” cars on the Long Island Rail Road, but there may be an offensive “sleeper” at the Islanders’ training camp in September. Drafted in the third round, 65th overall in 2010, Moscow-born Kirill Kabanov turns 20 next month. What’s more, the gifted left wing may just be turning into a mature stickhandler who truly has found his game.
After a 55-point season for the Junior Shawinigan Cataractes and an impressive Memorial Cup showing, Kabanov will rate a long look from the Nassau high command. There’s a reasonable chance that Kabanov finally has found himself ready for the pro game. We know he has the armament; what we don’t know is whether Killer Kirill finally has learned how to shoot straight! Time will tell.