We’ve reached the quarter pole in the NHL season, which means two things: It’s too early to start drawing conclusions and throwing around awards, and we’re going to go ahead and do those things anyway. So dig your tuxes and gowns out of the closet, because we’ve got a dozen early-season awards to hand out.
Most Valuable Player: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Ho-hum. Crosby won the award last year, he was the overwhelming favorite to win it this year, and so far that looks like it’s exactly what he’s going to do. He’s not running away with the scoring title, which is a mild surprise. But all the guys keeping pace with him come from struggling teams, and the Hart Trophy basically always goes to someone from a Cup contender. So it’s Crosby by default, which is basically too boring to spend any more time on.
Most Valuable Player Who Isn’t Sidney Crosby: Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
That’s better! And we’ve got several candidates to consider, like Voracek, who’s tied with Crosby for the lead in points, and Tyler Seguin, who leads in goals scored. Steven Stamkos has been fantastic, Vladimir Tarasenko has owned the highlight reels, and Rick Nash’s hot start left him carrying basically the entire Rangers offense.
And that’s just the forwards, which is … well, which is probably all we need to talk about, since defensemen and goalies rarely win the Hart.1 Besides, we’ll get to those guys in a minute.
I’m going to go with Voracek, who’s recorded a point on over half of the Flyers goals this year, and is basically single-handedly keeping them in the playoff picture. Will it last? No, not at his current pace, but that shouldn’t matter. We’re trying to recognize the first quarter of the season here, not predict the rest of it, so Voracek has earned the right to pick up Crosby’s scraps.
Least Valuable Player: The Backup Goalie, New Jersey Devils
Do you know his name? I didn’t know his name, and apparently neither did Devils coach Peter DeBoer until the weekend, when he finally gave him his first start of the season in the team’s 21st game. Before that, Cory Schneider had gotten the nod each and every time, becoming only the third goalie in the salary-cap era to make that many starts in a row to begin a season. That streak ended on Saturday, when DeBoer remembered that he had a second goaltender on the roster.
The guy’s name is Scott Clemmensen, by the way. That probably sounds familiar, since the journeyman has been backing up around the NHL since 2001, including three separate stints in New Jersey. He got his first start of the season against the Flames in Calgary. He lost. LVP! LVP!
(* I know, I know.)