Sidney Crosby was named the Canadian male athlete of the year. He won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 2006-07. The Hockey News just recently selected him as its choice for most powerful and influential person in the game. He is the current and future face of the sport.
Yet he wasn’t the best player in the calendar year 2007.
For my money that distinction goes to Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier. The Lightning’s superstar has been more dominant, consistently, than any of his peers from Jan. 1 through the end of December. There’s an expectation something special will happen whenever he’s on the ice, and oftentimes that feeling becomes reality.
The numbers support the claim. Lecavalier amassed 114 points in 2007 (through games of Dec. 26), four more than Crosby. He’s also No. 1 in goals, with three more than Ottawa’s Dany Heatley. For what it’s worth, Crosby doesn’t crack the top 10 in goals; he’s 15th.
Here are my selections for year-end awards, based solely on play from January-through-December. Playoffs are given some weight, but the onus rests heavily on regular season play and stats don’t reflect post-season. A more comprehensive listing of year-end stats leaders can be found in the Jan. 22 edition of The Hockey News.
Player of the Year: Lecavalier. Runner-up: Crosby. For the reasons mentioned above. Note, I didn’t consider goalies for this category.
1. Vincent Lecavalier, TB, 114
2. Sidney Crosby, Pit, 110
3. Joe Thornton, SJ, 109
Player Most Valuable to His Team: Roberto Luongo, Van. Runner-up: Crosby. The netminder carried his team to the ’07 playoffs, won a round and has continued his stellar play to the point where the Canucks’ have the third-most points of any club during the calendar year (see team of the year category). Crosby was largely responsible for the Pens’ playoff berth and has continued to shine without much support this season.
2007 Save Percentage
1. Roberto Luongo, Van, .930
2. Martin Gerber, Ott, .926
3. Niklas Backstrom, Min, .923
Goalie of the Year: Luongo. Runner-up: Henrik Lundqvist, NYR. See above for Luongo. Lundqvist has been a rock for the Rangers, night-in, night-out.
2007 Goals-against Average
1. Chris Osgood, Det, 1.97
2. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR, 2.03
3. Roberto Luongo, Van, 2.06
Defenseman of the Year: Nicklas Lidstrom, Det. Runner-up: Chris Pronger, Ana. The Red Wings captain continues to be the game’s closest thing to a perfect player. Pronger is one of its most dangerous, in a variety of ways.
2007 Plus/Minus for Defensemen
1. Chris Phillips, Ott, +41
2. Joe Corvo, Ott, +40
3. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det., +39
Team of the Year: Detroit. Runner-up: Anaheim. The Red Wings gave the Ducks all they could handle in last spring’s playoffs; the margin of victory for Anaheim was laser-thin. And the big red machine keeps on rolling this season.
2007 Team Points
1. Detroit, 117
2. Ottawa, 114
3. Vancouver, 108
Biting the Hand
When asked why he doesn't like to play in Toronto, Rangers' forward Sean Avery said, in part, it's "because I don't enjoy hockey-obsessed Canadians."
One point for honesty, minus-two points for myopia.
Sean, those hockey-obsessed Canadians are the ones driving this league financially right now. They're the ones primarily responsible for the increased revenues and steadily growing salary cap - and the outrageous paychecks you and your colleagues are banking.
Of course, when Avery makes controversial statements like this one, he fuels the passion/hatred, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
We'll give him another point for that.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.