Dan Boyle has been a big reason why the Sharks lead the Western Conference standings. (Photo by Mark Samala)
Around this time of year, you hear lots of debate regarding which NHL player is most valuable to his team. But you never hear much about the players on each team who also would be missed mightily if they were employed elsewhere.
With that in mind, Screen Shots is happy to present the first (perhaps) annual NMVP – Next Most Valuable Player – Awards for each of the league’s 30 teams. (For the sake of space and scrolling, we’ve already done the Eastern Conference last week; that story can be found HERE.
MVP: Corey Perry
NMVP Contenders: Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Pronger, Bobby Ryan, Jonas Hiller
NMVP Winner: Jonas Hiller
Why? There are cases to be made for all the NMVP runners-up in Anaheim and you might be able to persuade some folks Scott Niedermayer deserves honorary mention as well. But I won’t be among the persuaded; Hiller became the Ducks’ go-to goalie in March and hasn’t disappointed (a 6-2-0 record and .934 save percentage). Without him, Anaheim isn’t anywhere near the playoff race.
MVP: Jarome Iginla
NMVP Contenders: Miikka Kiprusoff, Robyn Regehr, Mike Cammalleri
NMVP Winner: Robyn Regehr
Why? I concede that no NHL team has relied more on a single goaltender this year than the Flames have relied on Kiprusoff. I’ll also concede Cammalleri leads the team in goals and game-winning goals this season. However, neither waterboarding nor Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth could make me claim Regehr is anything other than the backbone of Calgary’s defense and, thanks to his cool demeanor, the chief steadier of the Flames’ ship.
MVP: Jonathan Toews
NMVP Contenders: Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Nikolai Khabibulin
NMVP Winner: Duncan Keith
Why? Kane may be the centerpiece of the team’s marketing campaign and Mr. Razzle-Dazzle on the ice, but as evidenced by his minus-8 rating, he’s not close to a complete player yet. Khabibulin is playing very well in his contract year (surprise, surprise). But Keith plays more minutes than any other member of the Hawks roster – and his plus-29 rating is seven higher than the next-best Chicago player.
MVP: Ryan Smyth
NMVP Contenders: Milan Hejduk, Wojtek Wolski, Paul Stastny
NMVP Winner: Paul Stastny
Why? It is a measure of the Avs’ woes this year that it was difficult enough for me to pick an MVP, let alone a NMVP. Hejduk is tied with Smyth for Colorado’s goal-scoring lead, but he also is tied with John-Michael Lilies for the worst plus-minus rating (minus-21) on the team. The 23-year-old Wolski has been a shootout wizard this season, but hasn’t been nearly as dominant whenever it’s been more than him and the opposition’s goalie on the ice. So by default, the nod here goes to Stastny; he clearly is the team’s best young player and the Avs were 11-21-0 this year when he’s been out of the lineup nursing injuries.
MVP: Steve Mason
NMVP Contenders: Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Jan Hejda
NMVP Winner: Rick Nash
Why? Umberger undoubtedly added some much-needed physicality to the Blue Jackets’ lineup and leads Columbus with nine goals on their otherwise putrid power play. Hejda has been the most reliable member of their defense corps. Nevertheless, Nash, the organization’s longest-tenured star, is tops on the Jackets in goals, assists and points. If that’s not enough proof, let him walk away as an unrestricted free agent next summer and then tell me they can make the playoffs without him.
MVP: Brad Richards
NMVP Contenders: Loui Eriksson, James Neal, Brenden Morrow, Sergei Zubov
NMVP Winner: (tie) Brenden Morrow, Sergei Zubov
Why? Both Eriksson and Neal have had breakout seasons for Dallas. But the veterans win out here for the same reason Richards got my MVP vote: their prolonged absence demonstrated just how much the Stars need them to make the playoffs.
MVP: Pavel Datsyuk
NMVP Contenders: Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa
NMVP Winner: Nicklas Lidstrom
Why? Oh, I don’t know – perhaps because (a) Lidstrom is the greatest European player ever to lace up skates in the NHL; (b) because he also is one of the top-five blueliners in league history; and (c) because even at age 38, he still plays the most minutes and has the best plus-minus rating of any Wings defenseman.
MVP: Ales Hemsky
NMVP Contenders: Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov
NMVP Winner: Sheldon Souray
Why? Notice anything about the three contenders here? Notice they all play the same position? That says a lot about Edmonton’s many disappointing forwards this season. But in fairness, Souray has made Oilers fans realize why the team invested five years and $27 million in the veteran D-man in the summer of 2007.
MVP: Anze Kopitar
NMVP Contenders: Kyle Quincey, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown
NMVP Winner: Drew Doughty
Why? Brown leads the Kings in game-winning goals this season and continues to show why he’ll be a major component of the team’s future for years to come, while Quincey, a waiver-wire pickup from Detroit, was an unexpected revelation on the blueline. Nevertheless, Doughty showed extraordinary poise in his rookie season and already tops all Los Angeles skaters in average minutes per game. Steve Mason will deny him the Calder Trophy, but at the risk of sounding like that kooky pseudo-psychic Miss Cleo, I see a lot of hardware in Doughty’s future, mon.
MVP: Niklas Backstrom
NMVP Contenders: Mikko Koivu, Owen Nolan
NMVP Winner: Mikko Koivu
Why? That a greybeard such as Nolan even merits consideration as the Wild’s MVP tells you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s spiraling season. Koivu finally has eclipsed brother Saku in terms of talent trajectory – now how much better can he be?
MVP: Shea Weber
NMVP Contenders: Pekka Rinne, Jason Arnott, J-P Dumont, Ryan Suter
NMVP Winner: Pekka Rinne
Why? Rinne is another rookie who’s going to get hosed by the Steve Mason publicity express, so let’s give him some credit here. The goalie doesn’t have Arnott’s reputation as a consistent menace, but if he continues to post save percentages above .920 and goals-against averages below 2.30, the ‘menace’ tag won’t be far off at all.
MVP: Shane Doan
NMVP Contenders: Steven Reinprecht, Peter Mueller, Ed Jovanovski
NMVP Winner: Peter Mueller
Why? Reinprecht and Jovanovski are the two Coyotes veterans who’ve disappointed the least this season. Although Mueller hasn’t produced the way he did in his rookie campaign last year, he’s also had to deal with concussion after-effects. He and Mikkel “Baby-Face” Boedker represent Phoenix’s best hope for the future.
MVP: Joe Thornton
NMVP Contenders: Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Rob Blake
NMVP Winner: Dan Boyle
Why? This NMVP race ranks up there with Washington’s and Vancouver’s as the toughest to decide. Does Marleau’s team-best 10 game-winning goals and most minutes averaged by a Sharks forward give him the edge? Should the NMVP go to old man Blake and his team-leading plus-20? Sorry gents, but I don’t think so. Considering the severity of Boyle’s injury with Tampa Bay last year and the manner with which he was disposed of by the Lightning’s new ownership, his all-around stellar performance on San Jose’s blueline is nothing short of astonishing.
MVP: Chris Mason
NMVP Contenders: Brad Boyes, Patrik Berglund, David Backes
NMVP Winner: Brad Boyes
Why? Backes’ career offensive year and Berglund’s impressive rookie showing – as well as Boyes’ horrendous (and team-worst) minus-21 make this race closer than it should’ve been. In the end, Boyes’ many team-best numbers (goals-scored, points, power play goals and game-winning goals) were the deciding factor.
MVP: Roberto Luongo
NMVP Contenders: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Willie Mitchell
NMVP Winner: Willie Mitchell
Why? Granted, the Sedins have been phenomenal for Vancouver all year long. And granted, without Kesler’s grit and special teams contributions, the Canucks would be on the post-season bubble. But I value Mitchell’s pugnacity, minute-munching ability and team-leading plus-31 above all else.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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