Pittsburgh Penguins\' Sidney Crosby (87) skates. (Cpimages /AP/Gene J. Puskar)
But who could argue otherwise. Sidney Crosby has raised his game to another level in his sophomore season and was atop the scoring leaders as the NHL hit its official halfway mark Friday. The Pittsburgh centre carried 61 points (19-42) into Friday night's game at Buffalo. He was on pace for 136 points - which would be the highest output since his Penguins Mario Lemieux had 161 in 1995-96.
And he's only 19.
"It's funny, because I was looking at the scoring leaders this morning in the paper," retired Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau said Friday. "He's ahead of guys likes Jagr, Sakic, all the great players in the league. It's only his second year in the league and I'm thinking to myself, 'Is this actually happening?'
"For a player at a such a young age to really start dominating like that is remarkable and amazing."
CP writers Neil Stevens, Bill Beacon, Jim Morris, Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston put their heads together and handed out the halfway hardware Friday:
Hart Trophy (MVP): Crosby got four of the five votes, with Anaheim defenceman Chris Pronger also getting one. Honourable mention, aside from Pronger, also goes to Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Atlanta's Marian Hossa.
But really, where would the Penguins be without Crosby? When he's not on the scoresheet, the Penguins don't win. Can't be much more valuable than that.
Vezina Trophy (Top goalie) : Two-time winner Martin Brodeur was a unanimous choice, getting all five votes. He's got the low-scoring Devils winning games thanks to his stellar goaltending. He's second in goals-against average at 2.13, third in save percentage at .925 and most importantly, tied for first in wins at 23.
Honourable mention to Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Detroit's Dominik Hasek, Montreal's Cristobal Huet and Buffalo's Ryan Miller.
Jack Adams Award (Coach of the year): Detroit's Mike Babcock got the nod, receiving three of the five votes. The Red Wings are contending despite the off-season losses of Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan and Babcock's coaching is a major factor.
Montreal's Guy Carbonneau and Anaheim's Randy Carlyle also got votes and they make strong cases as well, the Canadiens overachieving this season thanks in part to their excellent special teams. And why should Carlyle be penalized because his team is in first place?
Nashville's Barry Trotz, Atlanta's Bob Hartley and last year's winner, Lindy Ruff of Buffalo, get honourable mentions.
Norris Trophy (Top defenceman): Pronger was nearly the unanimous choice, getting four votes with four-time Norris winner Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit getting the other. Before suffering a broken foot during the holidays, Pronger was putting together a superb campaign. He still leads all NHL defencemen with 40 points (7-33) in 41 games while sporting a plus-21 rating.
An honourable mention also goes to Ducks teammate Scott Niedermayer.
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the year): Credit Los Angeles centre Anze Kopitar for at least making it a race and not a one-man show but Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin was the unanimous choice. No rookie has had this kind of impact in the first half of the season.
The 20-year-old Russian centre had 37 points (18-19) before Friday's game at Buffalo, which was only his 35th game of the season. Kopitar is second in the rookie race with 35 points (11-24) in 42 games.
Honourable mention to Colorado forwards Wojtek Wolski and Paul Stastny as well as Ducks forward Dustin Penner.
Biggest surprise (team): Atlanta and Chicago were the popular picks. The Thrashers are second in the Eastern Conference despite not having a true No. 1 centre or a great blue-line. But Hossa as well as fellow forwards Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk and goalie Kari Lehtonen have been the difference. The Blackhawks are back in the playoff hunt after a horrible start. New coach Denis Savard has re-energized the team.
Biggest surprise (player): A real hodgepodge here but we single out Detroit forward Daniel Cleary, Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa as well as oldies but goldies: Hasek and winger Brendan Shanahan of the Rangers.
Biggest disappointment (team): The last-place Philadelphia Flyers were the unanimous choice. They were seen by many before the season as a lock for the playoffs but have completely fallen apart this season.
But the defending champion Carolina Hurricanes can't be too happy with their first half even though they sat in a playoff spot, seventh in the Eastern Conference, at the halfway mark.
"I'm disappointed, even with the fact that we had to play through several injuries," Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said Friday. "We've given away some points. But we've still positioned ourselves fine for the second half, if we can get healthy and get back to 100 per cent for the start of the playoffs, I think our team is in there with the good teams and the contending teams."
Biggest disappointment (player): Los Angeles Kings goalie Dan Cloutier got two votes. This was supposed to be his bounceback season but he's been terrible.
Canucks captain Markus Naslund, Tampa goalie Marc Denis and Flyers winger Kyle Calder also got votes.