The 2015/16 NHL regular season is at its halfway point and members of ‘Leafs Nation’ along with the players on our beloved team have endured full pain to this point and then some. Although, there are some bright spots, such as the Marlies looking down at the rest of the AHL and the great play of our prospects from the CHL, to the United States and Europe.
One thing us hockey fans certainly like to do is predict the NHL award winners at any point during the season before they are announced. Since we’ve been through so much pain at this point into the year, I wanted to have a little fun by giving out halfway awards to our Maple Leafs! These awards will be solely based on what I’ve seen and a couple of basic numbers from the midway point of the season.
Note: I will only be giving out awards for trophies that make sense. For example, I won’t be giving out the Jack Adams because we all know DJ Smith is the clear-cut winner.
Here we go:
Ted Lindsay Award – Dion Phaneuf
In this case, the NHLPA would be the Maple Leafs team, coaches and executive staff. Make fun of the guy all you want. I know he may not have as many fans as he used to (I’m still not a fan) but I truly believe that if there was a vote amongst members of the organization to determine this team’s most outstanding player to this point, the winner would be our captain. Lou and Babcock have had a lot of positives to say about Phaneuf and he’s quietly been a lot better this year than previous years, in my opinion. No matter how much heat he takes from media and fans, he goes out there and plays hard. Many people will say “It’s the Babcock effect.” While Babcock has been able to get the best out of most of this group of players, in the end, the players are on the ice performing. Hey, remember that time we were all excited when Burke announced that he acquired Phaneuf from Calgary? You were, don’t lie.
Honourable mentions – Leo Komarov, Nazem Kadri
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy – Joffrey Lupul
You can make fun of Lupul getting hurt all you want, one thing is for sure, he cares and he returns as soon as he can from his injuries. Certainly not the same player he was in the past from a production standpoint, but I give the guy credit for getting back out there and playing. Not an easy thing to do at his age when injuries start adding up.
Honourable mentions: James Reimer
Frank J. Selke Trophy – Nazem Kadri
This was kind of a tough one to be honest. Babcock has gotten a lot of the forwards committed to the defensive side of the game. Kadri has done a good job so far this season, logging bigger minutes and playing against the other team’s top lines effectively. Much improved defensively.
Honourable metions: Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov.
Calder Memorial Trophy – Byron Froese
He’s the only rookie thus far that’s played almost the same amount of games as the opening night roster. He’s played well consistently and leaves it out there every shift. Gets rocked? Gets right back out there. Plus Babcock seems to like the kid too. With that being said, there aren’t many rookies on the roster right now but I’ll give this to him anyway.
Honourable mentions: Garret Sparks
Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy – Leo Komarov
Not much to say about this one, playing with a skilled center in Kadri and then JVR now Grabner on the top line is resulting in Leo excelling. He is showing us a different side of his game and winning the Rocket Richard trophy at the halfway point. So, how about that bad contract he has?
Art Ross Trophy – James Van Riemsdyk
Not much to say about this one either. Top line minutes and power play time for a talented power forward like JVR, it’s assumed that he would lead the team in points. With a recently sustained injury, I’d like to wish JVR all the best in his recovery!
James Norris Memorial Trophy – Morgan Rielly
This one was close between Rielly and Phaneuf but Rielly takes the award. He has taken a big step in his game under Babcock and has been able to slowly adapt to the heavier workload and responsibilities given to him. He has the production to back up his play as well. He’s certainly a special player and we are slowly starting to see why.
Honourable mentions: Dion Phaneuf, Matt Hunwick.
Vezina Trophy – James Reimer
At the beginning of the year, everyone’s guess was that Bernier was going to be our starting goalie and for good reason. But then Bernier struggled and couldn’t quite find his mojo. Not playing up to par and injuries forced Babcock to turn towards James Reimer for a solid period of time and he certainly ran with the opportunity. Rookie Garret Sparks also had the opportunity to give Coach Babcock something to think about which he certainly did. Reimer wins the award at the halfway point but let’s not count out Bernier for the 2nd half of the season to take back the starting spot.
Honourable mentions: Garret Sparks, Jonathan Bernier (Credit to him for bouncing back).
Hart Memorial Trophy – Nazem Kadri
The teams MVP. I know this pick will get mixed reviews. There are some who enjoy Kadri’s game under Babcock and some who think it’s pretend just so he can sign the contract he wants in the off season. Personally, I never disliked Kadri but was never a huge fan, I was neutral. There are a few other players I can give the award to but there’s no doubt that Naz is the player I think has stepped up the most under Babcock. Are we finally seeing the Kadri we hoped for when drafted 7th overall? I think we might be. Does he get the John Tavares contract? Only time will tell.
Honourable mentions: Leo Komarov, Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk, Dion Phaneuf.
Well, there you have it. Those are my picks if the Leafs held an NHL award ceremony for the halfway point of the season. Some basic numbers and my viewings. Anyway, enough about my thoughts, what do you guys think? What are some of your picks? I’d love to hear them!
As always, thanks for reading!