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It's time to recognize top performers at halfway mark of NHL season

Chicago's Patrick Kane gets the nod for most valuable player, Ottawa's Craig Anderson for best goaltender and Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau for best rookie, among others.

March 11, 2013|Helene Elliott
  • Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks have left most of their opponents flattened this season.
Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks have left most of their opponents… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)

The Chicago Blackhawks were the big story as the NHL reached the halfway point of its lockout-shortened schedule, but many other excellent performances deserve recognition. Here are some.

Halfway coach of the year: Joel Quenneville, Chicago. 21-0-3 isn't a fluke. Honorable mention: Bruce Boudreau, deftly juggling personnel for the No. 2-ranked Ducks; Paul MacLean, keeping injury-ravaged Ottawa in a playoff spot; Michel Therrien, reviving the Montreal Canadiens while under intense scrutiny.

Halfway most valuable player: Patrick Kane, Chicago. His scoring is timely and prolific (14 goals, 30 points in 26 games). Close runner-up: Sidney Crosby, dominant again with an NHL-best 45 points in 26 games for Pittsburgh. Honorable mention: Steven Stamkos, second to Crosby with 37 points in 25 games for non-contending Tampa Bay.

Halfway Vezina Trophy (best goaltender): Craig Anderson, Ottawa. He sprained his ankle Feb. 21 but is still tops in goals-against average (1.49) and save percentage (.952). Runners-up: Corey Crawford, solid for Chicago; Ducks rookie Viktor Fasth, who started 8-0-0 and is among the leaders with a 1.92 goals-against average and .929 save percentage; and San Jose's Antti Niemi, a stalwart in an inconsistent team.

Halfway rookie of the year: Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida. The dynamic center leads his class with 12 goals. Runners-up: Tampa Bay center Cory Conacher, with a rookie-best 20 points, Montreal winger Brendan Gallagher and Edmonton winger Nail Yakupov.

Halfway Norris Trophy (top defenseman): Toss-up between Kris Letang of Pittsburgh (26 points, +10 in 23 games) and bruiser Niklas Kronwall of Detroit. Letang has more finesse and ice time (26:09 versus 24:05), but Kronwall is physical and has lifted his game since Nicklas Lidstrom retired. Kudos to Minnesota's Ryan Suter, who averages more than 27 minutes per game and is getting stronger.

California dreaming

John Collins, the NHL's chief operating officer and driving force behind the Winter Classic, and Don Renzulli, the league's senior vice president of events, were in Los Angeles last week to talk with Kings executives about possibly staging an outdoor game in the city next year.

The league's portable rink and refrigeration equipment can be set up in a warm climate, but Commissioner Gary Bettman has rejected the idea because he prefers an atmosphere of wintry charm. Other NHL executives are open to the idea of playing amid palm trees, believing the novelty would ignite interest for the teams, the area and grass-roots growth.

Dodger Stadium is the likely site, but the Rose Bowl and Coliseum could figure in. The game would be played just before the NHL breaks for the Winter Olympics, assuming NHL players will participate.

It's all still very tentative and no one's talking publicly, but it's an intriguing prospect and clever variation on a great concept.

By the numbers

Two questions emerged after Ryan Getzlaf signed an eight-year, $66-million extension with the Ducks.

How did they get an $8.25-million average? And what does it mean for Ducks right wing Corey Perry, who's headed toward free agency this summer?

The first is easier. Both sides used as a comparison the seven-year, $57.75-million extension Eric Staal signed with Carolina in September 2008. The careers of Staal and Getzlaf have many parallels: Both were drafted in 2003, won a Stanley Cup title and Olympic gold medal before signing a big extension, and each is a No. 1 center and team captain. Before Staal signed, he averaged .88 points per regular-season game and one point per playoff game; Getzlaf was at .93 and .85, respectively.

Perry's status is more complicated. The Ducks are trying to sign him and must determine before the April 3 trading deadline whether to hold on to him for a Cup run and hope he stays, or trade him for a large return.

"The Getzlaf signing doesn't really have a significant effect on the Perry negotiation other than the fact that it creates some certainty that should Corey sign, he knows now that his center will be there, and that is obviously a positive for him," Perry's agent, Mark Guy of Newports Sports Management, said Sunday. "I can't really say much else at this time."

Slap shots

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was set to visit Sochi, Russia, this week to discuss players' possible Olympic participation. "I would hope to be in a position where this is resolved one way or the other by the end of this month," he told ... The Kings' visit to the White House to be honored for their championship is preliminarily set for March 26 or 27. ... The NHL's decision to have the Board of Governors vote via fax on proposed realignment for next season indicates it expects overwhelming approval. Voting was to begin Monday and take a couple of days.

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