Having reached the halfway point of the season, now seems a good time to reflect on its first half, and to forecast who might be in line for a year-end trophy. In this post, PITB takes a look at the four major awards, and the leading potential recipients for each.
Unsung Hero: Jannik Hansen
Has anybody surprised more this season than Jannik Hansen? Not even a lock to make the team, Hansen has established himself as a staple of the Canucks' forward corps, regardless of who he plays with. Hansen has seen time and success on all four lines, and he's seemingly been everywhere at the right time. Remember when the Canucks' third line put up 13 points in four games in late October? Hansen was on that line then. Kesler's eight-game points streak? Hansen was on his wing. Now the fourth line is beginning to make waves. Guess where Hansen's spending a lot of his time?
Hansen is first among Canuck forwards in hits, fourth in team takeaways, and first among wingers in shorthanded time on ice. Apart from the Selke-quality centers, he's the Canucks' best defensive forward, and his ability to force opponents into coughing up the puck is nearly as good as scoring regularly. It just doesn't show up on the statsheet in the same way.
Hansen has managed to make himself invaluable to the team in spite of his inconsistent offense, and even his hands are beginning to show signs of life (like Devon Sawa's hands). He goes into the second half of the season with only 5 goals and 8 assists, but he brings so much else to the table apart that any points he accrues will only be a bonus. That's a great position to be in.
Best Defenceman: Alex Edler
Skeeter's right when he says that the Canucks don't really have a number one defenseman, but if they had to rank their top four, Alex Edler would top the list. Though he's not quite there yet, he looks to be establishing himself as a bonafide number one. And, though he only averages one measly shift a game more than the other top three guys, it's enough to make him the official big-minute guy.
He's got the all-around potential of a top guy already; Edler's the most complete defender the Canucks have had in a long, long time. He can skate, he can pass, he can block shots (a team-leading 71), he can jump into a rush, he can quarterback a power play, and he can hit (66, good for third on the team). And while some guys might outdo him in one or two categories, he's certainly the best overall.
He's also leading the defense in points. With 25 at the halfway mark, Edler could conceivably hit 50. He'd be the first Canuck to do it since Jyrki Lumme in 1996.
Most Exciting Player: Ryan Kesler
This might be the only one that isn't even remotely contentious. Ryan Kesler has been remarkable this season, skating and shooting with speed, strength, speed and confidence. And did we mention speed? Kesler flies through the neutral zone with reckless disregard for his own body, gaining the zone with ease and absorbing hits just to make plays. Nobody is more exciting at full speed, save maybe Sonic the Hedgehog and Marty McFly.
Kesler's wrist shot has also become lethal. On more than one occasion, he's blown it by a goaltender who saw it cleanly and simply couldn't stop it. During his eight-game points streak, Kesler could seemingly score from anywhere. Nobody got the crowd more excited when they touched the puck. This one's a no-brainer.
Most Valuable Player: Daniel Sedin
The Canucks' MVP this season is most certainly one of their top three scorers. With Henrik and Daniel Sedin in 3rd and 4th in NHL scoring, and Ryan Kesler now at a point per game pace as well, there's really no question that nobody else is as valuable as this trio. The question is: who's the most valuable?
Well, Henrik Sedin is the captain. He's the reigning Art Ross and Hart trophy winner and he's having a season that might be better than the one that got him his hardware. Meanwhile, Ryan Kesler is having what some might say is his third consecutive breakout season--first, as a scorer, then as a scoring center, and now as a superstar at the position. Puck Daddy named him the Canucks MVP. John Buccigross called him the best player in the Western Conference. How do you go against either of these guys?
Be Daniel Sedin. Look at his accomplishments. Only two guys in the league have more goals, and their last names are Crosby and Stamkos. That's elite company, and Daniel is an elite goal-scorer. This team lives and dies with the Sedins, and while Henrik is the setup man, Daniel's the finisher, the guy that's got 25 goals--13 of them the first Canuck goal of the game. He's on pace for 50, a landmark even Markus Naslund never reached. And while Henrik jokes that, if he were setting himself up, he'd have 24 too, the truth is that Daniel is insanely skilled and almost never misses a decent scoring opportunity. Nobody finishes a Henrik Sedin setup as beautifully as Daniel Sedin, and when you're the triggerman on the most potent tandem in hockey, you deserve a little love.
Not to mention Daniel never wins anything.
Do you disagree with my choices? I wait for you, in the comments, ready to fight.