While the Carolina Hurricanes 2009-10 NHL season fell short of the expectations we brought to the table back in October, that doesn’t meant there weren’t many bright spots for the players and fans this season. Canes Country thought we’d look back at some individuals whose performances were exemplary, and whose efforts and skill inspired us to keep watching. Using the traditional team and annual NHL Awards as a guide, Cory, Bob and I have each nominated a player from the Carolina roster for nine of these awards. Over the course of this week we have been asking you, our insightful readers, to vote for and tell us why you think one Hurricane player deserves our recognition for a job well done.
Saving the best for last, this is the final award of the series for the season.
The Hart Memorial Trophy
The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.
The Hart Memorial Trophy was presented by the National Hockey League in 1960 after the original Hart Trophy was retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The original Hart Trophy was donated to the NHL in 1923 by Dr. David A. Hart, father of Cecil Hart, former manager-coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
Who received the Hart over the last 3 years?
2009,2008: Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
2007: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
After the jump Bob, Cory and Hockeymom each make their nominations and tell why.
And the nominees are:
Bob nominates: Joni Pitkanen
|2009 - Joni Pitkanen||71||6||40||46||-11||72||1||0||1||0||161||3.7|
Again, this is a tough one, but I'm going to nominate Joni Pitkanen because when he was on, I think he might have been the single most important factor to the Canes winning. When he was off, the Canes struggled. And when he didn't play, the defense sometimes had trouble even doing the most basic things, like getting the puck out of their own zone.
Without him advancing the puck on the powerplay, more often than not the team did not seem to be able to get set up. (Case in point: against Boston in the last game of the season, the Canes allowed three shorties in one powerplay without him in the lineup).
The fact that he not only led his team with average ice time per game, but he led the entire league, is a huge factor that should not be ignored.
At first glance, he might not seem like Hart material, but he was a valuable cog to the team and the Canes had little chance of success this season in the games without him in the lineup. To me, that spells "MVP".
Cory Lavalette nominates: Eric Staal
|2009 - Eric Staal||70||29||41||70||4||68||13||0||5||0||277||10.5|
How, you say, can Staal be nominated for MVP? Easy — in a season in which he was injured for much of the year and criticized for not playing well enough when the team needed it most, the new captain still managed to average a point per game and lead the team in scoring. He was best of anyone who started and finished the season on the roster with a plus-4 and had a team-high 13 power-play goals — good for a tie for sixth in the entire NHL.
Did Staal live up to his $6 million salary this season? Maybe not, but the same could be said of many people up and down the Carolina roster. He emerged as Carolina's new captain with a new-found fire — and better health — and exhibited what kind of player he is.
Eric Staal leads the charge up the ice with Jussi Jokinen at his wing. (photo by LTD)
Hockeymomof2 nominates: Jussi Jokinen
|2009 - Jussi Jokinen||81||30||35||65||3||36||10||0||6||0||160||18.8|
At this point, if you've followed the Hurricanes this past season, you already understand why Jussi Jokinen earns this recognition. But let me wax poetic anyway. It seemed like whichever teammates Jokinen played on, that was the line putting "pucks in the back of the net". He played all but one game this season (remarkable in itself) and led the team in goals scored, and was second on the team for powerplay goals scored (look at that amazing shot percentage - he doesn't mess around). Beyond the stats, Jussi was the reliable consistent "glue" of the team, a confident veteran presence, but just turning 27 years old on April 1st, still had all the moves, energy and legs of the kids. His commitment, intelligence and versatility were invaluable for his coach, Paul Maurice, who had to react to a series of injuries by re-arranging his lines weekly.
Coach Paul Maurice: "There's guys that take it easy after their contract year," Maurice said. "[Jokinen] did the opposite." Maurice said Jokinen can play different positions without having to be reminded of the different systems in place for each position. He has played on all four lines since last season and has been used both to kill penalties and on the power play.
"Because of his intelligence level, he's a guy you can easily move around," Maurice said. (N&O). Speaking to the press before the game in Tampa, "He's been our most consistent performer all year offensively" (Audio from Canes)
Jokinen predictably found the most success when on the wing with franchise center Eric Staal who had these obervations about playing with Jussi:
"He finds those areas on the ice where he reads the play and can pick off passes and can hit you in holes to create chances. And in his own end, he's just smart." (N&O)
When the Canes were battling to stave off elimination, Jokinen notched 2 goals in a win over the Thrashers on March 29th in Atlanta. He was named the first star of the night at NHL.com, and I likewise embraced the mood with a piece called "I love Jussi!". After the game, he spoke of the task ahead for the Hurricanes to make the cut.
"We had a team meeting this morning and said we had to play harder," Jokinen said. "It's going to be an uphill climb for us. We are going to battle as long as we still have a chance" .
In a feature story in the News & Observer from April 6th, Javier Serna wrote:
Jokinen feels fortunate. "Hockey wise, I've had a really good time since getting traded here," Jokinen said. "I think it was just a matter of getting a chance and having an organization that believes in me." (N&O)
How about you: Do you believe in Jussi?
Finally, if you'd like to look back on the previous award posts from this week and see the results and/or vote (polls are still open) here are those links: