Cullen: Midseason NHL award winners

Scott Cullen
3/11/2013 3:10:23 PM
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As we pass the halfway mark of the NHL season, Scott Cullen updates his award winners to this point of the season. It's been a banner season for Sidney Crosby, who is scoring at the highest points-per-game clip of his career.

Winner: Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh
Runners-up: Eric Staal, C, Carolina; Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim
Comment: That Crosby is playing as well as he is shouldn't come as any surprise, but given the number of games he's missed in recent seasons, it's probably an even better story than it would be otherwise. After five assists against the Islanders Sunday, he's putting up a career-high 1.73 points per game and doing it with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis on his wings. No offence to two solid pros, but Kunitz's 61 points last season stands as the high-water mark for both of their careers.

Staal is putting up the best numbers of his career, including 30 points in 24 games and a plus-19 which already ranks as a career-high. It would be entirely reasonable to include Steven Stamkos in this discussion too, because it is hardly his fault that the Lightning are struggling. Stamkos has padded his numbers a little bit against the Southeast Division, scoring 14 points in eight divisional games (1.75 per game), compared to 23 in 17 (1.35 per game) against the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Using those few things against Stamkos opens the door for Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, who routinely gets outshot when he's on the ice, but has a career-high shooting percentage (17.9%) as well as, like Staal and Crosby, a high on-ice shooting percentage, which doesn't have to be a bad thing. For elite playmakers, that's some evidence that they are generating quality scoring chances.

Winner: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh
Runners-up: P.K. Subban, Montreal; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phoenix
Comment: With Erik Karlsson getting injured, this award goes up for grabs and Letang is not only pulling away in the defence scoring race, but he's also scored 20 of his 26 points at even strength.

The field gets pretty open, though. P.K. Subban has been great for Montreal since his contract stalemate ended five games into the season, so he gets consideration here and Oliver Ekman-Larsson faces the opposition's best night after night and has been a factor at both ends of the ice while playing more than 25 minutes per game.

A surprise candidate, based on the numbers, could be Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin, who has 16 points and is plus-17 through 24 games. Over an 82-game season, those numbers would be on pace for 55 points and a plus-58 rating, which would be awfully difficult to ignore. The Blues' tandem of Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo are lurking out there and Nashville's Shea Weber has been coming on after a slow start to the year.

Winner: Craig Anderson, Ottawa
Runners-up: Antti Niemi, San Jose; Tuukka Rask, Boston
Comment: Anderson remains the top option only because goaltenders don't play every game anyway, so his 15 games played is just about the minimum percentage that would be realistically required to contend and with off-the-charts numbers (1.49 GAA, .952 SV%) he's still the one to beat.

Niemi wouldn't have been a preseason choice to contend for this award, but his .932 save percentage is the second best in the league. Rask gets the nod over Kari Lehtonen, Corey Crawford, Henrik Lundqvist and others but, to this point, Anderson is the one that stands out from the group. The rest? They could change dramatically from one week to the next.

Winner: Brendan Gallagher, RW, Montreal
Runners-up: Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Florida; Jonas Brodin, D, Minnesota

Gallagher ranks third among rookies, with 15 points, but leads rookie forwards at plus-9 (Kings D Jake Muzzin is plus-10) and has forced his way into a bigger role with the Canadiens. That's good enough to be head of this class at the midway point.

Huberdeau has 12 goals, five more than any other rookie, and is the brightest light in an otherwise dismal season for the Panthers.

It's not often that a defenceman with three assists and a minus-2 rating in 21 games would warrant consideration for a major award, but the Wild's Jonas Brodin is a rare commodity. The 19-year-old is playing more than 22 minutes per game (Other teen defencemen to play as much per game since 2000? Tyler Myers, Drew Doughty, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Cam Fowler and Justin Faulk.) and is doing it matched up against the opposition's best forwards.

There's plenty of room for change over the second half. Vladimir Tarasenko got off to a tremendous start for St. Louis, but a concussion put the brakes on his Calder campaign. Cory Conacher leads all rookies with 20 points in 25 games. Gallagher's teammate Alex Galchenyuk, Bruins defenceman Dougie Hamilton and Oilers duo of Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov may all be heard from before this race wraps up.

Winner: Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston
Runners-up: Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit; Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago.
Comment: Using to look at strength of opposition, zone starts and shot differential, we can see who is doing the heavy lifting. Bergeron is such a solid two-way player that he's a perennial favourite.

Datsyuk and Toews are strong two-way centres and, like Bergeron, their teams tend to have the puck so frequently that it makes playing defence an easier chore, but part of the reason that the Red Wings and Blackhawks have the puck so often is the dogged determination with which Datsyuk and Toews pursue it and they consistently face hard matchups.

There are many others deserving of consideration, including David Backes, Sean Couturier and Jordan Staal. I could listen to arguments for Columbus' Brandon Dubinsky, who drives the play away from Columbus' net, just not enough for the subpar goaltending that he's experienced.

Winner: Joel Quenneville, Chicago
Runners-up: Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim, Michel Therrien, Montreal
Comment: Through the first quarter it seemed preposterous to try and gauge which coaches were getting the best results, but it does seem a little clearer at the midway juncture. It's hard to argue against Quenneville, since his team hadn't lost in regulation until the second half of the season. No matter how talented a team is, getting them to bring it night after night is still a challenge.

Anaheim's Bruce Boudreau may be riding fortunate percentages (Anaheim gives up more shots than they generate) to this point, but expectations were minimal coming into the year and the Ducks are closing the gap on Chicago for top spot overall.

Leading the Eastern Conference in total points (as opposed to points per game), Montreal is another team exceeding preseason expectations and Therrien's Habs are fifth in the league in shot differential, so there is at least some reason to believe that their success can continue.

Ottawa is hanging around playoff position, despite devastating injuries, so Paul MacLean deserves consideration too.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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