San Jose Sharks Award Candidates for 2013 NHL Season
San Jose rarely even places finalists for such awards, the last being Logan Couture for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2011. Jonathan Cheechoo did win the Rocket Richard for goals in the same year (2006) that Joe Thornton won both the Hart (MVP) and Art Ross (points) trophies, but that is rare.
Considering how few players from any one team would place as finalists for any award, this list broadens the field. It includes who is San Jose's best candidate for each award, whether he has any chance of getting the award or not.
Why that person deserves the team honour and whether they might be finalists or winners is noted for each.
There is no slide for the Jack Adams Trophy because only coach Todd McLellan could be considered, unless the Sharks are beginning a colossal collapse that could get him fired fast enough for a replacement to earn it. He will not win the award, either, as the player talent and new coaching support will get much of the credit.
There is also no slide for the Vezina because starting goalies do not lose their jobs easily. Antti Niemi is playing well and would continue to get chances through several bad games, leaving Thomas Greiss too little time to win the award in a competitive field.
A typical hot stretch fewer than 40 games for Niemi would be great for him in 2013. It could either cover the season and get him the Vezina or the playoffs and get him a Stanley Cup. If it has already started as his early play suggests, it may well run out in the first round. Look for him to be a finalist for the top goalie.
Lady Byng Award
The Lady Byng Award is handed out each year to the All-Star calibre skater who shows sportsmanship and stays out of the penalty box. The San Jose Sharks do not take a lot of penalties, but still, few players fit that description.
Patrick Marleau might normally fit the bill, but he has already taken as many penalties (four for eight minutes) as last year's winner, former Shark Brian Campbell. Joe Thornton has only one, but he has been known to get chippy with the opposition and chirpy with the referees.
The only other two candidates to consider are Joe Pavelski (two minors) and Logan Couture (one). Pavelski is slightly more physical and slightly less skilled, adding up to a noticeable disadvantage when competing with Couture for this particular award.
Even though he will not win it, Couture is the best bet to finish as a finalist.
There is no way that Matt Irwin wins the 2013 Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. There are too many good candidates, and although he may talented, he's not amazing.
Still, he will easily be the best rookie on the San Jose Sharks.
Nick Petrecki was sent down to the minors on a conditioning assignment after being hidden from handling the puck in his only NHL game. The only reason he got into that game was the Sharks had three defencemen unavailable.
While one is still out, he is expected to make his return some time this month. Thus, it would take two more injuries for Petrecki to even get on the ice again this season. Other rookies are unlikely to be called up, much less play.
Like many skilled, offensive-minded defencemen, Dan Boyle is perceived as being poor defensively. In reality, he is the most valuable player the San Jose Sharks have in their own end.
His puck-moving skills were sorely missed both times he was too sick to play. Lacking his skating on the back end, play continued in front of Antti Niemi to the tune of the Sharks being out-shot 62-44 in those two games, while averaging a 32.9 to 28.4 edge in the other eight games.
And not all of Boyle's value in his own end is skill. He was in the top 50 for blocked shots in 2011-12 and just 10 behind the No. 2 Sharks defenceman (Brent Burns) in hits. That is why he has been in the top 10 in ice time per game for two seasons in a row.
So far this year, he has two goals and five assists in eight games. All of that makes him the most likely Shark for the Norris, but with Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Ryan Sutter, Drew Doughty and other strong candidates, it is very unlikely he will even be a finalist.
The chances are much lower for anyone else. As a former All-Star, Burns has the ability but will miss at least one quarter of the season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is fantastic defensively and eats minutes, but he will need scoring to increase from his current career-high pace of four points per 10 games.
Rocket Richard Trophy
There will be no finalists for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy since it is not decided by a vote but by goals scored. But Patrick Marleau will be on the short list and probably be a finalist for most of the offensive awards.
Marleau scored two goals in each of his first four games and his ninth of the season in the fifth game. He then went without a goal in the next six games. That is his nature, as no scoring-line forward had as many scoreless streaks of at least four games as he did in 2011-12.
If his scoring has evened out, he will win this award easily with 37 goals. Chances are, he will never be that hot again but will have similar cold streaks. He probably also has a hat trick on the horizon.
Marleau has not had a season with fewer than 30 goals since 2007-08, but anyone will be hard-pressed to reach that plateau in 48 games. Right now, Marleau and seven other players with at least six goals are on pace to reach that mark.
It is likely someone will, but no one player is a good bet. If it is not Marleau on the Sharks, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski (six goals apiece) are long shots. Anyone else will be lucky to reach 20 goals.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
The Frank J. Selke Trophy does not go to the best defensive forward. Much like Major League Baseball's Gold Glove, it goes to the offensive player that plays best in his own end.
In other words, one must be a two-way forward to win this award. For the San Jose Sharks, that is Joe Pavelski. He has six goals and 14 points in his first 13 games while winning about seven faceoffs for every six he loses.
He should have been a finalist over David Backes last season. Hits are overrated, and Pavelski led all San Jose forwards in ice time because he finished in their top four in goals, assists, blocks, takeaways and faceoffs.
League wide, he finished sixth among forwards in blocks, 10th in takeaways and third in faceoff percentage among those averaging 10 draws per game their team played. That is why only nine forwards had more ice time.
Logan Couture and Joe Thornton are also excellent defenders, and they are actually ahead of Pavelski in most categories right now. Any of the three could be a Selke finalist, and it is not unlikely that one of the them will, but it's doubtful anyone will win it.
Art Ross Trophy
The Art Ross Trophy goes to the top scorer in the NHL each year. Because it is awarded based on that statistic rather than votes, there will not technically be any finalists. But the San Jose Sharks have a chance of having at least one player finish in the running for it.
There winner usually always finishes with more assists than goals scored, so the winner is often a playmaker. Joe Thornton won the award in 2006, racking up 125 points between the Boston Bruins and Sharks.
Since that time, between 104 and 120 points has been sufficient—the equivalent of about 60 to 70 points for this lockout-shortened season. Right now, Thornton and Patrick Marleau are tied with 15 points in 13 games—a pace for 56 points. Joe Pavelski has 14 points and Logan Couture 11; no one else has much of a chance.
As the best passer on the team, no Shark has as good a chance of winning this as Thornton. However, with 10 players having either more points or having 15 in fewer games, odds are against anyone finishing in the top three, much less winning it.
Hart Trophy and Lester Pearson Award
Both the Hart Trophy and the Lester Pearson Award go to the most valuable player in the NHL. While the Pearson is voted on by a player's peers, the Hart (voted on by the Associated Press) carries higher prestige. They are often both won by the same player, and obviously, the same players contend for both.
Joe Thornton won the Hart the season he was traded to the San Jose Sharks. He is currently among the scoring leaders and tied for the team lead with 15 points—near the pace he had in 2005-06.
He is also much better defensively now. While that does not have the impact of scoring, it does get additional respect.
Then again, the Sharks have two other two-way forwards who could challenge their captain for scoring leads. They even have advantages since many of Thornton's points will be via assists.
It is unlikely Joe Pavelski will make the jump ahead of a previous winner responsible for setting him up. But if the second line performs almost as well as the first, Logan Couture—among the brightest developing stars—would get more credit for carrying a weaker line.
Odds are against anyone finishing as a finalist, but Thornton has a decent chance to be there for one of the trophies.
MJ Kasprzak is a current featured columnist and the original community leader for the San Jose Sharks and Green Bay Packers (before becoming a shareholder) for Bleacher Report. You can see MJ's paid material for San Jose Sharks and SF Christian Examiner.
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