It's about that time of year again; the time to look back on the NHL season that was and give credit to those who stood out among their peers and excelled at a certain aspect of the game.
You've got to give credit where credit is due, and as the regular season comes to an end, the talk will not only be about playoffs but about the players who deserve an award for their season-long performance.
The only problem is that the NHL Awards show is about as exciting as an all-male pillow fight or a Boston Bruins goal scoring race.
It's always enjoyable to watch the league's best collect some much-deserved hardware while listening to Ron Maclean's one liners, but it's widely considered the most boring night in hockey.
And that’s a bold statement since there are 82 Minnesota Wild games every season.
The main dilemma is that it occurs during a two-hour snooze fest riddled with NHL legends struggling through their lines on the teleprompter, D-list performers providing the musical entertainment, and a slew of award winners thanking their fathers for making that rink in their backyard when they were 12.
At least Alex Ovechkin can speak English this year.
But we are not here today to commemorate those who stole the spotlight this season. No, those players already have their night to awkwardly stand on stage struggling with chafing in their rented tuxedos; this is all about the guys who have stood out in the categories that aren't recognized by the NHL.
So without further ado, I give to you the second annual NHL's Best (But Not Really) of 2009-2010.
It's just a shame we will have to wait until the actual NHL Awards before we can cringe through another Luc Robitaille award presentation speech.
The How to Kill Your Own Goalie Award:
This award is pretty self-explanatory, and goes to the player who best shows the ability to nearly end the life of his own goaltender.
On Nov. 30, 2009, in a game that saw the Ottawa Senators visiting the Florida Panthers, the hockey world was witness to one of the most ridiculous blunders we’ve ever seen.
You know the one. And because of the stick-swinging incident that will live in the minds of fans forever, this award goes to Keith Ballard for his actions after his team allowed a goal.
After disappointment swept through the defenseman, he decided that the goal was in fact the fault of his stick, and it deserved to be shattered in a dramatic display of anger. The only problem was that as his stick-turned-torpedo swung towards the post, Thomas Vokun’s face intercepted.
The connection was shocking, and after Vokun’s body fell limp to the ice and was eventually rolled off on a stretcher everyone was still in disbelief that Ballard actually swung his stick as hard as he could and landed a clean blow to the head of his teammate.
In baseball terms, he got all of that one.
At least we learned two valuable lessons during this debacle. First, thank God for goalie helmets. Second, if there is ever a world championship for piñata, Ballard should be up to bat first.
Thankfully no sticks were injured in the play. Goalies; not so lucky.
The Robin Hood Award:
This award goes to the player who most successfully achieves stealing from the rich and in return, makes himself richer all the while doing absolutely nothing.
And for a second straight season the award goes to none other than New York Islanders goalie, Rick Dipietro.
In 2006 he signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract extension, clearly expected to backstop the team for a very long time.
He played eight games this season. He won two of those games. And though I’m no mathematician, I can certainly figure out that he made enough money per win to buy me a pretty enjoyable life.
At least it was an improvement on last season’s five game, two-win season from the con artist. It’s laughable, really, to think of how much the Islanders must regret signing this crash test dummy to such a ludicrous contract extension four years ago.
Rumour has it that during a game this season the goalie was actually seen waving a foam finger in the stands at an Islanders game. It seems he has officially forgotten he actually plays for the team.
And yes, the foam finger was gold encrusted.
The Best Score in Golf Award:
This award goes to the player who manages to compile the worst plus/minus rating in the league.
And this season the player who has shown he is the most detrimental to his team every time he steps on the ice is Edmonton Oilers center, Patrick O’Sullivan, who racked up an impressive minus-37 rating.
It’s no surprise that this award goes to a player on the worst team in the NHL, but the fact that he beat out the next-worst rating so impressively (fellow teammate, Shawn Horcoff at minus-28) is a testament to just how bad he was this year.
And though his name might suggest otherwise, this season certainly has not seen any luck of the Irish for this award winner.
The 30 and 30 Club Award:
Ron Wilson and his Toronto Maple Leafs will finish the regular season with the worst penalty kill and power play in the league. It’s a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the 1993-1994 Anaheim Mighty Ducks did it in their inaugural season.
And you’ll never guess who coached that team as well.
Ron Wilson has had some great seasons as a coach in the NHL, but it’s safe to say that special teams just aren’t his thing.
So the next time you hear of the anonymous suggestion of a rule change to ban all penalty calling completely from the game, you won’t have to ponder for too long about who it could be.
Congrats, Ron, on winning the award you probably didn’t want anyone to ever know you were worthy of.
The Fight for Your Right to Party Award :
This award goes to the player who most effectively starts a brawl in the crowd, which could only go to Scott Niedermayer who did just that on Nov. 20, 2009.
After a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning and being named first star, Niedermayer handed his stick over the glass and it was about that time when all hell broke loose.
He was clearly handing it to the smoking-hot blonde in the front row, but apparently the middle-aged drunk men surrounding her felt that the veteran defenseman favoured them and their receding hair lines more.
Thus, multiple hands grasped the stick and began a seven-way tug-of-war match, all the while Niedermayer stood and watched and the spotlight shone on the action in the crowd.
It wasn’t long before the stick was forgotten and punches were being thrown in all different directions, even by the blonde. It was a good old fashioned brouhaha as the Ducks captain helplessly pressed his glove against the boards as if to tell them, “stop that right now!” and then skated off when that didn’t work.
Rumour has it that Mike Millbury got a few shots in with a shoe, but that was neither confirmed nor denied by current NBC employees.
No word on who actually got the stick in the end, or who won the fight, but I guarantee the next time Niedermayer gives a stick away all his teammates will be joining him on the ice to bet on the brawl that ensues.
It’s hardly difficult to cause a drunken fracas, but when a player starts it with a simple kind gesture it deserves a little recognition.
The LVP Award:
Opposite the very popular MVP award, the LVP award is given to the player who is the least valuable in the NHL. Or to put it bluntly; this is the player that was absolutely useless to his team in every sense of the word.
This season the award goes to none other than Los Angeles Kings’ left winger, Raitis Ivanans .
Ivanans played in 60 games this season and recorded zero points. Zero points. Though he never played more than 9:20 in a game, the fact that he played in the majority of games and did not even make it onto the score sheet once is incredible.
No accidental tips, no gift second-assists, no nothing.
And the way they give out assists these days, it’s just crazy to think you wouldn’t get even one in 60 games. There are backup goalies that have more than him. Heck, some fans in the nosebleeds have more assists than this guy.
So does Gary Bettman.
His teammates should start calling him Bourne, for his knack at going completely unnoticed by a crowd of thousands all the while ending up with a briefcase full of cash that probably doesn’t belong to him.
At least he chipped in with 136 PIMS, amassing 15 or more in one game three times.
Though most of you (and members of his team) have never heard of him, I promise this guy actually exists. I just hope I’m not assassinated for revealing such information.
Enjoy the award, Jason Bourne.
Other Notable Award Winners:
Matt Cooke , who took home the How to Not Get Suspended for Almost Killing Someone Award, Ilya Kovalchuk for the Getting Traded to the Team That Least Suits the Way You Play Award, and Sidney Crosby who took home the How to Become a Living Legend at Age 22 Award.
And there you have it, the best (but not really) of this season in the NHL.