Carolina Hurricanes 2009-2010 Season Team Awards: Who's the MVP?
With the Carolina Hurricanes falling 4-2 in Boston today, they wrapped up a season full of impressive wins and even more disappointing losses. They started out terrible, rebounded some by spring, but ended up falling just short of the playoffs by just three or four wins.
The 2009-2010 campaign for the Hurricanes also included a captaincy change, a youth movement, a nomination for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, and 82 unpredictable, rollercoaster games.
Carolina ended up finishing the year 35-37-10, with 80 points in 82 games played. However, that's not too bad for a team that had 20 points in their first 32 games on Dec. 12th in a terrible 10-week stretch to begin the season that also included a franchise record-tying 14-game losing streak. They actually managed to finish with 60 points in their last 50 games and a 25-14-3 record since New Year's Day.
However, the Hurricanes' season went deeper than just the surface statistics: for each individual player, it was a season unique on its own. There were breakout stars, disappointing, injury-laden seasons, emerging rookies, and under-performing keystones. Each 'Cane has a different story for the 2009-2010 NHL season...and here we are to give out the 20 hand-picked, seasonal awards for the Carolina Hurricanes, whether each medal be honor...or not.
Most Consistent - Tom Kostopoulos
Our first award for the 2009-2010 season is the Most Consistent Player, and the medal goes to....Tom Kostopoulos.
A free agent signing last offseason from the Montreal Canadiens, 31-year-old grider Tom Kostopoulos was the only Hurricane to play in all 82 games this season, among only 46 other players to do so. However, this won't be the last we see from Kostopoulos in this on-paper awards show...
Honorable Mentions: Jussi Jokinen-81 games played, Ray Whitney-80 games played
Lady Byng of the Hurricanes - Brandon Sutter
While it may not be the most honorable of trophies, the Lady Byng Award, awarded to the most sportsmanlike player, goes to 21-year-old center Brandon Sutter.
Sutter became the first player in the NHL since the 2000-2001 season to record 20 or more goals (he had 21) and rack up only two or less penalty minutes. In addition to this accomplishment, he had the lowest PIM of any 'Cane who played more than 15 games.
Honorable Mentions: Patrick Dwyer-6 PIM, 54 GP, Jamie McBain-0 PIM, 14 GP
Top +/- Performer - Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Kostopoulos steps back up to the podium for the second time already for the top +/- performer award. For a team that was -30 overall and had just seven players with a positive rating in this category, Kostopoulos fared very well in this department, earning a +4 rating even while playing in all 82 games.
Honorable Mentions: Brett Carson +5, 54 GP, Eric Staal +4, 70 GP
Stick To Golf (Worst +/- Performer) - Rod Brind'Amour
In perhaps the most unanimous decision of the day, Rod Brind'Amour reels in his first trophy, which also comes along with a free green fee next Saturday and a half-price membership to two different country clubs nearby.
"Brindy" finished this season with an atrocious -29 rating, worst on the team by 14, and third-worst in the NHL. This, coupled with his -18 rating from last year, give him perhaps the worst two years of +/- history at -57. Good thing it looks like his career with the 'Canes might be coming to an end, but unfortunately it's not going to at least until he gets a few more not-so-great medals...
Honorable Mentions: Sergei Samsonov -15, Joni Pitkanen -11
Best Veteran Leader - Ray Whitney
During the fall when Brind'Amour's future was just as uncertain as his captaincy, and then into Jan. throughout the unstable times during the captaincy transfer, it was alternate captain Ray Whitney who stepped up all season long.
In addition to being among the top three on the team in overall points, Whitney was a dedicated, sportsmanlike, and off-the-ice leader for Carolina throughout their disappointing and unpredictable '09-'10 season. Of the 20 awards given out today, Ray Whitney may be the most deserving of them all.
Honorable Mention: Tim Gleason
Best Special Teams Performer - Eric Staal
In what may be perhaps the most up-and-down season in Eric Staal's career, Staal starts his night off with an often-overlooked award, that, in the end, may be a bit more credible than the attention it's given.
Although Carolina was in the bottom 10 in the NHL in both powerplay and penalty kill, Eric Staal was among the most dedicated of the 'Canes special teams players. Killing plenty of penalties as well as recording 13 powerplay goals, Staal single-handedly kept Carolina's special teams at least within decency for much of the season.
Honorable Mention: Jussi Jokinen-10 powerplay goals
Most Willing to be Beat Up - Tom Kostopoulos
While it may not be the greatest deed to his looks, Tom Kostopoulos was willing to suffer a pounding to get his team back in the game all season long.
Recording 106 penalty minutes, by far the most on the team, Kostopoulos suffered a pounding of right fists and left fists alike many times this year for the good of his team. Earning his third and final award of the night, Tom Kostopoulos surely deserved this heart-warming acknowledgment.
Honorable Mentions: Tim Conboy, Tuomo Ruutu
Most Forgettable - Stephane Yelle
With just seven points and a -6 rating in 59 games played for the Carolina Hurricanes this season, now-Avalanche center Stephane Yelle will receive his award for Most Forgettable Player in a couple days in Denver.
Yelle, a 2009 offseason addition to the Hurricanes, was paid almost nothing, produced almost nothing, and left nearly as soon as he came. He's also been a no-show for Colorado this spring, too, recording one assist only in 10 games. Any more description needed?
Honorable Mention: Andrew Alberts (10 points in 62 GP)
Sad Farewell - Joe Corvo
Unlike Stephane Yelle, now-departed Joe Corvo was the Hurricanes' hardest player to say farewell to at the 2010 trade deadline. Acquired with now-Red Wing Patrick Eaves from Ottawa in 2007, Corvo established himself as a top-pairing defenseman and powerplay specialist in Carolina last season with 38 points from the blue line and eight powerplay goals.
Perhaps the highlights of his career came on an overtime backhand winner against the Florida Panthers, followed by a perfectly-planned celebration facing the screaming Caniac crowd.
However, battling injury issues this season, Corvo had just 12 points and a -6 rating in 34 games for the 'Canes before being dealt to Washington. And, although his loss may be a rather tough one to swallow, here's one award that will remind us of the things Joe Corvo did for Carolina.
Best Bargain - Brandon Sutter
Along with a boatload of other awards and medals, Brandon Sutter also worked out very well for the Carolina Hurricanes' management and GM Jim Rutherford. The young, up-and-coming prospect produced 40 points this year, but earned just $.875 million, equating to less than $22,000 per point.
Sutter won't be recognized simply because he was cheap, but it still turned out to be a major bargain for the Hurricanes organization!
Honorable Mentions: Jussi Jokinen $1.5 million, Brett Carson $.522 million
Worst Bargain - Rod Brind'Amour
For just standing along the boards, Rod Brind'Amour sure got paid a fair penny for his limited production over his 80 games played.
Brind'Amour earned an entire $3 million this season, but yet only put up 19 points. With a little math, that turns out to mean Rod Brind'Amour gets paid almost $158,000 per point, enough to buy a decent house for each assist. That's also well over seven times Brandon Sutter's salary-per-point ratio.
...and to think that there's a slim chance the 'Canes might have to pay him this for yet another entire season!
Honorable Mention: Erik Cole $2.8 million
Top AHL Prospect - Jerome Samson
While the Hurricanes have plenty of young prospects rearing and ready go in the American Hockey League, unsuspected, but very noticeable right winger Jerome Samson easily takes the prize.
His 37 goals and 41 assists in 74 games are good enough for a 1.05 points-per-game ratio and 78 points, fourth-best in the AHL. And in second place with Albany? Chris Terry, with 47 points, 31 less than Samson.
Honorable Mention: Zach Boychuk, 36 points in 52 games played
Best Newcomer - Brian Pothier
The Hurricanes might not have gotten many immediate NHL-level players at the 2010 trade deadline, but 32-year-old defenseman Brian Pothier has worked out well already. While I'm not sure what medals he'll get from the Capitals, Pothier was good enough this March to earn the Best Newcomer Award.
He didn't get too much offensive production on the box score, recording just four points in 20 games with Carolina, but his one goal was quite a memorable one. With the Hurricanes reeling and limping into overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pothier slapped an indirect pass off the boards just 13 seconds in to overtime to earn a very memorable first goal with his new team.
Honorable Mention: Alexandre Picard
Most Under-appreciated - Tuomo Ruutu
While Tuomo Ruutu missed much of the last three months of the season with a fight-caused upper-body injury, he still remained one of Carolina's most under-appreciated players.
Despite playing only 54 games, Ruutu managed to rack up 35 points, sixth on the 'Canes, and also contributed plenty in shootouts (shown left) and standing up for teammates with his increasingly-physical play. A concussion-resulting illegal hit early in the year on Colorado's Darcy Tucker set loose a whole season of bad feelings, but Tucker did get revenge several months later, KO-ing Ruutu in a 'Canes 2-1 win at the RBC Center in Jan. and knocking him out for the rest of the year.
Honorable Mention: Brett Carson
Playmaker of the Year - Joni Pitkanen
Joni Pitkanen might have only recorded a mere six goals, but the aggressive defenseman was all over the place setting up teammates. Eventually stacking up 40 assists, Pitkanen contributed off the rush, powerplay, and even regular offensive zone puck possession, adding a very offensive side to a normally-conservative group of Hurricanes' defenseman.
In the end, Eric Staal's 41 assists may have beat him on the stat leaderboard, but Pitkanen's unbelievable knack of playing both offense and defense earned him a respectable Playmaker of the Year trophy.
Honorable Mentions: Eric Staal (41 assists), Ray Whitney (37 assists)
Most Improved Over the Season - Chad LaRose
I was a doubter. Entering the second half of the season, Chad LaRose had battled injury issues and had not come close to reaching double digits yet in his points total. But, thankfully, he exploded over the last two months.
In his last five games, LaRose, 27, proved his worth and much more with Carolina, recording four goals, five assists, and a +3 rating. While he only finished the season with 11 goals and 28 total points, LaRose once again came through at the right time and showed the Hurricanes once against that "Rosey" deserves to stay in Carolina.
Honorable Mention: Tom Kostopoulos
Best Rookie - Jamie McBain
Among a talented lineup of first-year rookies with the Hurricanes, Jamie McBain was able to secure his award as Carolina's top rookie in just 14 games from the blue line.
Recording three goals, seven assists, and a +6 rating in just one and a half months, all the while not taking a single penalty, former Hobey Baker trophy winner Jamie McBain will add to his already-crowded acheivement section of his resume with a very impressive tryout at the NHL level.
Honorable Mention: Goalie Justin Peters (9-6-0, 2.83 GAA, 90.5 save percentage)
Top Defenseman - Tim Gleason
In a season that included an Olympic silver medal, Tim Gleason gets the nod over Joni Pitkanen as the best Hurricanes' defenseman.
While he only ended up playing 61 games, missing much of the latter part of the season, Gleason improved his offensive game radically from last year, picking up 19 points. He also showed tremendous physical ability in the 'Canes own end, and, in the end, let Hurricanes fans once again know that at only 26, Gleason is going to be a staple of the Hurricanes' defense for a long, long time.
Honorable Mention: Joni Pitkanen
Most Improved - Brandon Sutter
Brandon Sutter may have won the Lady Byng and Best Bargain trophies already, but this medal is by far his most impressive yet.
His 21 goals and 19 assists in 72 NHL-level games played drastically improved from his six points in 50 games in '08-'09, and was enough to get Brandon Sutter, perhaps the emerging third cornerstone of the Hurricanes franchise, a respectable placement as the Most Improved Hurricane of the season.
Most Worthless - Tim Conboy
...all right, I may just be stalling the MVP award, but the Most Worthless award was far easier to decide. I mean, really, I'd shove him out of the way, too.
Despite appearing in only 12 games with Carolina, Conboy didn't give the scoretable workers too much trouble. In his 12 matches, Conboy recorded a whopping zero goals, zero assists, zero points, five shots, a -5 rating, and 24 penalty minutes. While Jay Harrison's six points, -8 rating, and 50 PIM in 38 games played might've been worthless for a longer period of time, he just couldn't overtake Conboy's clean sheet.
Honorable Mentions: Jay Harrison (see stats above), Patrick Dwyer (12 points and a -3 rating in 58 games)
Most Valuable Player of the 2009-2010 Season - Jussi Jokinen
Not Eric Staal? Not Cam Ward?
Well, let me ask you, what did they do that Jussi Jokinen didn't? Just because they've always been with the 'Canes, just because they're supposed to be the two centerpieces of the Hurricanes franchise...what if they simply weren't as good as Jussi Jokinen?
Frankly, it would've been hard for anyone to exceed Jokinen, at least this year. The 26-year-old left winger recorded 30 goals, tops on the team, and also far more than his previous career high of 17 scores with Dallas in 2005-2006. All in all, "The Juice" popped in 65 points, 10 powerplay goals, a +3 rating, six game-winning goals (also tops on the team), and a 18.8 goals-to-shots ratio, among the top five in the NHL in that statistic.
Jokinen also became more than a scorer; he was a team player, he appeared at every interview, he missed just one game...he even got his name in the RBC Center's version of the Star Spangled Banner!
Let me ask you, what was there that Jussi Jokinen didn't accomplish this season?
See, I told you...speechless.