With Christmas rapidly approaching, it is time for Santa to check his list to see who has been naughty or nice. There have been players who have shined thus far and have exceeded expectations placed on them by fans and the critics. This is not in order and by no means a complete list. Part 1 of this article will showcase a few players who have definitely earned a present this year.
Evgeni Malkin: Leads the league in points and assists after 31 games played. His +/- isn't too shabby either being a +19. With Pittsburgh sitting in 7th place, Malkin needs to continue to put up the points and increase goal production for the Pens to move up in the standings.
Christmas present: I dont' know, but definitely not a powder blue retro Pens jersey.
Roberto Luongo: Started the year with a ringing endorsement from management as team captain. Worked hard, played hard and has five shutouts to show for it. Unfortunately got sidetracked with a groin injury.
Christmas miracle: A new groin.
Cliff Fletcher: After inheriting a mess, this in-term GM had to deal with no-trade clauses and massive salaries. Fletcher had serious and dirty work to do before the season started. First he dynamited the team by getting rid of long timers Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Kyle Wellwood, and Andrew Raycroft. Hired no-nonsense Ron Wilson to coach a young and inexperienced team.
Projected present: Soothing aloe burn lotion.
Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez: The goal-tending dynamic duo for the Boston Bruins are instrumental to their teams success. Underrated and under-appreciated, these guys have just not been given enough recognition. From not making the playoffs two years in a row, followed by a respectable showing last season, the Bruins are out to show last year wasn't just an accident. Steady and consistent play by these two will ensure a successful new year.
Under the tree: A shiny trumpet to toot their own success.
Dion Phaneuf: This man is a work horse. Leads the league in total ice time clocking over 926 minutes and time on the ice per game at approximately 28 minutes. With only being three points off the pace of equaling his best NHL points total (60 last year), he is having a productive first quarter.
Projected present: Timex Iron-man Watch to keep track of this ice time and a box of Wheaties.
P.J. Stock: Former player turned CBC Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster. It is really nice to hear someone sound really excited to be at work and inject some enthusiasm into CBC.
Christmas Drink: De-caf coffee...does not need to be wound up any further
Zack Parise: One player who does not get a lot of attention...Zack Parise please stand up. Consistently working hard, putting up solid numbers thus far. As of tonight, tied for fourth with 39 points behind Malkin, Crosby and Ovechkin. Raise your hand if you knew who he was before reading this article?
Christmas Wish: More media accolade.
Luke Schenn: This was supposed to be a long season for Leafs fans, and at times it is. However, Schenn has provided a much needed spark for this franchise not unlike when Thomas Kaberle came. Drafted fifth overall in the 2008 draft, Schenn has cracked the roster and has played over 25 minutes a game. Not bad for a rookie. He has speed,skill and fiestiness which will only endear him more to a fan base looking for hope.
Christmas Book: How to avoid being a one season wonder.
Mike Gillis: He had a mission...to bring Mats Sundin to Vancouver. Mission accomplished. Many teams were in the Sundin sweep-stakes but Gillis showed that patience is a virtue.
Christmas Present: He just got it...Mats Sundin and it was damn expensive. But will the hype live up? Only time will tell.
NHL Right To Play: is an international humanitarian organization which uses sports and play to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Many NHL players have raised money and awareness about this program and some have travelled to Africa to spread happiness.
Too many to name but here are some of the recent players—Andrew Ference, Zedeno Chara, Mats Sundin, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Steven Stamkos, Mike Green, Curtis Joseph, Matt Stajan, Robyn Regehr, Mike Cammalleri, Wojtek Wolski, Derek Roy, and Sean Avery.
Under the tree: Good Karma!
As mentioned, these are but a few names. Feel free comment on who you think also deserves honourable mentions...
STAY TUNED FOR THE NAUGHTY LIST...