Friday, March 19, 2010

Duchene for the Calder!

The Calder trophy talk shifts and alters throughout the season as wide-eyed rookies adapt, or don’t, to the reality of playing 82 games against the best hockey players in the world. It’s a challenge that deserves admiration; the dedication both mentally and physically that is exacted on these young men is immense.
Let’s take a look at who is at the front of the pack today. Most of the discussion lately is about Tyler Myers, Jimmy Howard, Matt Duchene and…Tyler Myers.
Yeah, right now it’s all about Myers.

Tyler Myers

Maybe some of the popularity of Myers as a candidate is that he wasn’t in the discussion before any meaningful games had been played. Everyone loves a surprise, a feel-good story about the player that was only making news in Buffalo. But now he’s making news around the hockey world.
So what’s so great about Myers? Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to see him play a lot of games so I am stuck with looking at stats that don’t always tell the full story. A good deal of the talk is about how many minutes he plays and all the points he is putting up.
Ok, so Myers plays a ton of minutes. Yeah? So do all top defensemen. In fact eight of the top ten rookies in minutes are defensemen. Not really a surprise.
His league leading giveaways may not really be that big of a surprise either considering that TOI and he IS a rookie after all. Should I give him a pass on that one? A lot of people just seem to be ignoring that fact.
So what about all these points? Lookin’ good there, everyone likes to have that D-man that can chalk up the minutes AND the points. Even better? A third of those points are coming on the power play. If he develops into a quality PP quarterback he becomes very valuable.
And blocked shots? Tops in the rookie class. Ok, but is that as much a skill as it is willingness? Debatable.
All in all he’s a keeper but we knew that. Biggest knock on the kid is his high giveaways ranking.

Jimmy Howard
The kid has played well but he’s kinda like that quarterback for a team that won the Super Bowl with their defense…for example…what’s his name? Trent something? He didn’t WIN the Super Bowl for the team and no one expected him to either. What he did is what he didn’t do. He didn’t LOSE the game with a dumb mistake.

The best thing about Howard is that mask. 
And that's pushing it.
If Howard was all that he would have lifted the Wings INTO to playoffs during those injury-plagued months rather than just maintaining the team at the #9 spot for months on end.
Sure, he deserves a lot of credit for his play and in D-town he’s got quite the field to plow when it comes to replacing the beloved Osgood.
But the Calder? Naw.
Notice recently that the Wings have slipped into that #8 spot? They finally (to my disappointment) look to be playoff bound but it’s because they are getting healthy again.

Matt Duchene

Is your winner. I am an Avs fan you know, but I still think I’m being pretty unbiased. I admit that Myers ought to be given serious consideration.
But Duchene has developed into a player that controls the ice with his play.
Tavares may be a victim of a team that just isn’t that good. Every team he faces can put their top D on him and don’t have to worry about another line. Not so in Colorado. Is it unfair? Yep, but that never stopped a Calder-voter. And hey, it really is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, that’s reality.
What’s Tavares done lately? Other than that explosion of points in a single game: not much.
Duchene does get knocked in the discussions because of his slow start. Probably by the people that see a lot of stats and not a lot of his playing time.
Granted, I am using stats as well, I don’t get to see every Islanders game or Sabres game. But he is leading the stats columns in goals and assists and while that isn’t the end of the discussion, it’s a lot of it.
There’s some talk out there that none of the offensive rookies are dominating. Have these people seen Duchene play lately? Duchene is now showing an amazing ability to evade the opposition’s D or barring that, to bounce off of defensemen and hold on to the puck for long periods of time. This allows his line mates to get open for scoring chances. Duchene’s puck possession since the break has taken a leap!
Like Myers, Duchene has a glaring fault in his stats, percentage of face-offs won. Sitting at 44% he is last among rookies with significant quantities of faceoffs and last on the Avalanche.
We clearly have a two-man race, sorry Wings fans. Will it come down to East coast bias? Will one of the candidates fall on his face in the final stretch? Will John Tavares make a run from the middle of the pack?
I’ll put my money on Duchene.
-From the Point

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