Monday, January 11, 2010

Introducing Josh Shephard

Press Box Hockey Talk
Josh Shephard
Jan. 11, 2010

Hello to all those die hard hockey fans out there!! Hopefully everyone had a safe and happy holiday. First off I'd like to thank Mr.Johnson and Hockey Leaks for the chance to provide my opinion and insight. Secondly, I'd like to thank all those fans who will take the time to read my columns. I watch the same games you do. I don't have any insider info, all the opinions you'll read are from me. I'll be talking about events in hockey, other opinions out there, as well as comments I read from other hockey fans from newspapers, websites and blogs.

For my first column I'll be touching on a few different topics, as coming out of the holiday season not much has happened, although, I'm sure (atleast hoping) that will change soon.

Mid Year Awards

Other than point awards, such as the Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies, there are 4 main trophies that are discussed on a regular basis as the season progresses. Those of course being the Hart, Vezina, Norris and Calder. Since we've just passed the midway mark of the season I'd like to give you my picks for the above mentioned.

Starting with the Calder. I know alot of people will say that they thought Tavares would win it with ease. I can honestly say that, although I think Tavares will be a very good pro, he is no Sidney Crosby, and isn't even on the same level, he was no lock for the calder. Up until about a month ago, my top 3 would have been Myers, Tavares and Duchene, but since then Howard has basically kept the Detroit Red Wings in the playoff race, which makes me have to include him in the top 3. In fact, my top 3 would now be Myers, Howard and Duchene. Tavares wouldn't even be a candidate for voting. If the season were to end today, my pick would be Myers. Good defense is hard to come by. Even harder to be a good defenseman at the age of 19. Plus, I don't know too many people who predicted the Sabres to be as high as they are now in the standings. I had them fighting for a playoff spot.

Secondly, the Norris, which I feel will be the tightest race. My three candidates will only include 1 returning candidate from last year. Doughty, Green, and Keith would be my top 3 candidates at the half way point this year. Although it's tough, I think the honour belongs to Keith. He is as well rounded a defenseman as you can ask for right now. I'm impressed with the improvement in Green's defensive game, and his offensive stats can't be ignored but I still don't think he is deserving. As for Doughty, he is improving at a ridiculous pace, and he could win this award as soon as next year. I used to think Shea Weber would be a constant Norris winner for years to come, however, that was before Doughty came along. Doughty is going to have a shelf full of these trophies before his career is over, the collection just won't start this year.

Lastly (because my Vezina and Hart winner are the same), this player has been solid for the past couple of years, however, this year is literally carrying his team on his back. Before stating the winner my nominees would be: For the Vezina, Brodeur, Miller, and Kiprusoff and for the Hart Brodeur, Miller, and Henrik Sedin. As you can see the odd men out for each of these awards are Kiprusoff and Sedin. Both players are keeping their teams in the playoff race, especially in the very tight Western Conference. Henrik, with both Luongo lost for a period as well as his brother, demonstrated that he can adapt his game and be the go to guy. With 2 of the 3 main pieces missing, Henrik did not lose a beat and is currently in the league lead for points. As for Kiprusoff, what can you say? I read everywhere, and to be honest I did buy into it to an extent, that Kipper's stats would continue to go south, especially unless a legitimate backup was found to take some of the workload; however, he is still playing as much as ever, his wins, goals against average and save percentage are all top 5 league wide.

It hurts to say, especially since he broke the shutout record, that Brodeur is not my choice to win his 5th Vezina and his 1st Hart trophy (shocking that he has never won one). Brodeur is having an incredible year, even though analysts everywhere said that this would finally be the year that New Jersey didn't make the playoffs (haven't they been saying this for the past 5 years?). If this was any other year, I can honestly say I don't think there would be any debate and Brodeur would have won both of these awards hands down with his stellar play, however, there is one team doing nearly as great and I don't remember reading anyone saying Buffalo would be as high or playing as good as they are this year. For years, the cash strapped Sabres would not open their wallet to keep marquee players, such as Briere and Drury, allowing them to walk for more money then they were willing to pay; however, the one time they opened their wallet to keep from losing an All-Star player was definitely a worthwhile investment as Miller has carried this team. Ryan Miller is my mid-season choice for both the Hart and Norris trophies.

A Couple Of Other Things

I'm reading all these rumours about Kovalchuk being traded. My argument here isn't that he won't be traded, although I hope for Atlantas sake they can find some way to keep him, but to point out how foolish I find some of the rumours and if by chance they are true, to wonder what those teams are thinking. First off, Boston. How are they going to fit him under the cap? Grab him as a rental player? No sense to me. When did players entering the prime of their career become rental players? I can't think of one. Those breaking this rumour are saying Boston has lots of prospects and draft picks, which they can trade, but if Kessel commanded two 1st rounders, a 2nd and a 3rd round draft pick, then what do they think Kovalchuk will command. Atlanta isn't going to ask for less even if it might just be a rental. Kovalchuks don't grow on trees. Quickly, speaking of Kessel, I really wish Toronto would have tried (harder if they actually did) on getting Kovalchuk instead. One other rumour, that doesn't make sense to me is Kovalchuk to Washington. It's not the fact they already have Semin because I'm aware he could be in a package to get him. It's the fact that Washingtons biggest concern should be hoping Varlamov is healthy for the playoffs and whether he can carry them as far as he did last year and secondly, their defense. If the Phaneuf rumours are true, Washington should definitely focus some attention there or even on a better defensive defenseman.

Talk of Carolina having a firesale. I would trade everyone on that team except for Staal and Ward. Two great building blocks. They look to be a lock to have that final spot in the league, giving themselves a great chance at getting a third franchise cornerstone in Hall or Seguin. I know if I were a Hurricanes fan I would be getting tired of watching a great team one year and a team that can't even make the playoffs the next. Rutherford, for future years, has to learn that while your team is winning you still have to be adding youth to the mix. He let the Hurricanes defense stay the same for too long letting the key components grow old and lose a step with no youthful replacements coming up through the ranks.

Thanks again for reading. And whatever became of Roman Turek?