If the 2008-09 NHL season were to end today these Former Islanders stand as the award winners. These awards credit both the excellent and regrettable. Enjoy:
Top Forward: Ryan Smyth (COL) Colorado winger Smyth, who played only 55 games last season due to injury, has managed perfect attendance so far this year and has been among the team's leaders. With injuries to staple players such as Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic it has become necessary for some players to step up and much of that credit is due to Smyth, Wojtek Wolski and Milan Hejduk. Smyth leads all players with 16 goals and is 2nd with 20 assists. He current leads all Avs with 36 points on 47 games. This season he has 4 point scoring streaks of 4+ games, a feat considering he had no streaks like this last season. Heading into the final stretch Smyth has 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) over the last 8 games and is helping the Avs at least stay in contention. Smyth is also the leading point scoring among FIs league-wide.
Top Defenseman: Zdeno Chara (BOS) The choice for top d-man was so easy that a look down the FI roster yielded no competitor to Bruins' captain Zdeno Chara. With 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points on 47 games Chara has been an offensive force for Boston and he is not even the defensive scoring leader on the team! Chara is an impressive +22 and has racked up only a gentlemanly 56 penalty minutes. He is tied for the team lead in powerplay scores with 7 and has over half his points (17) on the man advantage. Surprisingly, Chara is also 2nd on the team in shots with 128 only 16 behind forward Phil Kessel who is sidelined with mononucleosis. Overall, Chara is a major reason why the Bruins have been so dominating so far this season.
Biggest Surprise: Denis Grebeshkov (EDM) While the Oilers have struggled to find consistency young d-man Grebeshkov has started to hit his stride. Greb is a surprise for a couple of reasons including his severely improved offensive play, his importance to the blueline and his overall maturity and dedication to conditioning. Grebeshkov has 4 goals and 17 assists for 21 points on 43 games blowing away his career point highs from last season. While he is by no means an defensive offensive leader on the powerful Oil blueline he has clearly found a place. As predicted earlier, Grebeshkov could garner some offer sheet interest this offseason since he becomes a Restricted Free Agent starting July 1.
Top Goaltender: None There are 4 FI goalies in the league right now (Osgood, Luongo, Valiquette and Weekes) and none of them deserve to receive this honor as of now. Two of those tenders (Vali and Weekes) are backups while the two starters (Ozzie and Luongo) have not had seasons to write home about. Luongo only recently returned from a groin injury suffered in mid-November and despite his All-Star status did not really play enough to give us a full picture. Ozzie, on the other hand, has split starting time with supposed backup Ty Conklin who has severely outplayed him. If the season did end today Ozzie would end with the worst single season save percentage and goals against average of his career and yet would be 12 games over .500! It is hard to reward success despite futility.
Biggest Disappointment: Mathieu Schneider (ATL) Thrashers' d-man Schneider has been a huge bust this season. Due to nagging injuries Schneids has suited up for only 35 of Atlanta's 48 games and has managed a meager 4 goals and 6 assists for 10 points. His -10 is slightly improved from early season numbers but for a player on the verge of career assist #500 he is struggling. Now, we must credit some of this to the players around him, but Schneider is not off the hook for the downturn in his play. Schneider is in danger of not scoring 30+ for the first time in 11 seasons and that is the most disappointing part.
Come Back Player: Todd Bertuzzi (CGY) This choice might be controversial but a look at the stats says that Bertuzzi is probably the most improved FI on any roster. Brought into the Flames' fold to join and invigorate friend Jarome Iginla, Calgary currently leads the Northwest Division and looks like a team that is clicking. Though Bert's hot goal-scoring streak tailed off severely after October his assists have shot way up. Bertuzzi has 11 goals and 20 assists for 30 points on 41 games missing only 5 games this season due to illness. Bertuzzi has been especially helpful on the powerplay with 13 points on 5 goals and 8 assists. This could change but right now Bert has made his case as the biggest turnaround.
Most Likely to Not Have a Hot Second Half: Jason Blake (TOR) Word has it that Maple Leafs' winger Blake has not had a good working relationship with head coach Ron Wilson. Trade rumors seem to swirl around Blake like dust devils and it is unclear what the future holds for the diminutive scorer but as of late he has performed much better with 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) leading into the All-Star break including a recent hat trick/5 point night. Blakey has 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points on 43 games. Over the last 22 outings Blake has nearly a point per game with 11 goals and 10 assists. Blake has been a healthy scratch 4 times this season and if his play tails off at all in the coming weeks that time might be even further reduced. All told, Blake is not lined up to have a hot end to the season as the Leafs continue to putter well out of playoff contention.
Thank you and check back Wednesday for our next set of game recaps and highlights.