Good afternoon, Phoenix Coyotes fans. For this special Tuesday edition of the Roundtable, the FFH staff is joined by well known hockey blogger Justin Bourne. Justin writes for Yahoo's Puck Daddy, The Hockey News, USA Today, as well as his own blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.
Today in the roundtable we examine a number of items related to this past weekend's All-Star festivities and who should be considered for the league's major awards at this point in the season.
Who was not invited to the NHL All-Star Game festivities that you would have like to have seen invited and why?
Justin: I'm an admitted Islanders homer, but given that I'm writing to an admitted Coyotes homer blog, I'm sure you guys will understand: John Tavares. The kid is on pace to get into the 30 goal ballpark by season's end, and he's playing with Matt Moulson and the cast of the original Mighty Ducks movie. He hasn't had Okposo or Streit on the power play, and Josh Bailey has struggled so badly he got sent to the AHL for the first time in his three year NHL career. Tavares has been making chicken salad out of chicken s***.
Jordan: There were definitely some deserving players that were left on the shelf, but I wish they had invited a guy like John Tavares who is having a pretty good year for a bad team. I didn't like the loophole they used to exclude players from those teams and I think it would have been nice to see a deserving guy like Tavares get to play in this game.
Carl: Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne of the Predators. Rinne got squeezed out due to the number of goalies having great years and Suter was out injured for a long stretch, but I'm convinced he's an even better all around D-man than his partner Shea Weber. Given Weber's play on Sunday I think that speaks volumes. Rookie wise I believe John Carlson should have been invited. He's the best rookie d-man in the league by a mile.
What was your favorite part of All-Star Weekend? Least favorite part?
Justin: The All-Star Draft was a lot of fun, but I liked the elimination shootout at the end of the skills competition best.
Your boy Oliver Ekman-Larsson had, in my mind, the single best move of the event even thought he didn't score, just based on difficulty and execution. He used the heel of his blade on top of the puck - it's hard to put enough pressure on that thing on ice to get it to follow your stick - and brought back through his skates and up to his sticks in under a second. Not the greatest shot in the world, but just so impressive.
Oh, and I also liked the Guardian Project, unbelievably. I can't explain why it entertains me so much.
Least favourite part: the red carpet. That was painful.
Jordan: I have to admit that it was a really enjoyable weekend of festivities, I enjoyed the draft, I enjoyed the skills competition and the game itself. I would have to say that the skills remained my favorite, although I still feel that I have no idea how the scoring for each event was done...but that's fine. Watching the players in a more relaxed setting showing off their talent is awesome - the Coyotes definitely need to be doing that as a team event for the fans. As for a least favorite, the panel during the player draft was completely worthless and unnecessary. While the draft itself was fun, attempting to analyze picks was just silly and stretched out the show.
My favorite part is a tie the goalie race in the skills contest and watching Danny Briere score two goals. I'm still bitter he's not a Desert Dog.
My least favorite part was TV production of the draft. There was no need for ¾ of the stuff TSN did. The interviews were ridiculous and bored me to tears, And if you are going to have people talking about the players, at least talk about the skills they'd bring to the table like you would in any other real draft. Honorable mention goes to the All-Star game intro that was just as forced and reminded me of a bad Olympic Opening ceremony.
What is one thing that the league could add to All- Star Weekend to make it more enjoyable for the fans?
Justin: I'm actually just writing a piece for The Hockey News on this, but basically I'd like to see them re-do the draft to where it's just the players, nobody is dressed up, they can have a few cocktails and it's in a much smaller room. I want them to be able to interact so they can joke around and really get into the selection process.
Jordan: If you can get every team to do a skills competition prior to the event, and then invite the best players at each event for the weekend regardless of whether they are an All Star, that would be the best. I know Grabner is quite fast, but is he faster than Mikkel Boedker or some other players. Let's find out who is really the fastest player in the game, etc.
Carl: 100% in agreement with Jordan on this one. Bring is the most talented guys for each skill.
Who do you see as the crop of favorites at this point of the season for the major NHL awards? Who would you choose for each award if the season ended today?
Hart (M.V.P.) - Sid the Kid in a landslide. Having an exceptional season, even if he never plays another game this year it'd be hard to pick someone else.
Norris (Best Defensemen) - Nick Lidstrom - that's neat that Byfuglien got out to a great start, but you can't compare what he brings to this guy (and actually he's pointless in his last 10). Lidstrom is near the lead in d-scoring at 41, being a leader, and pushing for the Lady Byng as well. Exceptional.
Selke (Best Defensive Forward) - Ryan Kesler. Puck Daddy made the case for him as a dark horse Hart candidate, that's how good this guy is.
Vezina (Best Goalie) - I just don't see how you could give it to anyone but Tim Thomas. He's numbers are sensational, including a SP% that's pushing the .950 mark. Insane.
Calder (Best Rookie) - Jeff "Bieber" Skinner. Taylor Hall may make a push over the last 1/3rd of the season, he's looked great.
Jack Adams (Best Coach) - I get mad when anyone suggests anyone other than Dave Tippett. No offense, but the ‘Yotes roster isn't exactly dazzling, but this guy has them firing on all cylinders.
Hart (M.V.P.) - As much as it pains me to say it, Sidney Crosby - those are two dramatically different teams when he is in the lineup and when he is not, and he's having an incredible season, despite his new-fangled role whining about headshots.
Norris (Best Defensemen) - I'm really tempted to go straight-homer and pick Keith Yandle here, but I think his defensive play could still use a little work. A guy that doesn't get the consideration that he probably deserves is Kimmo Timonen of the Flyers, having another fabulous season. Shea Weber would be another fine choice there. This one is still pretty up in the air in my opinion.
Selke (Best Defensive Forward) - One of these years, Mike Richards is going to win this award and he deserves it. Plays tons of minutes against tough competition, kills penalties, scores shorthanded, throws big checks. From a Coyotes perspective, Martin Hanzal and Vernon Fiddler are the best on our squad, but will not likely get league-wide attention.
Vezina (Best Goalie) - Tim Thomas, hands down. It's unconventional, it sure ain't pretty, but he's had an unbelievable season so far...just ridiculous.
Calder (Best Rookie) - It's not all about scoring points, but Jeff Skinner is having a great year and scoring points as well, so I'll roll with him for now. Lots of other guys still with a shot at this as it's a long season and guys like Logan Couture and Taylor Hall will be in that mix. On the defensive side, you gotta love the year Cam Fowler is putting together and if Sergei Bobrovsky continues his stellar play, he's going to get a lot of consideration here.
Jack Adams (Best Coach) - I'm going with Barry Trotz of the Predators. It seems as if every year he deserves this award and somehow, he's never won it. With the kind of middle of the road talent that Nashville has every year, the performances he gets from his teams is nothing short of miraculous and I think it's time he earned his due.
Hart (M.V.P.) - Sidney Crosby. His numbers, especially at even strength speak for themselves.
Norris (Best Defensemen) -Niklas Lidstrom would be the usual favorite along with Kris Letang. Tobias Enstrom and my dark horse candidate Lubomir Visnovsky might be in the mix. If I had to choose who I'd vote for I'd have to bite my tongue take another Penguin in Letang. His defensive game has caught up with his offensive talents.
Selke (Best Defensive Forward) - Ryan Kesler. He's winning this one in a landslide if he keeps playing the way he did the first 50 games of the season.
Vezina (Best Goalie) - Tim Thomas would be the favorite followed by Pekka Rinne, Ondrej Pavalec, and Jonas Hiller. Hiller deserves credit for playing behind a defense that isn't as good as the other three play in front of. That being said the old guy from Beantown has a .945 save percentage. No way you don't give it to him if he's able to keep it above .930.
Calder (Best Rookie) - This one may be the most wide open of all the trophy races. Taylor Hall, Logan Couture, Jeff Skinner, John Carlson, and Sergei Bobrovsky would be the five guys who I believe have clearly distinguished themselves so far. Hall is the least impressive just because he plays the easiest position to break into the league at. The kid is a stud, but that works against him in my mind. Given all the love Skinner got this past weekend he may be the candidate with the most juice right now. I'm probably biased towards Carlson just because I've seen him play more than the other four.
Jack Adams (Best Coach) - Craig Ramsey, Guy Boucher, and Alain Vigneault, and Barry Trotz would be my favorites though there are probably three or four other coaches including Dave Tippett that you could include in the mix. I've been on the Trotz bandwagon several weeks. What he has done with all the injuries the Preds have had this season is amazing. As Jordan mentioned, he's long overdue to win this award.