Phoenix Coyotes Roundtable: Team awards edition

Bruce Bennett

Phoenix Coyotes radio host Luke Lapinski joins us to select the Coyotes' MVP, Selke, breakout player and hardest worker, as well as the moment of the year.

MVP

Luke Lapinski: Antoine Vermette: Sure, there's a good chance they rename this the Oliver Ekman-Larsson Award someday, based on what he's capable of over the next 10-15 years. And sure, you could make a real strong case that OEL should win it this season too. But it's tough to argue with Vermette's 2013-14 performance. Not only did he lead the Coyotes with 24 goals, he scored them in key moments. He notched four game winners and - more than anything - just seemed to provide a boost whenever the Coyotes needed it. He also came up big in the shootout earlier in the year, emerged as a true leader in the locker room and was one of only three Coyotes to suit up for all 82 games.

Brendan Porter: Antoine Vermette: Is there a facet of the game that Vermette did not excel at this season? He had 24 goals, 21 assists, averaged 18+ minutes per game, blocked 71 shots, had 90 hitsand won 1005 faceoffs for a 56.4% success rate. Vermette did everything the team asked of him and more, and is the clear choice for team MVP in my opinion.

Christopher Hair: Antoine Vermette: If this one is not unanimous, we have some problems.

Sure, OEL was brilliant again this season but he struggled through December and most of January. Keith Yandle led the team in points, but still was a little worrisome defensively. Mike Smith was amazing down the stretch before the injury, but he was almost a sieve for the first three months of the season.

Only Vermette was consistent from game one to game 82 for this team. He scored the second most goals in a season for his career, attempted the second most shots while playing his second highest total minutes (all runners up to his career year in 2009-10 for Columbus). He also set a new career high for power play tallies. He also managed to be an even player (plus/minus of zero) while starting more shifts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone. He saw a huge increase in his penalty kill time this season over previous years in the desert because Tippett had so few other options to trust. In short, Vermette played in all situations for this team and excelled in them all. That's the definition of an MVP season.

Selke

Luke: Antoine Vermette: On top of everything I just wrote about him, Vermette led all Phoenix forwards in blocked shots and ice time per game. He also logged significant minutes on special teams, delivering on both the power play and penalty kill - even leading the Desert Dogs with three shorthanded goals. And he was a force in the faceoff circle, winning 56.4 percent of the draws he took this year - many of which came in the defensive zone late in games. In fact, across the entire NHL, only Sidney Crosby took more faceoffs than Vermette and only Patrice Bergeron won more. If Martin Hanzal had been healthy all year, this honor probably would've gone to him instead. Even though he missed 20 percent of the season, he still dished out 200 hits and was routinely out there against the opposition's top weapons. But I'm giving the nod to Vermette because a) he was out there every night, b) his plus/minus was 9 better than Hanzal's (I know, it's a flawed stat. But it's not entirely useless) and c) I just can't stop giving him awards at this point.

Christopher: Antoine Vermette: Again, this is Vermette's trophy. He led the forwards in ice time and was a force in the faceoff circle, helping the Coyotes to establish possession which is a good way to play defense. While arguments can be made for Dave Moss and had Martin Erat played a whole season in Sedona rRd he could be mentioned here as well, Vermette was not only the Coyotes' surprise offensive dynamo, but was the club's premier defensive forward.

Brendan: David Moss: Moss was on the ice for 40 percent of the team's shorthanded situations, and was +11 in penalty differential. Moss also managed to put up 22 points despite a subpar 5.3 shooting percentage. For the minutes he played and the bad luck he had offensively this year, Moss still managed to be a positive possession player for the team, and is my pick for best defensive forward.

Breakout Player

Luke: Mikkel Boedker: Two years ago, Boedker stepped up with two huge overtime goals against Chicago, helping the Coyotes finally get past the first round and ultimately make a memorable push into the Western Conference Finals. When all was said and done, he finished the 2012 postseason with eight points and the sort of experience that breeds confidence that can really jump-start a young player's career.

He carried that momentum over to the first half of last season, but saw his production trail off in the second half. This time around, he finally put it all together for a full 82 games, and the result was a career high in goals, assists, points, shots on goal and power play production. The Coyotes need more young forwards to emerge and, while much of the focus in that department is understandably on Max Domi's intriguing potential, it's worth noting that Boedker is still only 24 years old.

Brendan: Mikkel Boedker: The Coyotes have been waiting since 2008 for Boedker to show some of the offensive skills that made him the team's 8th overall pick that year, and this season he finally started to showcase his offensive prowess. Boedker set new career highs for himself in goals and assists, nearly doubling his career best in points. Phoenix will still need more from him in the coming years, but Boedker is on the cusp of becoming the 20+ goal scorer the Coyotes envisioned him being.

Christopher: Thomas Greiss: This is a tough one to choose from. Chris Summers' late season audition was impressive. Connor Murphy got a surprise call-up and showed himself to be at an NHL level skill wise (while still needing to add some muscle, but c'mon he's only 20). Michael Stone set new highs in games played, goals assists and points while establishing himself as a possible partner for Keith Yandle. Boedker took a huge step forward in justifying his selection as a top 10 overall pick, harnessing his offensive game more than ever before. But that all pales in comparison to the effort of the backup goaltender.

Greiss set new career highs in games played, wins, save percentage, goals against average and shutouts. While there will certainly be people who blame the end of season collapse on him (the game tying goal he allowed to Edmonton was a brainfart of massive proportions), the fact is, the team wasn't able to score down the stretch. At all. The Coyotes only scored 1.7 goals per game after Smith was hurt in New York. There aren't very many goalies who could have done much with that offense, and Greiss tried, playing well with a 2.16 GAA and a .914 Sv%. Greiss gave the Coyotes a fighting chance down the stretch which makes him the breakout player of the year.

Hardest working player

Luke: Antoine Vermette: Sensing the pattern here? See: everything I wrote about team MVP and the Selke, then read it out loud in a French accent that just seems to make everyone happy. The team opened the voting to fans for this award, and Vermette won by a relatively comfortable margin. That's especially significant because Phoenix fans have learned to appreciate the value of hard work more than most. So Vermette gets another well-deserved honor, though it is worth noting one more time that Shane Doan put up his most goals (23) since 2008-09 and continued to be the emotional leader of this club - all while fighting through a brutal illness that hit him right in the middle of the season.

Christopher: Kyle Chipchura: Considering how the team played for much of the season, can I nominate no one? If I had to select a player, I guess I'd give the award to Chipchura. He had a career high in both games played and points, and didn't hurt the team while playing on the ice. He had a positive goals for percentage and the team was 1.7% more likely to score if Chipchura was on the ice than if he wasn't. He also drew eight more penalties than he took and was always the first guy on the ice to step up in defense of a teammate. Chip's game isn't pretty, but he worked hard all year and was rewarded (if you can call it that) down the stretch when Hanzal was hurt by centering Radim Vrbata and Erat and not looking horribly out of place.

Brendan: Jeff Halpern: He was the team's nominee for the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey, and it isn't tough to see why. After starting the season in Europe, Halpern accepted a one-year two-way deal for the chance to play in Phoenix, and he made sure the Coyotes' brass could not send him down to Portland. He played tough depth minutes, killed penalties, and still managed to put up 12 points. Halpern exemplified the 'best effort every night' attitude that Dave Tippett has come to expect of his players.

Best Moment

Luke: Introduction of new owners: Mike Smith's goal - to seal a victory against Detroit on home ice, no less - was a showstopper. And having members of the 1980 Miracle On Ice team in attendance for the Coyotes' final home game before the Olympics (a victory over Chicago, by the way) was something I personally will never forget. But nothing tops the moment when the new ownership group was introduced to a hungry and appreciative sellout crowd on opening night at Jobing.com Arena. Given all that the people in this organization, the players and - most of all - the good hockey fans of Arizona have been through, words can't even describe the emotions in that building on the night of October 3, 2013. If it weren't for that moment, the other moments wouldn't have even been possible.

Brendan: Accessibility of new owners: While Smith's goal is certainly one for the ages, I think the best moment of the year is a series of several moments stretched over the entire season; the new ownership group's interactions with the fans. The opening night puck drop was such an emotional moment for the thousands of fans who poured their hearts and souls into a team with one foot out the door for four years, but the ownership group was not content to merely smile and wave from the suites. It was a rare night when you could walk around the concourse and not see Anthony LeBlanc talking to fans, or George Gosbee hanging out at Coyotes' tailgates. The accessibility the owners have provided the fans of the franchise is extremely important in rebuilding bridges with the community, and so their continued willingness to interact with fans remains my best moment of the year.

Christopher: Introduction of new owners: The honoring of the Miracle on Ice team was pretty cool. Shutting out the Blackhawks right before the Olympic break was sweet. Smith scoring was memorable, especially since it came against the Red Wings. But the best moment is one that has carried on all year, having ownership.

From the moment the sale was announced, to the preseason meetings, to the open halls, to the opening night puck drop, to their twitter interactions, to the weekend tailgating, to allowing GMDM to add salary at the trade deadline if it made sense as a hockey deal (if the rumors of the Ales Hemsky talks are to be believed), it was all a wonderful blur of what could be and what might have been. We now get a whole summer to talk about what the Coyotes need to do to become a true contender in the mighty west instead of trying to convince people why the Coyotes should be able to stay. And if that's not a best moment, I don't know what is.

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