As the midway point of the season is nearly upon us, it's time to hand out the midseason awards, cover All-Star snubs, trade rumours, Hot n' Not and the best in quotes, Chirping, in the first 2009 edition of Backchecking.
Starting with the midseason awards which, conveniently, do not involve any actual hardware.
Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals
Runners-Up: Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh; Marc Savard, C, Boston
Shea Weber, D, Nashville
Dan Boyle, D, San Jose; Mike Green, D, Washington
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota
Steve Mason, Columbus; Tim Thomas, Boston
Steve Mason, G, Columbus
Bobby Ryan, RW, Anaheim; Kris Versteeg, RW, Chicago
Lady Byng Trophy
Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit
Patrick Marleau, C, San Jose; Zach Parise, LW, New Jersey
Mike Richards, C, Philadelphia
Henrik Zetterberg, C, Detroit; Mikko Koivu, C, Minnesota
Jack Adams Award
Brent Sutter, New Jersey
Claude Julien, Boston; Todd McLellan, San Jose
Art Ross Trophy: Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh
Maurice Richard Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington; Thomas Vanek, LW, Buffalo; Jeff Carter, C, Philadelphia
William J. Jennings Trophy: Boston - Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez.
All-NHL First Team:
G - Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota
D - Shea Weber, Nashville
D - Dan Boyle, San Jose
LW - Alexander Ovechkin, Washington
C - Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
RW - Jarome Iginla, Calgary
All-Rookie First Team:
G - Steve Mason, Columbus
D - Alex Goligoski, Pittsburgh
D - Matt Hunwick, Boston
LW - Blake Wheeler, Boston
C - Patrik Berglund, St. Louis
RW - Bobby Ryan, Anaheim
There are always going to be problems with the final All-Star rosters because of a) fan voting and b) the need to have every team represented in the game. Nevertheless, we can certainly pick out the guys who are, ahem, fortunate to be going to Montreal and those who are having seasons more worthy of midseason recognition.
Let's start with who is going with questionable credentials this season:
Alex Kovalev, RW, Montreal (11-20-31, plus-10 in 40 GP)
Mike Komisarek, D, Montreal (1-2-3, plus-3 in 24 GP)
Henrik Lundqvist, G, N.Y. Rangers (20-12-3, 2.67 GAA, .908 SVPCT in 35 GP)
Tomas Kaberle, D, Toronto (3-23-26, minus-8 in 41 GP)
Dany Heatley, LW, Ottawa (16-21-37, minus-6 in 39 GP)
The most deserving candidates left off East roster:
Mike Green, D, Washington
Patrik Elias, LW, New Jersey
Phil Kessel, RW, Boston
Mike Richards, C, Philadelphia
Dennis Wideman, D, Boston
If there was another strong goaltending option in the Eastern Conference, Nikolai Zherdev would be a more deserving Ranger than Henrik Lundqvist and, as questionable as Tomas Kaberle might be, it's hard to get too excited about replacing him with Nik Antropov or Matt Stajan. An argument could also be made to have David Booth representing the Panthers instead of Jay Bouwmeester.
The questionable credentials this season:
Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago (11-21-32, plus-8 in 38 GP)
Scott Niedermayer, D, Anaheim (5-19-24, minus-2 in 42 GP)
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G, Anaheim (11-9-4, 2.99 GAA, .908 SVPCT in 27 GP)
Milan Hejduk, RW, Colorado (13-17-30, minus-5 in 41 GP)
Mike Modano, C, Dallas (13-13-26, plus-1 in 39 GP)
Keith Tkachuk, LW, St. Louis (14-13-27, minus-11 in 39 GP)
The most deserving candidates left off the West roster:
Patrick Marleau, LW, San Jose
Steve Mason, G, Columbus
Henrik Zetterberg, C, Detroit
Marian Hossa, RW, Detroit
Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver
Greybeards Tkachuk and Modano could easily be supplanted by fresh-faced teammates Patrik Berglund and Loui Eriksson, respectively and, for my money, Marleau would be the most deserving Shark this season. Like Tkachuk and Modano, Scott Niedermayer is going more for name recognition, but he was voted into his spot, a spot that could have gone to someone like Chicago's Duncan Keith, if only the Blackhawks didn't already have multiple starters voted into the game.
- While it seems logical for the Islanders to shop veteran C Doug Weight, the New York Post reports that Weight would prefer to stay on the Island, where he's having a career resurgence, scoring 32 points in 37 games. The Columbus Dispatch says that the Colorado Avalanche and Blue Jackets have both inquired about Weight. The New York Daily News and Newsday both offer up Mike Comrie as possible trade bait now that's he's healthy and Newsday expands the list of possible veterans on the move to include D Brendan Witt and RW Bill Guerin.
- The Globe and Mail reports that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke won't go to defencemen Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina to ask them to waive their no-trade clauses. However, if the Leafs don't make the playoffs -- as expected -- Burke can deal either or both between the entry draft and August 15.
- According to the Ottawa Sun D Tomas Kaberle, D Pavel Kubina, RW Nik Antropov and D Mike Van Ryn could be moved out of Toronto, with word that Kaberle would okay a move to an Eastern team and that the Habs would readily bring him in to quarterback their struggling power play.
- The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Blue Jackets have been scouting both the Islanders and Leafs, teams that will offer up proven players for draft picks. The Toronto Sun has the Jackets interested in Antropov and Kubina.
- According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Penguins are offering C Jordan Staal for a veteran scoring winger, though the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette insists that a Penguins trade isn't forthcoming.
- According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Flyers need to clear about $2-million worth of cap space when Daniel Briere is ready to return from injury.
- The Arlington Heights Daily Herald notes that Blackhawks RW Martin Havlat's name continues to pop up in trade rumours.
- The Minneapolis Star-Tribune suggests (perhaps tongue-in-cheek), in the wake of Marian Gaborik's virtually season-ending hip surgery, that Wild GM Doug Risebrough could make a surprise move for exhiled Dallas Stars winger Sean Avery before the March 4 trade deadline.
- If the Senators aren't ready to throw in the towel yet, the Ottawa Sun reports that the Sens are willing to offer the first-round pick they received in the Andrej Meszaros trade. The pick originally belonged to the San Jose Sharks, so it's going to be late in the first round, but could bring in some talent, if that's really the direction the Sens intend to go. The paper names Christoph Schubert and Antoine Vermette as the veteran players that the Sens are shopping.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that a pair of veteran Thrashers defencemen, Niclas Havelid and Mathieu Schneider, are in the final year of their contracts and could be moved before the deadline so that younger Atlanta blueliners can gain experience.
Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles (4-2, 1.16 GAA, .956 SVPCT in last 6 GP)
Anton Babchuk, D, Carolina (3-2-5, plus-4 in last 6 GP)
Mark Streit, D, N.Y. Islanders (1-6-7, plus-5 in last 7 GP)
Bobby Ryan, RW, Anaheim (7-8-15, plus-3 in last 10 GP)
Daymond Langkow, C, Calgary (6-6-12, plus-6 in last 7 GP)
David Booth, LW, Florida (5-6-11, plus-2 in last 7 GP)
Dan Ellis, G, Nashville (1-3, 3.33 GAA, .888 SVPCT in last 5 GP)
Christian Ehrhoff, D, San Jose (0-1-1, minus-9 in last 18 GP)
Alex Goligoski, D, Pittsburgh (0-1-1, minus-5 in last 7 GP)
Dany Heatley, LW, Ottawa (0-5-5, minus-7 in last 7 GP)
Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh (0-5-5, minus-7 in last 9 GP)
Brad Boyes, RW, St. Louis (2-2-4, minus-6 in last 9 GP)
"The only thing that kind of stinks here is there aren't too many people in the building. You miss the buzz, the sold-out, loud building for every game. But I don't miss 30 people in the media scrum every day." - Panthers D Bryan McCabe.
"We have to talk more out there. This is one of the quietest groups I've ever played with. It's tough when you get the puck down low and you don't know if a guy's coming in on you or where your support is." - Thrashers D Mathieu Schneider.
"If it's an All-Star team, it should represent an All-Star team. I also laugh when I read the press release about 'the consultation of GMs' in terms of selection. I didn't get a call, and I know every time I talk to any general managers, they say, 'Boy, that Koivu's really playing well for you.'" - Wild GM Doug Risebrough, on C Mikko Koivu not being selected for the All-Star game.
"Any time (Sergei) wants to fight, we can go out on the street." - Maple Leafs C Mikhail Grabovski, on Canadiens LW Sergei Kostitsyn.
"I now know that there is a pulse in our room, that they do care. I appreciate that." - Thrashers coach John Anderson, after a shutout win at New Jersey.
Scott Cullen can be reached at email@example.com