Handing Out Hockey Hardware

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - October 29, 2008
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Martin Brodeur

While it may be a bit too early to hand out the NHLhardware and ponder whether Nicklas Lindstrom will win his seventh Norris Trophy - he will; if Alexander Ovechkin will make it back-to-back Hart Trophy victories - yep; or if interest will rise along with on-ice pugilisim - hell yes!; we can still recognize the players and teams with impressive mantlepieces.

The Rocky Balboa Award:

Georges Laraque, Montreal.

Given to a one-dimensional goon who cashes in. At 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing in at 255 pounds, the Montreal native may not be the biggest enforcer on the ice - that honor belongs to the Bruins’6-foot-9-inch Zdeno Chara - but there ain’t no better scrap-per in the league. After spending two seasons as Sidney Crosby’s bodyguard, Laraque has cashed in with a three-year-deal that will net the winger $4.5 million. Not a bad payday for a player who has averaged eight minutes a game and whose skills were so impressive he did not even suit up for the last five games of the Stanley Cup Finals.


The Tony Romo Award: The Detroit Red Wings.

Given to the team that has it all (wealth, history) and gets even richer (Jessica Simpson), missing games because of a broken pinkie notwithstanding. Coming off another Presidents’Trophy - its fourth in six years - and 11th cup, the New York Yankees of the National Hockey League lands the biggest free agent on the market - forward Marian Hossa - in a very un-New York way. Hossa took a considerable pay cut to put on the red sweater, which has to make Penguins’ fans even more irate. Declining multi-year offers from Pittsburgh, Montreal, the Rangers, Minnesota and Edmonton, Hossa signed a one-year deal worth $7.45 million for a shot at winning the cup.

The Clint Eastwood Award:

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey.

Given to the player who, though aged, remains at the top of his game. The 36-year-old goal-tender is competing for his fifth Venzina Trophy - he’s won four of the last five - and after 14 seasons remains the game’s most durable netminder, leading all goalies in minutes played over the last three seasons. During those same three years, he has finished first in wins, goals against average and save percentage. Two seasons ago he set the single season record for victories with 48, and next month he will become the all-time leader in career wins. As of this writing, he trailed Patrick Roy by eight.


The Simon and Garfunkel Award: Colorado.

Given to the team still looking for Joe DiMaggio. Since Patrick Roy retired following the 2003 season, and in the six months since Roy was suspended by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for instigating a fight between his son Jonathan and two members of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens hockey team, the Avalanche is still trying to find a suitable successor. Over the last three seasons, Colorado has swapped Jose Theodore and Peter Budaj between starter and backup roles with little success evidenced by their combined 2.83 goals against average. The importation of Andrew Raycroft and his two-year total save percentage of .890 is not going to help.

The Randall Tex Cobb Award:

Pittsburgh.

Given to the team that gets punched in the mouth and does-n’t flinch. It would be easy for the Penguins to disappear into a pint of Chunky Monkey after losing their loves to other suiters, but Pittsburgh hasn’t let the defection of Hossa and Ryan Malone hamper its plans to be a consistent cup contender. No sooner did Hossa leave than the team used the extra money to lock up youngsters Marc-Andre Fleury, Hart Trophy final-ist Evgeni Malkin and hard-hitting defenseman Brooks Orpik. The addition of Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko adds all-around ability if not high-scoring opportunities.

The Doug Collins Award: Barry Melrose, Tampa.

Given to the coach most likely to return to TV. At one time Melrose was the young, mullet-domed coach of an L.A. Kings team that lost to the Canadians in the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals. Two seasons later he was out of a job and he began his long association with ESPN. Melrose takes over a Lightning team that finished 15th in the Eastern Conference and a roster that was completely gutted by the new ownership. Tampa retains Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Vaclav Prospal and signed free agent Ryan Malone, so the team should be able to light the lamp. Then again Collins had Jordan, Pippen, Grant and Cartwright and still got canned in favor of his assistant.

 

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