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The ILWT Team Awards for 2008-09

While the season ends tomorrow, I felt pretty confident in naming who on the Devils would win the various NHL awards if they were team-specific.  Mirtle asked everyone at SBN Hockey for their thoughts and posted the results a few days ago.

Given that it's the sort of thing that's done at the end of the season, I figure I should elaborate a bit on my selections and add a few more awards for the Devils myself.  Something else to think about while you tell me who you would rather face in the first round.

Hart Trophy (Team MVP):  Zach Parise.  He had a dynamite season and doing what few Devils have done in the past - maintain a point-per-game pace all season long. He set a franchise record in shots, he's come real close to franchise records in goals and points (I'm assuming he doesn't get 4 goals tomorrow to break both), and he's among leading scorers in the league.  His torrid rate of production doesn't just make his line fearsome and threatening on a regular basis; but it gave the Devils their best offensive season since 2005-06. Where would the Devils be without Parise? Definitely with a lot more losses!

2008 - Zach Parise 81 44 49 93 29 24 14 0 8 3 357 12.3

Parise is constantly hustling, doing the dirty work in the slot and along the boards in addition with the fancy stuff.   Parise truly broke out this year and at age 24, the best is yet to come.   Considering how crucial he has been,  is my pick for the Hart.

Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman): Paul Martin.  He plays the most minutes on average among all Devils defensemen (24:21/night) for a reason - Martin is the main man on the blueline.  The real-time stats compiled at Behind the Net coincide with Martin's role as the team's #1 defenseman.  In even strength situations, Martin faces the highest quality of competition and the opposition scores at a rate of 1.89/60 minutes, which is among the lowest on the team.  That's real impressive given Martin's ice time.  On the penalty kill, Martin is on the ice for the fewest goals against per 60 minutes (5.63) while he is the top defenseman on the penalty kill.  The most impressive stat about Martin's importance is that the team is 3-6 when he's not playing.   Martin has been the best defenseman for the Devils this season by far.

Selke Trophy (Top Defensive Forward): Patrik Elias  One of James Mirtle's ongoing features is his statistical based look at who is truly the best defensive forwards in the NHL.   Mirtle last updated this with about 10-11 games to go in the season and among the four Devils on the list: Elias ranked first among Devils and second overall.  And since then, Elias' numbers have not changed from what Mirtle stated then except for shorthanded goals against/60 and that "ballooned" from 1.82 to 2.95.  It's still the lowest total among regular forwards on the penalty kill.  He's the ideal Devil scoring forward - actually productive this season (1.02 PPG!) while excelling at backchecking and covering his zone.  Hence, I rate him better than Travis Zajac (who was no slouch in this regard) and John Madden (a regular nominee for this award).

Calder Trophy (Top Rookie): No one.  Anssi Salmela and Petr Vrana would be the only ones really eligible for this, but Salmela played a depth role in his 17games with New Jersey and Vrana didn't get any significant minutes in his 16 games with the big club.   Therefore, no one really was a top rookie on the Devils and so no one gets awarded.

Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender): Scott Clemmensen  Had the Devils not crash through the second half of March, I'd share this award with Martin Brodeur (even with it 18-19 wins in 30-31 games with a massive injury being in between is a mighty feat).  After all, he was great before his injury and he remained great after coming back from injury.  Yet, when Brodeur was out for those 4 months, Clemmensen literally raised his game to take the starter role and provide consistently good goaltending in net.

2008 - Scott Clemmensen 40 2356 25 13 1 5 94 2.39 1138 1044 .917 2

By no means is Clemmensen better than Brodeur, nor do I want to see Clemmensen in the playoffs.  Still, Clemmensen had to fill in some mighty big shoes when it was his time and he did a very good job - not just for his individual statline but for the team's success.  Unless I'm mistaken, he is the first Devils goaltender not named Brodeur to win 25 games in a season and that is impressive enough for me to name him as the top goaltender from this season.

Other Awards

Most Improved Player: Travis Zajac  With Jamie Langenbrunner hitting career highs as the right winger and the "Pops" of the ZZ Pops line, I still choose Zajac as the most improved player.  Zajac was lost in his second season and he really needed to bounce back for the sake of his own career, much less the Devils' plans.  Zajac didn't just bounce back, like Parise, he took it to the next level.  He scored more goals, he made more plays, he became vastly improved on faceoffs, and his role has been increased to include penalty killing along with power play and even strength duties. I'd almost say he's already filled in Scott Gomez' gap of being a #1-ish center.  If you need stats, consider this improvement:

07-08 - Travis Zajac 82 14 20 34 -11 31 5 0 1 51.1 155 9.0

08-09 - Travis Zajac 81 20 42 62 33 29 5 1 2 53.1 183 10.9

I don't think I need to say much more.  Honorable mentions should go to Langenbrunner and Johnny Oduya.

Best Individual Performance in a Game: Dainius Zubrus The night: December 23, 2008.  The place: Tampa Bay, Florida. The score: 7-3 Devils.  The stat: 4 goals for ZubrusVideos of these goals can be found at the NHL's boxscore of that game, and I highly suggest watching each of them as Zubrus scored in 4 different ways to do it.

The Best Goal by Jay Pandolfo This Season: April 3, 2009, a 5-4 win against Tampa Bay.  I have the video at my recap of it and I still don't think Pandolfo dreams of scoring like this.

Biggest Win of the Season I Saw Live: 8-5 Devils over Our Hated Rivals! Elias was so clutch in that game and I wrote the recap purely on adrenaline. Very Honorable Mentions: 5-0 over Dallas; 7-2 over Florida, 4-0 over Colorado, 4-3 OT comeback over Pittsburgh, 3-2 over Chicago.

Most Bizarre Game Winning Goal: Bryce Salvador from the point against Boston on Feb. 13, 2009.  Seriously.  Watch the goal through That was what won the game.

Best Crowd at a Devils Game: March 17, 2009 - "MAR-TY! MAR-TY! MAR-TY!"

Biggest Record Breaker/Most Impressive Comeback by a Player: Martin Brodeur  So he ruptures his bicep, he's out for four months, comes back and it's like he never left.  He puts up 2 shutouts and  en route to winning his 552nd game, making him the all-time winningest goaltender in NHL history.   We should be so blessed to have someone like Brodeur representing New Jersey.

Share your thoughts on these picks and other awards you may wish to award (e.g. Best hitter? Worst penalty Bobby Holik took?)