Sorry James, maybe next midseason...
Hope everyone is enjoying the All-Star break or at least not having too many withdrawal issues. There's a few things on the back burner here at First Round Bust that we're looking forward in the near future, but for now I'm looking back at the past. The All-Star break leads for a good opportunity to assess the Wild and of course that's what all the scribes and keyboard pundits are doing. It's that or come up with mock All-Star drafts. Anyways I was reading Brandon Mileski's midseason awards over at KFAN.com and while I respect his hockey mind (if you haven't done it before, check out Beyond the Pond), it's hard to agree with most of the awards. So in the spirit of fairness - I hate to disagree without giving my own two cents - here are my Minnesota Wild midseason awards.
MVP: For this award, Mileski has Martin Havlat while I counter with Brent Burns. Havlat is very deserving of the honor - in fact, I wrote about him being so a couple days ago - but a MVP to me is someone who performed outstanding throughout the entire (mid)season rather than have a couple great months. And in my eyes, that's Brent Burns stepping up and finally becoming a #1 defenseman.
Most Improved Player: For this award, Mileski has Cal Clutterbuck while I'm once again going with Burns. Now to be fair, he does acknowledge Burns as a viable candidate based on stats but my rationale has more to do with his role on the team and intangibles than stats. Ironically if I was going to go on stats alone, Clutterbuck would be my choice. However, some of the things Burns has done this season are above my expectations. He plays in all situations, shuts down the opposition's #1 line and has been a scoring fiend despite a lackluster powerplay offense. That to me is barely more of an improvement than Clutterbuck hitting a career high in goals.
Most Disappointing: This one to me is the biggest head scratcher. Mileski went with Erik Nystrom on the rationale that he's only scored one goal (an empty-netter) and is a -12 in +/-. Although I'll admit that it would be nice to get some offense out of the snake-bitten Nystrom, he's a fourth-line grinder whose main job is on the PK. Those are my expectations for him and anything offensive is extra. It's like being pissed at Alex Ovechkin for not playing defense. So with that, the easy answer for biggest disappointment is Cam Barker. Even with disappointing play since coming over in February, the expectations for him on the team are higher and when an offensive defenseman with five points gets replaced on the power play, there's disappointment to be had.
Best Rookie: I agree with Mileski on this one as Marco Scandella has proven he's ready to play full-time with the big club. Unfortunately Scandella is presently recovering from a head injury, but hopefully he recovers and continues to show his long-term worth to the Wild.
Best Offseason Acquisition: It's hard to count Jose Theodore as an off-season acquisition (and Mileski does discuss this in his rationale of why Theodore is his choice) when he was signed in training camp, so I'm going with Matt Cullen. The Moorhead native signed for three years $10.5 million in July and has put up good numbers (he's on pace for his first fifty point season) in addition to being able to play with multiple scorers and systems (Cullen has three shorthanded goals this season). He also can thrive in the Richards system and is a player whose leadership is invaluable; especially after the locker room issues that were rumored last season.
So there you have my midseason awards. Feel free to agree or take me to task in the comments below.