The Canuck Awards: Halfway Point

Most Valuable Player

Winner: Alexander Edler

Remember the Alex Edler of the John Tortorella era? The one that finished a minus-39 on the season, and often looked shaky and uncomfortable on the ice? Yeah, neither do I. The 2014-15 campaign has been a complete 180 for the Swedish defender. He and Chris Tanev have anchored the Canucks blue line throughout the first half of the season, and have been a sure thing each and every night in a season that has been filled with question marks on most nights. He has averaged 24:25 of time on ice per game, first among Canucks, and 17th among all NHL skaters. While his 14 points may stand out as disappointing, it is important to note that it ranks first among all Vancouver defenders. With the long term injury to Dan Hamhuis, Edler, a former all-star, needed to step up and become the go-to blue liner for the Canucks. He has excelled, and has been without a doubt the Canucks most valuable player up to this point.

Runner-Up: Ryan Miller

Yes, Ryan Miller had his struggles throughout the month of December, but there’s no denying the fact that Miller has been providing, for the most part, very steady goaltending for the Vancouver Canucks. His goals against average (2.48) and save percentage (.912) currently sit right around his career average of 2.59 and .915 respectively, to go with his 21 victories, the fifth highest total among goaltenders. There have been many nights where Miller has bailed out the Canucks, and if their goal scoring drought continues, there may be many more like that. Not much more you could ask from the 34-year-old American.

Top Forward

Winner: Radim Vrbata

Coming into the 14-15 season, the general consensus, among Canucks fans and media alike, was that Vrbata could be a solid 20-25 goal scorer, and that expecting a 30 goal season would be considered a stretch. Now, it would likely be considered disappointing should Vrbata miss the 30 goal plateau, and it’s not out of the question to say that he could reach, or at least push, his career high of 35 in 2011-12. The Czech Republic native currently sits at 16 goals and 29 points through 38 games, but it’s not just the raw totals that make Vrbata’s season-to-date an impressive one. It’s also the fact that seven of his 16 goals have come with the man advantage, an area where the Canucks needed some major help. Another place where Vrbata has excelled: consistency. Aside from a small absence of production in November, Vrbata has been potting goals on a fairly regular basis, something the rest of his teammates could learn from. Vrbata has fully met expectations, and then some.

Runner-Up: Henrik Sedin

One could make a case for either Sedin twin to be in this spot, or even win this category, but I’ve decided to go with Henrik Sedin, despite his brother Daniel currently having one more point than him. Giving him that slight edge, is the fact that a #1, offensive centerman is crucial to team’s success, more so than a scoring winger. ‘Hank’ currently sits at 38 points in 43 games, a 72 point pace, more than acceptable production, considering the standard that had been set for he and his brother.

Top Defenceman

Winner: Alexander Edler

A complete no-brainer. Edler is playing like the #1 d-man he has been hyped up as within the organization. Not much more to say than what was already said above.

Runner-Up: Christopher Tanev

The only other d-man that could even be considered a candidate, Chris Tanev has developed nicely into a legitimate top-pair defender alongside Edler. His defensive game has been near flawless, while his discipline, a trait he has possessed since early in his NHL career, has stood the test of time, as Tanev has put up a mere eight penalty minutes in 42 games, playing big minutes against other clubs’ top players. It won’t be long until Tanev can call himself Vancouver’s #1 go-to defenceman.

Biggest Surprise

Winner: Bo Horvat

What gives Horvat the edge in this category is the fact that he has seamlessly fit into an NHL lineup as 19-year-old. Each and every night, Horvat goes out on the ice, and plays a solid, structured game, while rarely making costly errors. Where the former London Knight proves to be most valuable is in the face-off dot, where the former 9th overall pick has won nearly 53% of his face-offs. It’s an area where the Canucks struggled early on, and one where Bo has helped immensely. Between his age, his inexperience, and his quality of play, Horvat most certainly deserves to be called the Canucks’ biggest surprise up to this point.

Runner-Up: Radim Vrbata

By no stretch of the imagination am I saying that Bo Horvat is a superior player to Vrbata, but what works against Vrbata in this category is the fact that his production comes as a bit less of a surprise than Horvat’s play. If someone were to ask me in the off-season which I thought was more likely, Bo Horvat playing a near-perfect bottom-six game at the NHL level, or Radim Vrbata scoring 30 goals, I probably would have gone with Horvat eight out of ten times. That said, Vrbata has still done enough to warrant an honorable mention in this category.

Unsung Hero

Winner: Eddie Lack

Life just isn’t fair for Eddie Lack. He becomes the starter, and when he does, he’s played until his bones disintegrate. So he goes about life, assuming he’ll be the starter for next season, with a much more reasonable playing schedule to boot, but no. Then, the Canucks go out and sign Ryan Miller, a proven workhorse goaltender, and now, in the starts he does receive, which are few and far between, his goal support is next to non-existent, and he has, on multiple occasions, been left out to dry. Through 14 contests this season, Lack has only three victories. Three. That is far from an accurate representation of his play, as, for the most part, the Swede has played some very solid hockey for the Canucks. The 27-year-old has pulled his weight with no reward, thus, making him the unsung hero.

Runner-Up: Yannick Weber

Between other, more high-profile surprises last season (such as Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson) and the defensive disaster that was the second half of the 2013-14 campaign, the success of Yannick Weber flew largely under-the-radar, and the same could be said for the first half of this year’s schedule. With an injury to gold medalist Dan Hamhuis, and the tragedy that was the early play of Luca Sbisa, the Swiss defenceman was relied on more than he was used to, and he, for the most part, held his own. Weber isn’t the biggest man, nor is he the a defensive force on the ice, but he does play a safe, low-key game for the most part, exactly what you want in a 6th/7th defender. In addition to that, Weber’s offensive numbers have been very good over the course of the past two seasons. In 13-14, Weber put up six goals through 49 games (with limited ice-time), and currently sits at 10 points on the season, third among Vancouver blue liners, only one back of Chris Tanev and five back of Alex Edler, while playing eight less games than both of them.

Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter –@Markus_Meyer27. Support LWOS by following us on Twitter – @LastWordOnSport and @LWOSworld – and “liking” our Facebook page. Support the LWOS Hockey department by following us on Twitter – @LastWordOnPuck.

Have you tuned into Last Word On Sports Radio? LWOS is pleased to bring you 24/7 sports radio to your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. What are you waiting for?

Main Photo: