Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Hunt Is On For The Hobey

Eight players from the big four college hockey leagues have accumulated at least 50 points this season. They are, in order of points scored: Scott Parse (UNO), Ryan Potulny (UMN), Chris Collins (BC), our own Brett Sterling, Matt Carle (DU), Paul Stastny (DU), Alex Foster (BGSU), and TJ Hensick (UM). Only three of these players will be playing games this week. So who is the favorite to take the prestigious award this season? With last year's winner, our own Marty Sertich, likely out of the running with 48 points, I'll take a look and give some opinions on who could be getting some love from the Hobey voters.

Why Scott Parse will win: He's scored the most points (61) of anyone in the country, with 20 goals and 41 points. That's 1.52 points per game. Along with linemate Bill Thomas (49 points) Parse has led Nebraska-Omaha to an overacheiving season and deserves credit for being such a playmaker.

Why he won't win: Well, let's see. A few weeks ago it looked like Parse really had a shot at the Hobey Baker despite the Mavericks being only a mediocre team in the CCHA. Now, UNO has been knocked out of the CCHA tournament and is hanging on by a thread in the Pairwise. While not all Hobey Baker winners are expected to lead their team to NCAA championships, getting a little further at least in the CCHA tournament would have helped Parse's chances.

Why Ryan Potulny will win: Potulny has scored 1.53 points per game while leading Minnesota to the top spot in the country. The Golden Gophers have just been unstoppable lately and Potulny deserves credit for this. He also has a nation leading 34 goals to go with his 24 assists.

Why he won't win: It's hard to make an argument against Potulny winning. He's scored the most goals, he's probably going to pass Scott Parse in points by the time the season is over, and he plays for the best team. What more could you ask for? We'll find out as we continue.

Why Chris Collins will win: Collins is third in the nation in scoring with 57 points (30 goals, 27 assists). Collins is also a good penalty killer, compiling an impressive five shorthanded goals this season. Does CC's whole team even have that many shorthanded goals? If Boston College makes a run in the postseason and Collins can put up some more points, he's going to be right up there in the voting.

Why he won't win: Collins' biggest problem is going to be that he is overshadowed by more recognizable names from the WCHA. Potulny has more points while playing in a better conference, Matt Carle is close as a defenseman, and don't forget about the dark horse galloping back from a midseason injury: Brian Elliott. Also, BC is dangerously close to being knocked out of the tournament. If the Eagles don't make it, it will probably hurt his chances - especially considering how impressive their PWR was just a few weeks ago.

Why Brett Sterling will win: It's easy for us to see how important Sterling has been this year. With 31 goals and 23 assists, Sterling has been CC's offensive constant throughout the year. He even scored against DU. Sterling also leads the nation with 17 power play goals. If it weren't for his hat trick against Boston University (completed in overtime) earlier this year, the Tigers' season would likely be over right now.

Why he won't win: While he has compiled 54 points this season, Sterling has only scored at a pace of 1.35 goals per game. Combine that with CC getting knocked out in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and Sterling is a big longshot to get solid Hobey consideration. There's really no reason that Sterling would win the award over Ryan Potulny when Potulny has scored more points per game and led his team to the top spot in the rankings.

Why Matt Carle will win: Here's where things get interesting. Carle has 53 points and probably will not have the chance to get any more. While Sterling, Potulny, Collins, and Parse have all accumulated points, Carle merits serious consideration due to the fact that he is a defenseman. In addition to playing solid (better than solid) defense all year long, Carle has been DU's leading scorer (along with Paul Stastny). No one expects a defenseman to put up 50+ points in a season - that's just sick. Let's cross our fingers and hope Salcido can put together a year like this next year.

Why he won't win: As far as I'm concerned the only thing that can hurt Carle in the voting is that the Pioneers' season looks to be over. Great players are expected to at least get their team into the tournament, and it looks like Denver is a huge longshot to make it at this point.

Why Paul Stastny will win: Stastny is an incredible player. We saw it firsthand two weeks ago. He's the first sophomore on this list and if he sticks around, he is really going to be nasty next year for Denver. Stastny led the WCHA in scoring this year and there's no reason that he won't do it again next year. He's a pure sniper who can also set up nice plays. If he stays at Denver, he should get serious Hobey consideration next year.

Why he won't win: For starters, Stastny is young, and there's no real reason to give the award to a sophomore over a junior or senior with comparable statistics. Furthermore, there isn't really anything that sets Stastny apart from the rest of this group - he's obviously a great player, but he doesn't have the stats of Potulny or overall game of Carle. And, like with Carle, I do think it will hurt that DU is likely going to miss the tournament.

Why Alex Foster has a sliver of a chance: Well, he probably won't win, to tell the truth. Foster played for last place Bowling Green this season and scored only 11 goals. Not enough? Bowling Green is in the CCHA - no reason to vote for a CCHA player who has less goals than a WCHA player. This isn't exactly politically correct, but sometimes the truth hurts.

Why TJ Hensick has a somewhat better chance: The odds are against Hensick getting serious consideration for the Hobey. He could end up being a top 10 finalist, but to make the Hobey Hat Trick he'll have to really catch fire in the postseason. Hensick has 16 goals and 34 assists - nice stats, but he can't be considered a favorite.

Enough of the scorers, let's take a look at my aforementioned dark horse, Brian Elliott. If Elliott hadn't been injured in January, I think he'd be a lock for the Hobey. Elliott is still one of the top goalies in the country, with a 1.68 GAA and .934 save percentage, but some ugly performances post-injury will certainly hurt his stock. At midseason, Wisconsin looked completely unstoppable, no one could solve Elliott, and he practically had the award in hand. As things stand now, Elliott could use an impressive run through the playoffs to help his chances.

So who would I choose? A lot depends on what happens in the league playoffs. If Elliott can get a shutout or two, or have a gamechanging performance in net for Wisconsin, the award might be his. On the other hand, if Potulny gets on a hot streak and solidifies his points total, he could become the clear favorite. As of right now, though, I'd have to give the award to Matt Carle. Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, Carle is just a special player. A defenseman who plays this well both offensively and defensively is a rarity and I don't expect to see anyone put up a season like Carle's for quite some time. Unforunately for Carle and Denver fans, his absence from the NCAA tournament is probably going to weigh heavily on the minds of the voters as Potulny, Elliott, and maybe even Sterling shore up their stats. Regardless, the award should go to Carle; his season statistics, including his sick +21 rating, speak for themselves. While Carle's 2005-2006 should win him the Hobey Baker by itself, some voters will undoubtedly consider the fact that he anchored Denver's defense during back to back title runs the past two years.


At 5:23 PM, Blogger Runninwiththedogs said...

I think your pick is right on. I hope the voters can look past Ryan Potulny's seemingly dazzling numbers and see that over half his points came against teams that were very weak (UAA, UMD, Wisconsin with Connelly, etc) with 15 points coming from games against UAA alone. One quarter of his points come from playing against UAA! He should share the award with them, if he gets it.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Sammo said...

Have to say enjoyed reading your blog. We have a similar blog for our British Ice Hockey team across the pond here in the UK! We've link up with runninwiththedogs and we'd like to do the same with you if that's ok?

Check us out at http://nottinghampandas.blogspot.com


Sammo #86

At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

c'mon...carle was not much of a factor on the last two (most important) weekends of the season. i think the voters are ready to look beyond the wcha...i predict chris collins will be the winner.


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