Saturday, March 21, 2009

UAA Hockey Fan Blog Awards: 08-09

It's actually past time for me to present my annual awards. I'm sticking with the same four categories that I've used for the past 2 seasons. I considered adding categories but ultimately I like the simplicity of this format even if it doesn't recognize as many players as I'd like. So I'll encourage readers to make their selections in the comments section and/or add any categories you think are appropriate. With these awards in hand and 6 dollars in their pockets these guys can get a Grande Mocha Latte at Starbucks!

Rookie of the Year
Curtis Leinweber
At .55 points per game the 5ft 8in, 170lb defenseman was far and away the top producing rookie for the Seawolves 08-09 season and ranked him 5th on the team in points per game. In 22 total games Curtis scored 2 goals and added 10 assists of which 8 were the 1st or primary assist. His goal in OT versus DU on January 31st was quite probably the most memorable goal by any player this season. Curtis showed energy, enthusiasm and intensity whenever he took the ice this season. He spent two short stretches on the sidelines injured missing 12 games overall. Dynamic is perhaps an overused word when describing hockey players but I find no other adjective that does a better job of defining his play. Curtis has an ability to quickly size up the on-ice situation and makes quality decisions with the puck faster than 90 percent of his peers. He is a skilled puck handler with wheels to match. Curtis came to UAA after leading the AJHL in scoring by blueliners. With minimum polishing this gem will shine for the Seawolves in the next three years. Count on it.

Most Improved Player
Tommy Grant
Doubling one's output from one season to the next can often be used as a milestone to measure improvement. This season the 6ft 2in, 190lb winger tripled his goal production from 5 during his freshman season to 15 which included 2 shorthanders. Tommy had a helluva nice stretch from late October through the middle of January where he scored 12 goals in 16 games. Playing on a line with Paul Crowder certainly helped him succeed so nicely this season. Crowder provided 5 primary assists. But more importantly, Tommy did the finishing. His confidence with the puck was evident from my balcony seat. In every season one hopes for a super-soph season from some player on the squad. Not every year does such a player turn up as it seems that a sophomore jinx takes hold at least as often. Next year as an upperclassman he should be a legitimate scoring threat on just about any shift he takes.

Heart and Soul
Nils Backstrom
I certainly couldn't have gone wrong by naming either of last years Heart and Soul players to this years award. Both Mat Robinson and Kevin Clark had very very solid seasons and contributed so much to the team's success. But I was so impressed with Nils consistently excellent play from the 1st game to the last that I simply couldn't pass him up for some recognition. My template for this award is former Seawolf Justin Johnson who never gave less than 115% effort. Nils matched that this season. He lived up to the potential that the Detroit Red Wings organization saw when they drafted him. Since being drafted Nils has quietly slipped further and further down Detroit's prospect chart. Someone down there ought to be paying attention. Nils didn't have spectacular numbers this season but he played nearly mistake free hockey in his own zone. I think he matured greatly during the past two seasons. He may not light up the league next season in terms of scoring but more importantly he'll be keeping the opponents top lines from adding to their scoring stats. And hey ... the Wooger has much love for him.

Most Valuable Player
Paul Crowder
I struggled with this choice more than any other. It wasn't that I had any doubt about Paul's contributions to the team or his worthiness. Those things were clear in my mind. But instead, I had to talk myself out of naming Kevin Clark as a co-winner. Kevin's very strong finish to the season weighed heavily for me. Ultimately though, it was Crowder's ability to make anyone he skated with a better player that tipped the scales. Of course, Paul's 14 goals and 19 assists trumped Kevin's 13 goals and 18 assists and his team leading plus/minus of +11 outpaced Kevin's -3. I remember talking with his dad between periods one night after Paul had been in a bit of a tussle near the end of the period. His dad told me that Paul was going to score because whenever someone pissed him off he usually scored. He was dead on right of course (fathers know best). I think everyone assumed that Paul was a free-agent flight risk and his signing by the Rangers was really only surprising in terms of how quickly it happened. He'll be missed.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kevin Clark has improved his stats from 17 to 23 to 31 pts. Consistent improvment every year.
His willingness to play on any line whether it be with crowder, bales or haddy. Kevin never complains. Kevin had the strongest second half of any seawolve on the team. Kevin will forgo your awards, more important. He will be one of the key leaders to lead this team to their first final ever at the sully, than on to the wcha final five.
Kevin will be a fan favorite wherever he plays.

FAn

Anonymous said...

Kevin was one of a few players who had a strong second half of the season. Many players also had to play wherever, with whoever and also never complained. Good team players on UAA. Bodes well for next year as UAA should start out very strong.

Donald Dunlop said...

Taking this as any sort of slight to Clarkie is just plain wrong. He is not only my favorite player but I gave him strong consideration for both Heart and Soul and MVP.

He shared the Heart and Soul with Robbie last year and certainly was worthy of it this season. But as I said in that paragraph Nils was deserving as well.

The meaningful awards come from the team and are given at the banquet.

Anonymous said...

uND LOSING TO WISCONSIN 4 TO 1 WITH 3 minutes left in consolation third place game.

Und overated, duncan and findley off to the pros soon.
Minnesota-Duluth fan

Anonymous said...

Hey, Donald, hard to argue with any of your choices. I've said this before, that the Seawolves were always a better team when their captain was on the ice. (At least as a spectator I always felt better when he was on the ice!) In my opinion, Robinson was the heart and soul of this team and so might have gotten the nod as MVP. Heck, he reinvented the lost art of the hip-check. (Remember how those Denver fans almost lost their minds when he sent yet another flashy forward limping off near the end of game 2? Too much.) -30-

Anonymous said...

minnesota-duluth 3 denver 0
end of 2nd period, stalock defintely the best goalie in the wcha, he is lucky clarkie is not take shots on him or he would be down 4 to 3.
Great series to see a team go all the way, next year our turn.

Fan

Anonymous said...

minnesota-duluth won 4 to 0, they won as a team, individual awards mean nothing. Next year this team need leaders, championships are won by teams. Uaa was the only team to successfully beat minnesota-duluth. All we heard was minnesotas top line or drafted players.,let's come back as a team to be reckoned with.

Fan

Anonymous said...

How about the team that won couldnt beat UAA all year...WOW..Friken Wow... I got one question..Who had the most number 1 stars in games this year for the wolves..That should qualify for at least a runner up for MVP or most improved...

Anonymous said...

Everyone involved with the seawolves should take a look back at the year and enjoy the great moments. All the players improved their confidence, there is no wcha team will intimidate this team next year.
FAn
Need more support from the fans and university.

Anonymous said...

Donald

Maybe you should phone every players dad to get their input.

Anchorage
Fan

Anonymous said...

He could just e-mail them. I'll bet there would be an opinion or two.

Donald Dunlop said...

Wow.

Anonymous said...

What are you guys talking about anyway? I'm lost.

Anonymous said...

I'm a dad, Anchorage Fan. What exactly did you want to know?

Anonymous said...

clarkie for captain...

Kyle said...

Hey,

Big Wings fan here, love the great words about Backstrom. I run a prospects-intensive Red Wings blog, so I've known of Backstrom since he was drafted, but there's never any news about him, seems like a bit of a lost prospect, never did much in Sweden, then seemingly enrolled at UAA at random, I really didn't know what to think of it. Seems like he wasn't much of a factor his first two years with injuries and such.

But I'm glad to hear he's made something of his junior year. Do you think he might be worth a contract if he keeps this going as a senior? I'm sure Detroit still has some kind of tab on him, Swedish scout Hakan Andersson especially, but he is definitely pretty off the radar as far as prospects go. I'll definitely have to keep a closer look out for him next season.

- Kyle

Donald Dunlop said...

Kyle,
Nils could certainly play (and play well) in the AHL today. Another year here in Anchorage will certainly mature him more.

I think he certainly could make it to the show but I'm not familiar with the Wings depth on D. Hopefully, they have enough um .. faith... to put some bucks behind their pick and give him a chance to prove himself. It would be a mistake not to have him at a summer camp this season.

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