The voting process for the WCHA awards was a little more rushed than usual — I didn’t know I was going to be voting until last Friday night, and the ballots were due less than 48 hours later — but I managed to pull together all of my statistical research in good time.
This year, however, things were a little more difficult in the voting process. More on that later, though.
My typical routine for the forwards is to determine how the nominated players did against their WCHA opponents, with scoring performance against the top defensive teams meaning more to me than big numbers against the weaker defenses. For defensemen, it’s looking at plus/minus ratings. Goaltenders stand out a little more in the memory, so I rely less on numbers there.
Put the stats together with a visual account of the nominated players, and that’s how I come up with my picks. So here they are, with explanations following:
F: Ryan Stoa, Minnesota
F: Ryan Duncan, North Dakota
F: Ryan Lasch, St. Cloud State
D: Chay Genoway, North Dakota
D: Jamie McBain, Wisconsin
G: Alex Stalock, Minnesota-Duluth
I didn’t realize until now that I picked an all-Ryan first team of forwards. I don’t think there’s much debate with Stoa and Lasch — they’re the premier point-getters in the league. I picked Duncan for the first team more for his leadership for a team that put together a great run for the title than for his scoring, although being plus-7 in a season where no one put up overwhelming plus/minus figures helped.
I had a long internal debate about McBain’s presence on the first team. Through covering Wisconsin for most of the season, I got a good look at both sides of the junior — he can be an incredible force for his team in experience on defense and has a great sense for offense on the power play, but he can make inexcusable mistakes and sometimes appears to be absent while he’s on the ice. That, and he was minus-8. But I chose him over Denver’s Patrick Wiercioch on value to the team — I think Denver is still a very good team without Wiercioch but I’m not sure I can say the same for Wisconsin and McBain.
Stalock really impressed me when I saw him this season, and with no one running away with things in the statistics, he seemed like a good pick.
F: Jordan Schroeder, Minnesota
F: Garrett Roe, St. Cloud State
F: Rhett Rakhshani, Denver
D: Patrick Wiercioch, Denver
D: J.P. Testwuide, Denver
G: Brad Eidsness, North Dakota
Here’s my argument for Rakhshani: He had six of his 11 league goals and 15 of his 26 league points against the teams with the second-, third- and fourth-best defenses in the league (Denver was first). Schroeder is an incredible talent, even when he doesn’t put points on the board.
I mentioned before that I was considering Wiercioch for the first team, and that was based on two things: that he scored better than a point per league game (26 in 24), and that, in four games of watching him in person, you can tell how composed he is as a freshman. Denver got a great catch there.
I picked Eidsness over Denver’s Marc Cheverie for the second team because he was able to pull himself out of a sluggish start and backstop a run to the MacNaughton Cup.
F: Chad Rau, Colorado College
F: Justin Fontaine, Minnesota-Duluth
F: Anthony Maiani, Denver
D: Garrett Raboin, St. Cloud State
D: Josh Meyers, Minnesota-Duluth
G: Marc Cheverie, Denver
Fontaine probably had the overall numbers to be on a higher team, but he feasted on St. Cloud State (seven points), Alaska-Anchorage (six points) and Michigan Tech (six points), the defenses ranked fifth, ninth and 10th. Rau earned his way back onto the the list with his late-season performance at North Dakota.
I thought Meyers was a better player than his plus/minus rating (minus-10) showed.
F: Joe Colborne, Denver
F: Derek Stepan, Wisconsin
D: Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin
Colborne took a while to get going, but his talent came through at the end. Stepan impressed me throughout the year, especially when the Badgers put him at center and on the penalty kill at midseason. That latter move paid off last weekend, when he scored twice on the same North Dakota power play.
I picked Gardiner over Colorado College’s Gabe Guentzel for the rookie team because Gardiner’s presence, while not to Wiercioch’s level, was impressive in its own right. He didn’t shy away from attempting to carry the puck end to end or going through opposing defensemen at the blue line
Eidsness was the only available option for rookie goaltenders, and this time I actually pulled the trigger on that check mark. There was one year where there was only one freshman goaltender on the ballot, and I couldn’t in good conscience vote for him because he had an awful set of statistics. No such issue with Eidsness.
Player of the year
I picked Stoa, even though, as a colleague pointed out, it’s tough to vote for a guy who captained a team that melted down in the second half. Not tremendously excited about any of the other options (CC’s Richard Bachman, Cheverie, Stalock, Genoway, Lasch and McBain), I went with Stoa because he can show that man-among-boys quality.
Rookie of the year
Wiercioch got the check mark because he impressed me more than Schroeder, and that’s saying something.
Coach of the year
When it came down to it, my only two choices were North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol and Denver’s George Gwozdecky. I was already leaning toward Hakstol because he helped his team rise from the ashes again, but then I remembered Gwozdecky’s little walk across the ice and subsequent suspension for talking to his coaches from the press box after being ejected at North Dakota, and that clinched it. Hakstol was the pick here.
Looking back on it, the struggles in trying to pick the player of the year (colleagues told me I wasn’t the only one in that situation) just show the talent drain that the WCHA has endured recently by having its best players leave early for the pros. We could have been voting for T.J. Oshie or Jonathan Toews or Brock Trotter or Blake Wheeler or Andreas Nodl or Kyle Okposo this season. Just the way the game is right now, I guess.