New to this season, every Nations site will get its readers and writers to vote on “Year End Awards” in a few different categories. It was a painstaking process to whittle down the nominations in each category to five apiece, and not only that, the pony transporting the ballots to Leafs Nation HQ got eaten by a bear.
But we finally got a hold of them, and some state-of-the-art polling software to get the reader involved as well. Hit past the jump for our nominees:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Nominees: Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, Jay McClement, Dion Phaneuf, James Reimer
Writers’ choice: JAMES REIMER (unanimous – 5 out of 5)
Justin Fisher: Make no mistake, the Leafs are not a very good team. The rate at which they get outshot by opponents is embarassing (27th in Shots Against per Game). Without James Reimer playing at the level he played this season, the Leafs wouldn’t be a playoff team. Shout out to Ben Scrivens, who kept postseason hopes alive when Reimer was injured. I’d just as quickly give the MVP Award to the goaltending tandem.
Other Nominees: Young sensation Nazem Kadri, top defenceman Dion Phaneuf and penalty killing specialist Jay McClement were also nominated in this category.
Nominees: Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson, Dion Phaneuf
Writers’ choice: DION PHANEUF (unanimous – 5 out of 5)
Jon Steitzer: He’s played a ton of tough minutes often dragging around anchors like Holzer or Kostka and somehow he’s managed to actually get some time in the offensive zone and be one of the top scoring defensemen in the league too. That’s pretty darn good. Since Gardiner has barely played and Gunnarsson hasn’t been as good due to his hip problems the blueline at the ACC has really only had one reliable defender. Phaneuf is a pretty easy choice.
Ryan Fancey: Why? Because he’s the best defenceman. Next.
Other Nominees: Though hurt through some of the year, Carl Gunnarsson stabilized the top pairing when he was in the lineup. Cody Franson’s development as a two-way defenceman was noticeable throughout the season.
Nominees: Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk
Writers’ choice: PHIL KESSEL (unanimous – 5 out of 5)
Steve Dangle: We really need to start viewing Phil Kessel as one of the league’s most underrated forwards. Seriously. Top 5 in scoring over the last two seasons, but he decides not to speak to the media one day, and it’s a sideshow. When he does speak to the media, it’s not all that impressive anyway. He’s an introvert with fast feet, great numbers, one of the greatest wrist shots in the entire NHL. He lead the team in goals, and when he went on a goal-scoring slump he would set guys up instead. I also love when people go “Wow, did you see that? Phil Kessel actually backchecked!” That was a funny joke under Ron Wilson when Kessel just got to Toronto, but it’s not the case anymore. He’s the team’s best scorer, and while he’s not Pavel Datsyuk in his own end, he’s not a liability either. Give the guy his props before he up and leaves for Minnesota.
Other Nominees: We don’t have a pure definition on any of these, but I’m guessing that “best forward” is for offensive talent. We went with the top three scorers on the team.
Nominees: Nikolai Kulemin, Jay McClement, Ben Scrivens
Writers’ choice: TIE – BEN SCRIVENS (2) and JAY MCCLEMENT (2)
Steve Dangle: I feel weird naming Jay McClement here, because he got his props from many members of the mainstream media as the season went on, but the Leafs need Jay McClement. While he spent the majority of his 5-on-5 time playing with the “Winnipeg Blue Bombers” Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr, McClement helped lead to a complete overhaul of the Leafs’ penalty kill. They went from getting completely lit up since…well when was the last time the Leafs’ PK was great all season long? Got an answer, Cam? Now, they’re Top 5 in both shots against and goals allowed while shorthanded. Reimer’s 5-on-5 save percentage has always been strong even when he slumped with injury last season. His PK numbers? Not so much. Jay McClement was a huge part of that. If Randy Carlyle can find a way to smother the Bruins’ offence with the likes of Grabovski, Kulemin, and Komarov 5-on-5, while McClement and co. hold down the fort on the PK, the Leafs might just have a fighting chance.
Ryan Fancey: I was pretty surprised that Scrivens managed to keep the Leafs afloat while Reimer was out in February. I didn’t know what to expect considering he had some shaky outings to start the season, including that 7-4 nightmare against the Islanders. Finishing the season with 20 appearances and a .915 save percentage is as much as anyone could ask from this guy.
Other Nominee: Nik Kulemin was stuck playing defensive minutes through the first half, and started generating offence under-the-radar when he got paired with Nazem Kadri. Mark Fraser was named the Leafs’ “unsung hero” on a TSN broadcast while most of the people I read disagreed with and they instead said it was Gunnarsson.
Nominees: Joe Colborne, Korbinian Holzer, Leo Komarov
Writers’ choice: LEO KOMAROV (unanimous – 5 out of 5)
Ryan Fancey: I guess Komarov is sort of the new Darcy Tucker. He hits a lot and agitates the hell out of opposing teams. Considering the other rookies are Joe Colborne, who never plays, and Korbinian Holzer, who I never want to see in a Leafs jersey again, Komarov is the easy choice for best rookie.
Jon Steitzer: He could basically take this one just for not being Korbinian Holzer, but it’s also nice to have some that we can proudly call “our son of a bitch”
Other Nominee: Joe Colborne was one of three rookies on the Leafs’ team, and is one of the two to not be named Korbinian Holzer. The other one was a rookie for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
GOAT OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Tyler Bozak, Randy Carlyle, Korbinian Holzer, Colton Orr
Writers’ choice: RANDY CARLYLE (2)
Ryan Fancey: Colton Orr sucks.
Cam Charron: I don’t want to rag on Korby Holzer. But what was the thought process in leaving him on the first pairing for all twelve of those games as him and Phaneuf got absolutely killed by opposing forwards? Holzer’s eyes were always looking straight ahead in the defensive zone. He forgot about guys in front of the net. He played to be physical along the boards and would seemingly ignore the puck. It’s almost like I have to blame the guy for having such raw tools to succeed but none of them translated to the NHL.
Justin Fisher: I don’t know if this is even allowed, but to hell with it. If Randy Carlyle is going to senselessly play Tyler Bozak on the top line, give Nazem Kadri only the 6th most minutes amongst forwards, dress two goons on a regular basis, and regale us with his theories on head injuries, then I’m going to name him Goat of the Year. Baaaaahhhh