STRAIGHT SHOOTERS

 

CALDER PRE-SEASON

The exciting Calder Trophy. Last season at Straight Shooters, we called the GMís of the NFHL out, and it seemed to work as some research was done and ballots didnít just get a click.

Pre-season last year, we had chosen Yashin, Bure and Sanderson to be the final three. Then, in our season ending article, we had Yashin winning with 13 first place votes. He won with 15 votes. We then selected Felix Potvin to finish 2nd in the voting with just one 1st place vote (we felt he would get enough 2nds to finish 2nd). To our surprise he received 9 1st place votes, and did finish 2nd in overall voting. This alone made our whole offseason to know a goalie finally got some Calder recognition. We had chosen Smolinski to finish 3rd although he would lose out to Bure by 9 points.

Why is the Calder so difficult? Well, for one you have an individual leaderís page for Calder. However, the odds a defenseman can get into that with points is difficult. Then you have goalies, who unless they can get on a much smaller leaderboard for all the goalies in the NFHL, many donít even know who the Calder candidates are. So this year we will do our best to throw out who we like and who to watch for, and donít get sucked into the Dirk Tenzer talk in Florida. GM Ė Matheson played him 70 games back in 1989.

Martin Rucinsky will be given all the TOI and opportunities that he can handle on Long Island. While GM Healey is in a rebuild, he does like to support his young stars. Martin will follow Yashin everywhere he goes and it very well could pay off.

Mike Alatalo in Hartford. What are the odds this kid might be put on a line with Mario Lemiuex? If this occurs look out. The kid has speed and a scoring touch and should get some opportunities. If its with Mario, look out.

Jere Lehtinen with the NYR should get some high-end minutes as well. I would suspect a top 6 in playing time and he has the skill to play on both special teams. His DI will keep him on the ice as well. The one thing that will hurt him, might possibly be his teamís performance. The New York Rangers have struggled the past few seasons, but perhaps Jere can help lead them to a better record.

Peter Forsberg is a playmaker who is ready for the show. Is this his award to lose? What can he do with having a Selanne or Bure on his wing? It is exciting new times in Edmonton, and Fopa might be a key part.

Nikolai Khabibulin is the future of the Chicago Blackhawks, and 1995ís best chance for a goalie to get the Calder. This is by far the hardest position for a Calder candidate and being on a team still rebuilding might be tough on him. Look for a solid season though, and we think he can be in the conversation for sure.

Chris Prongerís time is now, can he handle the show. Being a defenseman might be harder to get noticed than a goalie at times for the Calder, but this kid is made for it. He will get sheltered in some of his minutes, but should perform. Another solid kid on a team that has been rebuilding and can he get that +/- up if his team struggles. It will be interesting, but donít be surprised if GM Panunto doesnít push to get this kid tons of TOI, and push for the award.

So with all that who are our early favorites? We are going to go with Rucinsky to win it, because we feel confident in what the GM and coach will do and put him in a winning situation, if not for the team at least the player. We have Peter Forsberg right behind him and his closest competitor in the points production. We have two guys that we are putting in 3rd that can push for the award or drop. Alatalo will depend on if he gets Mario as his linemate, and the ďBulin WallĒ, can he get enough help from his team to keep shots down and clear rebounds. Both are wild cards indeed. These are out pre-season top 10 for the Calder.

1.        Martin Rucinsky

2.        Peter Forsbert

3.        Mike Alatalo

4.        Nikolai Khabibulin

5.        Jere Lehtinen

6.        Chris Pronger

7.        Craig Conroy

8.        Markus Naslund

9.        Bobby Holik

10.    Adam Foote

STRAIGHT SHOOTERS