We have reached the quarter mark of the 2014-15 season, and there have been lots of outstanding performances and surprising developments.
For this week, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at where the race for some of the major NHL trophies is developing and who are some names to watch with each award.
Let's start with the Vezina Trophy, an award for a position near and dear to my heart. There are a few guys with a great case for the Vezina.
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins is right up there. Obviously, Pekka Rinne from the Nashville Predators and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings are as well. In the case of Fleury, he's having an excellent season and leads the League in shutouts. He put a lot of work into his offseason and really made a point to have another not just really good but great regular season with the hopes of carrying that into a great Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Rinne is a great story. It wasn't just the injury and the surgery, but his recovery from the complications and the infection are amazing. This is a guy who basically missed all of last year. To go through what he went through, there were a lot of challenges and a lot of dark days for him.
I don't know if you can say his career was on the line, but I know for a fact his future was certainly in question. He went through a really arduous process after the surgery and the rehab just to be able to walk without pain and do normal things without pain.
Not only is he back playing in goal, Rinne is back to being his top-five-in-the-world self. The Predators are still sound defensively, but they are able to take more chances when they know Rinne is back there.
For me, all things being equal, Fleury has been great, Carey Price has been good, Ben Bishop has been good, Quick has been awesome for the most part, but I've got to the give the edge to Rinne for the Vezina.
Next up let's talk about the defensemen and the Norris Trophy. Obviously, there are a lot of great defensemen right now in a lot of different ways. This is a simple one for me though. Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames is my Norris guy right now, period.
It is the impact he's had: offense, defense, shot blocking, hits, leadership, there are just so many things to like. This is a guy who stepped in to replace Jarome Iginla as captain.
He's also undrafted, which is a great inspiration for people. He's undrafted, Calgary didn't want to give him a one-way contract at one point so he had to go to the Kontinental Hockey League to eventually get a one-way contract and it is an unbelievable story.
Think of the guys Calgary has traded since Giordano joined the team. Dion Phaneuf is gone. Jay Bouwmeester is gone. Giordano is the guy now. He gave them the confidence to trade those guys. He leads the League in defensemen scoring. He leads his team in scoring.
I think it is beyond impressive how Giordano handles himself. He's an all-situations player. To me, he's been the most consistent and productive defenseman. I could talk about him all day.
Like the Norris Trophy, I think the Calder Trophy is a pretty easy call right now. Nashville's Filip Forsberg is having an amazing season and lapping the field in rookie scoring.
It's not just his scoring though. If you're going to talk about Forsberg and his scoring, you can't leave out the fact that he leads the NHL with a plus-20 rating. How about that? That's a big key for me. It is crazy that he's been so productive, but are you kidding me? A young forward who has a plus-20 rating too?
Another guy who deserves to be mentioned is the Flames' Johnny Gaudreau. I love Johnny Hockey. I love what he brings, his compete level and his creativity. He's doing a lot of things people thought he couldn't do because of his size.
He's doing a lot of things at the NHL level that he was doing in Hockey East at the NCAA level at this time last year, which makes it even more amazing. Gaudreau has been a huge part of helping Calgary be so successful to this point.
Finally, let's look at the Hart Trophy for League MVP. There's a few different ways to go with this one.
I would say Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins are the two leading candidates right now for the Hart. You can throw Rinne into the mix. You can throw Giordano into the mix. But I think it comes down to Voracek and Crosby right now.
Sid had a little slump, or at least what counts as one for him, with two points in five games, but he's back in the scoring lead now. He's Sid, and he is Sid every game. There isn't much more you need to say. He wants to be great all the time and he is.
With Voracek, I just love where he's gotten to with his game and the progression he's made in his career. I go back to years ago when Ken Hitchcock was coaching him with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hitch told me, "Weekesie, this guy can be a superstar in this League someday."
Hitchcock was beyond right. He called that years ago. When you watch him play, he can play anyone you want. He's a super-skilled player, he's big, he protects the puck. He's very unselfish. He can make plays all over the ice, and he has become a superstar and an awesome player.
I think it is a coin flip right now between Voracek and Crosby. They have both been fantastic.
That's my look at four of the major NHL awards at the quarter mark of the 2014-15 season. It will be fascinating to see how the races for these trophies progress the rest of the way.