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March 9, 2011 :: 8:34am ET

The Real Rookie of the Year

TORONTO, ON -- For the record, I never quit writing; I just took a 14 week vacation. Truth be told, life got crazy, and passion had to take a back seat for a bit. But now I'm back and hopefully for good (Editor's note: Agreed). Now as Jay-Z might say, "On to the next one."

The NHL, while the best league in the world, is not immune to its fair share of oddities. For example, when browsing through a list of NHL Calder trophy candidates you might come across names like, Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, Taylor Hall and suddenly, Michael Grabner. A name that you won't see on that list belongs to Alex Pietrangelo.

Even though the first-year pro has been a rock on the St. Louis Blues' defense, giving them the opportunity to ship former first-overall pick Erik Johnson to Colorado, he will not win the Calder this year. The reason? A strange rule that determined that Pietrangelo isn't, in fact, a rookie.

I can see how the league is confused, this season Pietrangelo has not looked like a rookie; he is 19th in the NHL in points for defensemen and of those 19, he has the fifth highest plus-minus. All the more reason why this first year player should be recognized.

You see, Pietrangelo played eight games in 2008-09 and nine games in 2009-10 before being sent back down to the Ontario Hockey League to play against teenagers in both seasons. Those combined 17 games of limited professional experience over the two seasons make Pietrangelo a veteran, according to the NHL. To be eligible for the award, a player must play less than six games in the two preceding seasons or less than 25 in the previous season. Pietrangelo played seven games too many.

What makes the rule odd, however, is that Couture and Grabner, while still eligible for the Calder, have much more experience playing against NHL competition.

Couture played 25 regular-season games in 09-10 and while this is permitted by the rules, his additional 15 games of playoff experience put Couture at a total of 40 games against NHL competition, hardly making him a freshman in the NHL ranks. Grabner, on the other hand, had 20 games of regular season experience last year to go with nine playoff games, not to mention two and a half seasons playing minor-pro for the Vancouver Canucks AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.

As the NHL states in its description of the Calder trophy, it is awarded "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League." According to that definition, none of these players should be eligible.

Instead, true rookies like Skinner and Hall should be the type of players rewarded. But, if players like Grabner and Couture continue to be regarded as eligible for the Calder, then so should players who have similar experience to Pietrangelo. Instead, make the rule if you've played 25 games in the NHL regardless of when they came, you are no longer eligible for the Calder trophy. It's time for the NHL to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID.

(Week Ending Sunday, March 6)

Forward of the Week
Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks
4GP, 5G, 2A, 7 Points, +3

Captain Serious has been on a tear as of late as it seems like the Blackhawks are finally starting to kick that Stanley Cup hangover. He sits in the top 15 in nearly every offensive category and is quickly becoming a front-runner for the Hart Trophy.

Defenseman of the Week
Nicklas Lidstrom, D, Detroit Red Wings
4GP, 1G, 4A, 5 Points, -1

Lidstrom has been a force lately, recording 10 points in his last 10 games. The 40-year-old seems to be poised for another Cup run as the Wings are now hot on the heels of the West-leading Vancouver Canucks.

Goalie of the Week
Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens
3GP, 3W, .974 SVP, 1.00 GAA

Price has posted 3 straight wins, 2 being 40+ save performances as the Habs look to clinch a playoff spot. For Price, this kind of performance has been happening all season. What a difference a year makes.

MVP Watch
1. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stamkos is still top spot, though Sedin is making a strong push. The voting may have less to do with how the players finish the season and more to do with how the teams do. Considering that the Lightning just relinquished the top spot in the Southeast Division to the Washington Capitals that might not bode well for Stamkos.

2. Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver Canucks
Daniel currently leads the league in points and has been playing so well that he makes it look like there are two of him on the ice (bad joke). If he does win the Art Ross this year, it will be the first time ever that brothers have won that trophy, never mind in back-to-back to seasons.

3. Tim Thomas, G, Boston Bruins
The Bruins have the best winning percentage in the Northeast and though Thomas has come back down to earth lately he is still a huge reason for their success. Second best goal differential in NHL

4. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, New Jersey Devils
After an abysmal start of the season, Kovalchuk has finally put his saddle on and the Devils have hopped on. With a 20-2-2 record in their last 24, the Devils have been oh so good lately and Kovalchuk is a big reason. If they squeak into the playoffs, something that was seen as impossible just a month ago, Kovalchuk will get some serious consideration for the Hart and Coach Jacques Lemaire will be a lock for the Jack Adams award.

Michael Grossi is the Features Editor of The Fourth Period Magazine.
His columns [The G-Spot] appear every Monday on TFP.
Follow Michael Grossi on Twitter



G-Spot Archives:
Nov. 23, 2010 In Your Face!
Nov. 09, 2010 Missed It By That Much
Nov. 01, 2010 Movember Greatness
Oct. 25, 2010 Opening Season Eye Openers
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