43 games down, 39 to go. The season has been an enjoyable ride so far and with everyone handing out mid-year trophies, we here at Litter Box Cats might as well jump on the bandwagon. Join us as we make our selections for Florida's Hart, Norris, Selke, and Lady Byng recipients.
Hart Memorial, or Pavel Bure Trophy
- Alex: Since I can't give it to Jose Theodore, I'll go with Brian Campbell. The team leader in assist and ice time, Campbell averages 26:19 of ice time a night and is worth every cent of his $7,142,875 contract. The Panthers powerplay is up from 13.11% last season, to 18.79% (a 5.68% increase) and you don't have to look far to see why. Campbell is tied with Erik Karlsson for the NHL lead in powerplay assists, and second to Mr. Karlsson for the NHL lead in points for defensemen.
- Chris: Signed in the offseason with big expectations, Tomas Fleischmann has brought his arsenal of tricks and talents to the top line with great results. Though he doesn’t lead the team in scoring, he is easily the Panthers’ most skilled player who’s proven to be more than the second liner he was in Washington. Despite cooling off a bit like the rest of the top line, Flash continues to be an offensive threat producing key goals at key times in a game. Not to mention he does all this after missing half of last season to a life threatening medical condition.
- Donny: With 5 points more than second-leading scorer Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg's 17 goals and 22 assists lead (G) or tie (A) in both categories, collected in one fewer game than Flash. Steeger has 4 winners - better by 2 than the runner-up - and 108 shots on goal, which trails Fleischmann by 6. Both wingers have identical powerplay numbers (team-best 5G/9A). Throw in a SHG, higher hit total (34 to 17) & the team's only OT winner and Versteeg clearly has been the club's MVP through the first half.
- Ryan: In my mind, there's no player on this team that has as big of an impact as Stephen Weiss. When he's out of the lineup, this is a completely different team and he currently sits as the only true top-line centerman on the roster. His two-way play goes unnoticed by many and yet that's what has made Weiss so successful as he still leads the team with a +13 through 42 games. His scoring has cooled down along with his linemates, but Weiss missed a few games due to injury and still seems to be recovering from that time missed. Regardless of numbers, Weiss is the centerpiece for the Panthers forward corps and has been the MVP so far.
James Norris, or Robert Svehla Trophy
- Alex: Whoops, I guess I already answered this question with my choice for the Pavel Bure Trophy. Well I might as add a few more reasons to why Brian Campbell is a good player. He leads the team in scoring for defensemen, he's played in all 43 games, scored on three goals with only one being on the powerplay, and his full name is Brian Wesley Campbell. He also won the William Hanley Trophy as the OHL's Most Gentlemanly Player in 1999.
- Chris: You wouldn’t expect a guy who went undrafted and hardly played 100 games before this season to even be in contention for a trophy, but Jason Garrison has emerged out of nowhere to earn this one. We watched Garrison last season play alongside Weaver to form a shutdown pairing, but no one expected he’d lead NHL defensemen in goals at the halfway point of this season. Scoring isn’t the only thing Garrison does well; he jumps into plays, leads the team with 7 power play goals and is second on the team in penalty killing TOI.
- Donny: A team-high 30 assists (18 on the PP) by Brian Campbell currently leads fellow blueliner Dmitry Kulikov by a whopping 13. Though his 68 SOG are on the lower end, trailing both Kuli (72) and Jason Garrison (97), he's been exactly the type of quarterback Florida has lacked in recent seasons. Garrison may be the sexy pick with a better plus-minus, more goals, 2 game-winners and higher Hits/BkS, but Soup's sustained offensive contributions - including 3 goals - are impossible to ignore.
- Ryan: This is for the team's top defenseman right? All the firepower of Jason Garrison, Brian Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov aside, I'm going to pick Mike Weaver. He has been an absolute pillar of consistency for the Cats so far this season and has logged some of the toughest minutes for the team all season long. He has been a major factor in the success of the PK unit, and he gives 100% effort night in and night out. He received a two-year deal a couple weeks ago, thereby proving just how valuable Weaver is to the Panther blueline. He's a workhorse, a leader and has been so good, the Panthers have been forced to scratch talented rookie Erik Gudbranson or third-year defenseman Keaton Ellerby almost every game. Tip of the hard hat to Weaver for being the Panthers best D-man so far.
Frank Selke Trophy
- Alex: He may not have the defensive stats as Stephen Weiss does, but Kris Versteeg is my choice for the Panthers best defensive forward. For a player that's 5-10 and weights 182, he doesn't let opposing players push him around. His 34 hits and 14 blocked shots may not lead the team (or be in the top ten), but he's second in Panther plus-minus and has a shorthanded goal. Which to me, is thanks to fine defensive work.
- Chris: Outsiders view Stephen Weiss as a high scoring set-up man, but in reality he balances his offensive attack and defensive responsibilities quite proficiently as a center, even if it means missing out on points to clean up things in his own end. Weiss is often the trailer in odd-man rushes because he sends the breakout pass to his wingers and hangs back to wait for his defensemen before joining the attack. His defensive reliability is reflected in his team leading +/- and Dineen’s trust putting him out as the lone forward on a 5-on-3.
- Donny: No surprise here, as Stephen Weiss is the go-to guy in every situation. Averaging 1:27 SH time per game and carrying a scant minus-5 in 22 losses, Weiss edges shorthanded TOI leader Tomas Kopecky with a far better point total (33/17), vastly superior plus-minus (+11/-13) and overall faceoff percentage (54.9/51.2). Should be noted that Kopy's 22-16 SH FO record is nothing to sneeze upon, which betters Weiss (34-36).
- Ryan: Gotta go with Weiss here for the same reasons mentioned above. He's the best two-way player on the team. Tomas Kopecky would have to be a close second though.
Lady Byng, or Scott Mellanby Trophy
- Alex: Jose Theodore. Nice guy who picked to play in Florida not because of money, but for the chance to prove he can still start, and because John Madden hasn't played enough games to justify winning this (what, Madden's a really nice guy).
- Chris: Despite looking like Dracula, Marcel Goc wouldn’t hurt a fly. And he loves puppies.
- Donny: Campbell. With 4 total minutes - the first 2 of which weren't collected until December 8th - who else could it be? Stat of the day: Soup has 4 assists in those two games.
- Ryan: Brian Campbell is my winner here, as he's played in all 42 games, has 33 points, is a +2, and yet has a mind-boggling FOUR penalty minutes so far. For a defenseman, that's quite impressive.
Care to dispute? Let us have it below...