With the regular season drawing to a close, we; Leafs Nation, now can sit back and do what we do best: analyze and criticize. We started off with a strong four wins and then fell into the statistical abyss, only to later embark on a character-building playoff run. But who do we attribute to the season's success? Who wins the Leaf MVP?
In this post, I break down the three candidates I believe to be in the running for our ‘Most Valuable Player'
1. James Reimer:
If this nomination surprises anyone, I will do (insert something outlandish here). Reimer allowed whoever played in front of him the confidence of knowing: he could stop a puck. I don't think Dion Phaneuf would be making end-to-end rushes if this wasn't true.
Reimer was consistent enough to take the starting job from JS Giguere, which also allowed Gustavsson some time to work out his game in the AHL. No one expected James to embrace this role the way he did. There were many times ‘Optimus Reim' stole entire games for us (i.e. March 22nd @ Minnesota).
Regardless of what one may think, the kid from Winnipeg has exceeded expectations, and it is unlikely that he will continue to play at this level night in and night out (should he play the majority of games next season). In the meantime, the man's a walking statue.
GP:34 W:20 L:8 OT:4 GAA:2.54 SV%: .922
Our most consistent forward down the stretch, Mikhail Grabovski has topped all of his personal ‘bests' this year. With 78 games played he has 29 goals: good for second on the team and 23rd in the NHL. He has dazzled us with some great highlight-reel goals, all while being the re-occurring victim of concussion worthy hits.
‘Grabbo' became the pivot for one of the leagues hottest lines, and was the key contributer to its success. Despite Phil Kessel's recent play, Mikhail was the Leaf's go-to offensive player.
GP:78 G: 29 A: 29 P: 58 +/-: 15
3. Luke Schenn:
It's the reason Cliff Fletcher drafted him. Luke Schenn is the prototypical Defensive Defenseman, and he's a good one too. Coming off a strong second-half last season, it was this year Luke really showed us his potential. The ‘-5' on his stat sheet is really the only blemish one can take away from his total play during 2011.
Where you really start to see Luke's success, is in his hitting and blocking: 240 hits (8th in the league) and 163 blocked shots (12th). ‘Schenner' was clearly a leader off the ice as well, as demonstrated by being Assistant Captain immediately after Tomas Kaberle's departure. And while he did so for only one game; it was a great sign of his progress in the organization. Luke had a solid season, and in the absence of Kaberle, the injuries to Phaneuf, the lackluster play of Komisarek, and...Brett Lebda, he was the Leaf's best Defenseman.
GP:79 G:5 A:16 P:21 +/-: -5
I have now made my nominees and I call on you to decide.
Let the debate begin!
Who is Leaf Nation's MVP?