2006 Rucchin of the Year Voting
It’s the time of year again that Sports Guy North fans look forward to the most. The leaves are blooming, the Leafs are not, the Easter Bunny has come and gone, and the Andrew Peters of the league have been set aside to save their legs for the all important and pivotal 8th game of the first round. That can only mean one thing: It’s time to vote again for this year's Rucchin of the Year. If you’re not familiar with this award, you can find a description here: Rucchin of the Year Nominations. Basically, the award goes to the player who had the best season that had more to do with his linemates, and less to do with his own talents. If you’re still confused, think of the days when Steve Rucchin was playing on a line with Kariya and Selanne at the top of their games, a situation where even my mom could have gotten 50 points. Remember also the goal he scored off of his lid, leading to a concussion and a lot of missed time over his career. Now you’ve got the right idea in your head, so you’re ready now to see the nominations for the 2006 NHL Award for Rucchin of the Year. Remember to pick your candidate wisely this year, as we will be “presenting” the “award” to the “winner”. Think carefully, and then use the poll in the right margin to vote for your Rucchin of the Year.
A perennial favourite, Straka found himself on a line with one of the leagues best again this year, and really made the most of it. Playing in LA and Pittsburgh last season without a real linemate, Marty put up only 26 points in 54 games. This season, basking in Jagr's glory again, he has 75 points in 81 games. He has also improved from a –43 over the last two seasons, to an impressive +18 this year.
Most people would argue that Straka has had a solid career up to this point which should be sufficient to prove his not a Rucchin. Well, this isn’t the case if you dissect hi actual results themselves. The difference between the 6.5 years where he was able to Rucchin, and the 6.5 years where he wasn't is enourmous. And since they are spread throughout his career, they are not influenced by age or injury. Weighted over an average 82 game season, his statistics are as follows:
Rucchin Years 28 Goals 48 Assists 76 Points
Non-Ruc Years 13 Goals 28 Assists 41 Points
The numbers are staggering, and it's about time that such a dominantly Rucchin-like career is recognized. Somehow he has managed to avoid this honor in the past. What better time than when he is in the lineup with Steve Rucchin himself? Vote for Marty Straka, and give him this long-awaited and fitting culmination to his illustrious career.
Another career Rucchin, Slava's numbers soared to new heights on his arrival in Atlanta. In his three seasons before arriving in Atlanta, he had 36, 38 and 32-point campaigns. His first season in Atlanta, playing with Kovalchuk and Heatley saw him put up 70 points. His second season saw his numbers tail off a bit to 52 points, as Heatley missed 50 games and he was only able to Rucchin off of Kovalchuk’s talent. Throwing Hossa into the mix this year has taken his abilities to new heights, and he finished the season with 70 points in 80 games.
The argument could be made that Slava is just a very inconsistent player, and not really a Rucchin. If you look at his worst slump of the year, however, from March 2 to March 14 where he didn’t register a single point, it was also a time where he found himself not taking a regular shift with either Hossa or Kovalchuk. Coincidence? That’s up to your votes to decide. He was Atlanta’s representative over Marc Savard in the end, because Savard has had an all around decent career. He has been at a point a game pace since arriving in Atlanta, consistent no matter who was on the team at the time. He also had some decent seasons in Calgary before that up until his injury problems.
All in all, Slava seems the more logical Rucchin choice in Atlanta. You tell us now if he has what it takes to go all the way.
Jonathan was the first half’s runaway winner in the Rucchin voting. He had 16 points in 25 games before Thornton's arrival, 77 points in 56 games afterwards. Going further back, even, he had only 63 points in 145 games prior to this season.
Some people argue that Cheechoo has a great shot, but is that really the case? Many people have hard, nice shots, but if someone doesn’t feed them the puck perfectly, it’s not going in the net (Freddy Modin in Toronto comes to mind). NHL.com writer John Kreisler said it best:
“No one has been helped more by Thornton's arrival than Jonathan Cheechoo, whose 53 goals are a career high. Cheechoo had just seven goals when Thornton arrived from Boston; since then, he's had 46, the most in the NHL during that time. Thornton has assisted on 36 of them, including two in Thursday night's 5-3 victory over Vancouver. Cheechoo's shooting percentage before the trade was 8.3; since the deal, it's 20.5.”
I predicted sometime around the midway point of the season that Jonathan would be the favourite for this award come the end of the season. Only your votes will have the final say in proving me right or slightly less right.
This underdog just might have enough bite to steal the award. Lost in the hype of the Canucks top line of Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison (the teams normal Rucchin candidate) was a soaring, underrated second line. The Sedin twins finaly officially came into their own this year, with Daniel getting 71 points and brother Henrik netting 75 points. Luckily for Anson, he was carried on their backs for their trip to stardom. Here is how Anson himself described his first goal of the year:
``It was a great play by the twins (Henrik Sedin took a pass from his twin brother, Daniel),'' Carter said. ``For me, pretty easy. Just put it in the net. ... A nice little saucer pass right on my stick.''
That pretty much sums up the rest of his year as well. Carter had 33 goals that came tied to 53 Sedin assists. In fact, he only had one unassisted goal on the entire year. Every single other goal had at least one Sedin assist on it. 100% of them. In fact, only 8 of the 61 assists on his goals came from anyone else on the team. Clearly Anson’s stats have at least 90% to do with the play of the Sedins. Statistically, if you deem the Sedin’s play of high enough caliber that someone might be able to Rucchin off of them, then Carter has to be your Rucchin of the Year. There is no way around it. The question becomes, then, are the Sedin’s that good yet?
For parts of 2003 and 2004 Knuble played on Boston’s top line and had decent success. Outside of that, however, his career was an offensive mess. He had 40 points in his other 150 games in Boston, and 63 in his other 200 games in the NHL. How is life different playing with Peter Forsberg, you ask? How does 65 points in 81 games sound? After his first 5 seasons in the league he had 69 points, and has come just short of that mark this year alone.
The strangest thing about Mikey’s success is that I can’t think of a single positive thing to say about his offensive play. He’s horrible. He has an iffy shot that he uses far too often, he isn’t fast, he doesn’t have good puck control, he’s questionable in the corners and really doesn’t contribute much. Defensively, I like his game, but that is not what this award is about. If all of the sudden defensive or penalty kill stars like Jim Dowd or Garry Valk were playing on Forsbergs line they’d get 60 points too. And that is what this award is about.
So, those are your nominees. Other candidates of note include Morrison in Vancouver (didn’t quite Rucchin well enough this year, and lagged behind his line. When someone’s lost the ability to Rucchin, and is in a contract year, it’s hard to imagine a reason to bring him back), Tucker in Toronto (I couldn’t include him because I can’t have him win an award. That would justify his position in the league, and as Lindy Ruff said we just can’t have that), and of course Scott Walker who scored a beautiful goal of his head early in the year very reminiscent of the very origin of this award. When all was said and done, however, your 5 Rucchin of the Year nominees stood out above the rest. Vote now and let your voice be heard. The award is primed and ready to go to your choice.
Oh yeah, and as always at election time, take a minute or two to check out http://www.darcyhordichuk.com. It has been updated for his move to Nashville and looks fabulous!