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LCS Hockey

  1998-99 LCS Hockey Awards
by Michael Dell, Editor-in-Chief

We like to hand out our own Year-End Awards. Why? Because we can. Let's get on with it.

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr
by Meredith Martini

BEST FORWARD - Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins: Jagr isn't the best overall player in the world, that honor goes to Peter Forsberg, but the Czech Wonder Kid did have the best season of any forward. It's tough to argue with his stats. He ran away with the league scoring race, compiling 44 goals and 127 points in 80 games, finishing a full 20 points ahead of runner-up Teemu Selanne. And Jagr got most of those points playing alongside Jan Hrdina, an untested rookie, and Kip Miller, a previously tested and failed minor-leaguer.

Jagr remains the single most dominating offensive force in hockey. Even though he usually only plays one zone and won't throw a check to save his life, Jagr can take a game over at any second with his speed, power, and stickhandling wizardry. True, when ol' Jaromir doesn't score he doesn't do a whole hell of a lot. But then again, he always scores. Jagr figured in on 53% of Pittsburgh's goals this season, the highest such total in the league.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Mighty Ducks; Alexei Yashin, Ottawa Senators.

Teemu once again led the league in goal-scoring, albeit with a casual 47 red lights, and finished second in league scoring with 107 points. One constant over the years with LCS Hockey, we've always said that Selanne is better than Paul Kariya. This year should have proved it.

I'll talk about Yashin a little later.

BEST DEFENSEMAN - Al MacInnis, St. Louis Blues: The Big Daddy Mac had an amazing season. How good was he? MacInnis actually overshadowed Chris Pronger. That deserves a wow. MacInnis, now a ripe old 35, nearly played as many minutes a game as he is old and led all defensemen in scoring with 62 points, including 20 goals. Mac was also a staggering +33. That number takes on even greater importance when realized that Pronger was only a pedestrian +3 this season and that Craig Conroy, St. Louis' next best plus/minus citizen, was 19 clicks back at +14. MacInnis deserves the Norris.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings; Ray Bourque, Boston Bruins.

Nicky Lidstrom is as good as it gets. He's just always in control. On my personal list of defensemen, he'd probably be third behind Darius Kasparaitis and Sandis Ozolinsh. Lidstrom just isn't as entertaining and flashy as those two guys.

It was expected that Bourque would see his playing time reduced this year in order to help lengthen his career. It didn't happen. Bourque still played as much as ever, if not more, and continued to put up decent stats.

Dominik Hasek
Dominik Hasek
by Meredith Martini

BEST GOALTENDER - Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres: While it would be nice to give Byron Dafoe the nod since he had such an incredible season, Hasek's numbers simply can't be ignored. As astounding as it may seem, statistically, Hasek had the best season of his career. Not only did he lead the league for the sixth consecutive season in save percentage with a career high mark of .937, the Dominator also established a new personal best with his gangster slang 1.87 goals-against average. Considering he's the best goaltender on the planet, saying that Hasek had a career year is quite the bold statement.

I'd still rather have Martin Brodeur in net myself, but Hasek's Hasek. Just give him all the awards and save the trouble. He even won top honors at dog obedience school. Yeah, pretend to hold up a biscuit and Hasek rolls over on command. It's quite the trick. Wait a second, that's not a trick, that's just the way he plays goal. Never mind.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Byron Dafoe, Boston Bruins.

This was really just a two-horse race. Any other year, and Dafoe would have easily taken top honors with his 32 wins, 1.99 goals- against, .926 save percentage, and league-leading 10 shutouts. Damn Hasek.

BEST ROOKIE - Chris Drury, Colorado Avalanche: Drury edges teammate Milan Hejduk for top honors simply because of his versatility. Drury can play center or wing on any of Colorado's top three lines. His speed, talent, and tenacity makes him right at home on the third line with Stephane Yelle and Shjon Podein or as a first line compliment to Joe Sakic. However, it was on the third line that Drury spent the majority of his time, which makes his 20 goals and 44 points all the more impressive. Unlike Hejduk, who led rookies in scoring with 48 points, Drury didn't have the benefit of skating a regular shift with Sakic and Peter Forsberg. No doubt, Drury's going to be a player. He's got all the tools, not to mention the box to go along with 'em.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche; Marian Hossa, Ottawa Senators; Jan Hrdina, Pittsburgh Penguins.

When all is said and done, Hossa will probably be the best rookie from the class of '98-99. He's something special.

As for Hrdina, he was easily the best defensive forward among rookies, and could be a Selke candidate in years to come. He's also extremely strong on faceoffs and has the talent to put up some points. He'll be a solid two-way player in this league for a long time.

BEST COACH - Pat Quinn, Toronto Maple Leafs: Coming off a 1997-98 campaign that saw them post a lowly record of 30-43-9, the Leafs weren't expected to do much of anything this season. Enter Pat Quinn. In his first season behind the Toronto bench, Quinn turned the Leafs loose, allowing them to play a wide-open, skating brand of hockey that translated into a 28-point improvement in the standings, the third best record in the Eastern Conference (45-30-7), and the league's highest scoring offense (268 goals). Of course, the change in philosophy was due in large part to the presence of Curtis Joseph in net, but Quinn still had the guts to make the switch. In a world where defense rules supreme and most teams play to not lose games rather than win them, the Maple Leafs were a breath of fresh air.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Bob Hartley, Colorado Avalanche; Kevin Constantine, Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hartley deserves recognition for his perseverance after the Avalanche got off to such a horrible start. A lot of first-year coaches would have folded. He remained strong and true to his plan and the club eventually turned things around.

Constantine always garners consideration for his hard work. There isn't a more prepared coach in the league. He gains extra credit for some of the wacky innovations he tried this year, such as dropping Alexei Kovalev and Marty Straka back to defense and going with five forwards on the power play or employing the same group of five at even-strength late in games when the Pens needed some offense. Constantine even experimented once with four defensemen on a penalty kill. It's nice to see a coach try some new things. The revolution starts now.

BEST GM - Pierre Lacroix, Colorado Avalanche: Lacroix got off to a real rocky start this season, but turned things around in a hurry. First, he showed his commitment to the team by trading his own son, Eric, to Los Angeles. Then he went on a contract signing spree, inking Adam Foote, Sandis Ozolinsh, Patrick Roy, and Peter Forsberg to new contracts. He capped the season off by acquiring Theo Fleury from Calgary. That's nice work.

We almost gave the award to Brian Burke for that tremendous trade that saw him send Pavel Bure to Florida for a whole bunch of nothing, but then we thought that might be taking our love of sarcasm a bit too far. It's been said before, and I'm sure it will be said again, but Brian Burke is a crank.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Craig Patrick, Pittsburgh Penguins. Patrick kept the cash-strapped Penguins competitive while swiping Kovalev from the Rangers and using his usual golden touch to bring in solid contributors like Kip Miller and Dan Kesa from virtual obscurity.

Alexei Yashin
Alexei Yashin
by Meredith Martini

MVP - Alexei Yashin, Ottawa Senators: The man with the swank turtleneck is the winner of this year's most prestigious award, joining past winners such as Rob Blake (1997-98), Tony Amonte (1996-97), and Gary Roberts (1995-96).

Yashin carried the Senators on his back. There's no doubt in my mind he was the most valuable player in the NHL this season. The imposing Russian center-ice man recorded career highs in goals (44), assists (50), points (94), power-play goals (19), and plus/minus (+16). Yashin was often a one-man show, finishing 38 points ahead of the next highest scorer on the Ottawa roster. I just can't imagine Ottawa winning the Northeast Division and holding the second seed overall in the East without Yashin. He was the man in 1998-99.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Curtis Joseph, Toronto Maple Leafs; Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles Kings.

Joseph was most responsible for Toronto's turnaround. His numbers, a 2.56 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage, weren't all that great, but his clutch saves enabled the Leafs to play fast and loose like Eddie Felson.

Lucky Luc called up Mr. Peabody and Sherman and set the dials in the Way Back Machine to 1992-93. This was definitely old school Robitaille. Luc clipped 39 goals and 74 points while playing in all 82 games for the Royalty. And like Yashin, Robitaille finished 38 points ahead of his next closest teammate. So there was Lucky at 74 points, and then a bunch of guys in the 30s. That's the worst supporting cast since "The Jeffersons." Robitaille did the crown proud.

Darcy Tucker
Darcy Tucker
by Meredith Martini

DARCY TUCKER AWARD - Darcy Tucker, Tampa Bay Lightning: For the second straight year, Darcy Tucker wins the Darcy Tucker Award for being the best Darcy Tucker he can be. Tucker led the men with lightning bolts on their pants in scoring with 21 goals and 43 points while also racking up 176 minutes in penalties. If that wasn't enough, he was also involved in a blood feud with LCS Hero Darius Kasparaitis. It just doesn't get any better than watching Tucker and Kaspar go at it. Darcy Tucker is cool. Darcy Tucker is great. All hail Darcy Tucker.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Scott Walker, Nashville Predators; Tyler Wright, Pittsburgh Penguins.

Walker is as gritty as it gets. He comes to play. He also scored a nifty spin-o-rama goal just to prove that he can be fancy.

In a world without Darcy Tucker, Wright would have won this year's Darcy Tucker Award for fighting Florida's Peter Worrell twice in the same game. Wright's listed at around 5'11", 185, but looks smaller. Worrell goes about 6'6", 240, but looks bigger. True, Wright just buried his head and tried to survive, but he was the only Penguin willing to stand up to Worrell. And for his part, Worrell, being the nice guy that he is, didn't take advantage of Tyler. He respected Wright's courage and took it easy on him. Wright, perhaps feeling confident, also tried to fight Tucker this year. Bad decision. Darcy laid the smackdown with the People's Right Hand. Aw, that's just Tucker being Tucker. All hail Darcy Tucker. Darcy Tucker is great.

JERRY FAIRISH AWARD - Jerry Fairish, LCS Hockey: Jerry Fairish, LCS Hockey Pittsburgh Correspondent and idol of millions from eight to eighty, claims the first ever Jerry Fairish Award for being the best damn Jerry Fairish he could be. Aside from his duties with LCS, Jerry routinely puts up with my depressed rantings of a life gone wrong, always acts as my designated driver, and has displayed great patience in going out week after week while I worked up the nerve to ask out a certain individual who will remain nameless (EDITOR'S NOTE: Psst, her name's Val). For all these reasons and more, Jerry Fairish wins the first ever Jerry Fairish Award. Congratulations, Jer!

HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Pope, Mahatma Gandhi, and Carrot Top.

C - Alexei Yashin, Ottawa Senators: Should be league MVP.

RW - Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins: Best scorer in hockey.

LW - John LeClair, Philadelphia Flyers: Scored 43 goals and 90 points in 76 games while leading the league with a +36. Besides, he could kick Paul Kariya's ass.

D - Al MacInnis, St. Louis Blues: Should win his first ever Norris Trophy.

D - Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings: Had 14 goals and 57 points in 81 games and only took 14 minutes in penalties. You can't be the best all-around defenseman in hockey from the penalty box.

G - Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres: Blah blah blah.

C - Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche: Rang up 41 goals and 96 points in 73 games, quietly going about having the third highest points-per-game average in the league at 1.32, behind only Jagr (1.57) and Selanne (1.43). Also elevated his game defensively and played more minutes than any other forward in hockey.

RW - Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Mighty Ducks: First in goals (47), second in points (107), and just a real swell guy.

LW - Paul Kariya, Anaheim Mighty Ducks: One of only three players to reach the 100-point plateau, bagging 39 goals and 101 points. He also appeared in all 82 games. But then again, Gary Suter did miss the entire season.

D - Ray Bourque, Boston Bruins: Kept on truckin' with 10 goals and 57 points in 81 games.

D - Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues: Even though his plus/minus dropped, his scoring numbers did improve to 13 goals and 46 points in just 67 games. The bottom line is that he's still the best defensive defenseman in hockey, with all apologies to Derian Hatcher and Adam Foote.

G - Byron Dafoe, Boston Bruins: Had a career year and won't get anything for it. Damn Hasek.

Darius Kasparaitis
Darius Kasparaitis
by Meredith Martini

Here are the coolest players from the 1998-99 season.

1. Darius Kasparaitis, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Darcy Tucker, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Tony Amonte, Chicago Blackhawks
4. Theo Fleury, Colorado Avalanche
5. Martin Straka, Pittsburgh Penguins
6. Alexei Kovalev, Pittsburgh Penguins
7. Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles Kings
8. Pavol Demitra, St. Louis Blues
9. Gary Roberts, Carolina Hurricanes
10. John LeClair, Philadelphia Flyers

LCS Hockey

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