Friday, April 17, 2015

Texas Media Ballot Stresses the "Valuable" Part of AHL MVP

Ty Rattie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The American Hockey League is announcing the 2014-15 year-end awards. As the media representatives for the Texas Stars, Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey and Sean Shapiro of the Austin American-Statesman submitted a ballot for each award. As winners are announced, we’ll break down the choices. Today’s ballot: the Les Cunningham Award.

Keep the rule and guideline in mind from the first post: we can’t vote for Texas, and we tend to vote for Western Conference players.

Our ballot…
  1. Matt Murray, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
  2. Ty Rattie, Chicago Wolves
  3. Bobby Sanguinetti, Utica Comets
Stephen: This one took me by surprise a bit. Although in many ways, I suppose it shouldn’t have. The Cunningham Award has been given to the league’s leading scorer every year but two since 2006. Cory Conacher picked it up in 2011-12 thanks to being a rookie and getting the second-most points in the league. Tyler Johnson was the other exception, finishing eighth in scoring.

Our top ballot choice was much like our choices on the rest of the ballot: goalie Matt Murray.

To break down why we chose Murray for this award, you could certainly look at all we’ve written this week about him, but it comes down to more than that for the MVP award. MVP stands for ‘most valuable player’. In our estimation, that’s a player who added the most value to his team. A player without whom the team would be in a very different position.

Compare the statistics of Murray (25-9-3) to the Penguins’ other goalie, Jeff Zatkoff (16-14-4). With Zatkoff in the net for Murray’s games, do the Penguins earn home ice advantage in the East? Do they even make the postseason? That’s what we voted for. A player who made a huge difference on his team and without whom the team might have had a starkly different fate on the season.

Sean: And O’Neill clearly wasn’t his team’s “Most Valuable Player.” O’Neill played on a line with Jordan Weal, another very good player, and they led the way for Manchester as it claimed the AHL’s top record in the regular season.

However, if you took away O’Neill or Weal from Manchester that team would still be amongst the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Murray, on the other hand, is the reason the Penguins will be entering the playoffs -- as Stephen stated.

It’s also interesting that O’Neill wasn’t even a first-team All-Star. That’s not a requirement, but it’s hard to believe that the AHL’s Most Valuable Player isn’t a first-team selection. What that means is many voters who had O’Neill on their AHL ballot didn’t have him as their first-team center.

Stephen: Ty Rattie was our second choice. He’s always a solid player for the Wolves, and, unlike Manchester, Chicago really needed his 42 points this season to make it into the postseason. He didn’t lead in goals or assists, but had a balanced games (21 of each) and a positive plus-minus. He also passed the all-important eye-test for us. In some pretty rough games for the Wolves against Texas, Rattie was a bright spot and showed that he is an impactful player for the team overall.

Of course now he’s not even going to be able to help the Wolves in the postseason. The Blues saw his play in the minors, and he’s in the NHL playoffs now.

Sean: Bobby Sanguinetti was our pick for the Eddie Shore Award -- AHL Defenseman of the Year -- and he’s on our MVP ballot for the same reason.

He’s a solid defenseman in all three zones, a catalyst on the power play and penalty kill, gobbles up ice time, and he makes a good Utica Comets team even better. Utica is one of the AHL’s top defensive teams, even though they’ve used four goalies this season, and Sanguinetti is their leader.

Defenseman and goalies usually don’t get MVP love and that’s wrong. The game is played in three zones and, it’s terribly cliche, but defense wins championships.

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