|(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
It’s important to note that we aren’t allowed to vote for Texas Stars, since we cover the team. And, due to the nature of the AHL scheduling, we haven’t seen an Eastern Conference team or player this season (Texas has played three Eastern Conference teams all-time: the Hershey Bears, St. John’s IceCaps, and Syracuse Crunch).
Keep that rule and guideline in mind. We can’t vote for Texas, and we tend to vote for Western Conference players.
Award winner: Peter Budaj, Ontario Reign
Texas media ballot:
- Peter Budaj, Ontario Reign
- Juuse Saros, Milwaukee Admirals
- Jared Coreau, Grand Rapids Griffins
Stephen: Honest question, did anyone in the league (other than Ontario) not vote for Budaj? His numbers were insane this season. He’s just the second goalie in the past fifty years to earn more than 40 wins in a season. When you take into account the percentage of the overall starts that he took, he was a workhorse for the Reign.
Further, last year, Budaj didn’t win a single game. He was 0-9-6 for the St. John’s IceCaps. If there were a Comeback Player award in the AHL, Budaj would win that as well.
You can say what you might about Budaj playing behind a very good Ontario team, but I think we all saw how good he was in net for the Reign against the Stars on multiple occasions.
As far as awards go, we’ll see if Budaj gets the nod for MVP as well. The Cunningham Award has been given to the league’s leading scorer every year but two since 2006 though. A goalie last won the award in 2004 (Jason LaBarbera, Hartford) and only three goalies have won it in the past thirty years. Maybe it’s time for another?
For more on Budaj, I’ll point you to some local coverage from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
Juuse Saros, Milwaukee Admirals
Stephen: Our love for all things Saros continued here with this being the third ballot of ours he found himself on. We’ve already written about him twice in this space, so it is probably overkill to do it again. Suffice it to say that Saros was impressive for us and could be a dangerous force in the Central Division (both AHL and NHL) in the coming years.
Jared Coreau, Grand Rapids Griffins
Sean: The first two names on our ballot were pretty obvious and it seemed like a foregone conclusion Budaj would win the award. Figuring out No. 3 was a bit more complicated since we’ve seen a handful of quality goalies this season.
However, the problem with most of our initial thoughts either spent too little time in the AHL because of injury (Jon Gillies) or NHL duty (John Gibson and Calvin Pickard). Or, they were good for stretches, but had equally lengthy stretches where they struggled.
In the end, we settled on Coreau, mainly because we can’t vote for Maxime Lagace (faces more shots on average than any other goalie headed to the playoffs, he deserved some recognition). Coreau had the combination of consistency (46 games played) and quality (.923 save percentage, 2.40 goals against average) to make our ballot.
He also helped Grand Rapids turn around a horrendous start to the season, and earned a couple call-ups to Detroit. Plus, he played three years of college hockey at Northern Michigan… which was a secondary tiebreaker to the fact he played in the Western Conference.