Friday, April 15, 2016

Texas Media Chapter Reveals AHL MVP Award Ballot

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The American Hockey League has begun announcing the 2015-16 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. Today’s ballot: the MVP.

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: Chris Bourque, Hershey Bears

Texas media ballot:
  1. Mikko Rantanen, San Antonio Rampage
  2. Peter Budaj, Ontario Reign
  3. Chris Bourque, Hershey Bears
Stephen: As previously noted, the winner of this award has been the league’s leading scorer every year but two for the last decade. The formula for this award is very similar to the Heisman to be honest. Be the best forward on the best team in the league (or at least wins its division).

Knowing that Bourque would likely win. We lodged more of a protest vote, if you will, on the meaning of the award in the first place. The fact that the player with the most points won the vote points to the overall problem with the league’s voting system. No one can watch every game. That’s a given. But in the current configuration, no one gets to see every team with their own eyes. And so, everyone has to cast the ‘lazy’ vote and pick a guy based on stats. It’s an unfortunate symptom of the larger problem with the voting system.

Sean: While it’s impossible to force voters to watch games and not vote based purely on stats, the league doesn’t make it any easier to determine a true MVP based on his play on the ice.

One way to do this would be making AHL Live readily available to media members covering the league, creating a culture where media members better promote the whole league and not just their city or team.

While it’s available for purchase, the cost ($300 for the season) isn’t one that individual reporters can legitimately afford or in the realm of a newspaper editor approving the purchase just for clearer voting results.

We’ve asked multiple times if the AHL would provide AHL Live for free to media members, and each time it’s been denied.

The other step that can be taken for more transparent results if for others to reveal their ballots. I’ve seen a couple media members reveal their votes on Twitter, but I believe we are the only media contingency that reveals our whole ballot on awards -- warts and all.

Mikko Rantanen, San Antonio Rampage

Sean: MVP stands for Most Valuable Player, and you can’t tell me there was a player more valuable to his team than Rantanen this season -- yes, we gave a 19-year-old our top vote for AHL MVP.

Rantanen put San Antonio on his back this season and had 60 points in 51 games. He was remarkably plus-19 on a team that finished last in division, and he did everything to keep San Antonio in games. He produced on the power play, killed penalties, and scored game-winning goals.

He had four game-winning goals and two insurance goals to secure victories for San Antonio, while he was forced to switch roles from wing to center when injuries hit the Rampage hard.

He also passed the eye test. We watched Rantanen play nine times against Texas and he had 17 points in those contests.

Did his team make the playoffs? No, but in the five games we watched San Antonio without Rantanen they were a much worse team and solidified this choice in my mind.

Peter Budaj, Ontario Reign

Stephen: OK, yes. The Reign are stacked. However, as we’ve noted before in this space, the Reign have leaned heavily on their goaltender in terms of games played. Budaj will probably end up playing 61 of 68 games for the Reign this season and hold a sub 2.00 GAA and a save percentage north of .930.

Chris Bourque, Hershey Bears

Stephen: Alright. Despite all our kvetching above about the meaning of the award and such, Bourque did have a good season. He was ahead of the next closest scorer on the Bears by a significant margin at the time of voting and has widened the lead to 26 points as of this afternoon. He’s clearly the most valuable player on the Bears.

Sean and I felt a certain amount of inevitability that Bourque would be selected and certainly he is in the top five of the league. In terms of those five, this is where we ranked him.

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