In case you haven’t heard by now…THE GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS WON THE 2013 CALDER CUP!!!!!!!
Photo: Griffins Flickr Page
Okay, fine. I’ll actually do a real blog post for once and give some awards for the 2012 – 2013 Griffins season. I’ll expand and some extra commentary when necessary. I feel that I’m qualified for this task since I attended about 10 games this year in addition to watching quite a few games online. Thank you, idiot NHL owners and players, for getting me more into the AHL and people who actually care about the game! Let’s begin, shall we?
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER – Tomas Jurco
Tomas Jurco 6/3/2013 vs Houston
Photo Credit: Jennifer Leigh
Jurco had a rough start to his professional career. He was not very productive and was only playing 3rd/4th line minutes with little to no power play time. It was obvious he needed to gain strength to be able to compete in the AHL. He was unable to win very many puck battles or take the puck to the net. He seemed frustrated with his lack of success and it looked to be wearing on him. This continued for probably 3/4 of the AHL season.
After the Griffins had Andersson and Tatar/Nyquist in the NHL, Jurco stepped up his game. He looked more confident and was able to be a much more productive player. He was able to hold down the second line left wing job, even as Nyquist and Andersson came back to Grand Rapids after the Wings season ended. Even Babcock noted that in the playoffs, Jurco was a much better player than earlier in the year. Jurco had 28 points in 74 regular season games (.378 points/game), while improving to 14 points in 24 playoff games (.583 points/game).
I’m pumped to see him next season on the Griffins top line after he has the summer to work out and improve his game. I don’t think it’ll be long before we see him get called up, at least for a few games, by the Wings.
Best Defensive Forward - Landon Ferraro
Yeah, count me as a guy that counted Ferraro as a “third line AHLer at best” after last year. My bad. Ferraro definitely upped the defensive side of his game, becoming a fixture on the penalty kill (and becoming a shorthanded scoring machine!). Sadly, the AHL does not keep ice time stats, so it’s hard to have actual numbers, but just take my word for it. Ferraro can play center or the wing and played everywhere from the top line to fourth line and point on the power play.
The “Too Good to Play the Full Season in the AHL so Not Eligible for Full Season Awards but Still Deserve Recognition” Awards: Tomas “THE SOUSE” Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff
Yeah, hard to give these guys “regular” awards when each missed a significant amount of time during the season. Nyquist only played 58 regular season games and still led the team with 60 points. He also only played about half the playoff games. Tatar scored 49 points in 61 games and was definitely the on-ice captain through his effort and determination. Andersson was a stellar two-way center, excelling on the power play and penalty kill. Battled through some injuries, but was still really important to their success. Smith and Lashoff played the first half of the season with the Griffins and played damn well. Both earned sports on the Wings when the NHL season started, and only Lashoff saw playoff time for Grand Rapids. Yeah, the Griffins were without their top 5 skaters for good chunks of the season and still won the division. Pesky Griffs.
Best Defenseman (Kronwall Award) - Nathan Paetsch
This was probably the toughest award to decide on. Can’t give it to Lashoff or Smith as stated above. The only defensemen to play over 60 games for Grand Rapids were Billins, Evans, and Almquist. Almquist was most improved for sure, but did struggle early on. Evans was pretty much a defensive guy (until the playoffs!!!!!) while Billins was counted on mostly for offense. Paetsch was the constant and consistent two-way defenseman who played in all situations and was a very sold veteran on a relatively young blue line.
Best Goalie - Petr Mrazek
April 19, 2013 vs Peoria
Photo Credit: Jennifer Leigh
The “Yeah, He’s Got Actual Game” Award – Mitch Callahan
2/24/2013 vs San Antonio
Photo Credit: Jennifer Leigh
I know Jurco was the most improved player this year, but if I stretch that out to last year, I would give Callahan the award. Last season, Cally tried to be “the tough guy” on the team, a role he is not best at. Yes, he can fight when he needs to do so, but playing hockey is much more important. After only scoring 9 points last season and struggling to stay in the lineup, Callahan definitely upped his game to become a third line pest and regular on the penalty kill. He will never be a top 6 power play guy, but I think he has a decent chance of getting a call up in the next year or two to take the fourth line right wing and PK spot. If he keeps up his work ethic and remains focused, I look forward to seeing him get more ice time next season.
The Non-Mrazek Rookie of the Year Award - Chad Billins
When I went to the Griffins home opener, I had no idea who Chad Billins was. I had heard the Griffins signed him and that he played at Ferris State, but I had no idea what to expect. He’s basically a left-handed version of Brian Rafalski. He is a small, smooth-skating, great passing defenseman. In the regular season, he led the Griffins defensemen with 37 points in 76 games played. He does not have a Wings contract, but I would not be surprised to see the Wings give him a two-way contract at some point. I know it’s crowded on the GR blue line next year (Sproul, Ouellet, Jensen are all top Wings prospects), but I don’t see how they don’t give him a shot since you know other teams have to be considering giving Billins a chance. Make it happen, Griffins!
The Unsung Hero Award – Luke Glendening and Jeff Hoggan
Hoggan came to the team on a tryout a week before the season started and ended up being named Captain. Glendening was the “hometown boy” who started the season in the ECHL. After the Griffins started out, you know, bad, Glendening was called up and gave some effort and grit to the bottom six forwards. I wasn’t a fan of Hoggan early on, but as the season progressed, he showed his work ethic and had a huge impact on the young kids. Along with Mursak, these two formed the Griffins third line in the playoffs. You could argue this was the best line throughout the march to the Calder Cup and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Great stuff.
Playoff MVP – Tomas “THE SOUSE” Tatar
Tatar and some bum. Photo Credit: Jason Louks
Okay I lied…gotta give some love to The Souse here. When you score 16 goals in 24 playoffs games (about half of which were with Sheahan and Pare instead of Nyquist and Andersson), you have to get your props. He won the AHL Playoff MVP award which was so well deserved that I included it here.
And finally, we have….
THE GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2012-2013 REGULAR SEASON AND PLAYOFF MVP:
Wait for it.
Shockingly, I am not naming Gustav Nyquist team MVP, just the MVP of my heart.
Can you feel it?
Seriously, this kid is “The Real Deal”. The Griffins were basically in free-fall until Petr was called up from Toledo (ECHL). Mrazek ended up winning his first 6 (!!!!!) AHL starts, in addition to his first ECHL and NHL starts. Holy Mrazek, Batman! He had GAA of 2.33 in the regular season and 2.31 in the playoffs, with identical .916 save percentage in each. I know a few fan girls for “other goalies” *ahem* who want to point out Petr let in a few soft goals. Yes, yes he did. He also turned 21 in February and is bound to make some mistakes. He did play exceptionally well for ANY age, especially a 21-year-old professional rookie. Also, this happened:
WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Photo Credit: Griffins Flickr
WOOHOO!! CALDER CUP CHAMPIONS WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Professionalism, pass it on.
That’s all for now. If you have any thoughts, yell at me on the Twitter (@KevinN37). Also, I used the following sites below for lots in this post, so click on them and give them some support:
HockeyDB Griffins Page
Jennifer Leigh Photography and Facebook Page