December 21 2010 03:27PM
This is the Hall of Fame edition of the Calder trophy and tonight in San Jose there is a good chance we will be watching the 2011 winner of the Calder. Logan Couture, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall are 1st, 3rd and 4th respectively in rookie scoring and along with the Canes' Jeff Skinner and Capitals' John Carlson they are the five front-runners.
Since 1980 the winner of the Calder trophy has become a elite level player in the NHL, excluding a few exceptions. Bryan Berard never became a dominant player, although a serious eye injury was a major factor in his development, Barret Jackman (2003) is a steady but unspectacular D-man and 2004 winner, Andrew Raycroft, morphed into a backup. The rest had good to great careers.
Here are the winners since 1980.
Most of them became dominant players, so tonight's game could showcase a glimpse of potential greatness amongst Couture, Hall or Eberle.
Hall and Eberle have played together for the majority of the season, while Couture has had different wingers throughout the season, but he has still found a way to lead the Sharks in goals with 17 and many reports have him as the early MVP candidate on the Sharks. Couture is a typical Shark forward; big, strong and skilled.
He and Joe Thornton are quickly becoming one of the best 1-2 centre tandems in the league, and with Thornton seeing a lot of the other team's best D-man, Couture has been able to develop nicely. The reality is if he keeps scoring like he has been he will start to see some tougher competition moving forward.
Gilbert Brule didn't make the trip out west and will be seeing a doctor to find out what is ailing him. It sounds like it is more of an illness than an injury. With Brule out, Ryan Jones will move up and play with Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano while JF Jacques draws back in and will skate with Colin Fraser and Zack Stortini.
The top two lines and defence pairings will remain the same and Nikolai Khabibulin looks to be starting in goal.
Since the lockout the Oilers are 5-5 in San Jose, but the Sharks have beaten them twice this year at Rexall Place. The Sharks size, skill and their faceoff efficiency has given the Oilers fits this year. The Sharks are the 2nd best faceoff team in the league at 53..% while the Oilers are 28th at 45.1%.
THE HANDS WILL TELL THE STORY
GAME DAY PREDICTION: A four day break, with a bad sweater party in between and a date in San Jose results in the Sharks 3rd straight win over the Oilers. The Oilers will keep it close but give up an emply netter and lose 5-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: We will witness some sweet hands from both squads that will result in a few highlight reel goals. Linus Omark will score again and a two-game goal scoring streak will have some Oiler fans believing that Ales Hemsky is expendable. It was cause a great debate in the post-game comments here in the Nation.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Upon realizing that Sandis Ozolinsh is getting his own bobblehead as part of the Sharks' 20th anniversary celebration, Ryan Whitney plays with some extra push in his stride. If he can register five more assists without scoring, he'll enter into the NHL record book for most assists to start a season without a goal, and becomes a passing machine tonight.
Whitney connects on 32 consecutive passes, which he later declares is an Oiler record for most consecutive passes in a road game, registers two assists and is named 2nd star in the loss.
After the game, Gene Principe informs Whitney that he actually needs four more assists to own the record by himself. Whitney calmly looks at Geno and says, "Fine," and then stares straight into the camera and says, "Mrs Gene Principe, your husband hasn't bought you a Christmas gift yet, and is planning on getting you a fake Versace purse in LA."
Then he turns to Gene and says, "Doesn't feel good to have your dreams crushed on live TV does it GENE...DOES IT."
Instantly Principe's blackberry starts ringing and we hear his wife's ringtone, "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin...Principe is clearly rattled, more about the ringtone, and quitely tosses it back to Sportsnet connected. Back at the desk, the conversation turns to what is the worst ringtone a guy can have when his lady calls.