With the Habs hitting the halfway point on the season earlier this week, it’s time to hand out our midseason awards.
Team MVP: Alexander Radulov – What an addition he has turned out to be so far. He has been one of their top players most nights and has given the team a legitimate front line presence that they’ve been lacking on the right side for quite a while now. Radulov’s enthusiasm shouldn’t be understated either as that has a tendency to rub off on other players which is certainly a good thing. Even as players return to the lineup though, they’ll really need him in the second half.
Biggest Surprise: Paul Byron – After joining the team last season, Byron played well enough in a depth role to earn a multi-year extension. It looked like early on he’d primarily be the penalty kill specialist he was last season but he fully took advantage of the opportunities to move up early on and has already set new career highs in goals and points. Instead of being basically a depth piece, he’s turned into a core player for the Habs.
Most Improved: Phillip Danault – He didn’t have a big role early on this season but injuries thrusted him into a bigger role. Not only has Danault held his own so far, one could argue that he has thrived. He’s playing with a lot more poise and confidence compared to even a month or two ago while he has gone from a below average faceoff player (47.6% last year between Chicago and Montreal) to a strong one (52.8%).
Most Disappointing: Tomas Plekanec/Brendan Gallagher – I put both players here as they’re both still contributing in some form but nowhere near to the level that is expected of them. Plekanec is still logging heavy defensive minutes but (aside from the last week) has yet to provide any sort of consistent offensive production. Prior to the injury, Gallagher was still his typical aggravating self but only had six goals, well below what he has shown himself to be capable of.
Unsung Hero: Jeff Petry – I know, with a $5.5 million cap hit it’s really hard for him to actually be unsung but Petry’s stabilizing presence on the second pairing has allowed the Habs to overcome a below average third duo as of late without asking Shea Weber to play crazy minutes like he was earlier on in the year. He also is in the midst of a career year offensively which gives the back end a dimension they’ve been lacking recently. Weber justifiably gets most of the attention but Petry’s having himself a solid year as well.