2013 Hootenanny Award

In 2011-12, I looked at the actual replacement players used by each NHL team, using them as real-world examples of how we look at the concept of replacement level in hockey. Of particular interest to me was how some teams managed to garner contributions that were well above the going rate of replacement from their call-ups and how those contributions may have given those teams as they challenged for postseason berths. The top replacement player was awarded with the Hootenanny Award, named both for the term’s colloquial meaning – that which has been forgotten or neglected, as well as being an album title by the classic 80’s alt-punk band, the Replacements.

The inaugural award was won by Rangers’ winger Carl Hagelin, who was called up fairly early and fit right in as a third liner with scoring ability and the type of characteristics desired for the penalty kill. Hagelin has lived up to the award, with 5.4 GVT during his lockout-shortened second season and an additional 9.1 GVT through March 30 as he closes in on his first 20 goal season while also contributing greatly to the Rangers’ possession game.

The other finalists mix the good and the bad with Slava Voynov, Andrew Shaw, Ian Cole and Ryan Ellis all having since improved their relative standings as bonafide NHL’ers, while Eric Wellwood and Matt Taormina have been less fortunate.

With the 2012-13 season limited by to 48 by the labor dispute, there were fewer replacements needed and those that got the call had less of a chance to establish themselves.

Before I get to the finalists – and winner – just a reminder that to qualify, the player needed to be in the minor leagues at the start of the NHL campaign and have played at least 10 NHL games during the regular season. Only regular season contributions are counted (sorry, Torey Krug) and the winners are decided by their per-game contributions as an outsized role in a shorter span can have more of an impact than a player who played marginally above replacement level but was called up earlier.

5. Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

14 games, 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, 10.3 Relative Corsi, 2.6 GVT (.19 GVT/game)

The diminutive scorer was recalled in mid-March to replace an injured Vincent Lecavalier. TheNHL point totals did not jump off the page, but the AHL sniper proved that his size would not stand in the way of achieving an NHL career. Thankfully, Johnson kept his rookie eligibility as is now seen as one of the likely finalists for the 2013-14 Calder Trophy, a worthy designation after his first cameo netted him a Hootenanny nomination.

4. Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings

10 games, 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points, -1 Relative Corsi, 1.9 GVT (.19 GVT/game)

Called up from the AHL on the tenth of March, Toffoli, in his first full season as a professional, proved that his scoring exploits from the OHL, where he twice topped 50 goals with the Ottawa 67s, were able to translate to the higher ranks. In 58 games with Manchester, the Toronto area native scored 28 goals, a total which held up as the team high, even though he missed most of the last month of the season. While the scoring rate dropped in his NHL debut, Toffoli showed more than enough to retain a spot on the third line for much of the Kings’ playoff run. In spite of his obvious offensive talents including a deadly snap shot, the Kings elected to give him more marinating time in Manchester to start the 2013-14 season. That said, when he was recalled in January, he was ready to go as 29 points in 55 games can attest. It is not surprising that the Kings refused to part with Toffoli when seeking deadline day upgrades.

3. Dalton Prout, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

28 games, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points, -7.7 Relative Corsi, 5.6 GVT (.2 GVT/game)

Called up in early March when former first round pick John Moore was hurt, Prout proved himself to be a very capable defensive defenseman, likely easing the decision made by new Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen in trading Moore to the Rangers as part of the package surrendered for Marian Gaborik. Never a big scorer – dating back to his junior days, Prout has never accumulated more than 31 points in a single season – the former sixth round pick gained the respect of his peers by holding up in spite of having been given difficult playing conditions, often beginning shifts hemmed in his own zone and with possession numbers that look good after factoring the level of opposition that he tended to face. Fast forward 12 months and while he has spent the majority of the 2013-14 season with the Blue Jackets, with even better raw possession numbers, Prout has not been trusted with tough situations as much, leading some in Columbus to diminish his standing in the organization – to the point that he was twice demoted to the AHL (although the second turn was centered around the Olympic break). While his sophomore season has been disappointing, there are more than enough positive points that we should not be surprised to see Prout return to defensive prominence in the near future.

2. Rob Klinkhammer, LW, Phoenix Coyotes

22 games, 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points, 9.6 Relative Corsi, 5 GVT (.23 GVT/game)

I can’t help it, but every time I see his name in a box score, I hear Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” in my head. Until his recall on March 1, 2013, Klinkhammer was a well-travelled journeyman, rising above his status as an undrafted free agent entry into the professional ranks and earning short cameos with the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators. In the midst of his greatest offensive season since turning pro, the Coyotes called on Klinkhammer when they were hit by injuries to Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal. He wasn’t used in his first recall and was returned to the AHL three days later, only to be told to pack his bags once more on the eighth. The Lethbridge, Alberta native scored in each of his first two games and has been travelling first class ever since. While his Hootenanny Award runner-up numbers were inflated by tremendous puck luck, Klinkhammer maintains bottom six utility for a playoff contending team, as the regression to his PDO has not prevented him from leading all Coyote forward in hits by 34 over the runner up. It is too late for Klinkhammer to ink a Hall of Fame career – not that his skills would enable it anyway – but it is fair to say that his next NHL contract will give him a higher annual average salary than his current $625K.

1.Viktor Fasth, G, Anaheim Ducks

23.8 games, .921 Save %, .926 even strength save %, 2.18 GAA, 11.8 GVT (.5 GVT/game)

Needing a caddy for veteran starter Jonas Hiller, the Ducks felt safer turning to Fasth, a five year veteran of the Swedish professional ranks – mostly spent in the second division, over young Dane Frederik Andersen. Unlike the other finalists, it is possible that the Ducks wanted Fasth to get his feet wet in the North American game before handing him a roster spot. As Fasth spent the lockout back in Sweden, the three January games he played in Norfolk were his first taste of hockey on this side of the Atlantic. Allowing only six goals in that span was enough to prove that acclimation would not be an issue and Fasth spent the rest of the season in Anaheim. Not only did the 31year old ably back up incumbent Hiller, he actually challenged for the starters job, playing nearly equal minutes to the Swiss starter. In spite of his regular season success, come playoff time, Hiller, whose regular season save percentage was eight points lower, was handed the reins. The Ducks were promptly upset in the first round by Detroit. Fasth has had a rough follow-up campaign, struggling with injuries for most of the year and appearing in only five games with Anaheim before being traded to Edmonton at the deadline. While this season has been largely a write-off – for the Oilers as well as for Fasth – he will get a fair chance to compete for time with Ben Scrivens next year. Fasth would not bethe first goaltender to have a flash-in-the-pan season and then fade to obscurity, but it is too early to say at this point. The jury is still out.

With the 2013-14 season winding down, we will soon be able to assess how teams did with their new replacements. Some have undoubtedly failed to make their mark, but a few have earned their higher per diems and made it difficult on their decision makers to send them back down. The numbers have yet to be fully borne out, but the nomination booth is already open. Let me know who your favorite Hootenanny is this year. I promise to hand out the hardware quicker this time around.

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