The Tri-City Herald’s annual Best of the West poll came out last week. It’s always interesting to see how everyone regards the competition. Then I came across a Spokane fan who compiled a Best of the Chiefs and thought, “Hey, that would be a fun exercise to do with the Tips.” So here we are.
I eliminated a few categories. Top executive, top coach, top referee, top goaltender and best fans were eliminated for obvious reasons. I also decided not to do most overrated. I’m conflicted on whether this is an appropriate category for this level of play. On the one hand for the most part they’re still teenagers with a long way to go from a development standpoint. On the other they are public figures, most of whom are technically adults. For now I’m going to err on the side of discretion.
Anyway, here’s my selections along with the rationale. Feel free to criticize or post your own list:
Most valuable to team: Leland Irving. I went back and forth on this one between Irving and Dan Gendur. But when I think about who the Tips would really be in trouble without in a playoff series, I have to give the nod to Irving just because Shayne Barrie has so little experience.
Best stay-at-home defenseman: Taylor Ellington. You just don’t see him getting beat in his own zone.
Top rookie: Vitaly Karamnov. A little unfair as he’s an 18-year-old with major European experience rather than a 16-year-old straight out of midget hockey. But no one else is really at the same level right now.
Top defensive forward: Zack Dailey. Great speed, tremendously responsible in his own zone, and an ace penalty killer.
Best overage player: Gendur. Hands-down selection, which is saying something considering the Tips have good overagers this season.
Most irritating player: Kyle Beach. Does this one really need an explanation?
Best pro prospect: Beach. Size, strength, scoring ability and agitation. What more do you need?
Most underrated player: Chris de la Lande. Even with his recent run of ice time, I’m still not sure he’s fully appreciated. There’s a fixation on his slight size as a defenseman, which admittedly is an issue. But most teams have a little guy who’s still effective because he’s so good at moving the puck (Thomas Hickey in Seattle, Jarrett Toll in Tri-City, Jared Spurgeon in Spokane, etc.), and de la Lande is capable of becoming that kind of player.
Most improved player: Matt Ius. From the begining of the season until now I think he’s made the most strides. He hasn’t become an offensive factor yet, but he is so close. Barrie deserves mention here, too.
Hardest shot: Gendur. I’m not sure I’ve seen another player in this league the last five years who can get rid of a wrist shot so quickly and get that much mustard on it.
Best skater: Gendur. Dailey’s a close second here.
Most accurate shot: Beach. Gendur’s a candidate again here, but Beach is a true sniper.
Best 16-year-old: Jeff Regier. In a runaway…..
Top faceoff man: Beach. I’m tempted to put “none” as Everett hasn’t been a very good faceoff team this season. But if the Tips absolutely have to win one I think I’d have to go with Beach even though he’s a winger.
Toughest player: Jonathan Harty. Tough can mean a couple different things in hockey. But in my mind tough means playing full-out, playing physical, playing hurt and not backing down from anyone. That’s Harty, and he’s willing to drop the gloves, too.