The Dino Ciccarelli Award is presented to the best rookie during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is named in honour of Ciccarelli’s rookie record 14 goals during the 1981 postseason, scored in just 19 games. Candidates are not required to be a total jerk.

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Torey Krug and Brandon Saad were two of the only rookies left standing by the end of the playoffs. (Jim Rogash, Getty Images)

Of the rookies that made played in the 2013 NHL playoffs, none really pulled away from the pack for the Dino Ciccarelli Award. While there were many competent performances from this year’s crop of rookies, none of them set themselves apart the way that Brad Marchand did in 2011 or Ville Leino in 2010.

Emerson Etem led all rookies in points per game, but his Anaheim Ducks lasted just one round, so his 5 points in 7 games lack a larger body of work.  Like Etem, there are a number of other rookies that might have had a larger impact if their teams had played them more or gone further in the playoffs. Casey Cizikas, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Tyler Toffoli might have made an argument for themselves if things had gone differently for Islanders, Senators, and Kings.

By the time the Stanley Cup Final rolled around, there were just two truly impact rookies remaining: one for the Bruins and one for the Blackhawks. But between Torey Krug and Brandon Saad, there can be only one winner of the Dino Ciccarelli Award.

Deciding between the two isn’t exactly easy. They tied Pageau and Toffoli for the rookie lead in points with six, though Saad took 23 games to score those points, while Krug took 15 and is a defenceman. Krug had more goals, with four to Saad’s one, but Saad played more minutes, averaging 16:23 per game to Saad’s 15:49.

The bulk of Krug’s production came in one series, as he scored five points, including all four of his goals, in five games against the New York Rangers. He scored the tying goal in game 1 that forced overtime, opened the scoring in game 2, scored an essential goal in a one-goal victory in game 4, and capped his performance off with a tying goal in game 5 enroute to a 3-1 victory. Krug is legitimately one of the major reasons the Bruins so handily defeated the Rangers.

Saad, on the other hand, spread his scoring out. He didn’t record a point in back-to-back games even once in the playoffs, though he did record two assists in one game against the Kings. None of his points were as dramatically vital as Krug’s, though he did have one of his best games of the playoffs in the marathon game 1 against the Bruins, scoring his lone goal in the second period to keep the Blackhawks close enough for a comeback and recording 9 shots on net, second most behind Marian Hossa.

Saad certainly played a larger role for his team than Krug, skating on the second line with Hossa and Jonathan Toews for the bulk of the playoffs, as well as seeing time on the penalty kill and powerplay. Krug, on the other hand, generally played third pairing minutes at even-strength to go with some significant time on the powerplay. He was most often paired with Adam Mcquaid.

In some ways, however, that works against Saad, as it seems odd that he only recorded six points alongside such skilled players, though it should be noted that Krug’s points mostly came when he was on the ice with other talented players, with Seguin, Horton, Marchand, and Krejci being among the players to tally assists on his goals.

On the advanced stat side, both had very high Corsi ratings, indicating that the puck was generally in the offensive zone when they were on the ice. For both of them, however, that Corsi rating comes with a significant caveat. For Krug, that caveat is that he was significantly sheltered, starting the majority of his shifts in the offensive zone against weak competition. It’s clear that he was not trusted in tough minutes at all.

For Saad, his Corsi rating is flanked by those of his linemates, Toews and Hossa, which raises significant questions over who was driving the bus and who was just riding it. Saad was less sheltered, however, which is going to happen when you’re playing with Toews, who is frequently matched up against the best the opposition has to offer.

At this point, it starts to become a subjective value judgement. Which do you value more highly? The flashy, eye-catching one-round production of Krug, who played a starring role in one series and a competent supporting role in the next two or the meat-and-potatoes of Saad, who seemed to find his way to the top of most statistical categories through longevity than by making a scene.

I know some people will disagree with me (and feel free to let me have it in the comments), but I’m still a sucker for a good narrative. Saad was a steady contributor, but you can’t win awards in the background. Krug took a starring role, even if it was just for one short series, and that won me over.

The winner of the 2013 Dino Ciccarelli Award is Torey Krug.

Comments (6)

  1. Great call. I’m a Hawks fan, and Saad did decently, but clearly couldn’t get separation from Boston’s elite defenders. Krug did above average against the Hawks players, and I believe was part of the reason the Paille/Kelley/Seguin line had so many chances. Saad will get better, I’m sure, but Krug is already an impact player on his team.

  2. Saad hung in with the best all year, and proved he was more than just another young guy trying to make it in the league. Consumate pro from the beginning of the season against LA until the final game.

    Should have won this and the Calder.

    (I am a Hawks fan, for full disclosure)

  3. The thing that swings it for me, and it was also raised on the podcast, Krug was actively targeted by some of the big hitters on the Hawks and his ability to get out of trouble, composure on the puck and surprising strength was impressive.

    He really only got rocked by a hit once, maybe twice and his board play was excellent. A couple of sloppy giveaways here and there, but it was kind of nice to see he had the confidence to try things and prove he’s a worthy NHL puck moving defenceman.

    Its here I actually think as a defencemen it can sometimes be just as tough facing a third or fourth line as it is facing a first or second line. Bottom six forwards are going to be chipping and chasing, hard on the forecheck and generally ‘grindy’, this is tough on a defenceman!

  4. I like Saad, was hoping for a trade to my team last summer. And I hate the Bruins. But Krug is the right pick, he was noticeable on many nights, and amazing against the Rangers.

  5. To be fair though, Saad also played a pretty good amount of time on the Hawks third line as the playoffs went on, especially after Bickell took off. Paired with Shaw and/or Stalberg or Bolland he did some nice work. Kept a lot of pressure on in the offensive zone to give the top lines some time to rest. Good effort. As a Hoosier, I do have to be proud of Krug though, as a former member of the Indiana Ice in the USHL. Actually, I think his brother is on the coaching staff for the Ice these days.

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