First of all, I had a chance to talk with my good friend Bernie Corbett this week for an interview on Hockey on Campus, so check that out on SiriusXM. And yes, I did slip in a plug for my book, “Robert’s Rules of Karaoke”, as well.
Anyhow, I talked in that segment about the players I see as the top candidates for the Hobey this season, but I’d like to take some time this week in the Hobey Watch to share a conversation I had last week. I was doing some work for New York Hockey Journal at a New York Islanders practice, and I had a chance to talk Hobey with 2000 winner Mike Mottau of Boston College.
For those of you who think defensemen are overlooked when it comes to the Hobey, consider this: Mottau is one of four blueliners to win the award in the last 12 years, along with Jordan Leopold in 2002, Matt Carle in 2006 and Matt Gilroy in 2009. However, when Mottau was selected, he was the first defenseman to win the Hobey in 16 years, since Tom Kurvers of Minnesota-Duluth in 1984. So, things have gotten much better for defensemen in this era.
One of the things I asked Mottau is if there’s any unifying characteristic he sees between himself, Leopold, Carle and Gilroy. I left out Kurvers and Tom Fusco of Harvard because they represent a different era, whereas Mottau, Leopold, Carle and Gilroy are all active NHL players.
Mottau said, “Each guy has good hockey intellect. Sometimes, it can go overlooked when you’re putting up points and stuff like that, but the way that those guys play the game and have been able to continue into the pro level, their hockey intellect and their decision making are the two things that jump out. You know, Matt Gilroy is an excellent skater, but he’s a very intelligent hockey player to be in those spots and get those chances.”
I also took the time to talk to Mottau about his alma mater, Boston College. If you’re a regular on the blog, you’ve seen me point out that Mottau is the only Hobey winner from BC since Jerry York returned there as head coach in 1994, despite that BC has had a number of very productive forwards in that time, including Ben Eaves, Patrick Eaves, Chris Collins, Tony Voce and Nathan Gerbe, and of course, Mottau’s former teammates Brian Gionta and Jeff Farkas. I’ve wondered aloud in this space if BC forwards don’t get as much consideration as they would in a different program because they’re seen as a product of the system, much like goalies at Cornell.
Mottau said: “I don’t think it’s that. When you have good players, you’re going to be able to put up the numbers. I don’t know if there’s any slight against the guys just because of the system, but there are a lot of guys who have gone through there that have been deserving of being in Hobey consideration.
“For me, I was a product of the team. I didn’t do anything that much above and beyond some of the other candidates. Our team was really good, and to have the two other guys nominated, that shows the depth that we had and the quality of player.”
Of course, this conversation took place in a season where BC doesn’t really have a big-time Hobey candidate to speak of. Chris Kreider is the team’s leading scorer with 30 points in 28 games, but that leaves him just 39th in the nation in points per game. Given the team’s success — BC is third in Hockey East and sixth in the PairWise Rankings — it’s doubtful anyone at the Heights is too worried about the absence of a Hobey candidate. However, given the success that Johnny Gaudreau is having as a freshman, and that he fits into the physical mold of the quintessential BC forward, this is the sort of thing that’s worth keeping in mind as he matures.
As for defensemen, Justin Schultz of Wisconsin does seem to be the top name in the race this year, as he leads all blueliners with 1.36 points per game on 12 goals and 26 assists. However, the Badgers have really struggled this season, and that is probably something that will hurt him in terms of Hobey consideration. Still, don’t be surprised if he gets a finalist nod, and also keep an eye on Adam Clendening of Boston University as a representative of a Terriers squad that has been excellent this year, despite midseason turmoil and that, like the rival Eagles, there’s no superstar forward to speak of.
Any other defensemen that you think should be in the mix? Let me hear it.