Well, the top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award have been announced, and I did reasonably well.
For the record, your finalists are:
Spencer Abbott, F, Maine
Jack Connolly, F, Minnesota Duluth
Brian Dumoulin, D, Boston College
Troy Grosenick, G, Union
Shawn Hunwick, G, Michigan
Tim Kirby, D, Air Force
Torey Krug, D, Michigan State
Justin Schultz, D, Wisconsin
Austin Smith, F, Colgate
Reilly Smith, F, Miami
In my previous blog post, I predicted a slightly different group, with Minnesota forward Nick Bjugstad and Denver forward Drew Shore in the top 10 instead of Kirby and Krug. There are two things we can learn from this:
1. Contrary to popular belief (among WCHA fans), I actually overestimated the number of WCHA players that would be in the top 10.
2. I had eight out of 10 players correct, which beats my 7-of-10 performance from last year, but doesn’t quite measure up to my all-time best of 9-of-10 (2007 and 2010). It also tops the only other media prediction I saw, which had Minnesota-Duluth center Travis Oleksuk joining Connolly in the top 10 instead of Dumoulin and wound up with seven out of 10 correct.
I won’t belabor the point, because we’ve all got hockey to watch, and games do take precedence at this point in the year. What I will do is give a quick take on where I went wrong.
One thing that’s clearly obvious is that this was one hell of a year for defensemen, with four blueliners in the top 10. I did not see that coming at all, but maybe with the lukewarm feelings I had about my wrong picks (Bjugstad and Shore), I should have looked at more defensemen.
I remember a commenter asking where Torey Krug was on my list, and that fan gets kudos for making that pick. The fact that Krug led the CCHA in conference scoring as a defenseman has to be admired, and given the way that the Spartans have rebounded in their first year under Tom Anastos, an MSU player deserves a top 10 spot.
As for Kirby, he’s Air Force’s No. 3 scorer with 27 points, and only two defensemen — Schultz and BU’s Garrett Noonan — have more goals than Kirby’s 12. However, what I’ve observed in past years is that Atlantic Hockey gets a Hobey finalist only when there’s a runaway for the conference’s player of the year award. This year, Bentley’s Brett Gensler has gotten a lot of buzz, with Connecticut’s Cole Schneider generating interest as well, so I didn’t see an Atlantic representative as a given. Of course, Gensler and Schneider are done for the year, while Air Force is the favorite in this weekend’s Atlantic Hockey championship, so that might be a factor as well.
One other thing to consider: When I looked at the Vote For Hobey totals early in the Hobey Watch, Kirby was one of the players getting significant fan support, albeit not at the levels of Connolly and Abbott, who each wound up with more than 24,000 votes. I remember that still being the case when I looked at the final Vote For Hobey totals earlier in the week, but I can’t give you the exact total because that part of the Hobey Baker site is not accessible right now while they reload for Part II of the voting.
Looking now, I can’t help but be curious about how much of a role the Vote for Hobey program played in Kirby making the top 10.
Just to be clear: I’m not saying whether fan voting did or didn’t make a difference. I don’t know exactly how the fan votes are factored in when the top 10 finalists are selected, because I’ve never asked anyone from the Hobey committee. I guess I’ll have to do that now. I’m also not insinuating that Kirby doesn’t belong in the top 10. He’s had an excellent season, and anyone who can perform as an elite college athlete while keeping up with the academic and military commitments involved in attending a military academy is certainly worthy of our praise. All I’m saying is that I’m curious as to whether the fan vote helped Kirby’s cause at all.
I’ll try to get to the bottom of that and report back to you. For now, what do you think of the top 10?