Luongo tops mid-season report card

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

The waiting is over.

The much-anticipated, often-imitated, seldom-duplicated B-Mac Canuck mid-season report card is before you.

The envelopes please.

Most Valuable Player:

Roberto Luongo

Has he been out-of-this-world good? No. Has he been the most important member of this team? Yes? Heading into last night's game against Dallas, the Canucks had been involved in 24 one-goal games. Vancouver has won 14 of them. His stats aren't stunning: 12 goalies have better goals against averages; 14 have better save percentages. But backstopping an offensively challenged team, and making the timely save more often than not is the biggest reason the 'Nucks are in the playoff race, and why Luongo is mid-season MVP.

Top Defenceman:

Mattias Ohlund

The signing of Willie Mitchell, and the emergence of Kevin Bieksa have taken a bit of the focus off the steady Swede. However, through 40 games, he was fifth on the team in points and led the team in minutes played per game with just under 25. Honourable mention here goes to Sami Salo, who has missed 10 games due to injury.

Most Underrated Player:

Willie Mitchell

Yes, he is paid a lot of money to play a simple game. But the next time you go to a game, watch Willie Mitchell when he doesn't have the puck ... which is most of the time, of course. He is a goaltender's best friend. He is positionally solid. He blocks shots. He will not win the Art Ross Trophy. He will help his team win by getting dirty and being committed to his own end of the ice.

Most Improved Player:

Kevin Bieksa

Not even close. The organization has been high on Bieksa since drafting him in the fourth round of 2001. But in his first full NHL season he's emerged as a top-four defenceman, who plays with an edge and an offensive "upside" that has really opened some eyes. He displays a level of poise you don't often see in defenceman still developing. He could well go from most- improved player to most-valuable sooner than you might think.

Most Valuable Forward:

Pick a Twin

I'll take Henrik. Heading into last night's action, only three players in the league had more assists, and he was the only Canuck on pace for a point-a-game. Yes, somebody has to convert those passes and that somebody more often than not has been his bro. But Hank's 35 assists before last night's game have meant more than Daniel's 15 goals. Henrik is also winning more than his share of faceoffs. Add it up, and he is the MVP up front.

Most Disappointing:

Markus Naslund

People immersed in the game respect Naslund's commitment to a new system. They notice how hard he works at both ends of the rink. That is admirable, and is an example of leadership the oft-maligned captain doesn't get credit for. Bottom line, however, is Picasso should not be painting fences. Naslund's most important contributions should come at the offensive end of the ice, and he quite simply should not be on pace for a 56-point season. Not so honourable mentions to Matt Cooke, Jan Bulis and Marc Chouinard.

Most Valuable Member In the Organization Not Wearing a Uniform:

Alain Vigneault

He introduced a blue-collar system to an overhauled roster and the results have been impressive. Despite a number of injuries to the back end, and a dearth of goals, he has the team competing on a consistent basis, and over .500 at the mid-season mark. The players have bought in and for that Vigneault deserves a lot of credit. 


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