by PuckStopsHere on 06/25/11 at 05:56 PM ET
The NHL Awards were Wednesday night. I disagreed with some award choices and agreed with some others. The award that made the least sense is the Masterton Trophy this season.
I thought that it is a given that any player who wins a trophy in the 2010/11 season would have actually played in the 2010/11 season. I suppose that is a little less obvious when the award is a lifetime achievement award, which to some degree the Masterton Trophy is, but this is a first. Ian Laperriere of the Philadelphia Flyers won the award and he didn’t play at all this season.
Laperriere was a veteran of over 1000 NHL games played and five NHL teams when he took a puck to the face and suffered a concussion in the 2009/10 playoffs. He came back too early and played a few of the final playoff games in 2010 without scoring any points. He suffered further concussion symptoms over the summer and was unable to play come 2010/11. The Philadelphia Flyers placed him on the longterm injured reserve. While Laperriere worked hard to try to come back and served as a mentor to some players off-ice, the comeback never happened. The Philadelphia Flyers salary cap room never allowed it and he was never pronounced healthy enough. Despite not playing at all, he somehow found himself the Masterton Trophy winner.
This sets a bad precedent. Players should have to play to win awards. Although it seems unlikely to occur, if Laperriere makes an actual NHL comeback in the future wouldn’t that have been the time to give him the award?
The NHL is not without other worthy candidates for the Masterton Trophy. Many of them did not make their way through a convoluted nomination system. The Masterton Trophy nomination system is unlike the other awards. Each team’s local media nominates a player as the team nominee. Imagine if this was done with other awards. Does anyone really care who the New York Islanders Vezina Trophy nominee or the Dallas Stars Calder Trophy nominee? Neither have any business in serious discussion of either award. In some cases teams have two or more candidates who are much better candidates than these guys ever would be and one is dismissed at the team level.
The team level nominations did not go so well in some cases. Local media select a player who is usually a longterm member of their team that they want to see get some recognition. They tend to overlook qualified players when they are newcomers to a team and their qualifications came in other cities.
Two such players existed this season. Neither received their team nominations. Kurtis Foster of the Edmonton Oilers is the player I would have picked for the award. He overcame a serious leg injury which many thought would end his career. He made his comeback late in the 2008/09 season with the Minnesota Wild. That summer he signed a one year contract as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was a Masterton nominee but did not win the award. During the 2010 playoffs (after Masterton voting had occurred) his infant daughter died (Jose Theodore won the 2010 Masterton when his infant son died). Foster moved on to the Edmonton Oilers for the 2010/11 season and his past seemed to be overlooked by the Oiler media because it happened elsewhere. The Oiler media instead chose Ryan Jones.
Fernando Pisani of the Chicago Blackhawks was another solid choice. His career has twice been in doubt due to cases of ulcerative colitis. The first in 2007/08 and the second in 2009/10. With his career in doubt, he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2010/11 season. He had a successful season as a checking forward but because his problems occurred in Edmonton, the Chicago media overlooked them and selected Ryan Johnson as their Masterton nominee.
The media then votes on the players who remain as team selections and a winner and two other nominees are selected. This year they chose Ian Laperriere, who didn’t play any games, Ray Emery, who overcame a serious hip condition that jeopardized his career and played six games for the Anaheim Ducks and Daymond Langkow who overcame spinal cord damage from an injury that jeopardized his career late in 2009/10 to play four games this season. All of these comeback stories seem to be selected too early (and it is unclear that there will be a Laperriere comeback). The overlooked comeback stories of Pisani and Foster are more mature in that they played the full season this year and would have been better picks.
The fact that the 2010/11 Masterton Trophy winner didn’t play any games in 2010/11 makes his selection highly questionable. There were better players available for nomination who didn’t get through a convoluted nomination system. The Masterton Trophy does not release final voting results. If they did, I am sure we would find that no player received a majority of votes. There is no consensus among the voters. I am sure Laperriere was the winner with a plurality of players getting votes. I am sure many players who could have won never got their team nominations. The Masterton Trophy this year wound up as a mixed up process where the best players were not selected.
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