by PuckStopsHere on 06/26/14 at 12:51 PM ET
The problem with the Masterton Trophy is nobody knows exactly what it is for. Bill Masterton died in an NHL game in 1968 so the NHL decided to have a trophy in his honor. They decided that perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship was a good list of qualities to look for in an award recipient. That hasn't held true in practice. The easiest of those qualities to quantify is sportsmanship. Gary Roberts and Ken Daneyko have won this award and both are among the 25 highest career penalty minute totals of all time. The NHL definition for this award doesn't hold very well. In practice, I think the best definition for this award is the player who overcomes the biggest hardship to make the biggest impact on his team in the season in question. That definition hasn't fit with practice perfectly as there have been some strange choices in the past. Ian Laperriere won the Masterton Trophy in a season in which he didn't play a single game. It can be hard to make sense of this award.
This year Dominic Moore of the New York Rangers won the award. While he was deserving of a nomination, he was not the deserving winner of the award. Moore took an 18 month leave of absence from the NHL to be with his wife who suffered from and eventually died from cancer. He then made his return to the New York Rangers this season. This was an emotional roller coaster for him. The problem is other players had to endure emotional as well as physical roller coasters. Those players deserved the Masterton Trophy. My choice is Manny Malhotra of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Malhotra suffered a serious eye injury in 2011 that required several surgeries. He came back to play in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals but wasn't ready. He struggled through the 2011/12 season and nine games into the 2012/13 season he took the rest of the year off to rehab and presumably retire. His contract with the Vancouver Canucks ended at the end of the 2013 season, so he entered 2013/14 with no team to play for. Malhotra didn't give up. He signed an AHL contract with the Charlotte Checkers and soon earned his way to the NHL with Carolina. Malhotra was a valuable checking forward in Carolina this year.
Malhotra has suffered from his eye injury for several seasons. It looked like it was career ending but he kept his career going. This is both an emotional and a physical turmoil that he had to overcome. I think it is a far better case for a Masterton Trophy.
One problem with the Masterton Trophy is voting is never released. We will never see if it was a close call or not. We will never see how close Manny Malhotra came to winning. I suspect a big part of the reason Dominic Moore won is that he plays in the large media market of New York and Malhotra plays in Carolina. Thus there was more media attention to the bigger market player. Had nothing but their locations been switched, I suspect Manny Malhotra would have won the Masterton Trophy this year.
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