by PuckStopsHere on 11/29/13 at 07:56 PM ET
The only trophy that I routinely make picks for that I have not made any picks this season so far is the Masterton Trophy. This trophy is officially for perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship but it doesn't hold that definition well. Several of the past winners are among the all-time career penalty minutes leaders - that isn't what you would expect from an award that is allegedly in part given for sportsmanship. I think the working definition for this award is to the player who overcomes the biggest hardship to continue his career and make the biggest impact in the season.
As I see it there are two clear candidates this season in Darren Helm of the Detroit Red Wings and Manny Malhotra of the Carolina Hurricanes. Both fought back from potentially career ending injuries to come back this season and are making impacts on their teams. Helm was out essentially for 19 months with a back injury. He was limited to one game last season. He has made a comeback this season and is playing quite well. He has 9 points in 13 games to date this season. Malhotra suffered a serious eye injury in 2011 where he lost a significant amount of sight in his left eye. He came back to play in the Stanley Cup finals but still struggled with his eyesight. After playing only 9 games in 2012/13, he was put on the longterm injured reserve by the Canucks. His contract expired and he signed a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes farm affiliate in Charlotte at the beginning of this season. He quickly played his way back into the NHL and has four points in 13 games. He is re-establishing himself as a solid defensive player.
I pick Darren Helm as the Masterton leader at this point. He has made a more significant impact in the NHL this season, but I see Malhotra as a serious candidate as well. It somewhat depends on how well each finish out the season. Helm has never scored at the rate he is scoring so far this season, so it may be a reasonable prediction that his scoring rate will drop off. Although at age 26, it is reasonable to expect scoring rates to take off, but it is rare that it happens immediately following a significant injury.
Either Darren Helm or Manny Malhotra would make a solid Masterton Trophy winner. At this point, I think Helm is the leader.
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