by PuckStopsHere on 10/29/11 at 03:21 PM ET
The NHL award that has the poorest definition of what it is for is the Masterton Trophy. Officially it is given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. That is somewhat of a vague definition. In practise, it is an award given out for lifetime achievement in a rather random fashion. Last year it went to Ian Laperriere of the Philadelphia Flyers. He is a player who missed the entire season due to concussion issues. I suppose this means that he showed a very high level of perseverence and dedication to hockey without playing a game because he didn’t do very well in terms of sportsmanship. Laperriere ranks 56th all time in career penalty minutes with 1956 of them. Laperriere isn’t the career penalty minute leader who has won the Masterton Trophy. Gary Roberts won in 1996. He is 19th all time with 2560 PIMs. It is clear that this award is poorly defined and it is often awarded somewhat randomly.
I have argued that the most meaningful way to decide this award, which is consistent with its past and with its intent is that it should be awarded to the player who overcomes the biggest hardship to make the biggest impact in the NHL season. By that definition, I think there is a clear leader. It is Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has ten points in his nine games played and is a +4. He is the second highest scorer on the Toronto Maple Leafs. That has him 14th in the league in scoring. As Phil Kessel has led the league in scoring, Lupul has been along for the ride as a top linemate.
Lupul lost a year of his career with a back injury with a 2009 back injury that became infected and threatened his career. He took a while to readjust to NHL play. Anaheim traded him to Toronto essentially to get rid of his salary. Anaheim brought in defenceman Francois Beauchemin for former first round pick Jake Gardiner and a conditional fourth round draft pick in 2013 and Lupul. Lupul had to be included to allow Anaheim the salary cap room to make the deal. Lupul had not been immediately successful in his return from injury. In only 54 games, he put up the 11th worst Corsi in the league. With another off-season to further recover and prepare for NHL play, he has made a successful comeback. While he may not stay at better than point per game level, there is a good chance he beats his career best point total of 53, recorded in 2005/06.
Lupul is the kind of player who should win the Masterton. He is actually playing in the NHL, which puts him ahead of last year’s winner Ian Laperriere. He overcame a career threatening injury to be a significant contributor to his NHL team. Further, he actually shows sportsmanship. He has 281 penalty minutes in 458 career games to date.
Toronto has another potential Masterton Trophy winner in Matthew Lombardi playing for them. He was limited to two games played last year due to a concussion. He has made a solid comeback with 4 points so far in nine games played. Despite the existence of two players on the Leafs who could win the Masterton Trophy, I imagine there is a not insignificant chance that the local media could do something silly like nominate Jay Rosenhill for not giving up on his NHL dream after three stints in the ECHL. It seems that these nominations are often given to a good guy who is liked by the media and the media wants to honor. As a result, players who could have won the leaguewide award didn’t get their team nomination. Examples are Kurtis Foster and Fernando Pisani last year.
The Masterton Trophy is an award which is poorly defined and often poorly decided. I think the clear leader at this point is Joffrey Lupul. While I think there is a significant chance that he won’t survive the nomination process to actually win the award, he is clearly the top candidate and because it is somewhat of a lifetime achievement award, it is almost certain that he will remain a top contender by season’s end.
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