FLYERS YEAR-END AWARDS
However, as is custom for the final home game of the regular season, the team will hand out it's annual awards prior to tonight's game with the New York Islanders.
There are four major awards - the Bobby Clarke Trophy for the team MVP, the Barry Ashbee Trophy for the best defenseman, the Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award for the player adjudged to best illustrate character, dignity and respect for the sport both on and off the ice, and finally the Pelle Lindbergh Award given to the most improved player on the team.
The Clarke and Ashbee Awards are voted on by a panel of sports writers and broadcasters. The Dupre Award is voted on and presented by members of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA).
The Lindbergh Award is voted on by the players themselves.
Here is a breakdown of the winners, and how my ballot looked for each award:
Bobby Clarke Trophy: This year's recipient is Claude Giroux. Pretty much a landslide winner, Giroux is getting the award because he is the team's leading scorer by a lot. Heading into the final game of the season he has 25 goals and 51 assists for 76 points, 11 more than the next closest scorers Danny Briere and Jeff Carter.
Giroux, who was a first-time All-Star this season is really coming into his own and should be a force for the Flyers for many years to come as he plays in all situations.
However, he didn't get my first place vote. That, instead, went to Carter, who I feel is more valuable because of the style he plays. Not only is he the team's best goal scorer (36 goals), but he's tied for the team lead in power play goals (eight) leads the team in game-winning goals (seven) is the best plus/minus forward by a lot (plus-25, six better than the next-best forwards), rarely takes a dumb penalty (and as such is a candidate for the Lady Byng Award league-wide), and is arguably the most fluid skater on the team (along with Braydon Coburn) which allows him to make up ground easier on opponents and cover for teammate mistakes.
I just think Carter is more valuable as an all-around player. As skilled as Giroux is, he is a gambler and sometimes turns the puck over too much.
Here was my ballot:
Barry Ashbee Award: In what was easily the closest and hardest vote, this year's recipient is Andrej Meszaros.
While there is little doubt that Chris Pronger is the team's best defenseman (and probably best player) it's difficult to present him an award after missing 30-plus games.
Which made this race wide-open. Kimmo Timonen seemed like a logical candidate as he had another, solid and uber-consistent season. But, Meszaros outshone him - mostly because he performed at a level far beyond many expectations.
Meszaros was the best plus-minus defenseman. His advance statistics - for the sabermetricians among us - were also off the charts. He was the best hitter on the blue line as well and added some punch offensively, especially after Pronger went down. He also frequently logged the biggest minutes in Pronger's absence, showing that he had the faith of the coaches as a top defender as well.
But really, an argument can be made here for Timonen, Matt Carle or Coburn, all of whom had excellent seasons defensively for the Flyers. As a voter, I felt bad that I left Coburn off the ballot, because I felt this was his best season, but Carle really shined in my opinion without Pronger.
Yanick Dupre Class Guy: This year's winner was a slam dunk, but there were a couple of good options for second place.
Brian Boucher was an easy winner. He not only is good with the media - which is what the award was originally designed for, but when it comes to character, dignity and respect for the sport, Boucher, who has had a roller coaster career, is a great option. Here is a transcription of an interview we did with him earlier this week when we told him he was going to win the award:
>On the award:
Well, it means a lot. To have you guys look at me in that way means a lot to me. Some days are better than others, as far as this job.
Certainly, players sometimes we can be short with you guys. I hope you guys don’t take that stuff personally. . .(sometimes) it’s a matter of how you’re feeling that day. That’s nice of you guys to vote me for that. I appreciate it.
>We expanded the award about 6 years ago to include sportsmanship, giving back to the community and so forth. Do players feel a sense that they should give back to the community?
Certainly to our fans, especially, I think since the lockout. It’s understandable that we could have lost some fans during that time. I think it’s everybody’s duty to try to get them back. We can do that. I know even the Flyers organization – obviously we do that for the Wives’ Carnival but we also do it for suiteholders. Special events for them. . .bowling night. The organization is trying to connect with the fans. As players, we enjoy doing that stuff.
As far as sportsmanship goes, some days we’re probably sore sports. But you try your best to do the right thing and do the job. It’s awful nice to be voted in.
>Is player-fan interaction important, in your opinion?
I think it is. I think in some places it’s even more important because maybe the fan base isn’t there in the NHL. I think here in Philadelphia we have a strong fan base. I think at times we can take it for granted and assume they’re going to show up and we don’t have to give back. But that’s not the case. As players, I think we should always take the responsibility with great pride. In other areas, you can’t forget, if the fans aren’t there, you really have to go the extra mile. So here, we’re thankful that we have great fans and that they show up every night. For us to give back at any time, it’s our privilege to do that and we feel good doing it.
>Think you’ve changed since you first started out as a player?
I think I’ve grown, for sure. You know, when you’re think, it’s tough to put things in perspective. You can be self-absorbed at times. It’s hard to look at the big picture. But you get old and you go through some years, been through some adversity and gotten through the other side, it’s not all that bad. There’s a bigger picture. So I just come in everyday and try to be as positive as I can. Support my teammates and try to keep them loose. Try to be a good buy like that. It’s a tough game and some days are better than others. If you can be a positive influence on people, make them smile, make them laugh at a time that maybe they’re stressed out maybe, that’s what I like to do.
Other good choices would have been Jody Shelley (who I predict will win this award in the next two seasons) or Sean O'Donnell, who was a great veteran voice in the locker room when Pronger was down for half the season. Danny Briere and Ian Laperriere were ineligible for the award as previous winners (we don't allow repeat winners).
The Pelle Lindbergh Award When you're looking for a most improved player from last season to this season, there really only were two candidates - James van Riemsdyk and Andreas Nodl.
The players chose Nodl, and why not? He became a much bigger part of the team this season, and even showed that, yes, he could contribute offensively. JVR started to come into his own a little bit, and there are times when you see him growing into what the No. 2 overall pick in the draft should be, but he still needs another year or two to reach that peak. Nodl made the most marked improvement, and for that, I think his teammates made a wise choice.