Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild, Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins are the three finalists for the 2014-15 Masterton Trophy “an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey,” the National Hockey League announced Monday.
This is an award where really, there are no winners, and there are no losers. To be even nominated by one’s chapter is a plus. In the past the award has often gone to players who had to overcome some sort of injury to return and be awesome.
And huzzah, we have one of those in the three finalists with Letang who overcame a stroke a year ago and concussions to come back and play really well this year! Dubnyk seemed dead and buried as an NHL goaltender, but worked his way back into not just being an good netminder but an elite goaltender. Hammond is a 27-year-old White Rock, British Columbia native who ... had played one NHL game before this year, and wasn’t a very good American Hockey League goaltender either, before basically everyone in front of him got hurt, giving him a chance to go on a magical 20-1-2 run to help Ottawa get into the postseason and inspire a city’s fanbase to clog their arteries.
Why Devan Dubnyk Deserves The Masterton
From the NHL:
Dubnyk earned his team's Masterton Trophy nomination on the strength of a remarkable second-half run. Eight points outside of a playoff spot when he made his team debut on Jan. 15, the 28-year-old backstopped the Wild -- his fifth NHL organization in the past two seasons -- to their third consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dubnyk, who set a franchise record with 38 straight starts following his acquisition from Arizona, went 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and five shutouts after joining the Wild. Overall, he finished the season second in the NHL with a 2.07 goals-against average and .929 save percentage and was voted a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender.
Dubnyk seemed completely dead and buried last year after flaming out with both Edmonton and Nashville – and Montreal if you count his salary dump-like deal to the Canadiens from the Preds. But he worked doggedly with Arizona goaltending coach Sean Burke to resurrect his career before the trade to the Wild, which basically cemented Minnesota’s postseason standing. But one has to wonder, would he be a finalist if he didn’t get traded? Who cares. He’s definitely worthy.
Why Andrew Hammond Deserves The Masterton
From the NHL:
Hammond was selected as the Senators' Masterton Trophy nominee following a record-setting stretch drive. Making his first NHL start on Feb. 18, Hammond led the Senators’ playoff push by posting a 20-1-2 record in 23 decisions. The 27-year-old undrafted goaltender allowed two or fewer goals in each of his first 12 career starts, matching an NHL record set by Bruins goaltender Frank Brimsek in 1938-39. Hammond also went 14-0-1 to begin his career, becoming the second goaltender in League history to earn at least one point in each of his first 15 starts (Patrick Lalime: 14-0-2, 1996-97 w/ PIT). Hammond completed the regular season without a road regulation loss (10-0-2), becoming the first goaltender in the NHL’s modern era to do so in his first 12 such starts.
He perservered being a mediocre AHL goaltender? But did relish his chance when he got to the NHL and led to some fun viral hamburger-throwing moments. And honestly, nobody makes the NHL as a sort-of regular at the age of 27 without some trying times and doubt.
Why Kris Letang Deserves The Masterton
From the NHL:
Letang is the Penguins' Masterton Trophy candidate for the second consecutive season, his latest nomination coming just 15 months after suffering a stroke in January 2014. He lifted his game to new heights in 2014-15, anchoring the Pittsburgh blueline and posting single-season career highs in goals (tie, 11), assists (43) and points (54) despite missing 13 games due to injury. Letang led the Penguins in average ice time per game (25:29), nearly three minutes more than any other player on the roster, and tied for second on the club in plus-minus (+12). He also was the only blueliner in the NHL to post a five-point game in 2014-15 (five assists vs. WPG on Jan. 27).
As our Sean Leahy wrote when the nominees were announced: “For overcoming a stroke and two concussions in the past 15 months.”
Yup, here’s your classic comeback from injury story who got nominated again by Pittsburgh because they have nobody else with head injuries to nominate? Why not Nick Spaling guys? He loves hockey and has a high level of sportsmanship and no history of head injuries that we know about!
Who Wins The Masterton?
He was such a good story. He got a ton of positive publicity for his late-season run. Plus, again … you don’t become a first-time NHL regular in your late 20s without some sort of heavy legwork and determination. As for the sportsmanship? He seemed polite in his interviews.
Our Top Choice
Like all awards, the Masterton involves some luck. Would he have received some sort of a chance if Mike Smith wasn’t ‘meh’ playing in front of him in Arizona? What if the Wild’s goaltending situation wasn’t so bad that it needed to trade for him? If he hadn’t gone to the Wild, and was just a backup with the Coyotes, would he have gotten Masterton love? Our 'hot take': He would have been an excellent choice even without the trade from the Coyotes to Minnesota. A year ago an NHL deal for this season was not a foregone conclusion for Dubnyk. He worked his tail off, ended up in the right place(s), and essentially turned around a team’s playoff chances. Plus he didn’t come back from an injury, which is always a pet peeve when it comes to voting for this award.
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