The Masterton Trophy is an interesting award. With its somewhat open-ended criteria -- it's presented annually to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey" -- there are a lot of ways to justify a nomination.
Some go with the perseverance angle, nominating a player who's been through a lot. Others take the opportunity to pay tribute to a leader in the room. Others still salute an NHL veteran on a lengthy career. Either way, the result is an interesting assortment of submissions.
This year, the front-runner has to be Josh Harding, whose perseverance after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis has been an inspiration all year long. From his bio:
Harding selflessly divulged his illness because he didn’t want a distraction to affect the team during a potential shortened season. He made clear his career wasn’t over. “It would make me happy to overcome this. Not just overcome this, but to really succeed with it,” Harding said. “I want this to be a story where when we look back, it was a happy story.”
In his first start this season, Harding made 24 saves to shut out Dallas. He did have complications with a new medication that caused him to miss two months, but Harding persevered through and after a two-game conditioning stint including a win to help Houston clinch a playoff spot, Harding was recalled to Minnesota April 22.
It's tough to beat that.
Several players this year have been nominated for their work with the NHLPA during the NHL lockout, which should garner them some consideration. And Pekka Rinne is bound to get a second look, simply because his bio includes this section:
In the summer of 2006, after Rinne’s first year in North America with the Milwaukee Admirals, he was at a bachelor party in Finland when he was a victim of an assault by a pizzeria owner. The assailant fired pepper spray into Rinne’s eyes and tackled him. Rinne had to undergo shoulder surgery, which kept him out four months.
"I was still young and right away you’re thinking ‘this is it,’” Rinne said in a 2011 article about the incident. “It’s a scary feeling.” Rinne battled back from the injury and the mental scarring of the incident to become an NHL regular in 2008-09.
Having never been attacked by a pizzeria owner, I can only imagine the mental scarring. You don't ever expect pizzeria owner to nearly end your hockey career. You expect him to serve you a fresh pizza pie.
Coming up, each team's nominee for the Masterton trophy.
Anaheim Ducks - Andrew Cogliano
For his Iron Man streak of 456 games, and his Lady Byng-worthy play.
Boston Bruins - Adam McQuaid
Perseverance through several injuries and issues, including Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which was causing dangerous blood clots in his body.
Buffalo Sabres - Jochen Hecht
Hecht was advised to retire due to his concussion problems, but he returned to the Sabres' lineup this season and played every game.
Calgary Flames - Steve Begin
Begin attended Flames' training camp as a tryout and made the team, returning to the NHL at 34 despite missing all of the 2011-12 season due to hip surgery.
Carolina Hurricanes - Dan Ellis
Ellis worked his tail off to get a job this year, first rehabbing after abdominal surgery, then joining the AHL's Charlotte Checkers, and then finally earning a roster spot in Carolina when the lockout ended.
Chicago Blackhawks - Marian Hossa
For battling back from his concussion.
Colorado Avalanche - J.S. Giguere
Giguere's been nominated for his body of work -- he's the last active player to have played for the the Hartford Whalers -- as well as his work with the Jessica Redfield Foundation.
Columbus Blue Jackets - Vinny Prospal
Prospal's been nominated for his dedication and his body of work. His bio also includes this awesome sentence: "Vinny Prospal has brought an unmistakeable joie de vivre to each of the eight NHL clubs he's played for during a 16-year, 1,100-game career."
Dallas Stars - Ray Whitney
Whitney, 40, has been nominated for his body of work.
Detroit Red Wings - Patrick Eaves
Eaves worked his way back from a broken jaw and a concussion after being hit by a shot in November of 2011.
Edmonton Oilers - Ryan Smyth
Nearing 1,200 NHL games and back where his career started, Smyth has been nominated for his outstanding body of work.
Florida Panthers - Peter Mueller
Mueller missed parts of the last three seasons with concussion issues. He's managed to put that behind him this year.
Los Angeles Kings - Jonathan Bernier
He didn't ask for a trade, per se, but he would have liked one. He didn't get one. "Over the summer, Bernier told reporters he wanted to become a starter and wasn’t sure if that would be in his future in Los Angeles. He didn’t demand a trade, but merely expressed a desire to be a starter." But he kept showing up! He also missed the team's White House visit due to the death of his grandmother.
Minnesota Wild - Josh Harding
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Harding has carried on.
Montreal Canadiens - Andrei Markov
Returned to make a major impact for the Canadiens after playing just 65 games in his last three seasons while his legs were being rebuilt.
Nashville Predators - Pekka Rinne
The pizzeria owner thing! But also for taking the long road to the NHL before finally cementing himself as the backbone of the Predators.
New Jersey Devils - Stephen Gionta
For finding a home in the NHL after seven seasons in the minors and finally getting out getting out from under the shadow of his older brother, Brian.
New York Islanders - Radek Martinek
For persevering to rejoin the Islanders after playing just seven games with Columbus last season.
NY Rangers - Marc Staal
For battling back from post-concussion symptoms only to be hit in the eye with a puck.
Ottawa Senators - Andre Benoit
For leaving Europe to chase his dream to play in the NHL, then working his way up to the league this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins - Sidney Crosby
He battled back from a concussion. You probably remember. Then he had his jaw broken by a puck. Crosby's head has been through a lot.
Philadelphia Flyers - Kimmo Timonen
For his lengthy career, which reached 1,000 NHL games this season, and his perseverance through injuries.
Phoenix Coyotes - Shane Doan
Doan's been through a lot this year, between deciding where to play and eventually returning to Phoenix, his daughter suffering a dog bite to the face that called for approximately 150 stitches, and the work he did with the NHLPA during the lockout.
San Jose Sharks - James Sheppard
For working his way back into the league after tearing up his knee in an ATV accident two years ago.
St. Louis Blues - Brian Elliott
For overcoming a rough year, where he battled lockout rust, Jake Allen stealing his job, and a conditioning assignment in the AHL before finally finding his game.
Tampa Bay Lightning - B.J. Crombeen
Nominated for his hard work, his willingness to stand up for his teammates, his work with the NHLPA during the lockout. Plus he has Diabetes.
Toronto Maple Leafs - James Reimer
Reimer earned the nod for helping lead the Leafs to the playoffs despite all the uncertainty surrounding his tenure in Toronto. "Since coming to the Leafs, his ability as an NHL calibre goaltender has been constantly questioned and he has lived almost a full calendar year under constant reports the Leafs are bringing in a veteran to replace him."
Vancouver Canucks - Kevin Bieksa
Bieksa was nominate both for his charitable work during the lockout, staying in Vancouver and organizing the Bieksa's Buddies event, and for his work with Mindcheck.ca.
Washington Capitals - Tom Poti
The Capitals were inspired by Poti's improbable return to the NHL after a fractured pelvis and groin problems that had George McPhee unsure he would ever play again.
Winnipeg Jets - Ron Hainsey
Hainsey is nominated for his impressive pro career, working his way back from a shoulder injury and a skate cut last year, and for his work with the NHLPA during the NHL lockout.