Right wing Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators, left wing Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs and left wing Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens are the three finalists for the 2011-12 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
Sadly, Bill Masterton Hologram won't get to opine on Matt Cooke being up for his namesake award.
Or, in summary: An award given to really old players that are nice to the media, or given out to the winner of the "my comeback from a horrific potentially career-threatening injury/personal tragedy was more dramatic than your comeback from a horrific potentially career-threatening injury/personal tragedy."
A $2,500 grant from the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner. The local chapters of the PHWA submitted nominations for the Masterton Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season and the top three vote-getters were designated as finalists.
So who wins the Lifetime Original Movie of NHL Awards?
Why Daniel Alfredsson Deserves the Masterton
From the NHL:
The NHL's longest-serving captain (1999-2000), Alfredsson returned from off-season back surgery for his 16th NHL campaign and was a key contributor to the Senators' successful Stanley Cup Playoff drive. Alfredsson was the leading vote-getter among NHL forwards in All-Star balloting, selected by his peers as an All-Star captain and the recipient of a thunderous standing ovation from hometown fans at Scotiabank Place following his two-goal outburst against Team Chara. Alfredsson finished the season with 59 points -- 27 goals, including the 400th regular-season goal of his career, and 32 assists.
The designated "old guy makes good" nominee, Alfredsson has stuck with this franchise through good times and bad. He's a well-spoken ambassador for the game, and was a tremendous leader for the young players that helped turn Ottawa into an unlikely playoff team.
That said, if you really want Daniel Alfredsson as your example of "dedication to hockey," let's give him the Masterton after he plays a full season at a $1 million salary in 2013. THAT'S dedication.
Why Joffrey Lupul Deserves the Masterton
Returning to health after his career had been threatened in 2010 by two back surgeries and a blood infection, Lupul earned a spot on the Maple Leafs' top line and enjoyed the most productive season of his eight-year NHL career. Teaming with wing Phil Kessel to form the highest-scoring duo in the NHL, Lupul did not go more than one game without a point until January and was selected as assistant captain for Team Chara at the NHL All-Star Game. He notched a career-high 67 points in 66 games before a shoulder injury ended his season in early March.
In a different year, Lupul skates away with this award, because his story was a particularly inspiring one. As he told the Toronto Sun: "You don't know if you'll ever play again, even be able to lead a normal life again." He rehabbed and rebounded and became one of the true bright spots on the Leafs.
Why Max Pacioretty Deserves the Masterton
Pacioretty returned to action this season after missing the team's last 15 regular-season games and the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2010-11 due to injuries suffered on March 8, 2011 against Boston. The 23-year-old left wing set single-season career highs in goals (33), assists (32), points (65), game-winning goals (five) and shots on goal (286). His 29 even-strength goals ranked fourth in the League. On March 8 at Edmonton, the New Canaan, Connecticut native became the first U.S.-born player in Canadiens history to notch 30 goals in a season.
All you have to do is go back and watch that horrific scene last season and read this story from February to understand how far Pacioretty's come. The Chara Incident was a life-altering thing for him; he persevered, and now he's dedicated not only to hockey but to the continued funding of brain injury research.
Who Wins The Masterton?
1. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
2. Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs
3. Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh Penguins
Scoff at the Cooke thing all you want, but go back and read this story by Rob Rossi to get the full understanding of where he was as a person and a player. The bottom line is that Cooke was, maybe still is, perilously close to being out of the NHL for his previous infractions. He's worked to change his game, change his priorities.
He's not an old guy, and he's caused more horrific injuries than he's suffered. But he was worthy of consideration.