Another NHL Award finalist from the Ottawa Senators for the 2011-12 season is captain Daniel Alfredsson, who's up for the Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Alfie returned from back surgery renewed and re-charged, and finished the 2011-12 season with more points and games played than the previous season.
He's up against Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens, who returned from a horrific neck injury this year, and Joffrey Lupul, who'd put a few serious injuries in his rear-view mirror en route to recording career highs in both assists and points. The common denominator is players returning from serious injuries to record seriously impressive seasons.
How are Alfredsson's chances at winning the award?
His chances depend on what factors the voters are going to take into consideration, really. There isn't much consistency to determining what it takes to win the Masterton Trophy; Ian Laperriere won it last year for trying to get back into the league, even though he didn't, as did Steve Yzerman in 2003. Several players have won the award for valiant battles with cancer (Jason Blake, Phil Kessel, and Mario Lemiuex being three recent ones), but the injuries overcome by this year's finalists aren't really in that category; they were all career-threatening, but none were life-threatening (although Pacioretty's looked like it might have been for a time).
On the other hand, players have received awards for much less; in 1991, for instance, Dave Taylor won the award for playing his entire 17-year career with the Los Angeles Kings. If that's the measure of dedication required to win the award, the Alfredsson's 16-year career spent entirely with the Senators might be enough to get him the trophy. And since the winner will be selected by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, there may be enough respect among journalists for Alfredsson to get him the votes required. Most of the recent award winners, however, have been players who've come back from serious or prolonged injuries, and under that criteria Alfredsson may not be the leader.
Prior to this season, Lupul had finished each of the previous three years with fewer than 30GP and fewer than 20P. That makes his 2011-12 performance, with 66P in 67GP, pretty impressive, although he's still dealing with significant injury problems (he missed the last 16 games of the season with a separated shoulder). It's not exactly as impressive as playing through chronic myelogenous leukemia (Jason Blake), overcoming testicular cancer mid-season (Phil Kessel), or winning the lead scoring title despite missing more than a quarter of the season due to Hodgkin's lymphoma (Mario Lemieux), but it's nothing to scoff at, either.
Finally, Max Pacioretty returned this season after suffering the most talked about injury last season when one of his neck vertebrae fractured after he was hit into an arena stanchion late last season. He only missed three games this season due to suspension after hitting Kris Letang to the head (wait, is sportsmanship a factor in voting? Umm... ), and finished off with career highs in goals (33), assists (32), and points (65).
Based on the notoriety and ugliness of his injury combined with the fact that he blew his previous career totals out of the water, it seems likely that Pacioretty will take home the award despite his suspension this season--a verdict the SB Nation hockey editors reached, too.
Who do you think will win the 2012 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy?