Handing Out the Flyers 2020 Awards
The Stanley Cup is the most important trophy in hockey. No one will ever debate that, and, unlike in other sports, no will call it just "a piece of metal" (looking at you, baseball). But there are other awards as well. The NHL Awards Ceremony is a big deal every year, and the Flyers have legitimate contenders to bring home their first major award since Ian Laperriere won the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey in 2010-11.
But that's a topic for another day. Meanwhile, the Flyers as a team hand out their own set of awards as well. Usually, this is done during one of the final regular season home games of the year. With the Flyers regular season home finale originally scheduled for yesterday, now seems like a perfect time to go over the favorites for this year's hardware, whenever it gets handed out.
Bobby Clarke MVP Award
Given to the Flyers MVP, as voted by sportswriters and sportscasters.
2018-19 Winner: Sean Couturier
2019-20 Favorite: Sean Couturier
In the Mix: Ivan Provorov, Carter Hart
Dark Horse: Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes
This is probably the best award handed out. It makes sense - the Hart Trophy, which goes to the league MVP, is the most coveted award on the big stage, and this is the Flyers equivalent. Last year, Sean Couturier took home the honor with a 76-point season and a sixth place finish in the Selke. Couturier basically replicated that season this year, scoring at a similar pace, and was named the PHWA's mid-season favorite to win the Selke as the best defensive forward in the NHL. Coots consistently faces top quality competition and eats important minutes in all situations. He's a huge part of the Flyers machine.
This year, Couturier's competition is much stronger. Ivan Provorov returned to form as a number one defensemen, and he also logs PK, PP, and 5-on-5 minutes, leading the Flyers in time-on-ice for the fourth time in as many years in his NHL career. Carter Hart's first full season also went pretty well. Though the young goaltender struggled on the road at time, Hart was a beast on home ice, and overall looks ready to be the #1 goalie the Flyers have been seeking for decades.
Claude Giroux also deserves a mention here. It took G a while to find his offensive groove due to some weird power-play formations and extended time at center. But when on the wing and the left boards on the power-play, Giroux was a force, in addition to being a key leader as captain. Kevin Hayes had an incredible first season in Philly, scoring at a decent clip and becoming a tour-de-force on the PK, so he gets an honorable mention as well.
Barry Ashbee Trophy
Given to the Flyers best defenseman, as voted by sportswriters and sportcasters.
2018-19 Winner: Radko Gudas
2019-20 Favorite: Ivan Provorov
Dark Horse: Matt Niskanen, Travis Sanheim
There's really no competition here. After a disappointing 2018-19, Ivan Provorov returned to form and then some. He was the only defensemen with a legitimate case to win the Clarke Award, and therefore it's hard to say the 2015 7th overall pick isn't the best blue-liner the Flyers have to offer. Provorov plays significant minutes in all situations against all competition, and he plays them extremely well.
Matt Niskanen gets a mention as well, as he was the ying to Provorov's yang all year. There was concern that his best days were behind him, but Niskanen rebound from a rough 2018-19 in Washington and also contributed in all situations. Sanheim never received the top-pair minutes he was entrusted with down the stretch last season, but continues to develop as a strong puck-moving defenseman that is becoming more dependable in his own zone.
Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award
Given to the Flyer who exhibits the best character on and off the ice, as voted by the Philadelphia chapter of the PHWA.
2018-19 Winner: Andrew MacDonald
2019-20 Favorite: Oskar Lindblom
In the Mix: Matt Niskanen, Brian Elliott
Generally this award goes to a veteran who has been in the Flyers room for plenty of years. However, I can't see anyone else winning this award than Lindblom. The 23-year old was already beloved for his infectious smile and positivity before he was diagnosed with cancer in December. They and head coach Alain Vigneault have spoken even higher on him since. Lindblom is loved by all in the organization, and his resiliency in the face of such a terrible disease is admirable.
Matt Niskanen and Brian Elliott also receive mentions here. Niskanen was the run-away favorite for "Team Dad" in a locker room poll done by The Athletic's Charlie O'Connor earlier this season. Moose has been with the team for three years and seems very down to earth, but he has also no doubt been a key mentor to help Carter Hart develop as a great NHL goaltender.
Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy
Given to the most improved Flyer, as voted by their teammates.
2018-19 Winner: Travis Sanheim
2019-20 Favorite: Travis Konecny
In the Mix: Phil Myers, Ivan Provorov, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton
There a lot of players who could take this award from Sanheim, who went from in-and-out of the lineup in 17-18 to a top-pair staple in the second half of 18-19. Travis Konecny is my pick to take the award. After consecutive 24-goal seasons, TK burst through with 24 goals in over a dozen less games. He is the Flyers leading scorer and has taken another level as both a sniper and a play-driver, solidifying himself as an impact player for years to come.
If not TK, there are plenty of others in the running for this award. Phil Myers had his first full (or close to it) NHL season, once going on a run of three straight games with a goal and scoring at one of the highest clips by a rookie defenseman in the league. After some early growing pains, he and Sanheim established themselves as a dependable second pairing. I'm not sure improved is the right word for Provorov - after all, he was this good before. But after a nightmare 18-19 campaign, he at least deserves a shoutout. Lindblom was tied for the team lead in goals at the time of his diagnosis, and was a legit play-driver and PKer, too. Last but not least, Laughton fought off injuries to score at a 45-point pace while also being one of the team's best penalty killers.
Gene Hart Memorial Award
Given to the player with the most "heart," as voted by the Philadelphia Flyers Fan Club.
2018-19 Winner: Sean Couturier
2019-20 Favorite: Oskar Lindblom
In the Mix: Kevin Hayes, Carter Hart, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin
Again, Lindblom has shown incredible heart and courage in his battle with Ewing's Sarcoma. However, he could easily win the award for his on-ice work alone. Lindblom is a great forechecker who plays a tenacious style and will do whatever it takes to get the puck. Kevin Hayes is the same as well, especially on the penalty kill, where his four short-handed goals are tied for the NHL lead.
If not for the two outstanding two-way forwards, Carter gets a nomination basically automatically because of his name. But his play also makes him a worthwhile candidate, as any good goaltender has to battle through screens and contact to keep the puck out, and Hart is the first to qualify as a "good goaltender" in quite some time. Robert Hagg may be maligned by some fans, but all of the blocked shots and hits he throws make him a perfect candidate for this award. Last is Morin, who tore his ACL for the second time in eighteen months in November. The rehab won't be easy for the 25-year old, but he is committed to returning and establishing himself as an everyday NHL defenseman once and for all.
Given to the Flyer with the most star points throughout the season. A player receives three points for first star, two for second, and one for third. Toyota will donate $5,000 in the name of the winner to a charity of their choice.
2018-19 Winner: Carter Hart
2019-20 Favorite: Brian Elliott, Jake Voracek
In the Mix: Carter Hart, Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov, and Technically Everybody Else*
Actually Winner: See Below
*Except for Chris Stewart. I'm pretty sure he didn't win.
Technically, this award has already been decided, as one would just have to go back and count up all the star points for each player over the course of the season to determine the winner. But doing so would take a lot of time and math, one of which I have a too much of and the other I know too little about. So instead, we'll change the wording slightly. I did keep track of who won the Flyers player of the game helmet that was passed around the locker room after every win. And as of now, here are the standings:
Brian Elliott, Jake Voracek - 4
Michael Raffl, James van Riemsdyk, Travis Konecny - 3
Matt Niskanen, Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, Tyler Pitlick, Oskar Lindblom, Kevin Hayes, Carter Hart - 2
Phil Myers, Morgan Frost, David Kase, Alex Lyon, Claude Giroux, Derek Grant, Nate Thompson, Ivan Provorov - 1
Therefore, Moose and Da Snake are technically tied for the Toyota/BackOTNet Cup with four wins each. However, there was one game where the helmet winner was never Tweeted out, and despite some digging I couldn't figure out for sure who won it. The game was the Flyers 4-3 overtime win in Columbus in February. Elliott would have been a candidate, battling back from two early goals to make some huge saves down the stretch. That may be enough to give him the tie-breaker, but then again, this isn't a real award, so who cares? The Toyota Cup is actually a real award though. And because we're in a quarantine, I actually went back and counted up the star points for every game this season. Here's my count:
1. Travis Konecny: 28 Points (1st: 4, 2nd: 7, 3rd: 2)
T-2. Kevin Hayes: 26 (7-2-1)
T-2. Carter Hart: 26 (5-4-3)
4. Claude Giroux: 23 (4-4-3)
5. Sean Couturier: 20 (4-1-6)
6. James van Riemsdyk: 19 (6-0-1)
7. Jakub Voracek: 17 (2-3-5)
8. Brian Elliott: 13 (2-2-3)
T-9. Scott Laughton: 12 (3-1-1)
T-9. Ivan Provorov: 12 (1-4-1)
11. Joel Farabee: 7 (1-2-0)
12. Michael Raffl: 5 (1-0-2)
T-13. Matt Niskanen: 4 (0-1-2)
T-13. Travis Sanheim: 4 (0-1-2)
T-15. Shayne Gostisbehere: 3 (1-0-0)
T-15. Morgan Frost: 3 (0-1-1)
T-17. Oskar Lindblom: 2 (0-1-0)
T-17. David Kase: 2 (0-1-0)
T-17. Carsen Twarynski: 2 (0-1-0)
T-20. Phil Myers: 1 (0-0-1)
T-20. Tyler Pitlick: 1 (0-0-1)
T-20. Nicolas Aube-Kubel: 1 (0-0-1)
This is the most productive I've been in weeks. Congrats, Teeks.