As we head into the final stretch of the regular season, talks of NHL awards are starting to heat up. Everyone has their opinion, from the Calder to the Vezina. While it’s still possible for someone on the Flyers to break out and play well enough to be in consideration for those awards, it’s starting to seem unlikely that anyone besides Wayne Simmonds could be serious contenders.
Fortunately, in addition to the NHL awards there’s also the Flyers’ team awards to look forward to. Here are my predictions as of right now for who has the best chance at winning each award.
Barry Ashbee Trophy (best defenseman): Ivan Provorov
There really isn’t even a discussion here. Ivan Provorov is without a doubt the Flyers’ best defenseman. He averages the most minutes per game and consistently shuts down the league’s top players. Barring any extreme changes, he will be the second rookie in a row to win the award. At twenty years old, he’ll also become the youngest player to ever win the award, besting Gostisbehere who won it last year two weeks before his 23rd birthday.
Bobby Clarke Trophy (MVP): Wayne Simmonds
Like the Ashbee trophy, there really isn’t much competition here. Please forgive me Harry Kalas (and Chase Utley) but Wayne Simmonds, you are the Man. I’m not even going to waste my time trying to explain why he’s the best player on this team, because you all already know. All Star MVP, NHL’s first star of the week honors, leads the team in goals, and overall the guy who gets things done. Wayne Simmonds is just the best.
Gene Hart Memorial Trophy (most heart): Wayne Simmonds
Wayne Simmonds defines what it means to be a Philadelphia Flyer. His heart is unquestionable. Night in and night out, he gives everything he’s got on the ice. He plays with his emotions, and everyone can see it. This would be his second Gene Hart Memorial Trophy win.
Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy (most improved): Ivan Provorov
Last year Ivan Provorov was the best defenseman in all of juniors, so many people probably aren’t too surprised that he’s been tearing it up at the NHL level. But there’s a huge difference between playing in juniors against boys and playing in the toughest league in the world against men, some whom have been playing in the NHL longer than Provorov has been alive. Some of the league’s greatest defensemen have struggled making the initial jump to the NHL, even from the AHL rather than juniors. Provorov struggled in the beginning, but ever since he found his footing he’s been stellar. He still has moments here and there where he does something cringe-worthy, but that’s part of being young and developing. Regardless, he’s still this team’s most improved player.
Yanick Dupre Memorial Class Guy Award (character, dignity and respect for the sport both on and off the ice): Pierre Edouard Bellemare
Bellemare isn’t really on the radar for a lot of Flyers fans, but he should be. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of his on-ice play, he’s the type of kind-hearted person who is typically beloved by Philadelphia sports fans. His giant heart can be seen every game during warmups when he tosses pucks to little kids and makes funny faces at them, or during the annual Wives Carnival when he interacts with fans. (He’s well worth the money I spend to meet him every year, if only for his giant smile and sweet personality.) But beyond the day-to-day things, Bellemare is also heavily involved in Michael’s Way, an organization dedicated to helping families of children with pediatric cancer. Flyers Charities has been involved with Michael’s Way for many years now, helping to bring new homes to local families in need. This year in particular Bellemare was one of the most involved players. He was so involved, in fact, that the family hung a framed photo with him in their new house like a family portrait. I truly don’t think there’s a more genuine soul on this team. He embodies the title of the “Class Guy” award.
Toyota Cup (most player of the game selections): Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds or Steve Mason
*The Toyota Cup is determined by the number of three star selections a player receives throughout the season. Players get five points for being the first star, three points for being the second star, and one point for being the third star.
Giroux: Captain Claude has won the award five times in a row for a reason. He comes in clutch when he’s needed and racks up three stars selections more often than any of his other teammates. He’s had a bit of an “invisible” year so far, but he’s still one of the best players on the team night in and night out. If he wins, it’ll be because of the quantity of his selections.
Mason: Steve Mason is one of the most divided topics in Philadelphia sports. Half of the fanbase loves him and half of the fanbase hates him. But keep in mind that Mase was one of the key factors in the ten game win streak in December, which earned him plenty of first and second stars selections as well as the NHL’s First Star of the Week honors. There have also been many low-scoring games this season where, even if they’ve lost, Mason was named one of the three stars for the night. Should he and the rest of the team get hot again like they were in December, he could certainly earn enough first or second star selections to take the title. If he wins, it’ll be because of the quality of his selections.
Simmonds: Listen, I just want to give Wayne Simmonds all the awards in the world. Every single one. Even give him the Vezina and the Norris despite him being a forward. Give him a Nobel Peace Prize. Name him the Super Bowl MVP and a World Series Champion. Who cares if he doesn’t qualify for an award? Give it to him anyway. Why? Because Wayne Simmonds is simply the greatest. If (when) Simmonds wins, it’ll be because of a combination of quantity and quality of his selections.