The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually at the NHL Awards show at the end of the Stanley Cup Finals. The method for voting is a little different than most of the awards because all 30 teams have a nominee and from that list the three finalist are chosen.
Here is the definition of the award from the NHL, "The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season."
In recent years, the award voting has been somewhat corrupted and has been given to folks as a type a comeback player of the year award or someone who has returned to play after an injury or life changing experience. Jokes have been made that it is an award no one wants because it means some bad had to happen in order to qualify.
Nashville's Steve Sullivan won two years ago after he returned from an almost two year absence with back problems. Last season, Jose Theodore won after having a stellar season that started with the death of his infant son.
Each local chapter of the PHWA decides on the team's nominee and all are announced. Currently, the voting in Nashville has been completed and we are waiting to hear who will represent the Predators.
During the preseason, I had a great premonition that J.P. Dumont was going to hit the ground running this season and return to his 70 point a season form that we saw in his first three seasons in Nashville and win the overall Masterton Trophy. He looked great in the preseason and Barry Trotz was singing his praises, saying that J.P. looked the best he had ever looked coming into camp.
The local PHWA voters have had an enjoyable time over the last couple of weeks reminding me of my preseason prediction and what a "swing and a miss" it was. So in retrospect, I'll take a look at a few choices they could have made and pronounce my own "winner."
Here are my nominees...
J.P. Dumont - Let's beat a dead horse here. Trotz often discusses J.P. by saying "He's a real pro."
Shane O'Brien - He went from being on the outs with a reputation as being a party boy at the Roxy Nightclub in Vancouver to being a model citizen in Nashville who claims to not even know what "Tootsies" is. This year, he has been a leader on the ice and in the dressing room.
Sergei Kostitsyn - In the off season, the Predators acquired Kostitsyn for the rights to Dustin Boyd and Dan Ellis and he signed for the league minimum salary. Basically, Montreal could not wait to get rid of him. In turn, he has had his most productive season scoring 19 goals and picking up 25 assists for the Predators.
Joel Ward - There is no one who exemplifies the Predators' warrior mentality more than Ward. He sacrifices his body every game and has played through numerous injuries all season. He is well liked by players and fans alike. Ward too the long road to the NHL through the Canadian college route which is rarely successful.
Mike Fisher - New to the Predators, Mike has had to withstand the torment of being known as "Mr. Carrie Underwood" since his marriage to the wildly popular music star. He is one of the top players in the league in charitable work and has his own foundation to give back to the community.
David Legwand - Being Nashville's first draft pick in 1998 has been somewhat of an albatross around his neck throughout his career. Folks have expected him to be a superstar and fail to realize what an integral part of the Predators that he is on a team that thrives on his steady two-way play. He has been under-appreciated for years and deserves a little recognition.
Marty Erat - Like Legwand, he has also been under appreciated and his long-term, high dollar contract has opened him up to criticism from fans and the media. His pass in gave five of the playoffs that led to a huge swing in the series against Chicago could have been devastating to many players but Erat has returned for an excellent season this year in helping lead the Predators back to the playoffs.
Jordin Tootoo - Clearly he is the most popular Predator among most folks in Nashville that don't follow hockey. Despised around the league for his tough style of play, Tootoo met his demons head on and volunteered for league sponsored rehabilitation in mid season. To this point he seems to be doing well. With a big year next season, he could be next year's nominee.
Matthew Lombardi, Marcel Goc, Cal O'Reilly, and Francis Bouillon - all are potential nominees for next years award if they have big comeback seasons.
My choice for 2010-2011 Predators' Masterton nominee is...
Pekka Rinne - As one of the most under-recognized top goalies in the NHL, Rinne has suffered through anonymity, name mispronunciation, and lack of support for this seasons Hart Trophy, which goes to the player most valuable to his team. He will also probably not win the Vezina trophy for top goaltender, due to a widespread, season long adoration for Boston goalie Tim Thomas.
Rinne has persevered and showed great dedication to his team, Predator fans, and the game of hockey in spite of these injustices. As far as sportsmanship, no one is a nicer guy both on and off the ice than Rinne. After every Predator loss, he tries to take responsibility and feels that he has somehow let his team down for letting any goals into the net.
In reality, Rinne will not be the local nominee and it is doubtful that he will be nominated for the Hart or win the Vezina. Still, there is no one on the Nashville Predators that is more worthy of special recognition than Pekka Rinne who has clearly been the teams saving grace and this years' Predators' MVP.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass