Tuesday, April 04, 2011
Posted: 11 a.m.
By Jim Jackson
As the final week of the 2010-11 NHL season runs it's course, it's time to make mention of the players who are my choices for the Flyers' team awards. With the team's inconsistencies over the last couple of months, it's easy to forget that this year's crew has put together an impressive campaign when it is judged as a whole.
In order to register a 100-point season and to be in the running for a conference championship into the final week, there have to be several individual performances behind it. Such was the case for this year's club.
Without further adieu, here are who the award winners should be in this observer's humble opinion:
Yanick Dupre Class Guy Award: Sean O'Donnell
This award is given to the player that best deals with the media during the course of the year, and O'Donnell is a worthy choice. Signed as a free agent during the offseason, he has had a solid season on the ice, appearing in nearly 80 games when many observers expected him to dress in closer to 50.
Off the ice, media members search him out for his articulate, thoughtful assessments of the many situations that develop throughout the year. He uses his nearly 20 years of pro hockey experience as a reference and is usually very good at putting things into perspective.
It did not take the newcomer to Philadelphia long to become the voice of reason for media members to seek out in the Flyers' locker room.
Pelle Lindbergh Most Improved Player: Andreas Nodl
This is not an easy choice. James van Riemsdyk has bested his goal-scoring output from his rookie season by six already and appears to be slowly, but surely, taking steps toward developing into a top-six forward.
However, Nodl had further to come after appearing in only 10 games last season and spending time in the minors. But this season, he has contributed 11 goals to the big club's cause. You will notice the coaching staff trusts him because there are times when the team is protecting a one-goal lead late in game that you find Nodl on the ice.
The Flyers are hoping he continues to improve when it comes to goal scoring, while maintaining his status as a reliable defensive forward.
Unsung Hero Award: Darroll Powe
OK, so there is no award given to an unsung hero for the Flyers. But every team has a player that goes under the radar and many teams salute him. This is my attempt to do so.
Powe averages only about 12 minutes of ice time per game and yet he has managed to lead the team in hits just about all season long. He's also a good penalty killer and he delivers effort every time he hits the ice.
Guys like Powe and Blair Betts will not get much attention. They don't pile up big offensive numbers, but their contributions to a team are very important. So the term "unsung" does seem to fit.
Barry Ashbee Trophy: Andrej Meszaros
This may be the most difficult choice of any of the awards. Chris Pronger is generally considered the best defenseman in the Flyers' group of blue liners. However, he has missed too much time because of injury to be considered this season.
Still, there are several other deserving candidates. Kimmo Timonen has been his usual steady self for most of the year, despite playing through some nagging injuries. Braydon Coburn has been dominant in some games as he continues to add to the physical element of his game. Matt Carle has set a career-high in assists, while ranking among the league leaders among defensemen in even-strength points.
Any of the above could win this award and I wouldn't be surprised.
However, my choice is Meszaros. He leads the Philadelphia defense corps in hits, goals and plusminus. But more than the numbers, it's been his presence on the blue line, both in terms of his skating and physicality, that has been a consistent force all season. He's made quite a turnaround after two lackluster seasons in Tampa.
Bobby Clarke Trophy (MVP): Claude Giroux
Giroux gave us a glimpse of how good he could be during the Flyers' remarkable run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. He carried that performance over into this season and has become his team's best offensive player at the tender age of 23.
It's true that the Flyers have many offensive weapons. They're the only team in the NHL to have nine players with at least 16 goals. Still, one gets the feeling opposing coaches now form their defensive checking schemes with Giroux in mind. He has emerged to the point that every time he touches the puck you anticipate some kind of remarkable play.
Giroux has been the best of a balanced bunch in orange and black this season. Players such as Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, and Mike Richards have had their strong segments. But Giroux has been there more consistently.
It should also be pointed out that the emergence of 22-year-old goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has been a godsend to this team. He has to be mentioned when it comes to pure value to the team, as it appears he will leaned on come playoff time.
Now, we all know the piece of hardware that players, coaches and fans are most concerned with won't be awarded until sometime in June. The battle for Lord Stanley's Cup begins in earnest next week.
Still, we should take time to honor those players for a job well done during a regular season that, by and large, has been successful.
E-mail Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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