Column by François Gagnon: A balm on premature retirement?

The Bill Masterton Trophy is one of the most difficult trophies to award. Year after year, five, ten, twenty of the candidates presented by each of the NHL teams deserve the trophy awarded to the player who has shown the most determination, perseverance and sportsmanship.

Carey Price received it on Friday. When you consider everything the Canadiens goalie has been through over the past year, his health problems as well as his off-ice troubles that led him to ask for help to overcome them, it’s very difficult to challenge his selection.

That said, the trophy that allows Carey Price to become the Habs player with the most different individual honors in history – Hart, Vézina, Jennings, Ted Lindsay and Masterton trophies – could easily have ended up in the hands of Zdeno Chara. The former Bruins captain who, at 44, was much more than a giant appearing on the New York Islanders blue line last season also finished second overall. Kevin Hayes of the Flyers finished third.

I didn’t give my first place vote to Carey Price. The name of the Canadiens goalie was not on my ballot.

Far be it from me to downplay Price’s perseverance over the past year. Even less to minimize everything he has done for the Canadian since his arrival in Montreal.

Moreover, I have the impression that the still very present fears as to the possibility of being seriously threatened, even compromised by the knee injury which has haunted him for a long time, have foamed the candidacy of Price this year.

This is far from being a criticism of those who voted for him. In fact, if these colleagues took advantage of the Bill Masterton trophy to crown Price’s career – it won’t replace a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe, but it’s still a great honor – and offer him a retirement gift, I’m ready. to accept this explanation.

Especially since the answers offered by Price after the announcement of his victory are far from reassuring about a comeback next fall in front of the Canadian’s cage.

His father and his agent at his “last” game

On April 29, in the last game of the season, Price signed a 10-2 victory at the expense of the Florida Panthers who had sent a C team on the ice in order to minimize the risk of losing top players. at the dawn of the series.

Lost in the Bell Center crowd, two people dear to the goalkeeper had followed this game with great attention: his father Jerry and his agent Gerry Johannson who both wanted to witness this game in the event that it could be his very last in career.

If Price did indeed play his last career game on April 29, he would have done so in a convincing victory that allowed fans to celebrate the end of a season as difficult as it has been for the Guardian.

Although very happy for Price and although I understand and recognize the reasons that allowed him to win, I remain surprised by his selection.

The fact that he only played five games is one of the factors that made me look elsewhere around the league to offer my votes.

Besides, I thought that Price’s candidacy would be much stronger next year after he went to defend the net of the Habs 30, 40, 50 times during the season.

The specter that he may not be back and the fact that the Canadiens goaltender is even more revered elsewhere in the NHL than he is in Montreal explain in my opinion why several colleagues from the “Rest of the NHL” voted for him, while the vast majority of journalists in Montreal aimed at other targets.

Beware of chauvinism

Why didn’t I ride the Price wave this year?

First, I always find it difficult to vote for a player whose activities I cover on a daily basis. It can sometimes give the impression of being a partisan vote. And I want to stay as far away as possible from this very negative impression.

It is also interesting to see that Montreal journalists are often accused of being chauvinistic when they underline positive elements at the Habs and that on the other side of the coin they are just as accused of turning their noses up at the CH when they don’t offer the most loyal supporters of the Holy Flannelette a sufficiently glowing cover for their tastes.

Hence the importance of always seeking to find the best balance and the greatest possible objectivity.

I’ve given first place votes in the past to Saku Koivu and Max Pacioretty in the Bill Masterton race. The motives were clear. They were even obvious although these votes distorted a bit the real raison d’être of the Masterton which is much more than the trophy awarded annually to the player who has made the best comeback after a serious injury.

I gave Nick Suzuki a third place vote last year in the Calder Trophy race.

I didn’t vote for Price this year. As I wrote above, he would certainly have received one of my three votes next year after a full season with the Habs.

Who knows? He may get it, because if Price plays a 50-game season next year, it will be a much bigger feat than what he was rewarded for on Friday.

Killorn, Duclair, Getzlaf

This year, I considered that other candidates deserved more consideration.

I preferred Alex Killorn of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Anthony Duclair of the Florida Panthers and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks over the Canadiens goaltender.

Why?

Killorn represents in my eyes the perfect support player who gives himself body and soul match after match, for the cause of his team. The value of a Killorn is not measured in goals and assists. It is measured in sacrifices multiplied on the ice for the good of his teammates.

The Lightning have won two Stanley Cups in a row and could win a third in a row because they have players with great talent. It’s undeniable. But we shouldn’t overlook the contribution of Alex Killorn and the other support players who, like him, make the “Bolts” such a great team.

Moreover, when we wonder why the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, the Calgary Flames and the other very good teams on the circuit who cannot win in the playoffs as they do in season regular, the answer is very often because a Killorn is missing within their formation.

Killorn is synonymous with dedication to his sport and to his team. Values ​​dear to Bill Masterton who, need we remind you, gave his name to this trophy, because he is the only player in the history of the NHL to have died following an injury suffered during a match.

Duclair?

The perseverance displayed by the Quebecer throughout a career marked by many more lows than highs prompted me to give him my second place vote. Who can have forgotten the vitriolic outing of his former coach John Tortorella who had openly launched, before a Blue Jackets-Canadian duel, at the Bell Centre, not being convinced that the Quebecer knew how to play hockey, or even that he was interested in learn to play hockey or make the sacrifices necessary to carve out a niche in the NHL.

After this episode from which several players would have been unable to recover, after stops that were far from successful in New York, Arizona, Chicago, Columbus and Ottawa, Duclair finally made a real place in the NHL with the Florida Panthers.

This example of determination and perseverance deserved a vote in my eyes.

His involvement in the campaign to stop racism in hockey also weighed in my selection.

In the case of Getzlaf, he got my vote after a long week during which I hesitated between haloing the career of the captain of the Ducks, or that of Chara.

I opted for Getzlaf. Several of my colleagues preferred Chara.

And when you do the rounds of the votes, you quickly realize that several lesser known players, who do not have the reputation of Price, Chara and other NHL stars, but who hide sensational stories testifying to their courage, their determination and their perseverance got votes too.

And that’s good.

Because it demonstrates that within each of the NHL’s 32 teams are hidden interesting players, associated with even more interesting stories, deserve the attention of the public and the journalists whose votes determine the results of the race for the Bill Masterton trophy. But still it is necessary to take the trouble to study them instead of simply clinging to the candidacy of the player of the team that we worship or for which we work…

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