Prior to the start of Saturday night's game between the Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes, the Flyers will present the annual team awards; most notably, the Bobby Clarke Trophy (team MVP), Barry Ashbee Trophy (most outstanding defenseman), Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Award (most improved player, as selected by his teammates), the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award (media "good guy" award) and the Gene Hart Memorial (heart and dedication).
My finalists for the Bobby Clarke Trophy were Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Carter Hart. I selected Couturier first because he was, in my opinion, the team's best player from November onward. At midseason, Giroux would have been my pick.
I was torn on how to vote for the Ashbee. There was no clear-cut candidate. Should it go to the most consistent defenseman this season (Radko Gudas), to the one whose "A" game is the at the highest two-way level when he reaches it but didn't attain that level as often as last year (Ivan Provorov) or one who lifted his game to a new level over the season and still may only have scratched the surface (Travis Sanheim)? Ultimately, I went with Gudas this season.
Beyond the existing awards, here are some "unofficial" Flyers team awards, mirroring the NHL Awards but named after Flyers greats of the past.
Dave Poulin Trophy (most outstanding defensive/ two-way forward): Sean Couturier
Couturier was a finalist for the Selke Trophy last season and deserves consideration again this year. Within the Flyers, he is a shoo-in for this award. Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton would be potential finalists this season and longtime Flyer Michael Raffl has always played a reliable and steady game without the puck. Team captain Claude Giroux is the only double-digit plus-rated player (+10) on the team. However, Couturier is the clear-cut winner here again.
Mark Howe Trophy (biggest scoring threat from the blueline): Travis Sanheim
Award namesake Howe, a Hockey Hall of Famer, was not only the top offensive defenseman in franchise history, he was also the best all-around blueliner. However, since the Ashbee Trophy already recognizes all-around play, the Howe can look at offensive contributions as the criteria. Although Shayne Gostisbehere led the Flyers defense with 37 points entering the final game of the season, the choice here is Sanheim (9 goals, 34 points) because he did not receive nearly as much power play time as Ghost. The other two finalists are Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov (7 goals, 26 points).
Reggie Leach Trophy (top goal-scorer): James van Riemsdyk
Statistically, Couturier leads the team with 32 goals (his second straight 30+ goal season), while JVR has 27. However, keep in mind that van Riemsdyk missed 15 early season games due to injury. Over an 82-game season, JVR may very well have matched or exceeding Couturier's goal output. It should also be noted, however, that the slow start Couturier had in October was also somewhat injury-related after missing most of training camp. Travis Konecny (23 goals) would be the third finalist.
Brian Propp Trophy (top playmaker): Claude Giroux
Clarke, one of the most prolific playmakers in NHL history and the best in Flyers franchise history, already has a team award named in his honor; the most important one of them all. Giroux already is the second top assist-getter in franchise history, but he can't be the both the award recipient and namesake! So the award award is named after the five-time NHL All-Star who is third in assists in team history. Jakub Voracek is the clear-cut runner up for the award. Couturier would be the third finalist.
Bill Barber Trophy (Most Outstanding Rookie): Carter Hart
Named in honor of Barber's stellar 1972-73 rookie season that launched a Hockey Hall of Fame career, this year's competition is a two-horse race between goaltender Hart and left winger Lindblom. A strong case could be made for either player. Lindblom was up with the Flyers all season whereas Hart was not recalled until December and later missed time in late February and part of March due to an ankle injury. However, Hart's individual impact was huge while Lindblom was more of a high-quality complementary player with a solid two-way game and some scoring pop. The third finalist for the award is defenseman Philippe Myers, who played well for much of the stretch drive after his recall from the Phantoms. All three players are positioned to be important pieces of the Flyers' future.