LAS VEGAS, Nevada – What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Although the Pens are hoping to come home with some (more) hardware.
Three members of the Pens organization are up for some of the league’s most elite trophies at the 2016 NHL Awards, which will be held Wednesday night at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Sidney Crosby (Hart Trophy), Pascal Dupuis (Masterton Trophy) and Jim Rutherford (General Manager of the Year) have a chance to come home to Pittsburgh with a few more shiny awards, along with that other trophy they’ve been toting around recently – the Stanley Cup. HART MEMORIAL TROPHY
Sidney Crosby is nominated for the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to “the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”
Crosby is already a two-time NHL MVP in his career (2007, ’13). He could join Mario Lemieux as the only players in franchise history to win the award three times.
“’Sid’ is a very strong leader, one of the top leaders in the league,” Rutherford said. “He plays the game in all areas. He’s our best player. He’s the best player in the game.”
Crosby was the Pens’ team MVP after leading them in scoring with 85 points (36G-49A), which ranked third overall in the NHL. During the stretch run of the season Crosby notched at least one point in 20 of his last 21 games, helping Pittsburgh ascend from 12th place in the Eastern Conference to finish with the second-best record.
Crosby followed up his MVP season with an MVP performance in the postseason as he was named the team’s Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP while leading Pittsburgh to its fourth Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
Crosby already has a full trophy case. Along with his two Hart trophies, Crosby has also won the “Rocket” Richard (NHL goal-scoring champion: 2010), Art Ross (NHL scoring champion: 2007, ’14), Ted Lindsay (MVP voted by players: 2007, ’13, ’14), Mark Messier Leadership Award (2010) and two Olympic gold medals (2010, ’14). BILL MASTERTON TROPHY
Pascal Dupuis is nominated for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport of hockey.”
Dupuis, 37, made the most difficult decision a player has to make this season – walking away from the game he loves and has played since childhood. The decision followed a three-year battle with knee surgery and a blood clot.
Dupuis suffered a torn ACL/MCL in December of 2013. The clot originally formed in the knee in January of ’14. Dupuis returned from the knee injury, but the blood clot traveled to his lung so he had to shut down his 2014-15 season early. Dupuis was on blood thinners and worked for nearly a year to make a comeback. But two in-season scares during 2015-16 caused him to step away from the game.
“It’s a special honor,” Dupuis said. “What I did in the last three years has been recognized. It’s an honor to be here.”
Still, Dupuis stayed around the team even though it was a painful process to not play. He was a key go-between for management, coaches and players.
In the end, Dupuis was able to lift the Stanley Cup one final time following the team’s Game 6 victory in San Jose.
“It’s been a great ride, to not play, come back, put the jersey on and lift the Cup, to be here today among these superstars is definitely a big gift,” Dupuis said. “It took me a while to put the jersey back on when the equipment was on, just to let it sink in that I was putting it on for the last time. The last time I put my jersey on was to lift the Stanley Cup and go out on top.” GENERAL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Rutherford is hoping to win his first career General Manager of the Year award. He was named The Hockey News’ “Executive of the Year” in 2002 and ’06 and The Sporting News’ “Executive of the Year” in ’06.
“I got the prize I wanted,” Rutherford said. “I’m not really thinking about this. If by chance it’s awarded to me I view it as a team award. You need everybody to have a successful season.
“I feel fortunate that I got nominated but I already got the one that I want.”
Rutherford is the architect of the Pens’ 2016 championship. In two seasons he retooled the club through changes to the hockey operations staff, coaching staff, trades, deals and in-house promotions.
Only six players remain from the team that lost to the New York Rangers in the First Round of the 2014 playoffs, a few months before Rutherford’s hiring.
Since then, Rutherford made dramatic trades to acquire Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley. He signed key components in Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr.
Rutherford also pushed the team to promote talent from within. Homegrown players Matt Murray, Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary played pivotal roles during the Pens’ championship run.
Most importantly, Rutherford made the call on promoting WBS head coach Mike Sullivan to become Pittsburgh’s bench boss. Of course, the rest, as they say, is history.
“The Kessel move was about adding goal scoring. We were looking at making the team faster coming out of training camp,” Rutherford said. “Some of the moves I made in the summer time was to add more leadership and character.
“We looked to add some guys that had some speed. We were fortunate that Daley and Hagelin were available. When we brought the group of young guys up, they already played for the coach so they were ready to play in the league.”