With the playoffs over, I am now able to come to a moment I had been looking forward to all postseason: It’s time to give out the Armer Award—the Award to the Top NHL Player as nominated by Bleacher Report, and chosen by me.
This year saw two goalies battle it out for a top finish, but in the end the original frontrunners won out. (nominations found here)
First, let me describe to those who may not know what the Armer Award is about. The Armer Award will be selected every year after the playoffs for the most selfless and driven player who puts the team above himself. Copying a quote from my original article for nominations:
“Points, goals, and penalty minutes make no difference, sometimes the stats we pay the most attention to matter the least. Last year's Armer award recipient was Andy McDonald, for his clutch play in the playoffs and being the silent backbone of the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks.”
This year’s top three was a battle right down to the finish.
The finalists were Chris Osgood, goaltender for the Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings; Alexander Ovechkin, Left Wing for the Washington Capitals; and Brenden Morrow, Left Wing for the Dallas Stars.
The third place runner-up ended up being Alexander Ovechkin. He led his team to the playoffs and was not only a face for hockey, but for the franchise. He is always finishing a check and lighting the lamp. This is Ovechkin’s first nomination and he will surely find himself among the list of winners in years to come.
And now the moment some on Bleacher Report have been waiting for: The 2008 Armer Award goes to…Brenden Morrow of the Dallas Stars!
This is Morrow’s second nomination and first win.
Appearing in all 82 Stars games, Morrow scored 32 goals and 42 assists for 74 points. He also gained himself 105 penalty minutes; he's a real leader in all aspects. In the playoffs Morrow became a fan favorite in Dallas at another level, recording the game-winning goal to seal the series against the San Jose Sharks.
In 18 postseason games Morrow recorded 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points and 22 penalty minutes.
Morrow is much more to the Stars than a scoring threat. He is an emotional leader. He is never afraid to toss the gloves and will always fight for every inch of ice.
Back in 1997, Morrow was Dallas’ 1st round choice, 15th overall. He would grow as a player, learning from now father-in-law Guy Carbonneau, and boyhood idol Brett Hull.
To establish evidence for this Award, I will reference two video clips:
The hit at the end of regulation laid by Morrow would put the Sharks overtime scoring threat out for the overtimes, allowing Morrow later in the 4th overtime to score the game-winner, sending the Stars to the Western Conference Finals.
Take notice in the video where Morrow is: camped out right in front of the net, begging for a Sharks defenseman to move him.
The biggest thing about Morrow in this last clip isn’t his goal, but rather his enthusiasm. The look on his face shows the pure joy the game of hockey brings him.
Some players take goal scoring as a job, and something to earn the pay check, but Morrow treats every goal like it could be his last.
To quote some notable hockey figures, let me reference an article found on the Dallas Stars website by John Tranchina titled "I am Legend":
“Heading into the Western Conference Finals, Morrow was being touted by media outlets across North America as a leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy for most valuable player in the playoffs. There were even discussions where Morrow was mentioned in the same conversation as legendary Edmonton and New York Rangers captain Mark Messier as the consummate team leader.”
Morrow instead took the humble route and gave credit to linemate Mike Ribeiro.
“A lot has been said about that,” Morrow said of his career year both on and off the ice.
“I don’t think I really did much different. I got better results, pucks were going in for me. I think late last season when Ribeiro and myself got together, we had pretty good chemistry and that just tied over to this year. A lot of guys stepped up and played real well and a lot of people grew, became better players, and if I was one of those, great, but I think we were all pushing.”
“He’s become the leader on and off the ice of this team,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s the guy that will will the other team to quit. He will will his teammates by just challenging them with his work ethic. If he’s going to lead and play the way he does, everybody else better jump on the same bandwagon.”
“He took the team under his wing and said ‘follow me,’ and when you have a guy that does that, it’s not hard for the other guys to just get on board and go with him,” added co-General Manager Brett Hull.
For Morrow to have his boyhood idol, and former teammate say that about him, you know he is a special player.
Finally, the final straw for the Award was his 82 game season. Was Morrow never hurt? You better believe he was—but he played through it.
For an example, I have this clip from last year’s playoff matchup between Vancouver and Dallas. After a cheap shot making it possible for Morrow to only be able to skate on one leg, he skates over to the Canucks bench looking for a brawl.
“He’s established himself as the lead guy on our team,” Tippett said. “The way he plays with a commitment to winning, it’s just how our organization wants to be perceived.”
Well Coach Tippett, everyone has noticed your organization now, and your Stars Captain in Brenden Morrow. He is slowly gaining recognition as “one tough dude”.
With my bias aside, I will turn it to someone with no Stars, or Brenden Morrow bias. Here’s Bryan Thiel with his Takin’ a T/O with BT on the Armer Award:
"Brendan Morrow has been an interesting player to watch over the years. He's had a bit of trouble combining his tools to form that complete player, but 2007/08 definitely proved to be the year he started to come around.
Morrow doesn't have nearly the skill of some of his Western counterparts, but he makes up for it in grit and leadership. Granted most every player plays hurt during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it seemed that this year—when Morrow was laboring through injuries—he rose to the occasion and worked to not let it slow him.
He's not a player known for takings shifts off, and what's more is that he's willing to work through his struggles to find his niche on the ice. He works hard in along the boards, and is all too willing to sacrifice himself for his team.
The interesting thing is that you can almost look at Morrow as a Joe Sakic, or a Steve Yzerman kind of leader—not so much from a skill level, but in how all three players led their teams. They were all willing to work in a number of ways to help their teams win games, while being overshadowed by the super stars of the league while being productive in their own right.
Yzerman and Sakic used their leadership abilities to shine through the Lemieux and Gretzky eras, while Morrow could very well become one of the most underrated leaders of Crosby/Ovechkin era.
Granted Morrow will never reach the offensive heights of Sakic and Yzerman—but he could come out of 'no where' one of these years to lead his team to a title and become the kind of gritty, well-rounded player every kid aspires to be."