San Jose Sharks' forward Jed Ortmeyer stands alone among his teammates this year as the only member of Team Teal to garner a nomination for a 2010 NHL Award.
Ortmeyer joins Washington Capitals' goaltender Jose Theodore and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kurtis Foster as a nominee for the 2010 Masterton Trophy.
The Masterton Trophy is by letter given to the NHL player who best exhibits the principles of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication over the course of the year, but generally defaults to being a de facto comeback player of the year award.
Picking a Masterton winner is a bit like picking which orphaned puppy to adopt from a shelter. Pity is inevitable, all are more than deserving, and no matter who you select, the rest will feel left out. To further complicate matters, you may need to go back to Saku Koivu's return from cancer or Mario Lemieux's return from Hodgkin's Disease to find stories like those among 2010's candidates.
Kurtis Foster's story is perhaps most in keeping with the typical flavor of the award. He returned after suffering a horrible broken leg injury that could have jeopardized his career to put up 34 assists and 42 points in 71 games in 2009-2010.
Jose Theodore returned from personal tragedy to help lead the Capitals to the President's Trophy in 2010. Theodore suffered the greatest heart-ache a parent could possible face when his infant son died due to complications from premature birth over the summer. Theodore returned to the Capitals and overtook goalie Semyon Varlamov for the starting job. He put together a stellar 20-0-3 record down the stretch, combined with a 2.81 goals against average and .911 save percentage, helping Washington surge past the Sharks and the Chicago Blackhawks to win the 2010 President's Trophy by a fair margin.
Jed Ortmeyer, on the other hand, played significant time in 2010 after being diagnosed with a serious hereditary blood disorder. The condition causes dangerous blood clotting throughout the body, forcing Ortmeyer to inject himself with blood-thinning medication on a daily basis. The condition could certainly prove life-threatening. Despite the malady, Ortmeyer appeared in 76 games for San Jose, netting eight goals and 19 points and contributing to a chippy set of third and fourth lines which added much-needed grit to the Sharks' game.
All the stories are stirring triumphs of human spirit, but somebody has to win. In my opinion, it deserves to be Ortmeyer.
Kurtis Foster's comeback is impressive, but not unique. His story is no more gripping than that of dozens of other soccer, football, and hockey players who have bounced back from similar on-field injuries to return to productive careers.
Jose Theodore's story is absolutely tragic, but took only a purely mental and emotional toll on him. His perseverance through family trauma should certainly be applauded and admired, but may not necessarily make him the best choice for the Masterson.
Jed Ortmeyer is the only candidate to play through the specter of a life-threatening condition to his own person. His ability to rise above this daunting health threat and be productive at the NHL level makes him in my mind the favorite to take home the trophy.
Hopefully, the voters agree.