Much has been made of the Philadelphia Flyers' memorable offseason. However, very little has been made which members of the Flyers might contend for individual honors at the 2012 NHL Awards Ceremony. Could Chris Pronger add another Norris Trophy to his mantle? Could Danny Briere finally be the recipient of a much-deserved award? Read on to find out what other members of the Flyers might be holding some shiny new hardware at the end of the 2011-2012 season!
As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.
In hockey circles, Brayden Schenn is generally regarded as the best player not currently in the NHL. His scouting reports are virtual carbon copies of those prepared for current NHL stars Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews. Executives and GMs from around the league have raved about Schenn's talent and potential. The Philadelphia Flyers thought highly enough of Schenn to trade one of the players he has been likened to—Mike Richards—for him.
There is no question Brayden Schenn possesses the talent to win a host of NHL Awards over the course of his career. For a player of his age, Schenn is incredibly mature on the ice. His two-way game is better than many established NHL players. His offensive skill is undeniable. His heart, grit, and determination to win are unmatched in this year's rookie class.
There is little debate that Schenn will likely be the most talented player eligible for the Calder Trophy. The only question is whether or not he can acclimate himself to the NHL game quickly enough to be a serious contender. If Schenn picks up where he left off at Flyers' prospect camp, the award will likely be his come 2012.
Love him or hate him, a healthy Chris Pronger is undeniably one of the NHL's elite defenseman. He is a force on the blueline in every sense of the word: he's physically imposing, defensively savvy, offensively skilled, and absolutely ruthless in everything he does. A healthy Chris Pronger, even at age 37, is still one of the three best defenseman in the game today.
In addition to his considerable on-ice impact, Pronger is also one of the best leaders in the NHL. His gritty, win-at-all-costs attitude is contagious. The teams he skates with tend to take on his hard-edged personality. They play more aggressively. They don't give up. They are ruthless in their desire to win.
The Norris Trophy is given annually to the defenseman that displays the "great all-round ability at the position". There is no question that a healthy Pronger is capable of putting up the offensive numbers required to contend for the award. There is no question that a healthy Pronger is capable of playing shut-down defense night in and night out over the course of a full NHL season. There is no doubt that Pronger—healthy or not— is one of the game's best leaders. The only question standing between Pronger and a Norris Trophy is his health.
When the Flyers acquired Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes and signed him to a 9 year mega-deal, they did so with the belief that he would be the team's first Franchise Goaltender since the days of Hextall. There would be no better way for Bryzgalov to prove himself worthy of the massive contract he received than to win (or be a finalist for) the Vezina Trophy.
In 2009-2010, Bryzgalov was a finalist for the award while playing behind a mediocre-at-best Coyotes team. With the Flyers, he'll be playing behind one of the best defense corps in the entire NHL. He'll be playing for one of the league's most defensively-oriented coaches. And he'll be playing on a team with far more offensive firepower.
If Bryzgalov is capable of winning a Vezina while playing behind a very mediocre team, it stands to reason that he should be capable of winning one playing behind a deep, talented team. The only question is whether Bryzgalov can handle the pressure that comes with being "the guy" for a Philadelphia franchise.
The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is given annually to the player "judged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." Since the NHL Lockout, only two different players have won the award: Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis.
Over the course of his career, Danny Briere has been an exceptional member of the NHL community. On the ice, he's exemplified what it means to be a true sportsman, a man that gives everything he has in order to play the game the way it ought to be played. He has never been known as a "cheap" or "dirty" player—in fact, its just the opposite.
Off the ice, Briere is an active and involved member of the community. He gives generously of his time and money to a number of charitable organizations. Briere has even gone as far as to open up his home to young players in need of stability and a mentor.
And as the stat lines show, Briere has consistently demonstrated a high standard of playing ability, something which seems likely to continue into the 2011-2012 season.
While both Martin St. Louis and Pavel Datsyuk are eminently deserving of the award, it may be time for it to be awarded to someone new, someone who has not yet won the award. That someone could be Danny Briere.
At first glace, this may seem completely outlandish. James van Reimsdyk currently has scored less than 40 goals in his entire NHL career. He's entering his third season, a season in which he'll likely be under greater scrutiny than he ever has in his life. Opposing teams will be countering his line with their best defensive players. Coaches will be studying him to find the slightest weakness.
Despite all of that, this is still possible. It's possible because JVR showed the hockey world just how talented he is during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. He put on an offensive clinic against (arguably) two of the best defensive teams in hockey. He imposed his will on a Norris trophy winner and a pair of potential finalists. He managed 70 shots and more than 50 scoring chances in just 11 playoff games, with 7 of those chances ending up on the scoreboard. In short: JVR dominated.
If JVR plays at that level for the entire regular season—and that is a big "if"—he has as good a chance as anyone in the NHL of taking home the Rocket Richard Trophy. If he were to continue to produce at the rate he did in the 2011 playoffs for a full 82 game season, JVR would be on-pace for 52 goals. Judging by recent winners, that just might be enough to take home the hardware. This is also assuming the Flyers are facing two of the top three goaltenders in the world every night, which is certainly not going to be the case.
Is JVR winning a Rocket Richard trophy in 2011-2012 likely? Not especially. But he's demonstrated he's capable of the level of play required to take home a league-wide award. The question now is: can he sustain it for an entire season?