The Montreal chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) announced on Tuesday that Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber has been selected as the team’s candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in recognition of his 2019-20 season. The award is given annually to the NHL player who best embodies sportsmanship, perseverance, and dedication to hockey.
Injuries to his left foot in 2017 and left knee in 2018, which both required surgery, limited Weber to 26 and 58 games, respectively, during these two seasons. A few people wondered whether his best days were behind him at this stage of his career.
A Return to Form in 2019-20
The Habs’ captain quickly silenced his doubters this season, his 15th NHL season. The 34-year-old scored 15 goals and added 21 assists in 65 games. Weber’s goal output ranked fourth in the league among defensemen, tied with three other players. His 185 shots also ranked eighth among rearguards in that category.
In January, Weber made his seventh NHL All-Star Game appearance in St. Louis after putting up 12 goals and 31 points in 39 games. It marked the second time he represented Montreal at the midseason showcase. He also won the NHL Hardest Shot competition for the fourth time during All-Star Skills night. Weber never wavered in his belief that he would find his best form again.
“I always set the bar high and have a high standard. In order for me to get back to where I was, I had to believe I could do it and I had belief the whole time,” Weber said via conference call on Tuesday. “It’s mentally hard and it’s draining at points, especially when you think you’re stuck in the mud, or not really going anywhere with your recovery. But the belief never ended. It’s always been a constant thing as far as how I operate.”
A Dedicated Leader On and Off the Ice
While there is no shortage of incredible stories and worthy candidates for the Masterton Trophy this season, Weber’s nomination should not be overlooked. He exemplifies sportsmanship, perseverance, and dedication in everything that he does both on and off the ice.
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Weber leads by example and while his gestures, particularly off the ice, are made with little fanfare, just the way he prefers it, that doesn’t mean they go unnoticed. Whether it’s organizing team dinners at his home, his treatment of the Canadiens staff, recording a message encouraging Montrealers to follow the public health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, or speaking up in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Weber makes his voice heard when and where it matters most.
On the ice, Weber not only continues to produce offensively and be a pillar on defense, but he has changed the culture in Montreal through his leadership and commitment. His importance to the Canadiens was further personified during a challenging 2019-20 that included more downs than ups. He delivered even during the tough times and defended his team’s struggles by expressing unwavering confidence in the group.
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“Bringing a player of that calibre and culture to the Montreal Canadiens, both short term and long term; the culture stays for a long time,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said of his captain. “Players sometimes come and go, but to be able to bring a leader of that quality that’s respected not only around his own teammates but also around the league, it means a lot.”
In Good Company as a Canadiens Masterton Candidate
If Weber is chosen as one of the finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, he will be looking to become the sixth Canadiens player to win the coveted award, joining Max Pacioretty (2011-12), Saku Koivu (2001-02), Serge Savard (1978-79), Henri Richard (1973-74), and Claude Provost (1967-68), who was the inaugural recipient of the Masterton Trophy.
The Canadiens’ two most recent winners of the award, Pacioretty and Koivu, were certainly worthy of the recognition. Their courage in the face of adversity is still fondly remembered by fans in Montreal.
In 2011-12, Pacioretty led the team in scoring with 33 goals and 65 points after recovering from a near career-ending injury sustained towards the end of the 2010-11 campaign when he was hit into a glass partition between the benches by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced fractured fourth cervical vertebra in his neck.
Prior to the start of the 2001-02 season, Koivu was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He triumphantly beat the disease and returned to the lineup before the conclusion of the regular season to help the Habs clinch a playoff spot for the first time in five years. In the playoffs, Koivu put up four goals and 10 points. His inspirational comeback from cancer is one of the most touching moments in team history.
Andrew Shaw was the Canadiens Masterton nominee last season after he successfully returned from a concussion and knee surgery to put up a career-best 47 points, including 19 goals, in 63 games.
Weber is one of the most respected players in the NHL because his presence and his actions command respect. He has established himself as a role model in the league’s most demanding market, which is no easy task.
Weber’s play continues to inspire his teammates as well as the Montreal fanbase and for that, he is a very deserving Masterton candidate.