Predicting the 2013-14 Flyers Team Awards

Every year in one of the team’s final home games, a number of Flyers team awards are given to the players.  This year, the awards will be presented in the team’s final home game on Sunday April 13th, in a matinee matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes.  2013-14 has been a wild, up-and-down season for the Flyers.  Without the contributions from some of the players below, the team would not be in the playoffs.  Here are my predictions for winners of the Flyers team awards for 2013-14:

Bobby Clarke Trophy (Most Valuable Player): Claude Giroux

The Bobby Clarke Award is the most prestigious of the Flyers Team Awards
Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux – Photo by Andy Martin Jr

This may be the easiest award to predict.  In October, Giroux’s outlook for the season ahead was bleak.  In his first 15 games, coming off offseason hand surgery, he managed just seven assists.  Although the rest of the team played quite poorly, having its emotional and offensive leader struggle made the problem much worse.  However, Giroux’s confidence in himself and his team never wavered.  On October 21st, with a 1-7 record in hand, Giroux publicly guaranteed that the Flyers would make the playoffs.  On November 9th, the team was 5-10-1, and Giroux made the same declaration.

Wherever the team went, Giroux followed.  Linemate Scott Hartnell even declared that if Giroux jumped off the Ben Franklin bridge, then the rest of the team would be following right behind him.  Once Giroux shook off the rust that resulted from a lack of preseason playing time with his linemates and power play unit, he began to return to form.

From November 9th to January 11th, the team won ten of eleven homes games, with Giroux collecting 7 goals and 9 assists.  On January 6th, the roster for Team Canada was announced, with Giroux not being selected.  Since the announcement, he has rattled off 15 goals and 28 assists for 43 points in 37 games.  Since December, he has been one of the best offensive producers in the league.  When Giroux had a 3 game pointless steak from March 30th to April 3rd, the team lost all three games.  Without him, the team would be in shambles.

Earlier in the year, a case could have been made for Steve Mason.  When Giroux was struggling, it was Mason that carried the team on his back.  Had he kept up that play all season, this award may have been his.  However, his play has regressed a bit as the season progressed.  Giroux is the unquestioned MVP of the Flyers, and the rest of the NHL agrees:

Barry Ashbee Trophy (Best Defenseman): Braydon Coburn

(Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)
(Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)

Coburn could be just the third Flyers defenseman to win this award since 2007 that is not named Kimmo Timonen.  With Timonen’s rising age and decreasing minutes, someone had to lead the Flyers defense.  Though he is not a flashy player, Coburn has been the best Flyers defenseman this year.  He leads the defense in even strength, shorthanded, and overall time on ice per game.  He faces by far the toughest oppositions at even strength, boasting the highest QoC (Quality of Competition) among all defensemen.

Some fans bemoan the turnovers and mental lapses that Coburn sometimes has in the defensive zone, but these mistakes are overblown.  When you’re playing the most minutes against the best players, mistakes will happen.  He may be third among regular defensemen in giveaways per minute, but he is first in takeaways per minute.  In a study of the Timonen-Coburn pairing (by far the Flyers’ best), it was found that Coburn was significantly more effective at denying entries into the Flyers zone, and forcing dump-ins than his partner.  Coburn is a minute munching, steady defenseman that has been a valuable contributor this year.

Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy (Most Improved Player): Wayne Simmonds

Wayne Simmonds (Image courtesy of tsyp9/Flickr)
Wayne Simmonds (Image courtesy of tsyp9/Flickr)

Voted on by the Flyers players themselves, this award goes to the most improved player in the season.  Though a number of players like Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn have set career highs in points, Simmonds deserves this award.  This season, Simmonds has hit a new career high in points with 57, beating his previous high of 49.  He has been especially effective on the power play, where his 14 goals lead the team, and is third best in the league.

However, Simmonds’ contributions to the Flyers are not restricted to just his offense.  His physical style of play, hard work along the boards and in the corners, and front of the net presence has contributed value that numbers can capture.  His physicality opens up room for his skilled teammates to operate, and should be a fixture in Philadelphia’s top six for years to come.

Gene Hart Memorial Award (Most “Heart”): Adam Hall

Philadelphia Flyers - Adam Hall - Photo by Andy Martin Jr
Philadelphia Flyers – Adam Hall – Photo by Andy Martin Jr

Voted on by members of the Flyers Fan Club, this award is given to the player that plays with the most heart and passion.  Although there are a number of heart and soul players on the Flyers, the Fan Club has always given the award to different player each year.  Of the players that have not won the award, Hall fits the bill the best.  As a 4th liner, Hall is understanding of his role on the team.  He provides grit and physicality on the forecheck, and is a responsible defensive player.  He is second among Flyers forwards on blocked shots, many of which come on the penalty kill where he is a fixture.  Hall is an honest, hard-working player that is deserving of this award.

Yanick Dupre Memorial Class Guy Award (Best Rapport with the Media): Kimmo Timonen

Philadelphia Flyers - Kimmo Timonen - Photo by Andy Martin Jr

The Philadelphia chapter of the PHWA gives this award to the Flyer that “best illustrates character, dignity and respect for the sport both on and off the ice”.  You would be hard-pressed to find a more honest, high-character player than Kimmo Timonen.  As a player, he regularly plays through numerous injuries.  Pain appears to have no effect on him.  He blocks shots with reckless abandon, but always comes back for his next shift.

In the locker room and off the ice, Timonen is a strong veteran presence for the team.  He has worn the A on his jersey for the past few years, providing sage advice to a young team.  He is always willing to speak to the media, providing blunt honesty about the team’s play.  When the team is struggling, he will not hesitate to call the the team out about their poor play.  He is willing to take heat from the media to insulate some of his younger teammates.  Now in his seventh year in Philadelphia, it is shocking that he has not won this award previously.

Toyota Cup (Most Post-Game Three Stars Mentions): ?

Although the standings are mentioned on many broadcasts, it is unknown who will be the eventual winner.  One has to think that Claude Giroux and Steve Mason will both be strong contenders.

What Are Your Predictions for the Flyers Team Awards?

Who deserves to win each of these awards?  Send me a tweet @Bill_Yards or comment below.