Max Nason The Hockey Writers
Flyers Award Finalists Couturier, Lindblom & Vigneault in Good Company
The NHL officially announced all of this season’s award finalists Tuesday morning with the release of the nominees for the Hart Trophy.
In the past week, three members of the Philadelphia Flyers were named finalists for awards. Head coach Alain Vigneault earned his fifth career nomination for the Jack Adams award, Sean Couturier was named a Selke Trophy finalist for the second time, and Oskar Lindblom earned his first nod in the form of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
It’s been nearly a decade since any member of the Flyers brought home NHL hardware. In Couturier, Lindblom, and Vigneault, they finally have a chance to change that trend and earn some recognition for their incredible 2019-20 campaign.
Jack Adams Award – Alain Vigneault
What Vigneault has accomplished in his first season in Philadelphia has been outstanding and fun to watch. He has great control of the locker room, established some solid chemistry amongst his assistants, and implemented a system that works.
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Not only is it Vigneault’s fifth nomination for the Adams, but it’s also the second time he’s been a finalist in his first year with a team (he won the award in 2006-07 in his first season with the Vancouver Canucks). It’s been well over a decade since the Flyers even had a coach nominated let alone win.
Up against Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins and John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Vigneault could become the fifth Flyers coach to win the award.
With a .645 points percentage on the season, he will lead the Flyers into the postseason as a top-four seed of the Eastern Conference. Even against the coach of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins, Vigneault has built himself a legitimate case to win the Jack Adams and it’s great to see him recognized for his efforts this season.
Masterton Trophy – Oskar Lindblom
Each season, every NHL team nominates one player as a potential recipient for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. After the conclusion of the regular season, the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) narrows that list to three finalists, the winner being “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
The obvious choice this year was the Flyers’ 23-year-old Swedish stud, Oskar Lindblom. In December, Lindblom was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewings Sarcoma which ended his season after a hot start. However, he recently returned to the ice to participate in a closed practice.
The Flyers’ last Masterton winner was now assistant coach Ian Laperriere in 2011.
Along with Lindblom, Ottawa Senators’ forward Bobby Ryan and Dallas Stars’ defenseman Stephen Johns make up the three finalists. It’s difficult to try and rank three men who’ve overcome tremendous obstacles. However, it’s incredible to see Lindblom recognized for his strength and perseverance and even better to see him ring the bell that formally marked the end of his cancer treatments.
Selke Trophy – Sean Couturier
For the second time in his career, Sean Couturier earned a finalist spot for the Frank J. Selke Trophy awarded to a forward “who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” After the 2017-18 season, he finished second in Selke voting behind the L.A. Kings’ Anze Kopitar. This year, he’s up against four-time winner Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and last year’s winner Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues.
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Couturier has long been underappreciated in the NHL, rarely earning recognition for his strong 200-foot game and domination of some of the league’s best players. He finished second on the team in points this season with 59, first in even-strength points with 46, and a plus-21. He also earned the Flyers’ Bobby Clarke Trophy for team MVP for the second consecutive season.
Only two Flyers have ever won the Selke: Bobby Clarke in 1983 and Dave Poulin in 1987. Over the past several seasons, and this season especially, Couturier has posed the best chance at bringing the Selke back to Philadelphia.
Midway through the season Couturier was named the Selke favorite by the PHWA, and his chances of winning have skyrocketed since. He is long overdue for a win and this season might present the best chance of his brilliant nine-year career.
The ultimate goal for the Flyers is still to cap off their tremendously improved 2019-20 season with a solid playoff run and, hopefully, an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. However, with three award finalists, the team is starting to earn recognition, especially after such a strong season.
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