RDS, the French equivalent of TSN, has asked its staff to make picks for the 2009 Quebec Athlete of the Year. The network will announce a winner within the next two weeks, but until then the nominees keep rolling in. Recently RDS's Renaud Lavoie nominated Marc-Andre Fleury, citing his "spectacular" 2008-09 season and his performance throughout the playoffs. As you'll see after the jump, MAF is admired for not only his on-ice talents but also his overall personality both on and off the ice.
Thanks (again and again) to Pensburgh's residential translator Becky for sending a translation my way. Take the jump and see what Lavoie had to say about MAF.
Marc-André Fleury: the best in 2009
Our excellent researcher at Sports 30, Nicolas-Etienne Côté, today asked the employees of RDS to decide who was the Quebec athlete of the year 2009. My choice was very easy, and I want to know what you think of it.
Marc-André Fleury enjoyed a 2009 that was simply spectacular. Since the start of the 2008-2009 season, he has a record of 68-33-8 in 111 games (including the playoffs), with an average of 2.52, 909%.
Most importantly, he has erased, once and for all, the reputation people liked to give him of a goalie who couldn't win the big games. Well, Game 7 of last June's Stanley Cup Final in Detroit propelled him into the category of the real thing, the winners.
I spent 27 straight days with the Penguins last spring up through their conquest of the cup. I already knew Marc-André from being around him from the start of his career. But I'd never had the chance to see how he behaves at practices, with the media, and off the ice, when the pressure is as strong as when you're playing in the conference final and in the Stanley Cup Final.
What struck me the most was his calm and his joie de vivre despite the pitfalls in front of him. Just think of Game 5 of the Final. The Red Wings had chased Fleury from the match and had taken a 3-2 lead in the series. Everything pointed to the Penguins again falling short of the dream.
Even with Crosby, Malkin, Gonchar, etc., the true pressure was now on the Pittsburgh goaltender. If he was not the best player among them in the final two games, their team stood no chance, and he knew it.
And still Marc-André remained just the same despite this pressure. He continued to have fun at practice and to tease his teammates. In short, nothing had changed but the stakes before him.
The consecration came with less than 10 seconds to play in the 3rd period of Game 7 of the Final, with the Red Wings in position to tie the game at 2-2. The dangerous Niklas Lidstrom turned up in front of Fleury, and the goalie made a save that is now part of history.
Marc-André Fleury will tell you that he did not do it alone. That is true. Maxime Talbot was also a hero in that match, with both of his team's goals. The rest of the team was also very important throughout all the playoff games.
But the reality is that, without the brilliance of Marc-André Fleury, Pittsburgh would not have won.
Marc-André Fleury is thus my choice for Quebec's athlete of the year 2009. RDS will reveal the winner in two weeks.