With the 2019-20 NHL regular season on pause, but possibly (and probably) completed, why not use this Monday to look at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ annual awards and hand some out.
Michel Briere Rookie of the year award
..Is awarded to the Penguins player judged to be the top rookie on the team. It is presented in memory of Michel Briere, an outstanding forward in his lone season with the Penguins in 1969-70.
No doubt about this one, John Marino emerged on the scene scoring 26 points (6 goals + 20 assists) in 56 games and played an impressive average of 20:15 per game. His role increased as the season went along, and he proved reliable in all three zones and was a player who could play in any situation, with the game at any score, starting in any zone. That’s about the biggest compliment a rookie defenseman can have.
Player’s Player award
The players hold a vote at the end of the season for the player they feel exemplifies leadership for the team both on and off the ice, and a player who is dedicated to teamwork.
This award tends to go in cycles. Brooks Orpik won it four times in a row from 2011-14. Then Marc-Andre Fleury won it three times in a row from 2015-17. Sidney Crosby has won the player’s player award the last two times since in 2017-18 and 2018-19, so there’s no real reason to think it won’t be a third time this season, unless the group wanted to shake it up and vote for Evgeni Malkin to take it this year since he played more games and scored more goals and was generally a rejuvenated player. It’s the player’s vote, so it’s up to them, but for this goofy purpose we’ll just say that tradition wins out — as it usually does in hockey — and Crosby keeps it.
The Edward J. DeBartolo Community Service Award
The award recognizes the players who have donated a considerable amount of time during the season to working on community and charity projects.
This is a tough one, since many players have been very charitable and generous in the wake of the emergency situation brought on by the pandemic. Crosby has been a leader that stands out, whether it’s been recently donating 100,000 meals to the Greater Pittsburgh food bank, or helping to lead an effort early in the shutdown to make sure all the workers at the arena were getting paid, it’s tough to outpace Crosby here. Matt Murray has won the award the last two seasons, he’s always very charitable and Kris Letang has donated a lot too, so it could go in many different directions in a unique year like this.
The Pittsburgh chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association votes for the Penguins’ Masterton nominee. Each NHL team selects a Masterton candidate from which the overall winner is chosen. The Masterton candidate is nominated as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
The Pens don’t really have a great or obvious candidate for the award this year. Maybe you could go with Evgeni Malkin for similar reasons, but as far as words like “dedication” and “perseverance” go, Patric Hornqvist is a name that springs to mind. He shrugged off some injuries from last season and was able to score 17 goals and 32 points in 52 games this season. He’s certainly the most passionate and outwardly inspired player on the team.
The player voted most valuable in total contribution
An easy one this year, Malkin’s 74 points led the team by far (next closest was Bryan Rust’s 56). Despite only playing 55 games, Malkin scored more goals this season (25) than he did all of last season (21). It was a great season at the ripe age of 33 to still be among the most dominant and best offensive players in the whole league; Malkin’s 1.35 points-per-game rate was 5th highest in the NHL.
Crosby and Malkin have been bouncing this team award back and forth, Crosby won it in 2017 and 2019, Malkin has won it now in 2018 (and we project) 2020. Overall, if you were curious, Crosby has won this team award eight times (2006, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019) to now Malkin’s five (2008, 2009, 2012, 2018 and projected in 2020).