Today, the Professional Hockey Writer’s association, chapter by chapter, have been revealing their team nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. In the case of the Maple Leafs, the Toronto Chapter of the organization has named James Reimer as the player best suited for the award.
The trophy, by description, is awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey”. Each chapter nominates a local candidate before collectively voting on the best option of the thirty available.
The award was named Bill Masterton, who was the first player to ever score for the expansion Minnesota North Stars and to date is the only player to pass away as a direct result of an in-game injury in the NHL.
While the award got its start by honouring journeymen, it has evolved to, for the most part, acknowledge players that have overcome illness, injury, or personal roadblocks shortly prior to a productive season. For the most part, the nomination process reveals role models across the hockey community for the next generation to look up to.
To date, Jason Blake is the only member of the Leafs to win the award in a season where he played for the team, doing son in 2007/08. In his case, he won it for playing the entirety of the season despite being diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia, which he had to (and still does) take medication for to subdue. Several former Leafs have won the award for other teams, though, including Dominic Moore (2014), Steve Sullivan (2009), Phil Kessel (2008), Bryan Berard (2004), Gary Roberts (1996), and Lanny McDonald (1983).
Reimer receives the award in recognition of the struggles he’s had with groin and head injuries in recent years, and how he’s been able to successfully bounce back from them. Combined with a change in play style similar to Devan Dubnyk in Minnesota, and Reimer has been one of the league’s more consistent goalies this year, posting a 0.919 save percentage over 37 games.
What makes the nomination a little bit weird is the fact that Reimer is no longer a member of the Maple Leafs, despite playing 207 of his 2012 NHL games with the team, Reimer was traded to the San Jose Sharks in February. If anything, this shows just how much turnover the organization has undergone in the past few months, as there are barely any candidates remaining who have stories worthy of nomination.
It’s unlikely that Reimer will end up the winner. Mats Zuccarello (NYR), Pascal Dupuis (PIT), and Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) are considered early favourites. We’ll find out for sure in June, when the NHL reveals all its prize winners at the NHL Awards.