Earlier today, we began our yearly look at the Flyers' end-of-season awards by casting our votes for the Barry Ashbee Trophy, which is given to the Flyers' best defenseman. Now, we'll shift gears and decide who we think should win the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy, which is given to the "most improved" player on the team.
The award is voted on by the Flyers' players themselves, and last season's winner was forward Chris VandeVelde. The team states that the award is meant for the "most improved player from the previous season", but it's always seemed like there's some degree of ambiguity on how exactly it's interpreted, especially given the fact that two years ago the award went to a then-rookie (Michael Raffl). But whatever the criteria is, we're gonna vote on it.
You can see our choices below.
Brent: Radko Gudas. Except for some not-so-smart hits just after the break, he's been the most steady defensemen on the team this year, and has helped turn a bad blue line into one that's at least good enough to get into playoff contention. That's not bad for someone who was considered more or less a throw-in on the Coburn trade last year. Charlie did an outstanding job of outlining his play and why it's been effective, and he has probably earned himself a nice contract either this summer or next for his play this year. Brayden Schenn gets an honorable mention.
Ryan: Shayne Gostisbehere. From zero points to 43 points (and counting!). What more is there to say?
Kevin: I probably should pick Schenn. I was a noted Schenn-hater but he's made me a believer this season. That said, I'm going to go with Sean Couturier. I think some people still think Couturier isn't bringing enough offensively, but I disagree pretty strongly. He's played at over a 50-point pace this year, and will likely set a career high in points despite missing quite a few games. His elite defensive play still puts him as one of the best in the sport. Numbers aside, Couturier just looks like a different player this year. He looks significantly stronger on the puck, more confident, and has been a force everywhere on the ice.
Kurt: There are a lot of ways you can go here, I think, but if we're looking at most improved from last season, Sean Couturier gets this by a hair over Radko Gudas and by a few hairs over Brayden Schenn. Before this year, I felt like Couturier was a decent second-line center or really good third-line center who would be a valuable piece on any team but still may not ever top out as more than a 45-point guy. This year? Not only has his scoring trended in the right direction, but he would legitimately have a case for the Selke if he'd played in 10 or so more games. Playing with actual good linemates from start to finish has certainly helped him, but he's still been much more impressive in his own right this season than he has in years past. This is the Couturier the Flyers thought they were getting when they picked him in 2011.
Al: This one is really damn hard for me, if only because no real candidate sticks out to me. I feel like most of the time this award is supposed to go to a second or third year pro who is finally starting to find his step, but the Flyers don’t really have that. Regardless, I’m going to have to go with Brayden Schenn here. He’s established himself as a legitimate top-line player this season, and it looks like the problem of filling the void left by
Steve Scott Hartnell is finally over. It seems like ever since Ron Hextall violated the CBA by trading his brother Luke to the Kings, Brayden has stepped his game up. It’s nice to see him live up to the fanfare that surrounded him when he first came to Philadelphia.
Allison: Everyone knows that Brayden Schenn really came into his own this year. He became the guy everyone wanted him to be. His improvement, from last season to this season, was the most dramatic in my opinion, so I’m going with Schenn.
Charlie: This one comes down to the two former prospects that Philadelphia essentially received in the Carter/Richards trades back in 2011. Brayden Schenn posted the best scoring season of his career, rebounding from a poor start to take a more active role in generating offense for his team, and probably will end up winning this award. But the leap that Sean Couturier has taken this year cannot be understated. The 23-year old was the team's most efficient forward at even strength this year, posting a team-high 2.07 Points per 60 and a stellar +4.25% Corsi Relative. He finally developed into a dominant puck possession forward in the offensive zone, using elite strength to extend cycles and win puck battles. For years, Flyers fans talked up Couturier as a future Selke Trophy winner, but this is the first season that he's actually played at that level.
Travis: I am very tempted to go Schenn here, but I can't in good faith vote against Sean Couturier. His growth this season on both sides of the puck has been remarkable, even if the offensive numbers are the ones that will get the most play. As a result of that, Schenn will probably win this award because his offensive improvement has been more pronounced than Coots' ... and we already think of Couturier as an elite defensive forward, so the extra improvement there might not be enough to rip the trophy away from Schenn in the eyes of many voters. But you can't really overstate just how huge that improvement on the defensive side of the puck was this year, as we noted earlier this year. He's become a force, and much more than just a checking line center. He's well-deserving of the Lindbergh Trophy.
Are these choices good? I like to think they're good, but if you disagree, please vote in the poll below or drop into the comments to tell us which Flyer YOU think is most improved this season!