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Flyers end-of-season awards: Who should be named best defenseman and most improved?

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We take our guesses at who should win the Flyers’ end-of-season awards, which will be handed out on Saturday at the end of a disappointing season.

Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers
Which one of them is it????
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

As the season draws to a close, the Flyers will continue their yearly tradition of handing out season-ending awards to their players during one of the final home games of the season. This year, they’ll be announcing their six award winners on Saturday, before the puck drops in their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Most years, we here at Broad Street Hockey cast our own (meaningless) votes in the day/days leading up to the awards presentation, and we usually manage to have some fun with it. But of all the years we’ve done this, I have to say, this year’s selections are by far the ones that have been the toughest. That’s probably what happens when you crash relative to expectations, see almost every key player take a step back, miss the playoffs, and leave your entire fanbase frustrated. Digging through the muck to find positives can be a challenge.

But! That doesn’t mean we won’t give it a try, even if we have to do it somewhat ironically. Our writers submitted their choices and (in most cases) explanations on who they think should win these awards, and we’ll review two of the awards this morning and the other three tomorrow morning prior to the game. Enjoy.

***

Barry Ashbee Trophy

Goes to the Flyers’ most outstanding defenseman, as voted on by the media.
2015-16 Winner: Shayne Gostisbehere

Al K.: Yet again, choosing the winner of this award is like picking the Queen of the Turd Ball. The Flyers’ defense is so disappointing that I'm reluctant to pick anyone here simply out of respect. But if I had to choose someone, I'd go with Ivan Provorov. Do I have anything to really back this up? Not really, folks! But on a team where the future is all we have to look forward to, Provorov stands out as possibly the brightest spot. Plus he had to deal with being tethered to Andrew MacDonald all year, so he deserves something.

Allison J.: I am so pleased to say Radko Gudas. You have no idea how much joy it gives me to write his name down under “best defenseman”. Radko Gudas is the shepherd that has guided our rookie d-men for the past two seasons, and now he gets his due. I love you, Radko. You and the light bouncing off your giant forehead will lead the way to our mutual success.

Charlie O’C.: The obvious choice here is Ivan Provorov, and I'm almost certain that he runs away with the thing. But the truth is, Provorov's metrics are nothing special, and as much as we all want to believe that's due to the MacDonald effect, I can't be truly certain until I see him away from the human Corsi deflator for an extended period of time. What I do know is that Radko Gudas' metrics this year have been straight up fantastic — 53.27% score-adjusted Corsi (+3.05% relative to his teammates), 53.29% xG (+4.77% Rel), and 1.06 Points/60 at 5-on-5, which ranks 20th in the NHL among defensemen with at least 500 minutes in the situation. Gudas is also the only Flyers' defenseman with a positive on-ice Goal differential at 5-on-5. He's even cut down on the penalties this year, and never once crossed the line into suspendable territory (in the regular season). I'm still not quite sure how he drives play this well, but the results are undeniable — Radko Gudas is an absolute difference-maker on the back end.

Dylan C.: I don't think I will stir up any controversy when I say that the best defenseman this season has been Ivan Provorov. From his first few games, you could sense that he was nervous; he was making many mistakes, but because he was so young, it was ok. As he gained confidence, he became a leader of the team. His awareness on the ice separated him from every other defenseman on the Flyers this season. Just you wait, guys; there's more of the horsemen to come.

Jay P.: Ivan Provorov has been the light of what has been a very long, dark tunnel. Even when paired with the worst defenseman in the league, Provorov has shown enough this year to establish himself as the cornerstone defenseman the team hasn't had since Kimmo Timonen in his prime.

Joe P.: Ivan Provorov. Jumping into the NHL at 19 years old is not an easy task for anyone, especially for a defenseman. Ivan Provorov did not look out of place one bit during his rookie campaign in the NHL. It was not made easy for him, being paired with an aging Mark Streit, and then everyone’s favorite, Andrew MacDonald. Ivan had his struggles early on, notably his game against Chicago in October. However, he flourished into the role as the teams top dmen, stepping up whenever called upon. The future is bright for the son we call Ivan.

Kelly H.: Ivan Provorov. Kid's been the best player on the team for the entire season. I know he isn't as reliable as Andrew MacDonald in all three zones, but he's earned this one.

Kurt R.: Hmm. Yeah, let’s not overthink this one. Ivan Provorov is clearly already the guy that this coaching staff trusts most, given that he averages almost two minutes of ice time per game more than the guy with the next-most on the team. His all-around game is almost certainly already the best among the team’s defensemen, there aren’t any obvious weaknesses from his first season, and you have to think things are going to keep getting better here. Be excited.

Steph D.: Ivan Provorov. 19 years old, playing the most minutes on the team, and surviving the Flyers hazing ritual of being paired with Andrew MacDonald, it's a no brainer.

Travis H.: Ivan Provorov.

***

Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy

Goes to the Flyers’ most improved player, as voted on by his teammates.
2015-16 Winner: Brayden Schenn

Al: This award is even harder for me to pick, because I honestly don't see anyone who is really deserving. Wayne Simmonds maybe, but I don't really see him as "improved" so much as "consistently good." I'm not saying that nobody on this team had a good season, I just don't think anyone really improved in any measurable way. So because of this, I'm giving the award to myself, because I am constantly committed to making myself a better person. Plus I'm awesome.

Allison: I don’t think there’s a clear winner here, as steps of improvement have been subtle (or non-existent!) In Sean Couturier’s case, as is usual, people assume that he sucks, but actually he is being very good albeit in a quiet and Sean Couturier-type way. Towards the end of the season, I think we witnessed big steps forward for him! I hope it continues.

Charlie: For most of the season, this seemed like a nearly impossible award to issue. It's hard to think of one Flyer who spent the majority of the year with the team that actually improved this season versus last year. Gudas is an option, but he was great statistically last year as well -- this season just cemented the fact that it wasn't a fluke. Everyone else either held steady or took a step back. But the late emergence of Jordan Weal makes this an easy choice for me. In 2015-16, Weal only played in 14 hockey games, as he sat in the middle ground of being not impressive enough to make the regular lineup of the Kings or Flyers, but too good to risk sending through waivers and losing for nothing. This year, Weal ripped up the AHL, and after earning a recall in February didn't miss a beat. I'd go as far as to say that he's been the Flyers' most effective forward over the past month, showcasing a willingness to attack the front of the net and an ability to push the play up ice. To go from organizational afterthought to a player that would incite online riots in the offseason if he is allowed to walk makes him worthy of the Lindbergh for me.

Dylan: It's always difficult to use statistics to measure defensive performances. Sometimes, there is a player who just has the knack for the game. For me, Radko Gudas has found his knack for the game in a huge way this season. While he has been improving statistically in almost every category, the way he controls his play this season has brought a veteran presence to the team. Toning down his dangerous plays and focusing on being a stable defenseman was Gudas' goal this year, and he far succeeded fans' expectations.

Jay: Jordan Weal. I mean, has anyone really improved on the team? Despite the obvious small sample size, Weal has at least shown SOME improvement over the previous season. In his 21 games he has not looked out of place wherever he was placed in the lineup and has driven play at a very respectable level. As he approaches unrestricted free agency and the expansion draft, the Flyers will have a tough decision to make.

Joe: Jordan Weal. The Flyers, as a whole took two steps back this year. Sean Couturier had a fantastic year on both ends of the ice, but why not give it the award to the kid on possibly his last shot in the NHL? Jordan Weal has always been a fantastic player in the AHL, however in his previous two NHL call-ups he has not scored a goal. That changed this season! Weal was placed in the top-six, and given a role catered much more to his play style. Unlike last season when he was stuck on the 4th line with R.J Umberger. See how putting players in the correct roles allows them to play good, Dave!? (Someone save TK from the 4th line please).

Kelly: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, because even though he sucks by literally every metric, the team is obsessed with him and made him alternate captain. But real talk no one on this team improved this season, lol. No one should get this award.

Kurt: Uh ... my god, this is hard. Is there literally anyone you can point to on this roster who was better than they were last year? I can’t think of anyone obvious other than Jordan Weal, who was only on the team for about a third of the season. Even if the question’s “who has improved over the course of the season?”, that’s a pretty hard one to find an obvious answer to. Couturier, maybe? Ghost, if you just look at the last month or so in which he’s basically looked like last season’s Ghost? I’m legitimately fascinated to see who wins this, and I say that as someone who generally could not care much less who wins these awards. I bet it’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for some reason or another. Screw it. Jordan Weal is the call here.

Steph: Andrew MacDonald. Embrace the chaos.

Travis: Jordan Weal.