Earlier today, we began our yearly look at the Flyers’ end-of-year awards by sizing up the race for the Barry Ashbee Trophy, given to the team’s best defenseman. In this post, we’ll take a look at the best choices for the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy, which goes to the most improved player on the Flyers’ roster as decided by the players on the roster.
Our staff’s choices are below, with varying levels of explanation provided. [Note that responses were largely collected during the day on Tuesday, meaning that any statistics mentioned in this piece are through Monday’s NHL action.]
Brad: My pick without a doubt is Sean Couturier. There’s definitely an argument to be made for Travis Konecny, but, in my opinion, the argument just doesn’t stack up to Couturier’s. He went from never having a 40 point season to scoring 30+ goals and putting up 70+ points. That’s quite the improvement. If we’re being honest, I’d argue he was always this good and now he’s finally being put into situations that allow him to show it, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Kurt: A few good potential choices here! But let’s go with the easiest one, Sean Couturier. I’ve long thought that he was a good player who could be a second-line center on a good team, but man, even his most ardent supporters didn’t see this season coming. What a year.
Jake: This is a tough decision. I feel arguments can be made for a number of players, depending on how you define the award. Shayne Gostisbehere’s growth into a legitimate top pair defenseman deserves recognition. Travis Konecny has taken his top line role and run with it after being in Dave Hakstol’s dog house for portions of last season and even the beginning of this season. Claude Giroux has done bounced back to have a career year. If we are talking about most improved within the current season, Nolan Patrick would be at the top of my list.
Ultimately, my vote goes to Sean Couturier. Couturier has been one of the most if not the most polarizing player on the Flyers roster for a number of years, maybe even all the way back to his rookie season. There seemed to be very little grey area with Couturier; either you loved him and felt he was vastly underrated or you were perpetually frustrated with him and felt he could never live up to his draft hype. I personally fell on the “love him” side of the debate, as those of you who follow me on Twitter know all too well. As much of a fan and defender of Couturier I have been over the years, never in my wildest dreams did I foresee him becoming a 30 goal scorer. He has significantly exceeded my expectations this season and may finally receive the recognition he has long deserved as a legitimate Selke Trophy finalist.
I tried my best, but there truly aren’t enough words to describe how awesome it has been for me to watch Sean Couturier become a legitimate #1 center this season. The Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy would be well-deserved.
Kelly: Full disclosure: I had an entire blurb typed here about how this is Claude Giroux’s award this year and he’ll win it handily and deservedly and etc. But By the time I finished typing it, I’d talked myself out of the Captain winning this award and, instead, winning a different one. And I talked myself into this Trophy going to Sean Couturier. Like Claude, Coots is having a career year that a lot of people never saw coming. He’s emerged as a true #1 center and as his scoring has increased he’s still maintained his amazing ability to shut the competition down hard. Coots gets this one and he’s earned the heck out of it.
Jason: Sean Couturier: This was a tough choice between Cooter and Travis Konecny, but ultimately the guy who improved his goal totals from his previous high of 15 to the now 31 (and potentially more) has to be the tie-breaker. Whether or not you think his spike in point totals is a direct correlation to his pairing with Giroux, you have to admit he looks like a completely different player offensively. Most notably for me, he looks extremely confident in the offensive zone which is something that didn’t look like it existed since his days in junior hockey.
Kyle: I struggled with this award between Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny, but at the end of the day it has to be our toothless wonder. Couturier not only hit career highs in goals, assists, and points, he shattered those marks. He’s a 30-goal scorer and a 70-point man and could very well bring home the Selke Trophy. He could honestly be in discussion for the team’s MVP as well, but at the very least I think he deserved to win this one.
Steph: Sean Couturier. Sean Couturier has always been good, very good, as a defensive forward. Prior to this season, Coots had a career high of 39 points in a season, and he had done that twice. This year, he has 40 assists alone. There are a few players who could be considered for this award, but I think it has to be Couturier.
Mike: You could make a strong case for Ghost here as well, given his roughly 11% bump up in defensive zone starts while keeping a positive Relative Corsi For% and the 30-goal man Sean Couturier, but my pick here is Travis Konecny. Sure, being promoted to the top line with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux helps, but you could argue that Konecny’s play has helped Couturier and Giroux continue on career-year paces since being thrown together. Since December 28th, Konecny has 37 points in 42 games (20G, 17A) and is plus-19. He’s also made strides in his 200-foot game, but his production and goal scoring has forced Dave Hakstol to embrace the TK11 experience and the results have been too good to ignore.
Bill: Giving out the “most improved” award really depends on your own definition, and regardless of what it may be, there are several deserving candidates. Shayne Gostisbehere bounced back from an injury-plagued sophomore season to progress from a nice offensive defenseman who may need to be sheltered into legitimate number one pair material. Ghost has improved a great amount, but we all knew he was very good, we just weren’t sure about great.
The same can be said for Sean Couturier. Sure, he has nearly doubled his previous career-high points total and has more than doubled his best single-season goal scoring effort. But Couturier has long been thought of, by many, as a victim of his role and his lack of production attributable to playing with bottom-six wingers. While he has put it all together this year, becoming a true number one center, the potential to be at least a decent secondary pivot was always apparent.
On the other hand, Travis Konecny has made an incredible leap not only from 2016-17, but from the first 35 games of this season, as well. His promotion to the top line also helped balance the offense, allowing Jake Voracek to even out the top-six playing on the second line with Nolan Patrick.
As a rookie, Konecny showed flashes. He picked up a pair of assists in his NHL debut and had 10 points in his first 15 games. But questionable play in his defensive end and a lack of confidence from the coaching staff, and what appeared to be a rookie wall saw 2015’s twenty-fourth overall draft pick finish the year with only 18 more points over his last 55 games.
This season started out equally as slowly for Konecny. In his first 35 games he picked up only 4 goals and 6 assists. Then came Dave Hakstol’s line changes. Konecny was moved to the first line with Claude Giroux and Couturier on December 23rd and never looked back, recording 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in his last 43 games.
Since his promotion two days before Christmas, Konecny’s 17 goals at 5-on-5 trail only Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid. His 32 points at 5-on-5 are behind only Nathan MacKinnon and McDavid. Konency has propelled himself from a first rounder who should score even though he isn’t and we’ll see how the rest of his game develops into a player whose stats compare to Hart Trophy candidates, in the span of a few months, and for that, he has to be considered the team’s most improved player.
Craig: At this time last year, it wasn’t a guarantee Scott Laughton was going to be on the NHL roster after he spent all of last season in the AHL. He’s still two points from his career high for a season, but he has been the most reliable bottom-six forward for the Flyers this season and has great possession stats. I would love for him to win this award, but it’s hard to deny Sean Couturier. He’s been the biggest catalyst in Giroux’s bounce-back season and is posting unbelievable improvements in each major statistical category.
Ben: Ivan Provorov.
Maddie: Sean Couturier. The step up he’s taken this season has been unbelievable. He’s already doubled his career high goals and is 7 points away from doing the same in points in one season, and that’s honestly just insane. He’s been given a huge promotion in role and he’s run with it. He’s gonna be a finalist for the Selke. He has to be. Give him all the awards.
Steve: There’s a strong argument to be made for Sean Couturier. Couturier has really upped his offensive game this past season, even if the fancy stats show that Coots is just doin’ that Coots thing. However, I am giving this award to the jerk store’s all-time best seller - Travis Konecny. Konecny has risen through the ranks this season to become one of the most valuable members of the Philadelphia hockey Flyers. The rise of TK to the top line has given the Flyers the ability to share the wealth with the other lines, placing Jakub Voracek with Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom, to give the Flyers a well-rounded top 6.
Konecny has become the most exciting player on the team. He’s the guy you watch every time he’s on the ice.
Joe: Sean Couturier’s breakout this season is something we all thought could happen, but weren’t sure it was going to. However, Sean has shocked the world, or well, the city of Philadelphia with his 30 goal/70 point season.