Put all the hurt aside, this year has been a great year for the Calgary Flames. While some of the team are getting honoured in the NHL awards (and rightfully so), here at Matchsticks we like to give due praise to those who might not get it otherwise.
So here they are, the 2015 Alternative Awards.
We will start with a fairly standard award, but one that I feel is important in a year where the success of the team has been attributed to the kids. Indeed, the youth have had some great times this year. It’s important to remember Sean Monahan is only in his second year, TJ Brodie is still 24, and Josh Jooris shone all year. However, there was only ever going to be one winner of this.
Winner: Johnny Gaudreau
24+40 for 64 regular season points, leading the team in the playoffs with 4+5, Johnny Hockey should be Johnny Calder. If he isn't, he can rest assured that he has our vote. His 64 regular season points sees him 98th in all time single-season records for any skater, and is #5 on the list of all time Flames rookies. Take a bow, sir.
Honourable Mentions: Josh Jooris, Micheal Ferland
Gaudreau's success is undoubtedly down to the help shown by the winner of this category. The way he helped along both Gaudreau and Monahan was incredible, and he helped them develop into true stars – even in their average total of 1.5 seasons between them. The players they will become will be down to the great help and support they received, both on and off ice, by this man.
Winner: Jiri Hudler
That's not to discount the contribution of Hudler himself. 31+45 gives him a career year, and a further 4+4 in the playoffs, even when not at the best of his form, indicates the vital role Hudler plays on the team. There's still a few years left in him yet.
Honourable Mentions: Mark Giordano (with TJ Brodie), Matt Stajan (with whoever he was given).
You'd think, being a candidate for the NHL coach of the year, Bob Hartley would have a year full of great decisions. That said, he did plenty of things that didn't seem to make sense, and the team seemed to be successful in spite of, rather than because of them. However, there was one inspired decision that we do have to give him a lot of credit for.
Putting Gaudreau with the already-successful Monahan and Hudler pairing was vital to dragging the Flames towards the playoffs. It worked, and he's to be praised for putting the line together.
Honourable Mentions: Bennett and Backlund, Top Six Forward Lance Bouma
There's a few who could win this award. Certain players weren't expected to reach such heights this year – to be honest, the entire team wasn't. But, there was one who stood out above all the others.
Winner: Josh Jooris
One average year in the AHL, Jooris arrived at summer camp with a point to prove. Essentially losing out to Devin Setoguchi (yeah, about that Bob…), he wasn’t to be denied for long. A scorer of vital goals all season, contributing on both ends of the ice, remind me why he was left out at the start?
No apologies for this. We love him. Here's our three favourite Backlunds of the year.
There are three alternates on the Flames' roster, and each of them exemplified captaincy in the absence of Mark Giordano. Each of them had different traits, and different ways of leading, but they all did, and were all key to the Flames' push for the playoffs. For me, though, there's a slight advantage to one man.
Winner: Kris Russell
Career year. NHL record for blocked shots. I don't like beating the "Blocked Shots" horse too much but to me, it honestly summed up the leadership role. He was willing to put his body on the line so much this year for the Flames, and to the majority of Flames fans, he's become a hero.
Honourable Mentions: Jiri Hudler, Dennis Wideman
In a year of bewilderment and mass confusion, where nothing seems to have made sense, there have been several moments where you've stopped whatever you were doing and gone "…what?!" After several years of these kind of moments happening to the Flames, it gives me great pleasure to give this award to something that happened to a different team.
Winner: The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ Five Minute Powerplay
I feel sorry for Leafs fans this year. They've not had a good time of it. That said, I enjoyed this. Lance Bouma got a 5+game for kneeing, and the Flames went to the penalty kill. Not that you'd have noticed. Exemplary PK work, mixed with two shorthanded goals. It was one of those moments you were glad you witnessed, and summed up both teams' seasons to a T.
Honourable Mentions: Matt Stajan’s kicked clearance, the Schlemko
This man has had an awful 18 months. Losing a child is a terrible thing to happen to anybody, and it says a lot to this man's character that he has overcome such loss to still be able to play professional sport, as well as being able to have another child.
Winner: Matt Stajan
A playoff series-winning goal was the least this man deserves. He does so much on the team that goes unnoticed, and has finally started to receive some praise. A lot of love at M&G for Matty Franchise.
Honourable Mentions: Mikael Backlund, Raphael Diaz
Last, and by no means least…
There have been a few players this year who, statistically at least, have just been making up the numbers. They've had roles, sure, but in the end, they just aren't at the levels of the others around them. This award is for them. Undoubtedly, there is one clear winner.
Winner: Deryk Engelland
Don't get me wrong, he has gotten better as the year has gone along. That isn't saying much though, when you figure he started woefully and never really became better than mediocre. His physical presence was key at times, and we'll never forget Dallas, but yes, Engelland was the obvious choice for this award.
Congratulations to all the winners, and here's to a successful 2015/16.
by Liam McCausland