It’s the end of the Philadelphia Flyers 2020-2021 season. Which players were recognized for their efforts in the team awards?
The annual team awards announcement took place before the Philadelphia Flyers began their season finale.
Finishing sixth in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division, the Flyers had their ups and downs this season. Starting the season on pace to make a playoff push, Philadelphia spiraled out of control. Throughout their 2020-2021 voyage, the Flyers locker room continued to play with professionalism. Ending the season with a 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils offers a silver lining to build next season.
This season isn’t completely lost. Philadelphia has a lot of personnel moves to figure out before 2021-2022. However, the current locker room isn’t as broken as it seems. With the announcement of the Flyers Awards, leadership receives a new direction. Who did the writers, sportscasters, and teammates select to receive recognition?
Bobby Clarke Trophy (Flyers MVP)
For the third season in a row, Sean Couturier wins the Bobby Clarke Trophy.
Though Couturier missed ten games due to injury, he finished fourth in team scoring (18G, 23A.) That’s two goals off the lead (Joel Farabee) and tied for fourth in assists with Travis Konecny. In the faceoff circle, Couturier finished second in faceoff efficiency behind Claude Giroux. Every other teammate in the top five of team scoring played at least fifty games. Couturier played in forty-five.
He didn’t lead in any of those statistics, but he’s responsible for many of the Philadelphia Flyers’ scoring plays. Along with James van Riemsdyk, Couturier ranked among the top of point shares.
Couturier provided a spark for the Flyers when he was on the ice. His positive play, resulting in scoring opportunities, would allow Philadelphia to keep games close or even steal victories on occasion. When Couturier was on the ice, the Flyers controlled the puck more than the opposition. Credit that to Couturier making intelligent plays down the middle while winning puck battles.
His efforts show that points alone don’t generate total value. Gaining control in the dirty areas for exceptional team play does. Philadelphia benefited because of Couturier’s positive contributions, making him the most valuable among the lineup.
Barry Ashbee Trophy (Most Outstanding Defenseman)
For the second season in a row, Ivan Provorov wins the Barry Ashbee Trophy.
In a season without Matt Niskanen on the top pair, Provorov had to answer many critics. Could he become a stud top-pair defenseman, or is a complimentary linemate necessary? Without hesitation, the true answer leans to the latter. Provorov hasn’t had the best season. With the right player on a defensive pair with him, Provorov can be a top-tier defenseman.
Offensively, Provorov finished in the top-ten of team scoring (five points behind Kevin Hayes.) Defensively, Provorov finished with the highest plus-minus rating (plus-three) of any Philadelphia Flyers defenseman. Overall, his defensive contributions have been a service to the Flyers this season. He leads the team in defensive point shares, the estimated number of points contributed via defensive efforts.
Still, his turnover versus takeaway ratio is a problem. Provorov is a minus-fifty rating in terms of puck control (4TK, 54GV.)
The runner-up for this award could have been Travis Sanheim. When Sanheim is on the ice, Philadelphia regained puck possession. Unfortunately, Sanheim had the worst plus-minus rating (aside from Nolan Patrick) of any Flyers player this season.
Yanick Dupre Award (Character, Dignity, Respect)
For the first time, James van Riemsdyk wins the Yanick Dupre Award.
In 2020, van Riemsdyk contributed to the PHL COVID19 fund. The PHL COVID19 fund provides grants to organizations in Philadelphia to serve high-risk populations. Along with the Philadelphia Flyers organization, van Riemsdyk has spearheaded campaigns to aid the nearby region with any help available to alleviate the community.
On the ice, van Riemsdyk tied Jakub Voracek for the team lead in scoring. He’s been busy on the powerplay this season, scoring most of his goals on the man advantage. Most memorably, van Riemsdyk scored a goal this season with his face. The very next period, he promptly scored another. He’s one of the top Flyers players this season.
Aside from van Riemsdyk, another ideal candidate would be Brian Elliott. He earned a victory in the season finale against the New Jersey Devils before announcing he plans to continue his career next season.
Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy (Most Improved)
For the first time, Joel Farabee wins the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy.
Leading the Philadelphia Flyers, Farabee did not experience a sophomore slump. There was a stretch where Farabee wasn’t able to complete a scoring play, but he broke that funk and finished with two goals against the New Jersey Devils in the season finale. Totaling twenty goals this season, that’s a twelve-goal increase in productivity. Comparably, Farabee played in two more games this season versus last. If he continues his pace, a sixty-point season in an eighty-two-game format is a realistic option.
Farabee has opened a lot of eyes this season. Does it mean that he is accurately the most improved player? In context, most improved means his production drastically increased almost unexpectedly. The disagreement here is that his improvement is on pace, especially if you’re paying attention to his playing style and his position on the forward lineup.
Another option for this award would have been Shayne Gostisbehere. He, of all the players on the Flyers’ roster, had the most impactful comeback season. Gostisbehere had to answer critics actively this season while proving his value on a depleted defensive roster.
Gostisbehere was on the trade block a season ago and left to the fate of the NHL to clear waivers this season. The adversity he faced and how he answered those low points creates a stronger case for “most improved.”
Gene Hart Memorial Award (Most Heart)
For the third time, Sean Couturier wins the Gene Hart Memorial Trophy.
Receiving the team’s most valuable player honor, Couturier is an easy selection for the player who shows the most heart. A fan-voted award, this showcases how big a fan favorite Couturier is in Philadelphia. Gritty and physical playing styles are always welcome by Philadelphia Flyers fans. The reigning Frank J. Selke Award winner earned that reputation over the following seasons. Taking home this team award is a term of endearment from Flyers fans to Couturier.
One other great option would have been Claude Giroux. Philadelphia’s captain has played a crucial role in keeping the Flyers competitive during games this season while instilling a professional approach to a tough season. He and Couturier acted as mentors to debuting forwards like Wade Allison and Jackson Cates. They’ve also been critical in the development and production of Joel Farabee.
Toyota Cup (Three Stars Accumulated Points)
For the seventh time, Claude Giroux is the winner of the Toyota Cup.
Creating a three-way tie for the lead in team scoring with James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek, Giroux continued to create scoring plays. His latest highlight to close out the season featured a skate deflection to Sean Couturier to tie the New Jersey Devils, 2-2, in the season finale. The assist looked like it belonged in the World Cup.
Giroux is the oldest forward on the Philadelphia Flyers roster. Don’t let that fool you because he remains a step ahead of the competition most nights. The three skaters deadlocked for the team lead in scoring are above thirty years old. Veteran leadership rules the roost in the Flyers locker room.
In the faceoff circle, Giroux remains the best on the draw. His 59.7% winning percentage creates offensive opportunities and garnishes additional possessions. When a defense is lackluster and incomplete, the time of possession on offense becomes vital. Heading into the next season and the later stages of his career, Giroux remains a crucial part of Philadelphia’s lineup. Considering his production, Giroux is one of the all-time great Flyers available to mentor this current crop of prospects making NHL debuts.
Since 2011, Giroux has consistently finished within the top five of team scoring. Any highly exaggerated rumors of his decline sound foolish.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre