Back in early June, Stephen Johns was named as the Stars’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Today, Johns was announced as one of the three finalists for the award by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, along with Oskar Lindblom and Bobby Ryan.
The finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: pic.twitter.com/J04YrLYRGa— PHWA (@ThePHWA) July 16, 2020
It’s a bit of an odd thing to talk about who most “deserves” a trophy like this, as doing so all but necessitates comparing one player’s hardships and dark times to another’s. That’s a game hardly worth playing, in my view. One can hardly countenance comparing Lindblom’s cancer treatments with Ryan’s battle with substance addiction or Johns’s post-traumatic headaches that kept him out of the better part of two full seasons. All of these were surely some of the darkest times of their lives for each player involved. How on earth can someone decide who merits such a trophy the most? No one other than the players and their inner circles can really know the extent of the darkness each player dealt with to a definitive degree.
In fact, as I was typing this, I saw a similar sentiment espoused by John Buccigross of ESPN:
A weird award to have 3 finalists and a “winner.” Just give out 3 trophies. https://t.co/csZOC1Ixq9— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) July 16, 2020
The Masterton is often an award that has a clearly deserving player across a season, one whose journey was obviously on another level of perseverance from other teams’ nominees. But for my money, the league might be better served making this trophy into a team-level award as opposed to a league-wide one with finalists and such. It just feels weird to have fanbases debating this, but maybe I’m being overly protective of the players and their stories.
In any case, it’s worth celebrating Johns’s journey of recovery (as well as Lindblom’s and Ryan’s) along with the rest of the hockey world today. It is nice that we get to celebrate with all three of these players, even if picking a “winner” is an almost absurd thing to do among three difficult (but very different) situations.
Update: This roundtable at The Athletic does a good job, I think, of talking about each finalist’s journey without getting bogged down in such comparisons. It’s a good read.
The winner of the Masterton Trophy will be announced during the Conference Finals. Here is the schedule of upcoming nominations for other awards: