The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
This year, a trio of players from Canada’s Eastern Conference teams have been named finalists — Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson, Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul and Montreal’s Max Pacioretty.
The 39-year-old returned for a 16th season with the Senators — the only team he’s ever played for — after offseason back surgery and a bleak outlook for 2011-12. Ottawa was coming off a 13th-place finish with a new head coach and one of the NHL’s youngest lineups, but rallied to finish eighth in the East on the strength of Alfie’s play. He had 27G-32A-56PTS, a plus-16 rating and was named a captain at the 2012 All-Star Game.
Much like Alfredsson, he recovered from a back injury to put forth an All-Star performance.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who held the same role in Anaheim when Lupul initially injured his back in 2009, said he’s amazed Lupul accomplished what he did this season.
“He was hunched over, he couldn’t stand upright,” Carlyle told the Toronto Sun. “He had a hard time just moving. And he dropped about 20 pounds.”
Lupul said that number was closer to 40.
The 28-year-old finished the year with 25 goals and a career-best 67 points, despite playing just 66 games.
His comeback might be the most impressive of all. Pacioretty recovered from a fractured vertebrae and concussion in Mar. 2011 — after the infamous Zdeno Chara hit — to score 33 goals and 65 points, becoming the first American player in Canadiens history to score 30 times.
“Everybody knew from the get-go that this guy [Pacioretty] was special,” Habs center David Desharnais told the Montreal Gazette. “He has a good shot, he’s a good skater who has good ability. He’s just proved this season that he’s one of the best.
“To overcome a broken neck the way he has is unbelievable.”