"Perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Those Masterton Trophy qualities probably describe almost the entire NHL player registry as well as countless players who toil in lower leagues for paltry pay.
But the NHL insists one man be honored each year, and the esteemed members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association are entrusted with the vote, starting with a nominee from each of the 30 teams. That usually means somebody who's really old or someone who's overcome a horrific injury or illness. (Hence, this year's official finalists are Daniel Alfredsson, Joffrey Lupul and Max Pacioretti.)
Jay Pandolfo was the PHWA nominee from the credentialed -- er, professionally associated -- media who cover the Islanders, but for our informal panel we considered anyone around the league we find prone to persevering, sporting behavior, and general dedication to the sport. (Nonetheless, Chris's rationale for Pandolfo and PGI's for Steve Staios -- both are below -- are well found.)
SB Nation polled its hockey bloggers for their picks, which were likewise not limited to the official 30 nominees and which proved I'm not the only one to find Matt Moulson both sporting and dedicated.
Masterton Trophy: Our Ballots
Chris McNally: 1. Manny Malhotra 2. Tomas Fleischmann 3. Matt Cooke
I'm baffled Malhotra didn't make it past the preliminary round after coming back from a serious eye injury. Cooke was actually Pitt's nominee, but if you think about it, to step on the ice night after night knowing how much of a douche all of the fans and other players think you are, that definitely does take some dedication.
Islanders' Masterson: Jay Pandolfo He was rightfully nominated and injuries seem to win out with this award. But here is a guy who was released in season by the only NHL team he had known, spent the next season with only a 12 game stint with the Springfield Whatchamacallits, and then fought his way back onto an NHL roster and provided exactly what was asked of him for an entire season. I wish I had a twentieth of thay guy's dedication.
PGI: 1. Lupul. 2. Pachioretty. 3. Malhotra
Pachioretty will probably win it. Not that that's an issue, considering he had a career season one year after having his face make a permanent impression at the Bell Centre. But Lupul's surgeries and blood infection, plus a career year of his own, should take home the prize. How Malhotra wasn't a finalist, I have no idea. Dude almost lost an eye for Christ's sake.
Islanders Masterton: Steve Staios. "Hey, Steve. It's Garth. I know you're pretty much retired and 100 years old and been put through the NHL ringer a time or two, but...uh...you wanna come in for an audition?" He may not have overcome an injury, but Staios's dedication to hockey can't be questioned. And, for the most part, he played alright, too.
Dominik: 1. Matt Moulson 2. Frans Nielsen 3. Pavol Datsyuk
I find this trophy nice but impossible to pick. So Moulson deserves recognition for his perseverance and dedication in going from a 9th-round pick to a twice cast off to -- oh, three consecutive seasons of 30+ goals, is it? Nielsen, emerging from an afterthought hockey country to be one of the best bargains and defensive centers in the game, needs no introduction. And Datsyuk is Datsyuk. That guy, they once called him a playoff choker and too "soft" to play in the NHL. Ha.
So, yeah: Perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport.