A New NHL Trophy
Mark Messier deserves all the recognition he gets. This guy was one of the greatest ever, period.
That said, it's sad that the new NHL award named in his honor, the Mark Messier Award, has no chance at all of gaining any traction and becoming a particularly valued honor in the hockey world.
For starters, it's a monthly award for leadership, and monthly awards never work. You have too many winners, for starters. Second of all, there is no clear criteria for the award, just a gut feel, more or less, about a player who shows leadership on and off the ice.
But what does that mean? In theory, wouldn't it just entail going through the league and picking out 30 captains? When Brendan Shanahan was named the first winner last month, did that mean he was more of a leader than the Ranger captain, Jaromir Jagr?
Moreover, the NHL already has too many awards with nebulous meanings. The Selke. The Lady Byng. The Masterton.
That's why the Rocket Richard Trophy has been such a hit. Most goals wins. No confusion there.
If you want a new trophy, here's one.
Given that the shootout is here to stay and is already a fairly critical element of NHL competition - Dallas picked up 12 extra points in the standings last year through the shootout - it would make sense to recognize the best in the league.
Most shootout goals wins. In case of a tie, most game deciding shootout goals wins. Still tied? Shooting percentage.
It would be a way of further legitimizing the shootout given that shootout goals don't otherwise count in a players offensive totals, and its likely a competition that would go down to the last weeks of the season.
You could put a $100,000 prize on the line to make it really interesting.
As of Monday morning, Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere and Mikko Koivu lead the league with four shootout goals each. Both Briere and Koivu have two game-deciders, but Briere has the higher percentage, scoring four times on six shots.
So Briere wins. And the best part is the player wouldn't be able to say I couldn't have done it alone.
Of course you could have. In fact, you did.
But what to call it? Obviously a great scorer would be the best recipient, although if you wanted to be cynical and nasty you could call it the Marc Crawford Award. You know, Nagano and all that.
Mike Bossy? Brett Hull? Bobby Hull? Mario Lemieux? Phil Esposito?
Wayne Gretzky would be obvious, but even he would tell you he wasn't great on breakaways.
Of course, if you wanted to break from tradition altogether, a European player would be nice.
Jari Kurri? Feel free to offer up your own suggestion. But in a sports world in which nobody can even agree on the definition of MVP and big-time college football decides who plays for its championship by voting, we need more honors with definite, set-in-concrete criteria.