NHL Awards Preview, Messier Leadership Award

For my 3rd installment of NHL Award Previews (see Norris trophy and Calder trophy articles), I will cover the Messier Leadership Award. It is the newest award, with its introduction in 2007. The Messier Leadership Award has been presented to Chris Chelios, Mats Sundin, Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby, and reigning awardee Zdeno Chara.

What do these players have in common? They have all stepped up to lead their teams when they were needed most. Chelios won in 2007, the year after Steve Yzerman retired. Yzerman was not only the longest serving captain of the Red Wings, but the longest serving NHL captain of all time with a 20 year tenure. Those are some big shoes to fill, and Chelios did that without even wearing a “C”. When Chara won the award last year, he was both the captain of his team and a recent Stanley Cup winner.

Messier’s choices show a wide range of players. Some have formal leadership roles, while others step up when they see fit. Some players are defensemen, while others are forwards. Some leaders thrive in community initiatives off the ice, while others see on-ice success. Winners of the award have also been from a wide array of countries including Canada, USA, Slovakia, and Sweden.

According to Messier, this year’s candidates are Dustin Brown of the LA Kings, Ryan Callahan of the NY Rangers, and Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes.

  • Dustin Brown helped lead the Kings to their Stanley Cup win. He has respect from his teammates and rightfully so. Kings defenseman  Matt Green said (about Brown), “Well, he’s not a rah-rah guy, we don’t have too many of those guys in the room. But he knows how to lead, and he does it by example.”
  • Ryan Callahan led the Rangers into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Callahan inspires his team by getting down to work and scoring goals when his team needs it. He is also an important leader for Rangers fans as the first NY native to wear the coveted Rangers “C”.
  • Shane Doan was instrumental in gaining the Coyotes first ever division title. The Coyotes also had an amazing playoff run despite low fan engagement and ownership issues. According to Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, “You don’t see all the things happening behind the scenes, in the dressing room, the inspiration he is to the other guys there, how he cares about this team and winning”.
All three players are fit to win the Messier Leadership Award. They are inspirational, talented, and are the go-to man for their respective teams. So who will win? Logic tells me it will be Doan who has faced so many club/off-ice issues and yet so much team success. However, it is hard to imagine that Mark “We are going to win it” Messier not choosing a Ranger as talented as Ryan Callahan.
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