It's a special award that takes an athlete with a certain set of characteristics to earn, and it's hard to find a more worthy list of nominees than the three announced by the League on Tuesday: Anaheim Ducks goalie Ray Emery, Calgary Flames forward Daymond Langkow and Philadelphia Flyers forward Ian Laperriere.
After getting off to a strong start with the Flyers during the 2009-10 season, Emery's career was temporarily derailed by a torn muscle in his abdomen, followed by the discovery he had avascular necrosis, a serious hip problem that led to the end of two-sport star Bo Jackson's career in the 1990s. Emery had successful hip surgery last April and eventually signed as a free agent with the Ducks. Called up late in the season due to vertigo issues suffered by normal starter Jonas Hiller, he went 7-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .926 save percentage to help Anaheim clinch the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Emery also started the final five games of the Ducks' first-round series against the Predators.
Our Ballot Ray Emery, Anaheim Ducks
Pierre-Marc Bouchard(notes), Minnesota Wild
Ian Lapperiere, Philadelphia Flyers
Langkow is completely worthy, but we felt Bouchard was another player that persevered through a prolonged rehab filled with setbacks, false hopes and, finally, overcoming the odds to be a solid contributor to the Wild. But we also felt he was symbolic of the concussion issue in the NHL, too. If these things can have a snub, he's a snub.
In the end, Emery's tale is the stuff of Lifetime Original Movies. Which means it's the stuff of the Masterton.