Each year in early April, one Montreal Canadiens player is awarded the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy. Generally there is a favourite or two at this stage of the season but there are quite a few players who could conceivably get the nod.
The award is more commonly thought of as the ‘Unsung Hero’ but officially, it’s given to a player who played a dominant role during the regular season, without earning any particular honour. This generally disqualifies the top players from receiving it as a result.
The members of the media vote for this trophy. Here are some of the candidates that have a shot at winning it this season.
Nathan Beaulieu: While he has been moved up and down the lineup a lot this season, Beaulieu is going to set a career high in games played, points, and ice time. His emergence as more than just a depth piece provided the Habs – when healthy – with one of their deeper defence corps in recent years.
Paul Byron: The spunky waiver claim went from a depth piece who didn’t play much often to a regular player (and in particular, somewhat of a penalty kill specialist), earning himself a long-term deal in the process. Byron is one of the few feel good stories this season and depth players who exceeded expectations have been frequent recipients of this award.
Mike Condon: He may have received enough attention already but consider the circumstances that got him to this point. He knocked off Dustin Tokarski for the backup job, one that was going to see him likely get 15 or 16 games. Instead, Condon is going to play three times that amount, setting a new career high in games played (at any level) in the process. Yes, he has been inconsistent but given what he has gone through – being asked to carry the team – I could see him receiving a lot of votes.
David Desharnais: While I wouldn’t have him as a candidate, every year he seems to receive quite a few votes. We all know how his season has gone – started strong and has faded considerably since then but he seems to get the sentimental vote every season so this one should be no exception. His diminished role and ice time compared to previous seasons may actually garner him a bit more support.
Andrei Markov: I’m hesitant to put his name in the mix since he’s a bigger name than the others but Markov has had to take on a lot bigger of a role than he should have this season. His production overall is still pretty good all things considered and since he’s one of the few veterans whose effort level during Montreal’s lengthy struggle can’t be called into question, I can see him receiving some votes. It’s not as if pricier players haven’t received the award in recent years either.
Torrey Mitchell: Similar to Byron, if the voters go for the fourth line depth guy, Mitchell should likely garner some support. He was an important player early on when the Habs were winning and has been one of their better faceoff options all season.
Defenceman Mark Barberio is someone who a case could be made for as well but since he has only played in 30 games this year (and may not get into many (if any) more, I wouldn’t put him as a strong contender.
Out of those players, two stand out as more deserving, Condon and Byron. Byron fits the typical profile compared to past winners while Condon is showing signs of wearing down but has been asked to shoulder way more of the load than anyone could have expected. If I had a vote, I’d give it to Condon.
2014-15: Dale Weise
2013-14: Brian Gionta
2012-13: Brandon Prust
2011-12: Josh Gorges (he also won in 2009-10)
2010-11: Roman Hamrlik