SUN Hockey Pool

Masterton award is in sick bay

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is supposed to be presented annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

But somehow, over time, one of the most cherished awards in hockey has morphed into something else.

It has become an award for any player who has dealt with a major illness.

Last season, Phil Kessel, battling cancer, won. This season, Jason Blake, battling cancer, is a finalist.

Neither Kessel nor Blake have reputations as the kind of players who are respected or appreciated by their teammates. And not to make light of their personal situations, which are indeed serious, but they are getting nominated -- or winning -- for the wrong reasons.

Dedication and sportsmanship is as much a part of the Masterton legacy as is perseverance. This is not an award for Blake. Hopefully, in the future, voters will understand that better.

THIS AND THAT

Paul Maurice is a fine man. We know that. We also know he was fired for cause. He wasn't overly successful as coach of the Maple Leafs at anything other than the post-game press conferences. In areas a coach has some control over -- power play, penalty killing, defensive zone coverage -- his Leafs were particularly inept. To his credit, though, Nik Antropov and Matt Stajan developed under his watch ... Whether they like it or not, the Leafs, with all their public GM search failures, are becoming more of a laughing stock in the hockey world than they previously were. And now, the lobbying for the job and the lobbying of media members for notice of the position are at an all-time high ... If disgraced agent David Frost is, as he claims, financially challenged, then who is footing his hefty legal bill to defend the bevy of sexual exploitation charges against him? First-line lawyers don't exactly work for free ... It's too early to determine the actual number, but when the dust clears there could be as many as 10 coaching openings and three GM openings in the most unsettled NHL in recent memory ... Why the future looks great for the Kings: Anze Kopitar aside, they will soon have a defence that consists of three early first-round picks -- Jack Johnson, Thomas Hickey and probably Drew Doughty.

HEAR AND THERE

So here's the choice, folks: Mortgage payment or Buffalo Bills tickets in Toronto ... Joel Quenneville is probably the best available hockey coach on the open market, followed by Pat Burns. If both want jobs, they'll have them for next season ... If Mike D'Antoni can make sense of the New York Knicks, then he's worth every bit of the $24 million US they're going to pay him to try and coach that mess ... Now batting seventh for the New York Mets: Carlos Delgado ... The new way of building in baseball: Minnesota, Baltimore, Oakland and Florida get rid of their best players and improve as a team ... Cliff Fletcher then and now: Now, he has no coach and Greg Gilbert in the minors. Then, he had Burns as coach, Marc Crawford as coach in the AHL with Quenneville as the assistant ... At least when he went down with injury, Blue Jays shortstop David Eckstein didn't hurt his arm ... A Bryan Colangelo question: If you had that free-agent money to do over again, who do you spend it on, Jason Kapono or LeBron James defender, James Posey?

SCENE AND HEARD

Even fans are on to the management without design style of Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi: E-mailed one: "What better for a team that can't hit than picking up two slow old white guys who can't make the rosters of the Rangers and the Mariners." ... Pat Gillick says he is retiring at the end of the season, which by our count, means it will be about his third crack at it ... Dany Heatley recently became Canada's all-time leading scorer at the world hockey championship, which isn't something anyone should aspire to. Who wants to be out of the playoffs -- or eliminated that early -- year after year? ... A basketball oxymoron: Carlos Boozer in Salt Lake City ... Doug Armstrong has a better record than a reputation. He isn't the right fit for the Maple Leafs' GM vacancy ... So who saw this coming: Ervin Santana (6-0) has better numbers than Johan Santana (3-2) ... And hey, whatever became of Les Binkley?


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