Flyers Team Awards: Who are the Front-Runners?

Awards
 
As a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, I vote in several of the Flyers' team awards. While I will not reveal for whom I currently plan to vote, here's who I think are the frontrunners to win each of the main categories.
 

Bobby Clarke Trophy: Claude Giroux is the probable front-runner to win his fourth Flyers' MVP award. In no particular order, there may also be support for Shayne Gostisbehere, Wayne Simmonds or darkhorse Sean Couturier. If a goalie gets red hot down the stretch over a run of starts, it could also swing the vote (although that's a more likely scenario if Michal Neuvirth winds up getting another long run of starts in the final 17 games and finishes as hot as he began the season in the first three months rather than Mason closing out strong to conclude a superior statistical second half to first half).
 
Barry Ashbee Trophy: Shayne Gostisbehere is almost definitely going to win. The rookie's stellar offensive numbers, ability to step up with the game on the line and his wise-beyond-his-years maturity will carry the day, although he is not an ideal all-situations players at this early stage of his NHL career. Had Michael Del Zotto not been sidelined for the stretch drive and playoffs (should the Flyers make it) by a wrist injury, there would been a pretty good debate over the most deserving candidate this season. Last season's winner, Mark Streit, missed significant time with a gruesome injury and it took him considerable time thereafter to return to his accustomed form. The Ashbee Trophy is awarded solely based on a media vote, but in an informal poll within the Flyers' dressing room last season, Nick Schultz had a lot of support last season for the Ashbee. Streit's very strong offensive season pushed him over the top. Neither Schultz nor Radko Gudas (who may get some teammate support this year, as he is a much-liked and widely appreciated player within the room despite the on-ice controversies surrounding some of his hits) are likely to challenge for the top spot.
 
Yanick Dupre Memorial Award: There really isn't a "bad guy" in the Flyers' room, although some players are better interviews than others. The award voting historically stays away from repeat winners in order to recognize someone else who is deserving, so previous winners Streit and Jakub Voracek are unlikely to win. Any among Steve Mason, Ryan White, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Sam Gagner, Schultz, Simmonds, Michael Raffl, Brayden Schenn or Gostisbehere (a likely future winner) would be good choices. Along with Gagner and White, Bellemare and Raffl might be the two friendliest, most approachable and funniest guys on the team but their accessibility comes through better in normal conversation than in formal interviews. The award usually goes to players who are both approachable and are willing and able to offer insight into the game. None were ever better than Danny Briere and Mike Knuble among position players but Streit is great as well and, when he was willing to talk, Kimmo Timonen inevitably had his finger on the team's pulse. Brian Boucher and Martin Biron were the tops among goalies who spent significant amounts of time with the team but Mason has also gotten right up there in terms of taking you inside the game from a goalie's perspective. Schenn has started to come into his own as a straightforward interview, and Schultz and Simmonds usually tell it like it is. Actually, Giroux has improved immensely as an interview subject over the past year as well.
 
Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy: This award for most improved player is voted on by the Flyers' players themselves and not the media, but I suspect the winner will be either Gostisbehere (so-so training camp coming off a mostly lost rookie pro year due to a torn ACL, started in the AHL, made an NHL impact immediately upon call-up and has become a Calder Trophy candidate) or Schenn (who received some tough-love treatment in training camp and was also a healthy scratch in one game early this season but has seemed to finally blossom into the player the Flyers hoped he would become). Neuvirth has always been a good goalie; staying healthy was (and, to some degree this season, still is) the bigger issue. Nick Cousins may have come up a little too late in the season to garner enough support to win but his year-to-year improvement following a tough rookie AHL season has been remarkable.
 
Gene Hart Memorial Award: The Flyers Fan Club votes on this award for the "most heart." Thus far in the nine-year history of the award, there's been a different winner every year. Thus, assuming no past winners (Giroux, Simmonds, Mason or Voracek) win, the award could go to someone such as Couturier (battled through injuries, team's record with him far superior to its record without him) or Schenn.
 
Bill Meltzer is a columnist for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @billmeltzer