|Cam Neely accepting the award in his first season as a Bruin (1986-87), his breakout year
The Bruins 7th Player Award was born in the 1960's by the Gallery God's in the old Garden. This annual award was to given to a player who performed above and beyond expectations, not necessarily a star player on the team, but more geared towards a teammate who was willing to do the dirty work without the reward of his name showing up in the boxscore. Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, or Johhny Buyck never won the award... rather it was doled out to guys like Derek Sanderson, Ed Westfall, and Fred Stanfield.
Throughout the years the essence of the award had changed a bit, nowadays NESN chooses the winner and allows fan input, unfortunately turning this into an annual popularity contest.
For example, last year Chris Kelly should have been the easy choice for the award. He had an outstanding season, besting his career goal total by six (21-15) while consistently centering the Bruins 3rd line. He also did excellent work on the penalty kill unit in his first full season as a Bruin. He won a solid 52% of his face-off draws, finished the season +32, and set a great example for his teammates both on and off the ice while serving as a part time alternate captain.
Who won the award instead? Mr. Popular fanboy Tyler Seguin. Obviously I love Seguin and this is no slight to him, but when you are the 2nd overall pick and you are coming off a fairly solid rookie campaign, the expectations are exactly what he produced. He didn't blow anyone away, which is what it would have taken for him to be deserving of this award, Yet the pink hats voted him in as the 7th player. Sigh.
Moving on to the current season, 2013, I'd like to look at who I think the best candidates for this year's 7th Man Award are:
Daniel Paille- I personally have been historically tough on Paille, but this year he has been impressive. He has a great role carved out on this team as a 4th line winger who kills penalties, hustles, and creates chances with his near-elite straight line speed. His 6 goals in 26 games put him on a near 20 goal pace extrapolated over a full season pretty much the best in his career. He is currently +2 and seems to be finishing a lot more than in the past. I like how his game is simple and he puts pucks on the net... using last night's game as evidence, sometimes that's all you need. The Bruins have to be thrilled with his production thus far. He has more goals than Lucic, Kelly, Peverly, and all the defense man (tied with Chara.)
Brad Marchand- Brad won this award in 2011, and actually deserved it too. That was his breakout year and shortly after the award, the B's went on to win the Cup and the little ball of hate led the entire NHL in playoff goals that post season. Everyone across the league thought this guy was just a pest, someone would eventually just fly swat him out of the league. Well, that was clearly wrong. Marchand leads this team in goals and is a nightly threat to bury the puck. He is easily having his best statistical season...obviously a lot of that has to do with the incredibly chemistry between him and his 'lineys,' but he certainly buries almost every chance he gets. He also creates his own chances and sets up up his boy Seguin all the time. This year Marchand has been utilized in the shootout and he converts nearly every time He has clearly established himself as a skilled goal scorer in this league, and it is nice to see his game improve AFTER signing a nice contract. Oh, and he kicked Mike Riberios ass, someone who is equally hated as Marchand across the league but has somehow avoided dropping the gloves his entire career. Now we know why.
Dougie Hamilton- I'm only including Dougie because he has a chance to win the award based on popularity. I think he's played fine, started out real hot but pretty much has come in & done exactly what's expected of him. In my eyes he doesn't deserve this award and would be a damn shame if he won it.
Anton Khubodin- Anton has done everything the Bruins have asked, plus more. Typically you would be happy with your back up winning half the games he starts, but this guy has excelled and is 6-2 in the 8 games he has started. His current GAA is 2.14 and SV % is .928. Having a reliable back up tender like Anton is invaluable to a team, especially these Bruins. Rask is not the picture of health, and although he has held up nicely this year, it's nice to know the team has confidence in the back up goalie. Dobby has single handily won at least 3 games for the Bruins this year and as of this writing, he would be my choice for the 7th Player Award. I'm not sure if the pink hats have really caught on to how good this guy has been so it's unlikely he actually wins, but he certainly deserves the distinction. Tuukka was the last goalie to win this award in 2009.