NESN’s Seventh Player Award has become one of those local New England milestones. Over the last thirty seasons, it has been awarded to the Boston Bruin who has performed beyond expectations. The award is special because the fans choose the winner. Over the decades, you see the Bruins legends that have been awarded this honor. Derek Sanderson, Terry O’Reilly, Cam Neely, and Raymond Bourque have all taken home the trophy in their careers. (Sort of odd to say there is a Bruins award that wasn’t won by Bobby Orr.)
In the last few years (in this writers’ humble opinion), it seems the Seventh Player Award has lost some of its luster. The award seems to be less of a serious reward given to the most outstanding athlete, and more who just looks dreamy in a B’s sweater. Thankfully, this has only been a recent phenomenon. Let’s take a quick look at the Bruins winners after the last lockout.
Tim Thomas was the big winner in 2006 and 2007. Thomas earned the award those years. The Bruins were making a charge back into the playoffs, and Thomas in net was a big part of that change. In 2008, it was a young Milan Lucic who made a solid difference for the B’s. He earned that one. The next three years were also solid choices by the fan base. (David Krejci in 2009, Tuukka Rask in 2010, and Brad Marchand in 2011 (Marchand was probably a goal away from the Conn Smythe that year.)
Once the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, things changed for the Seventh Player Award. Tyler Seguin won it in 2012, Seguin had a good year (leading the team with sixty seven points), but it seemed the vote was skewed towards those who judged him on his looks and not on his skill on the ice. (Not too long ago, watching a Bruins game at my job, a couple came in wearing Bruins attire. The significant other looked at the big screen and asked “Why is Tyler Seguin wearing green tonight?”. The boyfriend saw the look on my face (which was equal parts amusement and pity), turned to me and mouthed the word “Sorry.” )
Last year, it seemed more of the same. If you followed me on Twitter, I was leading the charge for Daniel Paille to get the award. He had had a season that exceeded the fans expectations. The award went to Dougie Hamilton. Did Hamilton exceed expectations? I didn’t think so, and a lot of fans grumbled about that in social media. This year, it went to Reilly Smith who had a very cold second half of the season. When he was having a strong opening half to the season, I joked that if he maintained this momentum it would be the first time in a while that the ‘puckbunnies’ and the serious hockey fans would have agreed on something. (Personally, I had tagged Kevan Miller for the award this time.)
I know there is no way we can overhaul the award. It’s one of the better ways for the fans to reach out and show their respect to members of the team. I would just like it to go back to the days where it was solidly based upon a player’s performance, and not on how cute some fourteen year old girl thinks they are.