It was a clean sweep as far as awards go for Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh as it was announced Friday morning that McDonagh has been selected as the team's Most Valuable Player and is also the winner of the coveted Players Player Award for the 2013-14 season. He becomes the first Blueshirt since Brian Leetch in 2002-03 to win both awards in the same season.
The 24 year-old McDonagh stepped up as the team's best all-around best defenseman this past season, his fourth in the National Hockey League. Along with playing alongside Dan Girardi as part of the team's shutdown defensive pair, McDonagh emerged as an offensive force, establishing career-highs in goals (14), assists (29), and points (43). He also has three shorthanded goals, two on the power play, and four game-winners.
"He's a great person, and has a real even-keel in how he goes about himself, and he's a real big part of our foundation and our team," head coach Alain Vigneault said of McDonagh a day earlier, following the morning skate Thursday. "He's been our best defenseman all season."
Just two weeks ago Vigneault raised the point that McDonagh should receive some serious consideration for the Norris Trophy, which is awarded each season to the NHL's best defenseman. He leads the team with an average of 24:49 worth of ice-time per game, is fourth overall on the team in assists, fifth in points, first in shorthanded goals, and is tops among all Blueshirt d-men in every offensive category. He is also a +11 and has totaled only 36 penalty minutes on the season.
"Mac has been terrific for us all season," noted fellow defenseman Anton Stralman. "You can't replace him because he plays big minutes against the other team's best players every night, and plays in every important game situation."
Added teammate Brian Boyle, "Mac has been an absolute monster all year for us."
McDonagh is tied for sixth among all NHL defensemen in goals this season, and is tied for 16th in points. He also participated in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, representing the United States.
The stalwart defenseman has been sidelined the past four games due to a shoulder injury suffered April 1st in Vancouver. Vigneault said it's 50/50 whether or not he will play in the regular season finale in Montreal on Saturday, though all signs point to him being ready for Game One of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.
The Rangers MVP Award is voted on by the New York chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Henrik Lundqvist had won the award seven consecutive seasons prior to this one. McDonagh becomes the tenth defenseman to win team MVP since the award's inception in 1941-42, joining Brian Leetch, James Patrick, Barry Beck, Dave Maloney, Brad Park, Harry Howell, Bill Gadsby, Hy Buller, and Ott Heller.
The Players Player Award is voted on each season by the Rangers players themselves. The last defenseman to win the award was Jason Strudwick, who shared 2007-08 honors with forward Colton Orr.