by PuckStopsHere on 02/09/09 at 02:42 AM ET
Some years there is nobody who truly deserves to win a major award, but that isn’t what happens. A winner has to be found. It doesn’t matter if that winner would have been an also ran in almost every year in recent history. This year it looks like the Norris Trophy will be one such award.
There is a relatively large group of Norris Trophy candidates that include Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara, Dan Boyle, Andrei Markov, Duncan Keith and others. How do hockey pundits tend to handle such situations? They find a leading candidate not by looking at this season, but by looking at other recent seasons. Many have done that and are picking Nicklas Lidstrom as the Norris favorite. Lidstrom has basically owned the Norris Trophy having won it six times recently. The problem is at age 38 he is finally starting to slow down. He has struggled through injuries this season including tendonitis in his elbow and a broken nose and has not been nearly as dominant a player as we have seen in the past.
The fact that Lidstrom has won the Norris Trophy many times already is a reason many people look elsewhere for a front runner. They would give the Norris Trophy this season as basically a lifetime achievement award. Who is the guy who has never won this award that has had the best career and qualifies as a candidate? The clear answer is Zdeno Chara. Chara has made the first or second all star teams three times, but never won the Norris. It helps his case that his Boston team is doing so well this year. However, that is a team result. It is hardly one that gets pinned on Chara individually. Boston has taken a big leap forward because of Marc Savard, Tim Thomas, Dennis Wideman, David Krejci etc. as well as because of Zdeno Chara. No one man deserves anywhere near the majority of the credit. In fact, Dennis Wideman has more points and a better +/- on the Boston defence than Chara does. It is true that Chara plays against a higher level of competition (though Wideman also plays tough competition). That makes it a complex case to pick the best defenceman in Boston this season. It is not totally clear that Chara is the correct answer.
I have been supporting Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens, but he is another unsatisfactory pick. It is not clear that he has pulled ahead of the pack either.
Today, I am putting my support behind Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. As is the situation with all Norris candidates this season, Green comes with issues. The biggest is that he is not the best player in his own zone. His case is largely offensive. Green has 46 points in 41 games played. This gives him by far the best points per game among defencemen in the NHL. This gives him the individual points lead by five over Markov. He has missed thirteen Washington games this season. That is a negative. Obviously, he had no impact in those games.
His offence has been so good that it has covered up his defensive deficiencies. Green leads his team with over 25 minutes played per game. He is second on his team to Alexander Semin with a +21 +/- rating. Even if Green is not the best shutdown man in the game, his offence is more than making up for it. He has been very successful this season as an offensive defenceman. He is very good at breaking out of his zone and setting up an offensive rush that leads to a goal. I think he is the defenceman who has had the biggest positive influence on his team.
Some years people win awards for no better reason than somebody had to win. The Norris Trophy looks like such an award this season. There is no defenceman in hockey having as good a season as has been needed to win the Norris in recent years. Nevertheless, somebody will win it. I think Mike Green is the best candidate. However, it looks like most people are picking Zdeno Chara as the leading candidate as a lifetime achievement type award.
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