Thoughts on the Norris Trophy

Is it just me, or does this years list of potential Norris Trophy winners make everyone else sick? Among the candidates to receive the most prestigious award for defensemen are: Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mike Green of the Washington Capitals, and Dustin Byfuglien of the Atlanta Thrashers. Though all three of these players are among the tops of the league in scoring for blueliners, the trophy is supposed to be given out to the best all-around defenseman. It is my opinion that none of these three are truly Norris worthy.

Sure, Kris Letang is having a great year boasting 7 goals 34 assists for 41 points and a +21 rating but he has just 4 points in his last 13 games. Oddly enough, that stretch is also the amount of time that superstar center (and powerplay specialist) Sidney Crosby has been out. It is my opinion (and backed up by his numbers) that the majority of Letang’s points are from powerplay assists setting up Crosby (or Malkin). Not to mention, it is my belief that Letang is not as defensively adept as some may think. He typically jumps up in the play though not always at the most opportune times and is known for bad turnovers in the grey areas that lead to goals. He has also been a combined -1 in his last five games, two of which were shutouts for the Penguins thus not even having the option for being a minus in those games (I’m sure if the Islanders could score a goal he may have been even or minus in those games as well). Despite being an All-Star (though in my opinion he really shouldn’t have been, he can thank the fans of the Penguins for that one) I don’t see Letang as a legitimate contender for the Norris Trophy this season.

Mike Green is pretty much the same as Letang. Sure he has a hell of a shot, some nice dangles and all that jazz but as a defender, I just don’t see it. He jumps down below the goal line with no regard for defense and often gets burned for it. Despite being known as an offensive defenseman he is 32nd among defenders in scoring with only 8-16-24 and a plus 10. Also, like Letang, I feel that a lot of his points and plus ratings have to do with being on the ice at the same time as Ovechkin and Backstrom, while 5 of his 8 goals have come on the powerplay (and one I really remember was a shot from the top of the circles on a 5-on-3). Mike Green has never been an elite d-man and in my opinion a major reason for the Caps impotency in the playoffs, he is their number one defenseman but hardly plays the position. Again, how can this guy win the Norris?

Speaking of hardly playing the position, how about Dustin Byfuglien? I swear I see him down low in the corners more often than Evander Kane and most of the forwards. (maybe because they’re always on the blueline covering for him?) Sure he’s putting up a ton of points, 17 goals (1st among blueliners) 25 apples (13th) for 42 points (4th), but like I said, he’s found cycling the puck in the corner more often than the Thrashers forwards. Calling him a defenseman is purely cosmetic and just a guise by coach Craig Ramsay to put 4 forwards on the ice at the same time. Out of the three names I’ve discussed, Byfuglien may be the worst at the actual position, he has way too many giveaways and leaves his position far too often, leaving Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason out to dry, like tonight when he gave Nikolai Kulemin the puck right in the slot to walk in and slide one easily past Pavelec to break a 3-3 tie, which the Leafs would eventually hold on to win the game 5-3, one that the Thrashers really wish they didn’t lose. They recently have lost the 8th spot in the East, and though Byfuglien was a large part in getting them there he has played an equal part in them losing that last playoff spot. If Byfuglien can’t learn to play better defense the Thrashers may find themselves out of the playoffs again and on their way to Winnipeg.

So NHL, in short, all I ask for is that you consider real defensemen for the Norris Trophy this off-season at the Awards Ceremony, how about a guy like Zdeno Chara or Nicklas Lidstrom (I know they’ve won it a thousand times each but don’t you think that’s because they are exceptional defensemen?)


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