Leading up to the Awards show on June 22nd, we will be making a case for each nominee for the major awards as to why they should take home the hardware. Today, we continue with the Calder, given to the top defenseman. Zdeno Chara By Erika Schnure
Prior to Zdeno Chara’s latest Norris nomination, teammate Dennis Seidenberg said that Chara told him, “I don’t know if I’m going to make it this year.” Seidenberg replied, “You'll see, you’ll be up there again.”
Seidenberg was correct, as Chara was announced as a nominee in April. Seidenberg wasn’t surprised. “He’s so dominant in his own end and offensively he always seems to chip in important goals and assists. That’s what a leader and a Norris [caliber] defenseman is all about.”
Chara first won the award in 2009. And newly adorned with a Stanley Cup, Chara is looking for more hardware to add to it. It would be a well-deserved honor to cap off his great season.
One statistic that is an indicator of a successful defenseman is the plus/minus rating. Chara led the league in the category in the regular season and the playoffs, a +33 in the regular season. The +33 matches a career-high that he set as a member of the Ottawa Senators in 2003-2004, the first season for which he was nominated for the Norris.
Chara also was near the top of the league in shots, especially important considering his 105.9 mph slap shot that he showed off at the 2011 NHL All Star skills competition.
After the nomination news, Claude Julien praised his team’s best defenseman. “He plays a lot of minutes. He also always plays against other teams' top lines. He's utilized as a shutdown D against the best players of other teams. And you look at his stats at the end of the year and he was a plus-33,” Julien said. “That speaks for itself.”
Nicklas Lidstrom By Bryan Reynolds
The guy is 41 years old and puts up 62 from the blue line, good for second in the NHL? He is only a –2 in 82 games, despite being the top matchup defenseman on the Wings squad? Nicklas Lidstrom is an ageless wonder, and is still one of the best defenseman in the league.
While most defenseman who are counted on for offense are not counted on much for defensive prowess. Lidstrom plays both sides of the puck, played over 1900 minutes including 332 minutes on the power play and 219 minutes on the penalty kill. He had 92 blocked shots, threw 49 hits, and took 175 shots on goal. He is used in every situation and excels in every situation.
It all comes down to this: if you were starting a brand new team and needed a defenseman, who would you choose? Lidstrom is that player.
Shea Weber By Ryan Porth
If the Pro Hockey Writers Association members put in their votes based on reputation, then former Norris winners Lidstrom or Chara will win the award next week. But if they paid any sort of attention to Nashville this year, then they would know Shea Weber is the man to beat as the best defenseman in 2010-11.
Over the last few years, Weber has gradually developed into one of the top all-around defensemen in the NHL. This season, he took the next step in becoming the most dominant rearguard.
For most of the season, Nashville’s first-year captain led the team in points (finished tied for third with 48). Of those 48 points, just 17 came on the man advantage (35.4%). Lidstrom, considered to be the Norris favorite by some, picked up 63% of his 62 points on the power play. Weber also scored a handful of momentous goals for the Preds, including an OT winner over Boston and a dramatic equalizer against Chicago.
Obviously, the defensive end of the ice is where Weber left his mark. More nights than not, the British Columbia native was the most dominant player on the ice. Weber ranked sixth in hits among defensemen; where did Chara and Listrom rank? 27th and 163rd, respectively. Weber was also credited with more blocked shots than his other two Norris competitors.
Weber stayed disciplined (56 PIM) while playing a smash-mouth style. That’s less than Chara (88 PIM). Furthermore, Weber recorded a respectable +7 rating. That’s better than Lidstrom’s -1 rating (the lowest of his career). And, courtesy of this statistic at On The Forecheck, Weber was better than Chara and Lidstrom while on the penalty kill.
What else is there to say? Shea Weber was the best defenseman in the NHL this season.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.