New Memorial Day blog post on The PensNation: http://bit.ly/16kIIDO
In Las Vegas, on June 20, 2012 the newest NHL awardees will be crowned. Various trophies will be awarded to both players and coaches throughout the league. Although there is still a decent amount of hockey left before June, here are some of my predictions for who could be winning the prestigious James Norris Memorial Trophy (for greatest all-around defenseman) and why.
- Last years winner: Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings)- Could Lidstrom win again? Probably not. I would argue that this was not Lidstrom’s year. Although he is always a solid defenseman, and one of the best to play the game, I don’t think he will take it this year (although its never wise to count him out, he has won it 7 times). He is getting older and with an injury to his right ankle, Lidstrom missed 11 games in a row in March. This has given him a solid set back to winning the title for the second year in a row.Other defenseman are making more of a splash this year with their power and offensive-strength. Here is one of Lidstrom’s better plays from earlier this year:
- Front-runner: Shea Weber (Nashville Predators). Benefits of Weber: He is on track for career-best offensive numbers (only two points away from his final regular season point total from last year when he was the runner-up for the Norris). Weber is a major leader for the Predators team as Captain. He is also highest scoring defenseman on the Preds and plays a solid average of 25 minutes of ice-time per game. And we all know Weber has a ridiculous slap shot (we saw just how fast during the NHL All-star Skills Competition when he shot over 104 miles per hour and gave Chara a run for his money).
- Front runner: Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators). On the other hand, Karlsson is having a break out year. Karlsson has already surpassed his point totals from last season, and has the 2nd highest point total on the Senators. He is young and is proving that he might be the d-man to watch for in upcoming years. Although Karlsson’s +/- isn’t quite as good as Lidstrom or Weber, he is still a serious contender because of his point totals. Karlsson is currently sitting at a staggering 73 points.To put this in perspective: when looking at point totals this season, Karlsson is the only defenseman in the top 80. This is even more impressive because Karlsson is number 11 (right in between Jordan Eberle and Henrik Sedin). Even though Karlsson has all those points, Weber still has a good chance of coming away with the win. Being a goal-scorer doesn’t necessarily win you the Norris. Here is a nice set-up for a Spezza goal made by Karlsson earlier this season:
- Other potential candidates: Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins), Ryan Suter (Nashville Predators)
Agree/disagree? Anyone think Letang has a chance even though he was out with injuries for so long?
With tonight’s Wings win over the Flyers, Detroit is starting to look unstoppable. Tonight marks their 20th consecutive home-game win. The Red Wings have never accomplished this feat in franchise history. In fact, the only other teams to ever replicate what the Wings have done over these last 20 home games, were the 1929 Bruins and the 1976 Flyers. Impressed yet? It looks like Detroit has a lot going for them. Can you imagine what it could mean if Detroit kept winning like this until the Winter Classic and 24/7?
Tonight’s 4-3 win should be attributed to the effectiveness of the Red Wings powerplay (2 goals on the PP). PP goals were attributed to Kronwall and Datsyuk. Mike Babcock (the coach of the Wings) even said, “We got credit for two power play goals, but really (the Flyers) never got out of their zone on the third one at all, so we basically had three power-play goals.” Pretty impressive. Especially because different power-play units got the goals. Overall, a major congratulations to the Wings. Now, they just have to make sure to not let the wins go to their heads and stay focused for their next home game against the Dallas Stars (shouldn’t be too tough right?)
The NHL had their press-conference at Comerica Park today to discuss the 2013 Winter Classic. It was officially announced that the game will take place at the University of Michigan’s Big House and will be an original six match-up between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings. Most of us already knew this, but it was nice to get confirmation and also hear some new details about the festivities surrounding the Winter Classic.
Speeches were made by league commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners of both the Wings and the Leafs. Bettman said that extra activities would take place in Detroit including open skates on the outdoor ice and numerous other hockey games. This ‘Hockeytown Winter Festival’ that will take place mostly around Detroit and Comerica Park, will include minor league affiliate battles (Granad Rapids Griffins vs. Toronto Marlies), OHL games (Saginaw Spirit, Plymouth Whalers, London Knights and Windsor Spitfires), youth games, and the Red Wing vs. Maple Leaf alumni game. The press-conference speakers kept repeating that there will be “something for everyone” which certainly seems like it must be true if you like hockey at all.
There was also a video shown during the press conference that featured past Winter Classic games and the age-old rivalry between the Wings and the Leafs. This rivalry was also talked about by owners during the conference. One of the stats given was that the Wings have played the Leafs 644 times. The Leafs have won 276 of those games while the Wings have won 275 (I realize this does not add up, I am assuming they were not accounting for ties). Pretty close though wouldn’t you say? The rivalry was said to have peaks in the 40s and 60s.
This game will be the largest Winter Classic ever played. The Big House is said to hold 109, 901 seats for the game which is much higher than any other Winter Classic game ever played. This game also has the potential to be the biggest hockey game of all time. Yeah, pretty amazing.
Is this the best thing to ever happen to Michigan/Detroit? There is definitely a convincing argument that could be made. Detroit or “Hockeytown” as they refer to themselves, are huge hockey fans and they seem thrilled to have the chance to host the Winter Classic. And the city could really use the positive impact of the Classic (socially and more importantly economically). And the $3 million the NHL is paying the University of Michigan to rent the Big House has to be huge for students and the people affiliated with the University. What is best is there is no way we will have to worry about weather delays this year- Michigan is darn cold!