The Norris Trophy is awarded to the league’s top defensemen and this year the league has decided that the top defensemen are Drew Doughty from the Los Angeles Kings, P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens, and Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.
I have a problem in how the candidates are selected for this trophy because the league is just selecting the defensemen with the most points. While defensemen are supposed to chip in offensively, the one that does it the best should not win the award. I believe that the candidates should play more of a two way player. There have been multiple times this year where I have watched P.K. Subban try to make a hero play with the puck in the offensive zone and lose it only to be bailed out by Carey Price who happened to be the best goalie this whole year.
When I think of a great defensemen I think of a Ryan Mcdonagh, or a Shea Weber, or even an Andy Greene because of how great defensively they are and their ability to contribute offensively from time to time. These guys have the hardest job every night. They go up against the opposing teams top line and they have to shut them down. They are usually very successful in their task as well.
So because that is not the way candidates are selected, I will give my prediction of the finalists that were selected. This year I have to go with Drew Doughty. He was an absolute workhorse for the Kings this year especially with the loss of Slava Voynov in the offseason due to his domestic violence incident. He upped his game to the next level and even though it was not good enough to make it to the playoffs he was still a difference maker every time he stepped onto the ice. Karlsson had a great year too, his team did make the playoffs, and was at times the only player on Ottawa capable of breaking out of their own zone with the puck. But in the end it was not enough to compete with the season that Doughty had.
(Photo from NHL.com)
The Vezina Trophy finalists were announced the other day and before I go into my prediction of who I think should win it I want to say how disrespectful it is to have Devan Dubnyk as a finalist this year. While he was able to come out of nowhere and essentially save his career and go on the insane run with the Minnesota Wild to make the playoffs is remarkable, he should not have gotten consideration for only playing half a season. There are other goalies who deserve the nomination before him such as Braden Holtby, Steve Mason, or even Cory Schneider.
Now that that is over the finalists are Carey Price from the Montreal Canadians, Pekka Rinne from the Nashville Predators, and the already mentioned Devan Dubnyk from the Minnesota Wild.
It is pretty hard to even debate because he led the league in save percentage, goals against average, wins and was tied for second in shutouts. This goalie was Carey Price. He showed up every night and put the Canadiens on his back. He would make highlight reel after highlight reel save and many thought that he would have to have a let down eventually. That never happened and his wins kept piling up and his save percentage went through the ceiling.
Pekke Rinne has a great bounce back year for the Predators and is a worthy finalist but there is nothing that he could do against Price’s numbers because they are just straight up insane. Any other year he would have gotten serious consideration but this year is a lost cause.
I won’t say much more on Dubnyk because I already voiced my opinions on him in the opening paragraph but I am happy that he was able to revitalize his career and I hope that this was not a one hit wonder.
The New Jersey Devils hold the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and will have many options come draft day. There have been rumors a plenty about the Devils trading the pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for sniper Phil Kessel, but in my honest opinion, the Devils are a lot farther away from competing for a championship than a Phil Kessel. I either want them to keep the pick or trade back and get more picks because this draft is very deep this year.
My dream situation on draft day is that Colorado picks up their phone and calls the New Jersey Devils with an offer of the tenth overall pick and Ryan O’Reilly for our sixth overall pick and Eric Gelinas. While that is a pipe dream and will never happen, it works out for both teams very well. With the sixth overall pick, Colorado is guaranteed one of the top defensemen in the draft in either Noah Hanafin or Ivan Provorov. The Devils will still be able to pick up a good prospect as well as an immediate impact player for their team.
Here are the top three players that will realistically be available for the Devils to take with the 6th pick.
1. Matthew Barzal: From the WHL he is a great playmaking center who has a great burst of speed and a decent shot. His downfall is that he did not score much for his team but the WHL is primarily known for its tougher defense. While he did not score much, you watch tape on him and he jumps off of the screen, he is a great hockey player and will be successful at the next level.
2. Mitch Marner. The reason why Mitch Marner is #2 on my list is because I do not see him getting past Carolina. He is a terrific playmaking center with tons of skill. He is a smaller center but he is still growing. His hands are silky smooth and can make something out of nothing with his puck skills. Crazier things have happened at the draft and I am hoping that he slides to us at number 6. And even if he was drafted by the Devils, he honestly needs another year in the OHL to refine his game and to try and fill out his body a little bit more.
(Photo from http://www.thehockeynews.com)
3. Lawson Crouse: Crouse is a big big man. Standing at six feet three inches and pushing 200 pounds at only 17 years old, he has already been compared to Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins. He is hockey’s stereotypical power forward, his size will allow his to be successful in the league because he knows how to use it very well to shield the puck from opponents. His knock is that he does not have great puck skills but when you are that size, your job is to get into the dirty areas of the ice and win those battles. Crouse can do that well but the Devils already have players like that and they need more skill which is why Marner and Barzal are higher on this list.
(Photo from Wikipedia.org)
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are about to get underway and there is no time like now to give you my predictions for who will meet in the finals. Playoff hockey is the best time of the year and I can not wait to watch the games even though the Devils did not make it this year.
Eastern Conference: As much as it pains me to say this, the New York Rangers will make it to the Stanley Cup finals for the second straight year. Their team is stacked from top to bottom. They have four balanced lines that can score, three solid defense pairs and the best goalie in the world with Henrik Lundqvist. They are also a year older this year so that experience will help them out when they face their opponent there. Their road will not be easy though as they will most likely have to go through their soon to be cross town rivals the New York Islanders, as well as the young and talented Tampa Bay Lightning.
Western Conference: My selection for the western conference was a lot harder for me because I really don’t get to watch many of their games because I do not get the channels or the games are on too late. But with that being said I have decided that the Chicago Blackhawks will make it out of the gauntlet that is the western conference. Now the Blackhawks will only make it to the cup final if Patrick Kane comes back healthy. If he does not I can not see this team be successful without him. This team needs his goal scoring and playmaking ability to be successful. He and Jonathan Toews are the heart and soul of that team and I’m sure they will win many cups in their lifetime.
Winner: When these two teams meet in the finals, I have the New York Rangers winning it all in a game seven. The Rangers have the edge in goal and on defense but they do not have the forwards that can take over the game like Kane and Toews can. It will definitely be a highly entertaining series, but when it is all said and done, the Rangers will hoist the cup in Madison Square Garden for the first time in 21 years.
(Photo from NJ.com)
I want to start out this post by saying I know exactly how Cory Schneider feels after this season. When I was younger, I played youth hockey and I played on a team one year that absolutely stunk. We could not score a goal for the life of us and if I let in a goal or maybe two it was game over.
The same thing happened this year with Cory Schneider, the way he was playing from the middle of the season on would have had any team that was somewhat capable of scoring goals in the playoffs for sure. He showed up to arena every game day and was lights out. He would be peppered for 35+ shots on a nightly basis and would not give up more than one or two goals. Even with him playing that well he would lose 1-0 or 2-1. It was frustrating for me to watch so I am sure he wanted to pull his hair out most nights.
Schneider finishes the season with 26 wins 31 losses and 9 overtime/shootout losses. He also posted a .925 save percentage and a 2.26 goals against average, both numbers in the top ten in the league for goalies who have played more than 40 games. This was his first season as a true number one goaltender and he his classified as one of the elite goaltenders in the league.
It will be hard for Schneider to up his performance from last year but not having to start the first 22 games of the season will certainly help with the fatigue factor for later on in the season. Hopefully the team in front of his next year will find a way to score some more goals for him, I mean it honestly can not get much worse.