While the Carolina Hurricanes 2009-10 NHL season fell short of the expectations we brought to the table back in October, that doesn’t meant there weren’t many bright spots for the players and fans this season. Canes Country thought we’d look back at some individuals whose performances were exemplary, and whose efforts and skill inspired us to keep watching. Using the traditional team and annual NHL Awards as a guide, Cory, Bob and I have each nominated a player from the Carolina roster for nine of these awards. Over the next week, we will ask you, our insightful readers, to vote for and tell us why you think one Hurricane player deserves our recognition for a job well done
What is it?
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.
The James Norris Memorial Trophy was presented in 1953 by the four children of the late James Norris in memory of the former owner-president of the Detroit Red Wings.
Who received the Norris over the last 3 years?
2009: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
2007, 2008: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings (making six times in seven years)
And the nominees are:
Bob nominates: Joni Pitkanen
|2009 - Joni Pitkanen||71||6||40||46||-11||72||1||0||1||0||161||3.7|
Playing defenseman in the NHL is one of the most difficult jobs in all of sports. Not only are you asked to defend against the offense in your end, you are expected to get the puck out of your zone, set up the forwards as they break out, and create offense if at all possible.
When Pitkanen is on his game, he can look like the best defenseman in the entire league. He dominates possession of the puck and can almost single-handedly control the flow of the game. Few players show the vision of the ice that he displays.
How many times has he hit childhood friend and countryman Jussi Jokinen with a breakaway or a cross ice pass for a score? Perhaps it's no coincidence that Jokinen had a career year this season while teamed up with his friend?
At times this season, the backend has seemed lost without Pitkanen's ability to bring the puck out of the zone. He has under-estimated ability to break up plays in his end and can be physical, (sometimes too much so), when he feels it is necessary.
Not only did the Finn more than double the offensive production of any other of the team's blueliners, he outscored all but three of the forwards on the team.
If another defenseman got hurt in a game, who was called upon to skate over 30 minutes in that contest? Pitkanen had to do it repeatedly. He led all skaters in the entire NHL in average ice time per game by almost an entire minute. Obviously, his coach feels he is the best defenseman on the team. How do you feel?
Cory Lavalette nominates: Brett Carson
|2009 - Brett Carson||54||2||10||12||5||12||0||0||0||0||42||4.8|
Carson showed flashes of what he was capable of last season, and when given the chance to fill a full-time role this year, the 24-year-old seized his opportunity and solidified his place in the NHL. Carson won't blow you away with any part of his game, but his steady, defense-first style served him well. As he becomes more comfortable with the defensive duties, Carson's untapped offensive potential should blossom, as it did in the AHL last year and during 14 games this season. You won't confuse Carson with Mike Green in the offensive zone, nor will you see him punish defenders a la Chris Pronger, but you should see him continue to grow in his fifth professional season in 2010-11.
When Gleason and Pitkanen were hurt, Carson was still in the lineup. When the team needed someone on the point of the powerplay, Carson filled in admirably. When a solid first pass needed to be made, Carson never dished the puck away. He may not do it with the flash of No. 25 or the grit of No. 6, but Carolina's No. 27 can do a little of everything.
Hockeymomof2 nominates: Tim Gleason
|2009 - Tim Gleason||61||5||14||19||0||78||1||1||0||0||76||6.6|
This was the season when Tim Gleason emerged as the indisputable future leader of the Hurricanes defense. I made my case for him Monday when I nominated him for the Chiasson, recalling some memorable moments Gleason gave us this year that will become part of his story. But let's look at the stats here. Above we see only offensive side, and he sure stepped up when we needed a point man on the power-play, and even effective pinched on a few choice occasions (much to the Caniacs' surprise and delight). Compared to last year, when he didn't score a single goal in the regular season, he added this whole new dimension to his game, just when the Canes desperately needed to see the puck in the back of the net. Only Pitkanen, who played 10 more games, had more goals and assists from the blueline (though we know Joni isn't exactly guaranteed to be at the blueline. Even when he's supposed to be).
Gleason's D-stats were more impressive and exactly what this team needed to hold the back-end together. Reliable, consistent, tenacious. He was credited with 149 hits (compared to Pits with 66 or Carson's 77), and per game, he led the team for blocked shots with 122. In the end, those blocked shots were really his downfall. Pucks to the face, twice, produced some scary-looking black tracks, and a game or 2 missed with UBI's. Shots blocked down low eventually lead to a broken bone in his foot that ended his season early.
The last element of the "Gleason Package" showed up in the first period of the first game vs the Flyers in October. Gleason was the grit to keep the opponent's action on ice fair and clean. Dan Carcillo (Oct 2), Bill Guerin (Dec 7), and Gregory Campbell (Feb 9) all found out not to take liberties, and with Tim's 6 majors, we never doubted who was our team's on-ice one-man justice league.
If the Norris is about looking for "the greatest all-around ability in a defenseman", Tim Gleason is The Man for the Hurricanes this season.
Finally, if you'd like to look back on the previous award posts from this week and see the results and/or vote (polls are still open) here are those links: