5 Questions… well actually 2 Questions and a rant (Bartl’s Blog)

I started out with 5 Questions, like a normal Tuesday… but it quickly spiraled out of control. Question #5 started it. It turned into Question #4. Then it took off. I’ll leave it as written, like an Ode to My Dying Blog Format.

5. There wasn’t a single defenseman in the NHL this season better than a 40-year old? Really?? I have no doubts that Nik Lidstrom was the man yet again in Detroit, and to be honest, my job makes it difficult to see much NHL hockey during the regular season. But both Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara were better in the playoffs than Lidstrom. Kevin Bieksa was better than Lidstrom (until the Finals, that is). I just find it really hard to imagine that in his 40’s he was still THE BEST DEFENSEMAN in the league, winning the Norris for a 7th time.

Is he one of the greatest defensemen ever? You betcha. A Legend? Sure. Nearly Bobby Orr’s equivalent? Not a chance. He’s won it seven times in 11 seasons. There are A LOT of excellent defensemen in the NHL. How about we honor some of the others.

4. What is it about the Norris Trophy? How I’m writing this blog without mentioning that the NHL Awards Ceremony is the most pompous, idiotic event in sports (aside from the Espy’s, of course), is amazing. But while I’m on the topic of the Norris Trophy, it’s ridiculous how tunnel-vision seems to take over this award year after year. It’s the only award in which, other than Duncan Keith last season, a guy seemingly can’t just have an amazing year. It’s like if it’s a close vote, the voters just go with the guy who won it last year. And if somebody new comes onto the scene and dominates, the voters feel like they’re disgracing the award if someone wins it for the first time.

Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer come to mind immediately. Two first-ballot Hall of Famers when their time comes. Champions. Captains. Respected. Feared. Two of the most game-controlling d-men of their generation. In 39 combined seasons, do you know how many Norris Trophies they won? ONE. One combined award for best defenseman in the league, in 39 combined seasons of NHL play. That’s just stupid. There’s no other word for it.

Did you know, that in 56 seasons handing out the Norris Trophy, eight defensemen have won it three or more times? Four players won it five or more times (Bobby Orr – 8, Doug Harvey and Lidstrom – 7, Ray Bourque – 5). Those four players account for 48% of the Norris Trophies ever handed out. Let me repeat that, IN 57 YEARS, FOUR DEFENSEMAN ACCOUNTED FOR ABOUT HALF OF EVERY NORRIS TROPHY.

It’s not a new trend, either. In the first 22 years of the award, Harvey and Orr combined to win it 15 times. But it does seem to only happen with the Norris. In the last 29 years, the Vezina (Best Goalie) was given to 17 different players – and there’s only one guy on every team that could win it, not six! That is certainly an award that could more easily be dominated by one guy, that many times. Even then, Martin Brodeur (4) and Dominick Hasek (6) are the only players to ever win it more than three times. Even Patrick Roy, one of the most celebrated goalies in NHL history, only won the Vezina three times. {Ed. note: Click here to read the Vezina description and why I only counted from 1982 on.}

The Selke (Best Defensive Forward) has been given to 21 different players in 33 seasons. The Jack Adams Award (Best Head Coach) has been given out 38 times in NHL History, and only once has the same coach won it in back-to-back seasons. And the record is three. Heck, there are some on this list who were unemployed within two seasons of winning this award. Even the Hart Trophy (MVP) has been given to 18 different guys in the last 23 seasons. Surely a guy who was SOOOOO GOOD that he won the best defenseman award seven times in 11 seasons, would have to be considered the most valuable player in the league at least once, right? Wrong.

The Ted Lindsay Award (Most Outstanding Player – selected by the players themselves) has had 24 winners in 40 years. Wayne Gretzky only won the award five times in his career. That’s it. Mario Lemieux won it four times. Steve Yzerman and Bobby Orr won it once. Niklas Lidstrom has never won it. Ever. You mean to tell me that a d-man who won SEVEN Norris Trophies in the span of eleven seasons has never even been voted the most outstanding player in the league? Not once? For a player who is clearly one of the most dominant players in NHL history? Strange.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into a Complain About Lidstrom session, it’s really about the voters. Lidstrom hasn’t done anything wrong, he’s just been an awesome player for the last decade. I just question if the writers know what they’re doing when they keep voting for the same guy over and over, whether another player deserves the award or not.


Kevin Bartl is the Vice President of Communications for the Bakersfield Condors, and part of the broadcast team. His blog comes out every Tuesday. Follow him on twitter @KevinBartl.