Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Shea Weber named Norris Trophy finalists; Who wins?


The Norris Trophy is one of the more respected and honored awards to be given out by the NHL. After all, being named the best defenseman in the NHL carries a lot of weight to it. When you’re thrown in the mix with past winners like Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey, there’s a certain cache to being honored.

This year’s three finalists go across the spectrum of what it’s all about to play along the blue line and what it means to carry a big reputation as well. Boston’s Zdeno Chara, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, and Nashville’s Shea Weber were named as the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and each of their cases for the award are intriguing. Unsurprisingly, all three finalists also double as the captains of their teams. After all, defense does win championships and it earns respect in the locker room.

Chara is the 6’7″ physically imposing monster along the blue line from Boston. Chara has won the award once before in 2008-2009 in what seemed to be his breakout year as a perennial candidate for the award. His work this season in helping stand up and protect Tim Thomas and leading him to a career year in goal didn’t go unnoticed. Going by the raw numbers, his season was spectacular. With 14 goals, 30 assists and a plus/minus rating of +33 Chara’s season looks outstanding.

Nicklas Lidstrom is a six-time Norris Trophy winner and while that carries a lot of swagger, his play this season at age 40 has been inspiring. Averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time per game, Lidstrom helped carry the Red Wings to the Central Division title and gave them the ever constant presence along the blue line for any and all situations. This season, he gave the Wings a lot more offense than even they thought they’d get out of him as he finished the season with 16 goals and 46 assists, his biggest points season since 2007-2008. Yeah, he won the Norris that year. One thing that may hamper his campaign is a plus/minus of -2. While we believe that metric has a ton of flaws to it, there are others that believe in it strongly. In this field of finalists it could make the difference.

Shea Weber is a beast in Nashville. He averages more than 25 minutes of ice time per game. He plays all facets of the game at even strength and on special teams. He’s physical. He’s got the booming slap shot like Chara and he scores too. With 16 goals and 32 assists this season he was a constant force along the blue line for the Predators. With his leadership Nashville stormed into the playoffs and his abilities have helped guys like Ryan Suter evolve into equally formidable defensemen. As good as he’s been, Weber’s season also provides an example for how misleading plus/minus can be as he was a mere +7 on the season.

With these three finalists, there are a few guys whose absence in the final three that will provide cause for complaint and while the offensive numbers of these three are good, the top defensive goal scorer and point producer both were left out of the mix in Dustin Byfuglien and Lubomir Visnovsky. Also missing was Phoenix’s Keith Yandle and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang who had outstanding first halves of the season but slumped in the second half. That said, it’s tough to argue with the three guys chosen as finalists.

So tell us… Who do you think takes home the hardware this year? Let us know in the poll and in the comments.

Replacing Beauchemin with Bieksa hasn’t worked out so great for Anaheim

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Are the Anaheim Ducks missing Francois Beauchemin more than they thought they might?

It’s a question we’ve been hearing more and more lately, as the Ducks’ goal-scoring woes of October have been replaced by defensive issues in November.

Anaheim is 3-4-2 in its last nine games. The Ducks have allowed 27 goals in regulation during that stretch — that’s three per game on average — plus two more in a pair of overtime losses.

In a related story, per the O.C. Register, here’s what coach Bruce Boudreau said the other day about offseason acquisition Kevin Bieksa:

“He’s a veteran guy that has to fight his way out of this. We count on him to not make mistakes. We will go as far as guys like him take us.”

Bieksa, 34, is minus-7 in his last four games combined. True, he’s forced to play a lot of hard minutes against good players. But then, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do. The Ducks even gave him a two-year, $8 million extension, locking him up through 2017-18.

Now consider what Boudreau said during last year’s playoff run, about the guy Bieksa was brought in to replace:

“He’s the voice. Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there.”

And Beauchemin was more than just a talker. He led the Ducks in ice time. He had nine assists in 16 playoff games. Bottom line: he was a big part of a team that fell one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final.

Beauchemin, of course, signed a three-year deal with Colorado on July 1, for a cap hit of $4.5 million. So far, he’s been as advertised for the Avs. The 35-year-old has two goals and 10 assists. He gets the most ice time on the team, an average of 23:33.

Looking back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray never did want to lose Beauchemin. The Ducks just weren’t prepared to offer what the Avs did.

“Beauch’ has been a pretty good warrior for us,” Murray said in June. “He has a one-time chance for free agency and maybe somebody will give him $5 million.… I couldn’t do that.”

One has to wonder now if Murray wishes he’d found a way.

The Ducks host the Blackhawks tonight on NBCSN.

Devils sign veteran Kennedy to one-year, $600K deal

Tyler Kennedy, Lee Stempniak
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A second forward has converted a PTO with New Jersey into a shiny new contract.

Tyler Kennedy, who’s on his second professional tryout with the club, has agreed to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level, the Devils announced on Friday.

Kennedy, 29, first caught on with the Devils in the preseason, only to be released in early October. He then rejoined the club on a second PTO in mid-November, and earned himself a deal from GM Ray Shero (previously, the two were together in the Pittsburgh organization).

A former 20-goal scorer with the Pens, Kennedy fell on hard times last year. It began in San Jose — where he never fit in Todd McLellan’s plans — and ended on Long Island, where he sat for over half of the Isles’ opening-round playoff loss to the Caps.

As for where he’ll fit in the Devils lineup?

Kennedy said he’s ready to play tonight — the Devils take on Montreal — and it’s possible Stefan Matteau could be scratched, allowing Kennedy to stpe into a bottom-six forward role.

As for how the Devils will free a roster spot — Jiri Tlusty remains on IR with a shoulder issue, while David Schlemko could be away from the club for a bit, as his wife is due to give birth.

Rangers park Boyle, Stalberg in press box for Thanksgiving Showdown

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Seven
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I’m not going to make the “it really is Black Friday for Dan Boyle and Viktor Stalberg” joke, but had to recognize it as a semi-viable lede.

So that’s out of the way.

Now, onto the business at hand — per the New York Daily News, Boyle and Stalberg will be scratched today when the Rangers take on the Bruins in the annual Thanksgiving Showdown (1 p.m. ET, NBC). Dylan McIlrath will draw in on defense for Boyle, while Emerson Etem will take Stalberg’s spot up front.

It’s not really surprising Alain Vigneault made some lineup changes.

The Blueshirts’ last outing was arguably their worst of the season — a 5-1 home loss to the Canadiens, a game in which Boyle finished minus-2 and Stalberg played the least among all Rangers skaters, with just 11:20 TOI.

More: Dan Boyle isn’t thrilled with all these healthy scratches

What’s more, McIlrath hasn’t played in nearly two weeks (Nov. 15, versus Toronto). It’s been even longer for Etem — he’s been out of the lineup since a win over the Blues on Nov. 12.

Related: Just a friendly reminder about Friday’s Bruins-Rangers Thanksgiving Showdown, on NBC

Goal-starved Flyers recall AHL Phantoms leading scorer Cousins

Nazem Kadri

Desperate for offense, Philly made a fairly noteworthy move on Friday — Nick Cousins has been brought up from the minors.

Cousins, 22, has been a solid scorer at the AHL level in each of the last two seasons. He led Lehigh Valley with 56 points in 64 games in ’14-15 and, this year, has 18 through 15 — putting him in a tie for seventh in league scoring.

The former OHL Sault Ste. Marie standout does have some NHL experience, having played 11 games for the Flyers last season. He averaged just under nine minutes per game over that span, and failed to register a point.

Looking ahead, Cousins could make his season debut today, when Philly hosts the Preds. Right now it’s unclear where he’d fit in the lineup.

To make room for Cousins on the roster, the Flyers sent Taylor Leier down to the Phantoms.