Nicklas Lidstrom

Does the hockey world need to judge Norris and Selke Trophy candidates differently?


If there’s one lesson to take from Michael Lewis’ game-changing book “Moneyball,” it’s that traditional ways of thinking aren’t always correct. When it came to baseball, it was just illogical to treat walks as if they were borderline irrelevant, so on base percentage continues to push batting average to only the simplest discussions of that game.

The problem with hockey is that it’s simply not as easy to boil down to simple numbers as baseball. While baseball has an obvious point of action (pitch) and reaction (batter attempting to defeat that pitch), NHL games feature thousands of invisible calculations. Giveaways and takeaways might seem like reasonable hockey stats until you realize that another teammates’ mistake (in the case of some giveaways) or great forechecking pressure (in the case of some takeaways) often has as much to do with such an event as the players who are credited or penalized.

The murky nature of major NHL defensive stats makes me wonder: do we need to change the way we determine Norris and Selke Trophy candidates? In other words, are we depending on faulty defensive statistics and perceptions to decide these awards?

While Ryan Kesler deserves individual accolades, I’m not so sure he was even the best defensive forward in Vancouver. As Kent Wilson sagely pointed out, checking center Manny Malhotra absorbed a lot of the most disadvantageous situations to allow Kesler and Henrik Sedin to dominate opponents. Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was quick to admit that Kesler gained attention for his goals as much as for his defense.

“You know, I’m not quite sure about the description for that trophy,” Vigneault said. “All the guys that are up for it are great two-way players. They’re not the defensive type players that you had in the past like Guy Carbonneau or Bob Gainey who were really there to shut down the opposition. We never really asked [Kesler] to shut down anyone.”

While Kesler might have been a shaky choice in a highly literal sense, he was probably the best defensive forward of the three finalists. I’m not so sure the same can be said for Nicklas Lidstrom being the best all-around defenseman in 2010-11, however. While it’s great to see him win another Norris Trophy from the standpoint of pumping up his well-earned legacy, Lidstrom played only 23:28 minutes per game to Zdeno Chara’s 25:26 time on ice and Shea Weber’s 25:19. Lidstrom’s defensive numbers were – at times – disturbingly pedestrian, especially compared to his lofty legacy and his more leaned-upon colleagues. Lidstrom was great in the regular season, but he didn’t seem as crucial to his team as Weber or Chara was to theirs.

With his extensive penalty killing duties and strong faceoff skills, it’s easy to accept Kesler as the Selke winner. Lidstrom’s victory smells of name recognition, emphasizing points far too much for a defenseman and a general deficit in defensive stats that don’t require an accounting degree, though.

Obviously, these award ceremonies are for fun more than anything else. Still, if the league wants people to look back at different eras and say “That guy was the best defensive forward of that year,” then we might as well try to find him. Right now, I don’t think we’re really trying hard enough.

Marner’s brilliant passing powers uplifting night for Leafs

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 15:  Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates scoring his 1st NHL goal against the Boston Bruins during an NHL game on October 15, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Bruins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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For a while, the story of the Florida Panthers – Toronto Maple Leafs game would be the remarkable march of Jonathan Marchessault.

As great as his story remains (he gave Florida 1-0 and 2-1 leads), those pesky young Maple Leafs keep stealing the headlines.

In tonight’s case, it was Mitch Marner who was raising eyebrows as he assisted on all three of Toronto’s goals in a 3-2 victory.

His third assist was just sublime:

After the game, Tyler Bozak pondered the two goals Marner helped him score and deemed the youngster “an elite player,” according to the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle.

Considering the growing discomfort regarding Frederik Andersen‘s play, this tweet should help to make Maple Leafs fans smile:

Ehhhhh, Marner might deserve that first star, but the gesture means almost as much as the win.

Also, it might help Andersen feel a little better after this happened:

Either way, this could be the sort of win that Toronto might build upon.

Devan Dubnyk pushes shutout streak to two games

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild defends the net against Winnipeg Jets during the game on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Devan Dubnyk already showed signs of having a hot start to 2016-17, but Thursday made that point abundantly clear.

For the second straight game, Dubnyk generated a shutout, with the Minnesota Wild beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 in this instance.

It’s not as if Dubnyk is just leisurely turning aside the occasional chance, either; he made 38 saves to blank Buffalo and needed to stop 65 shots on goal considering the 27 he turned aside in a 5-0 win vs. Boston.

Ryan Suter said that Dubnyk bailed his teammates out during the second period, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo reports.

He’s now allowed just 10 goals in six games so far in 2016-17, with Taylor Hall‘s overtime-winner being the last shot to beat him. That came on Sunday:

More often than not, Dubnyk’s been making those saves so far in this young season.

Video: Another way Patrik Laine evokes Alex Ovechkin

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There are plenty of differences between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, including obvious things like one being from Russia and the other from Finland.

Still, there are moments when Laine inspires comparisons to his idol, even this early in his rookie season.

Thursday presented one of those moments. It wasn’t just that Laine fired a 3-0 goal home for the Winnipeg Jets against the Dallas Stars with such moxie; it was also that he showed some swagger with a celebration afterward.

This GIF captures the moment brilliantly, while you can also watch the goal in video form.

Sure, there will be some grumbles from the “act like you’ve been here before” crowd, but this is brilliant stuff for the rest of us.

Video: Want another booming hip check? Sean Couturier obliges

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Early this season, Dmitry Orlov delighted onlookers and angered Matt Duchene with a mind-blowing, throwback hip check. People really seemed to enjoy it.

While you’d struggle to top that hit, Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier must have sensed the void in checks that almost seem to flip opponents, doing so against Anthony Duclair during Thursday’s contest.

Rate this as you will:

Want another look at the Orlov one for comparison’s sake or to chuckle in disbelief? Why not: