I don't really care enough about NHL hardware -- if a player has a good enough season, whether or not he wins a trophy for it doesn't matter too much to me. In fact, snubs can be handy in future contract negotiations, so I never really raised a stink about the fact that Lubo wasn't a finalist for the Norris Trophy (or heck, even invited to the All-Star Game) this past season, despite a pretty phenomenal year. Copper & Blue sums up his case nicely:
But his teammate, Lubomir Visnovsky, is one of the best offensive defenders in the game right now. His 35 five-on-five points is the highest total in the league, and he did it while playing against tough opposition night-in and night-out. I think he probably deserved the Norris Trophy last season, but I'm not at all surprised that he didn't get it.
Lubo led all defensemen in scoring last season -- he had 6 more points than Lidstrom, 20 more points than Weber, and 24 more points than Chara. He was also a plus-18, among the top 20 defensemen in that stat. And he was on the ice for more goals-for than any other defenseman OR forward in the league. I don't know that he necessarily should have won the trophy, but a non-nomination seems pretty shoddy.
And while my overall feeling is still a very strong "whatever", I thought I'd go all Bleacher Report today and create a lazy list -- here's ten reasons why Lubo didn't get nominated as a finalist for the Norris Trophy, each with varying degrees of validity.
1. Lubo plays in California.
It's not impossible to get nominated as a finalist for a Norris Trophy on the west coast, but it is a fairly exclusive group that's accomplished that: Rob Blake (twice), Scott Niedermayer (twice), Chris Pronger, and Drew Doughty. Notice anything in common with those four players? See point two.
2. He's not North-American-born.
Now this may seem like a silly thing to bring up, as Europeans have taken 8 of the last 10 Norris Trophies (well, Lidstrom), but it seems it is a very difficult combination to be non-North-American AND play outside the eastern time zone. Only two Norris finalists ever have achieved that feat -- Sandis Ozolinsh in 1997 and Sergei Zubov in 2006; neither of them did it all the way out on the west coast. So it's a tough combination for Lubo.
3. He didn't play in front of a Vezina candidate, or, he hadn't won like the past eleventeen Norris Trophies.
Chara got to play in front of Tim Thomas. Weber got to play in front of Pekka Rinne. As for Lubo? He had Jonas Hiller kicking ass for a little while, but when vertigo struck he had to play in front of a string of salvage-yard goalies. Lidstrom didn't have a Vezina nominee behind him, but he gets voted on out of habit by now.
4. Lubo doesn't kill penalties.
Now this seems pretty legitimate -- shouldn't the league's top defenseman be used in key defensive situations? It depends, I guess -- in Lubo's case, I wouldn't change at all the way he was utilized. He's an offensive creator, and he should be played in situations to best capitalize on his strengths. With the number of defensemen shuffled through Anaheim last season, I certainly think Visnovsky could have killed penalties, but it wouldn't have been the smart move. But I can definitely see how this becomes a mark against him -- even though he excelled in the situations he played in, he didn't play an "all situations" role.
5. If you scramble the letters in "Toni Lydman", you spell the word "Dominantly".
Another real problem for Lubo was that his defensive partner Lydman had a phenomenal first season in Anaheim -- after an early bout with double vision, Lydman provided the team with double stability. He was definitely the defensive conscience on the top pairing, which enabled Lubo to score with such frequency, and they formed an awesome pairing -- if the Norris Trophy went to a duo instead of an individual, this would have been more of a snub. Lubo was a smart defender, too, but the fact that he wasn't the best goal-preventer on his own blueline tandem definitely cost him votes.
6. Lubo doesn't hit people.
Hey, it's a perception game for some, and while "hitting" may not really be the right word, nobody fears going one-on-one against Lubo. Not like they might Weber or Chara, at least. Lubo's a smart poke-checker, though! :)
7. The Ducks were a rotten defensive team last season in a lot of measurable ways.
How can an outstanding defenseman play for a team that gets outshot by 314 shots over the course of a season? The Ducks had tons of rotten outings in the shot department, and Lubo was dressed for all of them. You might use the term "stingy" for Detroit, Nashville, or Boston, but not Anaheim -- even though it was other defensemen who were doing the shot bleeding, Lubo suffers by association.
8. He's adorable in a suit -- too adorable.
If you saw this guy at the red carpet in Las Vegas, you'd give him your car keys and wait for a valet receipt. (And he'd probably get you one, he's that swell a guy!) But he doesn't have the "look" of a guy who should be nominated for a Norris Trophy, and I'm counting that as a reason.
9. Anaheim PR was too focused on the Perry for Hart campaign. Well, I suppose not "too" focused.
As the Ducks clamored into a playoff spot over the final weeks of the season, Perry's hunt for 50 goals (and his & Teemu's late-game heroics) became the central storyline. Anaheim PR plus the general drama surrounding the team worked to make that national. The story was clear -- Perry put the Ducks on his back when Getzlaf was injured and excelled down the stretch. MVP!
And yet sort of quietly, Lubo was kind of MVPing himself. In the 14 games Getzlaf was injured, Perry had 14 points and was a -4. In those same 14 games, Lubo had 15 points and was a +7. From March 1 onwards, Perry was uncatchable in the final 19 games -- 19 goals, 30 points, and a +12. But Lubo was better than point-a-game in that stretch, too: 9 goals, 22 points, and a +16. Lubo was really excellent in critical stretches of the season.
To tell the truth, I'm not overly worried if Perry doesn't repeat his MVP season -- the Ducks do have forwards who can somewhat make up for that, I think. However, I am VERY worried what will happen if Lubo doesn't repeat something close to his non-Norris season, though. The Ducks relied heavily on his puck-moving offense, and I don't know that Fowler is ready to become that dominant yet (or ever). Keep it going, Lubo!
10. He forgot to bake cookies this year.
Voight for Lubo! :)
Feel free to pick on my reasons in the comments, or add your own, or argue about something completely off-topic. Hooray! It's September!