Defensemen are the Rodney Dangerfields of the NHL when it comes to the Hart Trophy.
They don't get no respect. No respect at all.
Chris Pronger was the last defenseman to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP, when he nipped Jaromir Jagr by a single voting point back in the 1999-2000 season. But not only is Pronger the last defenseman to win the Hart, he's the last defenseman to be even nominated for it. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty have never been in the top three, and the best that Nicklas Lidstrom ever managed was a fourth-place finish in 2007-08. Prior to Pronger, you have to go back to 1989-90 – when Ray Bourque came a close second to Mark Messier – to find a defenseman who was a finalist for the Hart.
Bourque also was in the running in 1986-87, but finished well back of a guy named Wayne Gretzky. Same goes for Mark Howe in 1985-86 and Rod Langway in 1983-84. Before that, Denis Potvin was runner-up to Bobby Clarke in 1975-76.
There have been only two defensemen in NHL history who can claim any kind of ownership on the Hart: Bobby Orr won it three consecutive seasons in the early '70s (and finished third five times), and Eddie Shore won it four times in the 1930s.
With the NHL handing out its awards for the 2016-17 season, here's a look at some of the notable happenings in the history of the Hart, Calder, Vezina and Norris Trophies:
We've established that defensemen rarely get nominated for the Hart, let alone win it. Goalies have endured a similarly MVP-less existence in the NHL, although not quite to the same extreme.
Carey Price was a runaway winner in 2014-15, Jose Theodore edged out Jarome Iginla in 2001-02 – they were tied with 434 voting points but Theodore had more first-place votes (26-23) – and Dominik Hasek won back-to-back MVP awards in 1996-97 and '97-98. When Hasek won in 1997, it was the first time in 35 years that the Hart went to a masked man – in fact, when Jacques Plante won it in 1961-62, he'd only been wearing a mask for a couple of seasons.
So, if defensemen aren't winning the Hart Trophy, and goalies aren't winning the Hart Trophy, that leaves – you guessed it – forwards. Since Plante's MVP triumph in '62, forwards have captured MVP honors 44 out of the last 53 times the Hart has been handed out. That trend should continue in 2016-17 with the anticipated inauguration of Connor McDavid – and if it isn't the Oilers superstar forward, it'll likely be another superstar forward, the Penguins' Sidney Crosby, beating out goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Here's another award that has been rarely won by a defenseman or goalie. In the past 50 NHL seasons – dating back to Orr's Calder Trophy in 1966-67 – defensemen have been named the NHL's top rookie nine times, goalies eight times. Do the math, and that means the Calder Trophy has gone to a forward the other 33 times.
The Florida Panthers' Aaron Ekblad was the most recent D-man to be acclaimed as the league's best freshman in 2014-15, Tyler Myers won with the Buffalo Sabres in 2009-10 and the St. Louis Blues' Barret Jackman finished first in 2002-03. (Jackman gets bonus points for being the one and only defensive defenseman – like, ever – to win the award.) Bryan Berard ('96-97), Brian Leetch ('88-89), Gary Suter ('85-86), Bourque ('79-80) and Potvin ('73-74) are the other rearguards to be named top rookie since Orr in 1967.
Steve Mason was the last goalie to take home the Calder, winning after his debut NHL season with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008-09. Andrew Raycroft won with Boston Bruins in 2003-04, Evgeni Nabokov with the San Jose Sharks in 2000-01, then you have to go back to the early 1990s when Martin Brodeur ('93-94) and Ed Belfour ('90-91) arrived in the NHL. Prior to that, there was Tom Barrasso in '83-84, Ken Dryden in '71-72 and Tony Esposito in '69-70.
It's a forgotten asterisk in NHL awards history: Theodore won not one, but two trophy tiebreakers in 2001-02. The then-Montreal Canadiens goalie edged Iginla for the Hart Trophy by virtue of more first-place votes, and he did the same to former Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy in the battle for the Vezina. The two netminders tied with 105 voting points, but Theodore had 15 first-place votes to Roy's 12.
It's the only time in NHL history that there has been a tie for the Hart or the Vezina – and it happenend in the same season, with the same guy winning both tiebreakers.
The Norris Trophy has belonged to four defensemen in NHL history: Doug Harvey won it seven times in an eight-year span from 1955 to 1962; Orr won it eight straight times from 1968 to 1975; Bourque won it five times between 1987 and 1994; and, Lidstrom won it seven times in a 10-season span from 2001 to 2011.
There have been others who took out partial ownership, winning the Norris three times during their career: Pierre Pilote (mid '60s), Potvin (late '70s), and Paul Coffey and Chris Chelios in the '80s and '90s. Erik Karlsson could join this select group if he takes home the Norris Wednesday night, it would be his third after also winning in 2011-12 and 2014-15.
Notably, Karlsson beat out Drew Doughty in '14-15 despite finishing with significantly fewer first-place votes. Doughty had 53 firsts to Karlsson's 44, but the Senators defenseman had more support further down the ballot – with more second-, third- and fourth-place votes – to tip the trophy his way. The only other time a defenseman with fewer first-place votes has taken home the Norris was in 1995-96, when Chelios (22 first-place votes) edged out Bourque (23 first-place votes). Bourque, at least, can take solace in the fact that he's the only unanimous Norris winner in NHL history, hogging all 63 first-place votes in 1989-90.
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