When Buffalo’s Tyler Myers claimed the Calder Trophy last year, it was just the sixth time since 1980 that rookie-of-the-year honors were bestowed upon a defenseman.
Goalies have also claimed six Calders in that span, which, from a pure numbers standpoint, is pretty remarkable given there’s obviously far more rookie defensemen entering the league each year than goalies.
The high-profile nature of puckstopping partially accounts for their unequal share of hardware, but running the year-end rookie award numbers does reinforce how tough it is for new blueliners to have an impact.
As for the Norris, no rookie rearguard has ever added that trophy to his case and that certainly isn’t going to change this year. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet defensemen won’t lay further claim to the Calder this season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some fine freshman performances being turned in on the back end.
Start with a trio of dandy Yankees.
Kevin Shattenkirk has slowed since exploding on the scene in Colorado, where he had 13 points during a nine-game scoring streak in November and December. Still, the Connecticut native is playing nearly 20 minutes a night and has 22 points in 35 games.
Massachusetts boy and 2010 world junior hero John Carlson has 20 points, one behind Mike Green, and leads the Caps with a plus-13 mark.
And Cam Fowler, who grew up in Michigan, is helping the Ducks transition to the post-Scott Niedermayer world by leading all rookie blueliners with 24 points.
If the NHL handed out an award for most polarizing figure, Montreal’s P.K. Subban would definitely be a finalist. Say what you want about the youngster’s exuberance, he’s really stepped up when his team has needed him most. The last game Subban was scratched for coincided with the final contest Josh Gorges played before joining Andrei Markov on the sideline for the season with a knee injury. Since then, Subban has played 23 minutes or more in six of 11 contests and has two goals, six points and a plus-2 rating.
There’s a future Norris winner somewhere in this mix.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Zdeno Chara became the fourth B’s blueliner in franchise history to record a hat trick when he popped three against Carolina on Jan. 17. The other three were Bobby Orr (of course), Ray Bourque (of course) and Glen Wesley. At that point, Chara had put up six goals over his past nine games.
RISING: Brent Burns has missed 58 games combined the previous two seasons, but the 25-year-old – who happens to be 6-foot-5 and 219 pounds – is on track for a career-high 23 goals this year. The only time he’s missed this year was while serving a two-game suspension.
FALLING: Hard times in Atlanta have coincided with a decline in Dustin Byfuglien’s production.
MAKING THE CASE
His 26 points on the power play lead all blueliners
Outside of his countryman Lidstrom, not sure any other rearguard makes better decisions with the puck
When you can be plus-19 playing more than 26 minutes a night, you’re doing well
Getting his points everywhere; 21 at home, 19 on the road
No points in his past seven games and the big guy isn’t exactly known for his air-tight defense just yet
Within two points of Lidstrom for the lead in defenseman scoring
Finally healthy, Burns’ 13 goals trail only Byfuglien’s 16 among D-men and Wild are hanging tough
Numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he’s strong as an ox and does everything well
Eligible to become an RFA in July; his cap hit is about to rise dramatically from $1.2 million
Averages more ice time per game than anybody in the league at 27:03
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Marc Staal’s 25:24 average ice time per game is tied for seventh among D-men and his four shorthanded points tops all blueliners. Other notables: John-Michael Liles, Brian Rafalski, Alex Edler.
THN.com's Norris Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season and don't miss out as we'll also track the Hart, Vezina and Jack Adams.