Haggerty: Time for an Orr Trophy in the NHL?

Haggerty: Time for an Orr Trophy in the NHL?
June 21, 2012, 3:39 pm
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LAS VEGAS, NV -- The story of Bobby Orrs first season with the Bruins and the Norris Trophy is near legendary.

The Bruins icon was already well on his way to glory after one brilliant rookie season for a mediocre Bs team, and he finished second in the Norris Trophy voting behind New York Rangers defenseman Harry Howell.

Howell famously told reporters after learning about his Norris Trophy victory that: Ive been around for 15 years. Thank God Ive finally won the Trophy. Ive got a feeling that for the next 20 years it will be known as the Bobby Orr Trophy.

Orr went on to win eight consecutive Norris Trophies for the Black and Gold -- and revolutionized the defensemen position at the NHL level -- before his knees finally betrayed him.

But perhaps Howell knew something nobody could have possibly foreseen more than 50 years ago.

The results from Wednesday nights NHL Awards ceremony at the Wynn Resort and Casino once again screamed out the need to create a second award for the lunch pail NHL blueliners who PHWA voters seem to stay away from when voting for the Norris Trophy.

Erik Karlsson totaled a ridiculous 78 points in 81 games for the Ottawa Senators and narrowly squeaked out a Norris Trophy win over Shea Weber and Chara. But there are hockey followers arguing that Karlsson was not the best all-around defenseman in the NHL.

The Swedish phenom was seventh on his team in penalty kill ice time per game, and routinely stepped off the ice when the oppositions best offensive players went to work.

Meanwhile Weber and Chara did just the opposite.

They play big minutes in all situations offensively and defensively, and have no discernible weaknesses in their games while putting up respectable offensive numbers.

In fact, Chara posted career-highs in points and power play goals in the kind of offensive defenseman season that normally catches the eyes of PHWA voters.

The Sens sensation is an offensive wunderkind. Of that there is no doubt.

But theres a legitimate gripe when the NHLs best offensive defenseman takes home the Norris Trophy hardware and gritty hockey warriors are left as second or third best.

Now more than ever, all-around stalwarts like Chara and Weber have legit complaints about getting overlooked. Now more than ever the NHL has a chance to right this wrong, and create a pair of trophies for NHL defensemen during their annual awards ceremony.

Why not keep the Norris Trophy as it is, designed to be bestowed on the best all-around NHL defenseman capable of contributing offensively, shutting things down defensively and playing effectively in all situations on the ice?

Then create the Orr Trophy, given to the best offensive defensemen in the league.

Whether by vote or by simply giving it to the defensemen with the most points, it accomplishes the same goal.

Clearly Orrs days of defensemen putting up gaudy offensive numbers are long gone and difficult to find.

But there are still worthy candidates like Karlsson, Washingtons Mike Green and Winnipegs Dustin Byfuglien that could stand to be recognized simply for their offensive dominance in a different age.

Chara lauded Karlsson for his elite skill level and ability to change games at the offensive end of the ice after Wednesday nights awards show (and the bevy of celebrity one-liners that fell flat on the audience) was finished.

But the Bruins captain has been nominated for the Norris five times in his career, and has constantly fought an uphill battle against flashier offensive D-man types that burst onto the scene each season.

When asked about it, Chara said liked the idea of having two awards for defensemen.

Maybe it would be a good idea, Chara said. Maybe it would be something that we need in the future. If you really look offensive guys and forwards have a number of trophies. Now we have a coach and GM trophy for contributions to the team.

For the defenseman there is still only one. An Orr Trophy would be pretty neat.

It also might have a little more meaning to todays players if it were named after a living legend like Orr. Perhaps Orr could even present it every year, getting him involved in the NHL Awards show that could use more tradition and less hokey glitz. It certainly would help the criminally underrated all around defensemen get more recognition.

For blueliners like Chara and Weber that do everything the right way and embody everyones vision of a Norris-worthy defensemen, the addition of a second award for defensemen is only right.

An Orr Trophy is certainly what Harry Howell was thinking about a half-century ago.