Haggerty: Time for an Orr Trophy in the NHL?

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Haggerty: Time for an Orr Trophy in the NHL?

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.

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece. 

 

Bruins lose Vatrano for three months after foot surgery

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Bruins lose Vatrano for three months after foot surgery

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The first bad break of Bruins camp arrived on Saturday with the news that scoring winger Frank Vatrano will be out three months after tearing a couple of ligaments in his left foot.

The 21-year-old winger from UMass and East Longmeadow, Mass., sustained the injury training just prior to the B’s fitness testing for camp and will have surgery on Monday at Mass General Hospital with Dr. George Theodore.

Vatrano had missed the first two days of camp after participating in captain’s practice just about right until the start of main training camp, so the injury must have happened just prior to Thursday’s off-ice testing.

“He had an injury just prior to testing, and it took a couple of days to make sure he had the proper evaluation. He saw a specialist yesterday and he’s scheduled for surgery on Monday,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “One or two of the ligaments were torn when he was doing some running, so he’s out.”

The injury is a big blow for a Bruins team that clearly had plans on Vatrano filling out a top-six role and leaves the door wide open for a young players Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn or Peter Cehlarik to win an NHL job out of camp. Perhaps a veteran such as camp invite Peter Mueller could secure a job when it didn’t appear to be any room on the NHL roster just a few days ago.

Either way it’s damaging to a Bruins team that was relying on goal-scoring and explosive forward play from a guy who topped 40 goals combined in the NHL and AHL last season.

“Obviously it’s a blow. Frankie looked at as an opportunity to [win a top-6 spot]. We all did. How that was going to play out remained to be seen, but he was going to be afforded a position to see if he could grab hold of it,” said Sweeney. “So obviously, he’s disappointed, and we are as well. You look at as with all injuries…it’s a setback. But the doctors feel very good that three months from now he’ll be able to play and move forward.”

It’s not officially NHL training camp until a major injury strikes, so now the Bruins are in the middle of it after learning they’ll lose Vatrano until Christmastime. 

Here's Vatrano's "Countdown to camp" profile