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.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.