Tonight at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber will try for the third time to bring home his first Norris Trophy.
Awarded to the “defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” the James Norris Memorial Trophy will be given to one of three NHL blueliners selected as finalists. Weber is up against two former Norris winners: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith and Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
This past season was a special one for Weber. The 28-year-old was the first defenseman in NHL history to record 150 blocks, 150 hits and over 20 goals in a campaign (since all three statistics were kept). He also led the Predators in points, average time on ice and checked off another year as the face of the franchise. But unfortunately for Weber, his personal statistics–rightly or not–aren’t the only consideration by media members when voting for the Norris; his team’s regular season performance is also a major component.
“He’s finished in the top three, three years in a row. I think it’s been his play that’s been so special, and that’s been recognized by the media. I wish we’d made the playoffs for a lot of reasons. One of which being that it would have solidified Shea’s winning of the Norris Trophy,” Predators General Manager David Poile said. “But I still think despite us not making the playoffs this year, that Shea was the best defenseman this year.”
Nashville’s GM is forced to recognize his team’s shortcoming because of the significant role it’s played at past NHL Awards. Looking back on years gone by, no playoff appearance has usually meant one thing for players up for an award: no trophy. Technically just an award for a player’s regular season performance, a Norris winner on a non-playoff team hasn’t happened in decades. And Weber’s undoing might very well generate from the fact that his competition tonight both played deep into the NHL’s second season.
Twelve NHL awards will be given out this evening, with three finalists competing for each one. Out of the 36 names, only one belongs to a player or manager that didn’t participate in the playoffs: Shea Weber.
“Shea’s a fabulous player–we all know that–there’s a lot of other top guys, but he’s one for sure. I just think he had that all-around best year on both sides of the puck. He’s a captain too, so there’s the leadership thing also. The only thing he doesn’t have going for him in my mind is that he didn’t make the playoffs,” Poile said.
But can no postseason appearance singlehandedly eliminate Weber’s chance at claiming hardware? After all, he did lead all NHL defensemen in goals with 23, set the Predators record for points by a defenseman (56) and was Nashville’s leading scorer for the second-straight year. Poile thinks those factors are more than enough, but unfortunately for Weber, he won’t be casting an official vote for the Predators captain.
“I know you’re supposed to vote on just one year, but if I’m a media person, then I have to be influenced at least a little by the last three years. I’m not voting–and of course I’m a little prejudiced–but it does kind of feel like this is his year a little bit,” Poile said.
The argument by Nashville’s GM holds some weight: if qualifying for the playoffs gets to be part of the Norris conversation, then why shouldn’t past campaigns too? Poile also mentioned that playing with other superstars–like Keith and Chara get to do on a nightly basis–is a luxury that Weber hasn’t been currently given. However, he says Weber’s numbers and play are still on par with the pair he’s up against.
But are these extra factors enough for the Predators captain to win Nashville’s first classic NHL award? We’ll find out tonight at 6:00 p.m. (CST).