Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green remains a bona-fide candidate for the Norris Trophy this season.Despite missing 13 games with a bum shoulder,
He not only leads all NHL defenders in goals (16), power-play goals (12) and points (42), but also ranks fourth with a career-high plus-19 rating this season. Sitting for 13 games during parts of November and December felt like an eternity to Green.
"It was the most I've sat in one season in my career and I think I came back a little too soon (after 11 games) just because I couldn't handle sitting out any more; it was just so frustrating," Green told NHL.com. "But I'm back now and right in the swing of things."
Indeed. He's led the Capitals in ice time in all but 10 of his 39 games. Let's not forget, the Southeast Division-leading Capitals are 26-9-3 with Green in the lineup and 7-6-0 without their fourth-season standout.
"The way he's playing defensively this year and the way he's been cleaning up his own zone, I think he definitely should be in the running for a Norris Trophy," fellow defenseman Shaone Morrisonn told NHL.com. "I know there are a lot of great defensemen out there this year, but I think if Mike continues to play the way he's been, he'll finish among the top five in the League."
Actually, Green could do even better than top five if healthy. After leading all defensemen with a career-high 18 goals last season when he finished seventh in the voting for the Norris Trophy as the League's finest defenseman, Green is on pace to score more than 25 this campaign.
"He's one of our top defensemen and he's also an offensive threat each time he's on the ice," Capitals defenseman John Erskine said. "He can get the puck out in tough situations, skate it out and make the tough plays."
Alex Ovechkin also has Green atop his list of the NHL's best blueliners.
"Why not?" Ovechkin said. "I don't know who picks Norris Trophy, but I think he's one of the best defensemen in League. He can create, defend and is controlled back there. He's not afraid to make some mistakes now and again and that's confidence. It's good for our organization that we have him for long time and I think he will be better and better all the time."
Perfecting his defensive game is a big reason the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Calgary native has ascended the plus-minus chart this season -- something he takes great pride in.
"I've really tried to round my game into a complete game instead of all offense and getting up the ice all the time," Green said. "I'm a defenseman first, so I need to take care of my own end and not be so aggressive. I'll still pick my spots on offense but I think I play better when I'm not all over the ice."
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau agrees.
"He's averaging over a point a game and is a big-game guy,” Boudreau said. "When the games get big, he's there. What we like even more is his defensive game. On most nights, he's really rounded out so you add the offense to the defense and you've got a pretty good package there for a guy who can log up to 30 minutes a game."
Green, whose 'faux hawk' hairstyle will remain intact until the conclusion of the regular season, is 10th in the League with an average of 25:33 of ice time per game.
"I just listen to Bruce (Boudreau)," Green said. "He lets me go but he's always said to me, since my days with the Hershey Bears, to pick your spots. He'll say that in my last game, I was a little too offensive and this game, you weren't and played better. So I'll listen to him and things work out."
Green's career-high 12 power-play goals have been a result of his being able to find the open areas with the man advantage. He's also benefitted from having three of League's finest playmakers dishing him the puck in Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom.
"Hey, it's great that we have guys who can pass the puck," Green grinned. "I just have to sneak into the open spaces and these guys just put it on my stick."
Morrisonn knows it's never that easy, but Green has that ability to make the tough play look simple.
"He's very slippery out there and can turn on a dime and when you add Ovie and (Alexander) Semin into the mix, you're looking at guys too tough to defend when shorthanded," Morrisonn said. "We have so many weapons out there but I don't see many guys go back door as well as Mike does and, usually, when he gets that pass back door, it's a goal."
In addition to his contributions on the ice, Green is also an active participant within the D.C. community.
Green provides Capitals game tickets to underserved children and soldiers in the D.C. area. He purchases seven Capitals season tickets and donates them to Most Valuable Kids, which in turn distributes the tickets to soldiers and their families or to boys and girls, 18 and under, through numerous nonprofit organizations that focus on children in low-income and underserved households.
Green's Gang is seated in their very own section in the lower level of Verizon Center and is recognized at each home game. Additionally, each person in the section receives a Green's Gang T-shirt and some participants have an opportunity to ride the Zamboni and meet Green after the game.
"I go down to meet them after and it's great," Green said. "I like it because it's all about the kids."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.