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Keith has ample competition in quest for Norris repeat

Friday, 10.01.2010 / 2:43 PM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Keith has ample competition in quest for Norris repeat
Can Duncan Keith again be the League's best defenseman? Or will someone else grab this season's Norris Trophy? NHL.com takes a look at who some of the early frontrunners could be.
It may seem like the Norris Trophy is awarded yearly to the top-scoring defenseman, but that wouldn't be true -- especially not with last year's finalists.

Winner Duncan Keith and finalists Mike Green and Drew Doughty combined for 204 points and a plus-80 rating, proving that good defense and good offense can go hand-in-hand.

Will those three be in the running for this season's Norris? NHL.com takes a look at some of the top candidates -- in alphabetical order only.

Dan Boyle, Sharks -- Boyle never jumps off the tongue when discussion turns to the League's top blueliners, but that's more the fault of the people doing the discussing.

He's had at least 10 goals and 50 points in five of the last seven seasons -- including a combined 31 goals and 115 points the last two season with the Sharks. He's a respected presence on a veteran team, and with the retirement of Rob Blake, looks to take a more prominent role on the San Jose blue line -- including possibly following Blake as team captain.

 
Zdeno Chara, Bruins -- Chara won the Norris in 2008 when he totaled 19 goals and 50 points and helped the Bruins finish atop the Eastern Conference. Like the rest of the team, however, he struggled to repeat that level of success, but still had a respectable 7 goals and 44 points.

More is expected of Chara, and it's likely more will be delivered. With the additions of Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin up front, Chara won't be relied upon as much offensively, making his contributions a nice complement rather than a necessity. And going into the final year of his contract, Chara has to prove that at age 33, he's still worthy of being paid like an elite defenseman.

Drew Doughty, Kings -- It's been a remarkable ascension for Doughty, from overweight junior to Norris Trophy finalist. But once Doughty set his mind to getting in better shape, he became the second pick of the 2008 Entry Draft and one of the League's best blueliners last season.

Last season, he finished third among all NHL defensemen with 16 goals and 59 points, he had a plus-20 rating and he made the Canadian Olympic team. Now entering his third season, how much better for the experiences can he be?

Mike Green, Capitals -- It's hard to find much fault with Green's game on the offensive end. Two seasons ago, his 31 goals were the most by a blueliner since the 1992-93 season, and over the last two seasons, he has 50 goals and 149 points.

Defensively, his plus/minus number has gone up each of the last three seasons, topping out at a plus-39 last season that was third in the League.

Detractors will point to his subpar playoff performances the last two seasons, but Green remains among the League's elite. He was a well-deserved Norris finalist last season, and it might not be the last.

Duncan Keith, Blackhawks -- The Blackhawks led the League in shots on goal and allowed the fewest shots against, and a big reason for both was Keith.

Playing all 82 games for the third time in his five NHL seasons, Keith raised his point total for the fourth straight season, with his 69 points ranking second to Green among defensemen, and his 14 goals also were a personal best.

Keith's calm and poise with the puck, plus his durability -- he's missed just six games in five seasons while playing more than 23 minutes per game the last four seasons -- make last season's Norris his first, but possibly not his last.

Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings -- Logic dictates that eventually time will catch up with Lidstrom, but as maybe the smartest player of his generation, he's constantly adjusting his game to remain among the elite at his position.

Already with six Norris trophies in his closet, it was a bigger story that he wasn't a finalist. His streak of six-straight seasons of double-figure goals was snapped when he had just 9, but he had 49 points (tied for eighth among defensemen), was second on the Wings with a plus-22 rating and at age 39, he played all 82 games for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

Lidstrom's play continues to mirror the Wings' fortunes. He and the team got off to a slow start, but when he got hot following the Olympic break -- 3 goals and 14 points in the season's final 21 games -- the Wings followed suit, going 16-3-2.

Can Lidstrom turn in another Norris-caliber season at age 40? Once again, it might be a bigger story if he doesn't.

Shea Weber, Predators -- Goalposts don't talk, but if they could, they likely would cry anytime Weber came on the ice and started firing shots. His rockets from the point -- one of which memorably tore through the net at the Olympics -- earned him 16 goals last season and 64 in his first five NHL seasons.

At 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds, Weber is more than just a guy who blasts cannon shots on goal. He led the Predators with 165 hits and was third with 106 blocked shots. And this season he's team captain, adding another level to his importance to the Predators.

"When guys look at him, they say, 'That's a good player, a good pro, a good person. I don't want to disappoint him,'" Predators coach Barry Trotz told USA Today.

Others to watch: Andrei Markov, Canadiens; Tyler Myers, Sabres; Chris Pronger, Flyers; Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks; Keith Yandle, Coyotes.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com


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