The NHL announced the three Norris Trophy finalists (Note: This means the top-three vote-getters. The votes are already in. The winner is accessible if you can break into the NHL vault. There will be no three-way round-robin feat of strength to determine the winner.)
Thankfully there was no falling in love with Dustin Byfuglien's cushy-minute offensive numbers (first half, anyway), and righteous candidates Nicklas Lidstrom, Shea Weber, and Zdeno Chara are your top three (not in that order...well, maybe in that order -- we just don't know yet).
As we do with each of these awards, I apply it to the Islanders and ask my fellow Lighthouse Hockey authors -- and you, dear reader -- who your pick(s) would be from among the Isles. As it turns out, with Mark Streit injured all year long and enough injuries to cause 12 different men to cycle through the lineup (15 if you count the ATO #55s), there really is little doubt who should get the nod.
Our Panelists' Votes:
What'll it be, mikb?
Norris - very close race, but I'm going with Andrew McDonald, who led the team's defensemen in ATOI (23:25), was +9 for a poor overall defensive team, and was second in relative Corsi to Travis Hamonic among regular defenders. Hamonic was exceedingly close here; I took AMac in the end based on having a slightly better relative +/- and only 37 PIM to Hamonic's 103 - you can't help the team in the box.
What's the spin, mighty Quinn?
Has to be Andrew MacDonald. After Garth Snow traded away James Wisniewski, who was supposed to be competing for #1/#2 defenseman, I assumed our defense would be quite possible the worst in the history of defenses.
Amac, a nice surprise last year while playing babysat minutes with Streit, steps in and turns the fortunes around. He showed that he can man the PP (when not wearing the requisite Islander-Face headgear) and continued to play responsible defense while generating offense via smart outlet passes and rushes. He then proceeds to mentor a 20 year old rookie in Travis Hamonic that was not supposed to see NHL ice time this year. Their play together did not drop off, and any interview you see from Hamonic will tell you that he credits Amac for all of his NHL success this year.
His reward of wearing the "A" for a stretch of the season speaks volumes about his play and character. He played hurt, he played well, and he demonstrated leadership and toughness. Nothing more you can ask for.
Is this really so hard, WebBard?
If you go back to the beginning of the season on LHH, some people thought Andrew MacDonald was going to be sent to either Bridgeport or spend a lot of time in the media box. Now not only is he considered the top defenseman on the Isle (depending on Streit's recovery) but people are talking about him as a possible candidate for Captain AND he did an excellent job breaking in Travis Hamonic to the NHL game.
Even more incredible is that he continued at a high level of play while injured from February on. If you didn't appreciate when MacDonald did this season, I don't think anything will impress you.
... What, no love for The Jurcina Anomaly? (The Islanders were an odd 24-16-6 with Milan Jurcina in the lineup, 6-23-7 without him.)
In all seriousness, who even came close to MacDonald in terms of an impressive performance on the blueline this year? Probably Travis Hamonic for doing what he did at age 20. Radek Martinek gets a blue ribbon for his singular health that actually saw him tie Jack Hillen for the most games played (64 each) by Islanders defensemen this year.
But nobody compares to A-Mac. The team's October-November tailspin really took
flight nosedive when he was injured with a broken hand. When he returned, things started to level off. And as the guys mentioned above, he was then partnered with a 20-year-old rookie who grew up before our eyes and credits the late-blooming A-Mac for much of his transition.
Since we're here to talk and debate, we're of course open to differing arguments. But it's hard not to give A-Mac the unanimous nod for Islanders Norris, 2010-11.
So maybe the debate is: Who will be the Islanders' best defenseman next year?