Minnesota – Just one day after Minnesota Wild rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin was snubbed by the PHWA as a Calder finalist, fellow Wild defenseman Ryan Suter has been selected as a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL defenseman that displays the “greatest all-round ability” at the position.
Suter, one of Minnesota’s two $98 million men acquired on July 4th, led all NHL skaters with an average ice time of 27:16, a franchise-best for the Wild. No other defenseman has been so crucial to their team’s success than Suter this season. His 32 points from the blue line are third best in the league this year, behind only fellow Norris finalists P.K. Subban (Canadiens) and Kris Letang (Penguins). Only Letang tops his 28 assists.
If you go by the qualification for the award above, it’s hard for Minnesota fans not to throw Brodin into the running as the rookie has proven himself to be a quite capable top pairing defenseman in just his first season in the best hockey league on the planet. Then again, there’s a lot of homer-ism in that statement, but he’ll win his own Norris in time.
When what was possibly the best defensive pairing in the league was broken up for good last summer, it was widely thought that Suter—the 7th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft—would struggle without defensive partner Shea Weber skating beside him. It appears the opposite would be true.
In the first several games, both defenseman struggled without the other beside him and had to get used to young but talented European skaters as their new defensive partner. While Weber and Swiss blue liner Roman Josi have shown flashes of brilliance and potential this season, Suter and Brodin have been quite possibly the best combination known to mankind since peanut butter and jelly.
In 48 games, Weber and Josi combined for 14 goals and 32 assists for 46 points, four power play goals, a negative-9 rating and an average ice time of 49:26 per game. Conversely, Suter and Brodin combined for six goals and 37 assists for 43 points, four power play goals, a plus-5 rating and an average ice time of 50:28 per game. That’s a total of three less points, with a wide difference in plus-minus rating and 1:02 more average ice time for the Suter/Brodin pairing than Weber/Josi.
Oh, yeah—Josi, drafted 38th overall in 2008, has 52 more games of NHL experience under his belt than Brodin, too. Did I mention Brodin, 19, is also the youngest defenseman in the league this year? I’m not knocking on Josi—I’ve actually had my eye on this kid since last season and am a pretty big fan of his—but Brodin has been nothing short of sensational this year and his play has benefitted Suter nearly as much as Suter’s has his.
The NHL is entering a new era of Norris Trophy candidates. The “old guard” is no longer safe. Nicklas Lidstrom has retired, Zdeno Chara wasn’t among this year’s nominees and Weber may not be as elite as originally thought.
The nomination of P.K. Subban ushers forth a new era of elite young defenders that began with Senator’s defenseman Erik Karlsson’s clinching of the title at the end of last season. In the next few years, youngsters like Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Coyotes), Dougie Hamilton (Bruins), Jacob Trouba (Jets), Seth Jones (2013 Draft Eligible), Josi and Brodin will make their own claim for the title of best defenseman in the NHL. Fans can’t wait to just sit back and watch it all play out.