Top 10 Norris candidates: Letang the leader?

Kris Letang (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Year in and year out, one of the most heavily debated awards is the Norris Trophy.

The award given to the NHL’s most outstanding defenseman has, in recent years, had a tendency not to go simply to the best defenseman, but rather the one with the most points. At times, it feels as though the trophy should be split in two, with one award going to the defenseman with the most points and another to the best overall defenseman.

However, in our ranking of the top 10 Norris candidates, we did our best to take into account all facets of defense in hopes it gave us a true picture of the Norris race. By using the standard statistics like points, average ice time and shorthanded time on ice – a key defensive situation – mixed with advanced statistics like Corsi for, quality of competition, and defensive zone starts, the things that can help tell us which players are driving play and not just benefitting from sheltered minutes.

There are a few surprises, but for the most part, it’s the usual suspects. Read more

Clayton Stoner avoids discipline for Pacioretty hit. Here’s why the NHL got it wrong

Matt Larkin
Pacioretty hurt

Swing and a miss, NHL player safety department.

It was a particularly scary night for Max Pacioretty and the Montreal Canadiens. Pacioretty was already sensitive to dangerous hits, having sustained a career-threatening fractured vertebra in 2011 when Boston’s Zdeno Chara drove him into a stanchion. Chances are, ‘Patches’ experienced some traumatic flashbacks after last night’s collision with Anaheim blueliner Clayton Stoner.

After Pacioretty “admired a pass,” as the homer-as-it-gets Anaheim broadcasters put it, Stoner sent him hurtling into the boards with a late hit. Pacioretty struggled to get back to his feet, was in obvious pain and was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons. Here’s a look at the play:

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How Minnesota ruined Montreal’s 2001 draft

Ryan Kennedy
Minnesota's Mikko Koivu (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

The exciting and sometimes infuriating reality of the draft is how different teams view the same players. It’s common to hear a GM say “we didn’t expect him to be available when we picked,” and sometimes it’s true, but sometimes it’s just bluster. The other side of the coin is that some players are highly coveted by multiple teams, but only one can ultimately select him. One great example came in 2001, when Minnesota was picking right before Montreal.

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Canadiens honor former captain Saku Koivu in teary pre-game ceremony

Adam Proteau
Saku Koivu (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Knowing the love between the city of Montreal and veteran center Saku Koivu, you felt confident Thursday’s pre-game ceremony honoring the recently retired veteran center and former Canadiens captain was going to be a teary-eyed affair. And it was – so teary, in fact, even Koivu got choked up as he thanked adoring fans in a tremendous speech before the two NHL teams he played for (the Habs and Anaheim Ducks) faced off.

As the Bell Centre crowd chanted his name, and with his family looking on from ice level, the 40-year-old began his speech in French, showing the deft touch he displayed during his nine years in Montreal. The Turku, Finland native spoke without staring down at his notes, hitting a high point when he told the crowd “I will always be a Hab at my heart”. But when he began to discuss his bout with cancer in 2001, Koivu understandably became emotional: Read more

Why the Montreal Canadiens should retire Saku Koivu’s No. 11

Ken Campbell
Saku Koivu (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHL)

Truth is the Montreal Canadiens had planned to honor former captain Saku Koivu months ago. But seriously, when are these guys going to give us a break? This will be the second time in a week hockey fans will have to have their boxes of tissue at the ready while watching a pre-game ceremony.

That’s what happens, though, when you produce as many great players as the Canadiens have and you’re as good as this organization is at keeping their legacies alive. It’s been two decades since this organization has won a Stanley Cup so perhaps we should cherish these ceremonies while they last, but something tells me the Canadiens could have a tribute night devoted to 2004 first-round pick Kyle Chipchura and it would be memorable and special. Read more

Even without a Cup, Montreal will always think of Koivu as a champion

Ken Campbell
Koivu Habs featured

(Editor’s note: This chapter originally appeared in Ken Campbell’s 2008 book, Habs Heroes, The Greatest Canadiens Ever From 1 to 100. In that work, Koivu was ranked 41st, and with him being honored by the Canadiens tonight at the Bell Centre we believed it apropos to repurpose this tale.)

When Saku Koivu stepped on to the Bell Centre ice for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 3, 2007, he made history. It wasn’t exactly the kind he’d prefer to make, but it placed him firmly in the annals of team lore.

That night marked Koivu’s 663rd career game as a Canadien, making him the longest-serving player in franchise history not to win a Stanley Cup. Prior to that night, the designation belonged to Shayne Corson, who was along for the ride when the Canadiens won the Cup in 1986, but was not on the roster and did not meet the requirements to have his named etched on the trophy. Read more

Top 10 Vezina candidates of 2014-15: Rinne rules

Pekka Rinne (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Goaltending can make or break a team’s season. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers, who for years have looked promising but have been unable to secure a goaltender to give them the big save they need.

You won’t find either Oilers goaltender, Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth, on this list of the top 10 Vezina candidates. Nor will you find Michael Hutchinson, who currently leads the league in save percentage and is second in goals-against average. The reason being Hutchinson just hasn’t had the workload, and including his numbers also put goaltenders like Colorado’s Calvin Pickard and injured St. Louis netminder Brian Elliott into the conversation.

Instead, many familiar faces are among the contenders, though not a single one has won the Vezina in their career. Read more