Welcome to the 1994 editions of Straight shooters. We will be looking at the early season favorites, and possibly dark horses for the awards of Norris, Calder, Vezina and Hart Trophies.
This article will focus on the Norris Trophy. Last year's winner from the Winnipeg Jets was Don Sweeney. Don had a breakout season with a career high 20 goals (tied 4th for defensemen), 54 assists (2nd for defensemen) and 74 points (1st for defensemen). He also brought a +47 (tied for 7th in league) to the table. While it wasn’t a career for hits, he still registered 236 (9th in league) for the season.
So it's safe to say that Don Sweeney is one of the favorites for the Norris Trophy as he will try to defend his title. Who will be some of his main competitors this season though?
One of the early favorites has to be Chris Chelios of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was the runner up last season, and while he might not project to have the same offense as Sweeney, he is on a very explosive team and will pick up points because of it. One of the big qualifiers we look at though at Straight Shooters is the physical game of a blue liner, and one thing Chelios brings night in and night out is his hitting prowess. He set another career high in hits this past season put up 257. Again his points will come, he is a big + player for a very good team. His last 3 seasons have been +37,+37 and +31.
Another player to keep an eye is Petr Svoboda. Perhaps the best, if not one of the best defender blue liners in the league, this guy has now been traded to the best offensive team in the game. While his offensive numbers have been low for such a high end guy, he did set a career high with 49 points last year. Of course being on the Rockies that will increase, but what will push him into the Norris conversation is what he does to opposing players in his end, or around his teams net. Last year he had 259 hits, the second time in his career he has passed the 250 hit mark. His +29 last year was by far the best in his career and one would think that would be a somewhat easy target on this team.
Our 4th and final guy to keep an eye on will be that of Fred Boimistruck. Plain and simple he might be the most physical guy in the NFHL, that plays on the edge but doesn’t cross it, most times. Last year, he tied with Anderson for the league lead with 273 hits. Those were down from his previous 2 seasons of 276 and also 292 hits. His points total are also starting to come as he has broke the 60 point mark the past 2 seasons. Now with those hits and points one would think he got more love in the voting most seasons, but so many GM's get lazy and go to the points leader board to place their votes.
Players to Watch:
Dave Ellett in Winnipeg is also a physical presence, and point producer.
Paul Coffey has some new threads and without Mario or Oates will be looked at for even more offense. This very well could be his award if he finds chemistry quick in Vancouver.
Gary Suter is now probably the main man in Hartford with Coffey gone. Will he thrive, or will he take a step back?
We here at Straight Shooters hope to help direct/guide those GM's into working hard to place their votes. It is an honor to vote for these amazing athletes, and they deserve to have all aspects of their games looked at. The Norris and Calder are the hardest without a doubt to research, unless you just don't care. This year, lets work hard at making these guys work hard for our votes boys.
Our pre-season winner is Chris Chelios