NHL Mid-Season Awards: The best offense is a good defense

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Alex Pietrangelo (STL)

Runners Up: Drew Doughty (LA) Victor Hedman (TB), John Carlsson (WSH)

No Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns?! Yes everybody, we finally have new names that have emerged to dethrone the struggling Karlsson and Burns. Alex Pietrangelo was chosen here because he has simply become a monster for the St-Louis Blues. He has become a great offensive threat, as well as a defensive rock for the Blues. Although many would argue Hedman could also be considered for this award, I find that Pietrangelo faces far more challenging competition in Central division than Tampa Bay’s putrid Atlantic division, and thus has to defend (and score) against stronger teams. As of this instant, Pietrangelo is on pace for 60 points this season, which would be a career high, and is a plus-14. He is the powerplay QB for the Blues, while being their most important penalty killer. Overall, Pietrangelo exemplifies what a true number 1 defense man should do, and thus cannot be ignored as the best rearguard in the NHL right now.

Drew Doughty has been a consistent force this year for the L.A. Kings. Doughty has always been considered as a top flight number 1 defenseman, but this year he has taken the Kings on his back and become an anchor both defensively and offensively. With 30 points in 42 games, Doughty is on pace for his best offensive output ever (his current best is 59 points in 2009-2010), while also sitting at a staggering +21 on an offensively challenged roster. This recent explosion on Doughty’s end could also be due to the fact that the rearguard is set to become an unrestricted free-agent this summer and could command an annual salary north of 10$ million if he continues his elite play. He exemplifies the qualities of a Norris trophy candidate, but, at this point, has simply lacked the game-breaking ability that Pietrangelo has shown early on this season. Keep an eye out for Drew, as I am confident that he can make this race interesting.

Victor Hedman is so close to becoming the most dominant D-man in the NHL, but he will constantly be held back from his true praise due to playing on such an offensively stacked team. Hedman is a true number 1 defense man. His offensive game is amazing and his vision on the powerplay is the envy of the NHL, but that should be pretty easy when your powerplay includes the likes of Stamkos, Kucherov, Point, etc. In the end, a strong second half of the 2017-2018 could see Hedman finally get his due, as the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to dominate the NHL. Although his 33 points in 44 games is under his pace from last year, his overall defensive game and his clutch plays have made him a premier number 1 defenseman in this league and not simply a very impressive offensive defenseman.

When Washington lost Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner to free agency, many assumed the Washington Capitals would not be able to overcome those loses and would ultimately regress. John Carlsson looked those pundits in the eye and asked them to kindly hold his beer. Carlsson not only made up for the loss of those two top-4 defense men, he made us forget they ever played for the Capitals at all. Carlsson is currently second in scoring for a defenseman with 35 points in 45 games, while playing close to 28 minutes a night. He has been a work horse for the Capitals in every situation and has undeniably emerged as a true number 1 defense man in the NHL.  He has also become a key piece on the powerplay for the Capitals, as he often quarterbacks from the blueline with Alexander Ovechkin. Look for this defenseman to rise up the rankings even more as the season progresses.