WASHINGTON - MARCH 27: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals takes the shot against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 27, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The Capitals defeated the Lightning 5-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Team Canada might not have wanted him, but Mike Green was named a finalist Friday for the Norris Trophy for the second year in a row.
Green, 24, has always been an offensive superpower, but his detractors claim his work in his own end leave something to be desired. That was why Steve Yzerman left him off the Canadian Olympic team this year -- a team that still won gold.
Green could get at least some vengeance by winning the award for the league's best defenseman over Doughty and Keith who were members of that winning Olympic squad.
Green scored 76 points in 75 games this season, including 19 goals. He was also a plus-39 for the Caps, placing him third in the league behind teammates Jeff Schultz (+50) and Alex Ovechkin (+45).
How likely is it that Green will win? Hate to say it, Caps fans, but if he didn't pick up the hardware last season after scoring an amazing 31 goals in 68 games, it's hard to argue that his 2009-10 season was better.
But what about his competition?
First, let's look at Drew Doughty. In just his second season, Doughty has shown marked improvement to his game. He's just 20 years old, but he plays like a 10-year vet -- a fact that has surprised just about everyone in the league. Young defensemen are supposed to take time to develop their all-around games. But Doughty surpassed all expectations this year, scoring 16 goals and 59 points in a full 82-game season. He was also a plus-20, compared to the minus-17 he was his rookie campaign.
But the idea of giving the Norris to a second-year pro would probably cause voters to move cautiously. The Norris is a distinguished award, one that only the best of the best have won. Some may feel it's still too early in Doughty's career to anoint him as the best player at his position.
So that leaves Keith, the 26-year-old leader of the Blackhawks' defensive corps. Keith isn't as flashy as Green offensively, but he doesn't have to be. He leaves that up to Brian Campbell. Keith is just a solid, all-around d-man. He tallied 14 goals and 69 points in a full 82 games and was a plus-21. That plus-minus rating was actually his worst in his three NHL seasons, but he had to play out of his element in the second half of the year due to Campbell's shoulder injury -- which was caused by Ovechkin slamming him into the end boards in a game March 14.
Once Campbell exited the lineup, Keith's recorded a minus-2 the rest of the season with increased pressure and focus on him to perform on offense. He only tallied a goal and seven assists in those 18 games with Campbell out of action.
Hmm... Could Ovie's crushing blow to Campbell in turn hurt Keith's stats, which would then leave Green as the No. 1 option for the Norris?
What a tangled web these NHL stars weave...