Pittsburgh Penguins' defenseman Sergei Gonchar was snubbed yet again by the NHL, being left out of the finalists for the Norris Trophy, the end of season award given to the NHL's best defensemen during the regular season.
The qualifications for the Norris winner read as follows (per NHL.com): "The defensive player throughout the season who demonstrates the greatest all around ability in the position." Nicklas Lidstrom has been, and likely will be, the best defenseman in the NHL throughout the duration of his career. However, no defenseman not named Lidstrom had a more prolific season on the blue line than Sergei Gonchar.
Gonchar has never won the award, during an NHL career that spans 13 seasons. His highest finish was 4th place in 2001-02. Perhaps the absence of physicality in Gonchars' game offers one reason why he doesn't stand out as one of the league's top 3 defensemen. However, as new teammate Marian Hossa stated; "He's so smart that he doesn't have to be physical. You have to think about that. It seems like a lot of people don't. People love the physical defenseman, but the smart ones are the guys that forwards hate to play against." Perhaps Gonchar's 'one dimensional' reputation as being a strictly offensive defenseman (a cliche that he has grown out of since his arrival in Pittsburgh three seasons ago) hurts him when the ballots are cast for the Norris finalists each season.
While statistics alone should not determine the Norris winner, Gonchar put up far better numbers than either of the two other finalists: Dion Phaneuf (Calgary) and Zdeno Chara (Boston). While The Sarge finished tied for 7th among defensemen in goals (13), he was second to only Lidstrom in total points (65), and third overall in the assist category (53). Gonchar finished a +12 on the season, 1 better than Phaneuf, while playing against the oppositions' top offensive units all season long. Perhaps Gonchars' most impressive statistic was his performance on the power play, which ranked second among all skaters, behind only Montreal's Alex Kovalev (47 points). He finished the season with 8 goals, 38 assists, and 46 points on the power play (Lidstrom: 5-29-34, Phaneuf: 10-23-33).
When asked about his reoccurring snub from Norris consideration, The Sarge had this to say: "I guess I will just have to get better next year. Maybe people don't think I'm very good. Everybody is entitled to their own point of view. I never say I'm at my best because I am always learning. I can always be better."
You have to wonder just how much better Gonchar will have to be to even garner consideration for the top honor amongst NHL blue-liners.
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