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We’re not even a month into the 2020-21 NHL season yet we’re about to talk NHL Awards and, more specifically, candidates for the Norris Trophy. However, this is a shortened 56-game season and one month is the equivalent of two months in a normal year, so that is my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, today we’re going to focus on Jeff Petry and his quest to prove that age is just a number.
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Yes, at 33-years-old, Petry is having himself quite the year so far and, although still relatively early, there is no doubt that he is an early contender for the Norris Trophy and, if he can maintain this current pace, he will become the oldest recipient of the award since Calgary Flames Captain Mark Giordano won it in 2018-19.
Through 12 games Petry has six goals and eight assists for 14 points with a plus / minus rating of +14, leading all NHL defensemen in goals, plus / minus and points per game (1.17), and his elevated play has been a huge factor in why the Montreal Canadiens are 8-2-2 on the year and second in the North Division.
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry deserves Norris Trophy buzz
Petry is well on pace to surpass the 40 points (11 G, 29 A) he put up in 71 regular-season games in 2019-20, and there is no doubt that the veteran is getting better and better with age, just like a fine wine. He’s a calm presence on that blueline alongside Captain Shea Weber, and they are the bedrock of a blueline unit that has some young talent on the rise in Victor Mete and rookie Alexander Romanov.
It isn’t only the offensive output that has been impressive, although that has certainly been a valuable weapon, but Petry is also playing in all situations, logging an average of 21:47 of total ice time, racking up 16 blocked shots and recording 21 hits. He has been a huge factor in all three zones and he’s been a wise old head for a team that has a crop of young studs on the rise and a team that is starting to look like a real contender.
He is playing the best hockey of his career and has formed a rock solid and reliable partnership with Joel Edmundson on the backend for the Canadiens, giving the franchise two elite pairings behind Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot. In order to be successful in the postseason you need a talented and deep blueline, and Montreal certainly has that in 2020-21.
Petry’s been consistent with at least a point in all but three of the 12 games he has played so far, while he ranks highly in a number of possession metrics, including CF% (51.9 percent), oZS% (50.5%) and FF% (53.4%). In other words, Jeff Petry has been an absolute dominant force for the Montreal Canadiens in the early stages of the 2020-21 season and is playing at the absolute peak of his powers, therefore he deserves all of the early buzz for the Norris Trophy. However, he is already facing some stiff competition and we’re going to take a quick look at some other contenders…
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
He finished runner-up to Cale Makar for the 2019-20 Calder Trophy following an impressive rookie year in which he recorded 53 points (8 G, 45 A) in 68 regular-season games, but it does seem feasible that Quinn Hughes could beat Makar when it comes to being the first out of the two to win the Norris Trophy.
After all, Hughes has continued where he left off this year and is making sure that the words ‘sophomore slump’ don’t come up, leading all defensemen in the NHL in points with 17 (1 G, 16 A) in 16 games. He also leads all blueliners in power play points with nine and is currently averaging 22:16 of average ice time, which would be a career-high. All of this is despite the fact that the Vancouver Canucks have been horrible to start the season, 6-10-0 on the year, so it is feasible to think that Quinn Hughes could get even better the longer the season goes on if those around him can figure it out too.
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
This was always going to be a huge year for Charlie McAvoy’s development, and it became even more important when both Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug left the Boston Bruins in Free Agency to sign for the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues respectively. Therefore, McAvoy all of a sudden became the very young face of a blueline unit that now has an average age of just 26 this season.
And, although a small sample size, McAvoy hasn’t disappointed with 10 points (1 G, 9 A) in 11 games with a plus / minus rating of +4, while he has also blocked 18 shots and recorded 13 hits. The 23-year-old is averaging 24:24 of ATOI and is being used in all situations by the Bruins, quarterbacking the power play and getting time on the penalty kill, so don’t be surprised if his production jumps up the longer we go and he becomes an even more crucial figure on that backend for the Boston Bruins, while also putting him firmly in contention for the Norris Trophy.
John Tortorella benched his new shiny toy in Patrik Laine for a large chunk of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ win over the Caroline Hurricanes on Monday and, while some may not like his methods, his record speaks for itself.