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Missed It by THAT Much




Anytime there is a discussion about the greatest players in history, or the greatest player at this or that position, the conversation always starts with and is dominated by the guys with the most awards in their trophy cases. It makes sense. After all, the awards demonstrate the level of excellence that they have managed to attain. Sometimes, though, a guy who has performed well enough to merit recognition is overlooked, simply because someone else played at a level too high to be matched. The guys in this post are some of the ones who were overlooked. Today, I will count down (in my opinion) the five best defensemen to never win the Norris Trophy.


First, let me give a couple of rules. I did not include players who had their primes (or entire careers) before the introduction of the Norris. Therefore, you will not find Eddie Shore on this list. Active players that have not won the Norris, but still have a reasonable shot to do so were also excluded, meaning you will not find Shea Weber on the list. Lastly, players who did not play in the NHL, or at least did not play in the NHL in their prime are not in the list, meaning, no Slava Fetisov. That said, on to the list!


Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)

Tim Horton, Phil Housley, Guy Lapointe, Larry Murphy, Marcel Pronovost, Serge Savard, Sergei Zubov


#5 Borje Salming


Salming played 17 seasons in the NHL, spending 16 of them with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seven times he scored double digit goals, reached the 50 point plateau five times, and was a key part of the Toronto power play. He was one of the first European to make an impact in the NHL, and dealt a major blow to the idea that European players were too soft for the North American game, reaching 100 penalty minutes in three consecutive seasons from 1981-82 to 1983-84. In each of his first seven NHL seasons, he finished in the top five in Norris voting, and he even had a fourth place finish in Hart Trophy voting in 1977. His highest finishes in Norris Trophy voting were runner-up tallies in 1977 and 1980, losing to Larry Robinson on each occasion. He was voted a first team all-star once and second team all-star five times, and played in three all-star games.


#4 Bill Gadsby


Gadsby played 20 seasons in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, and Detroit Red Wings. He was a star before the introduction of the Norris, and continued to be among the league's top blueliners throughout his career. His offensive numbers look pedestrian by today's standards, but when he entered the league in the 1940s, defensemen were expected to focus on defense. Even so, he set the record for most assists in a season in 1958-59 by a defensemen with 46, and scored 10 or more goals in a season four times. He is not one of the all-time leaders in PIM, but he was a hard-nosed player that toughed his way through injuries, and played a physical style that saw him hit triple digits in penalty minutes four times. Six times in his career he finished in the top five of Norris voting, and was a three time runner-up in 1956, 1958, and 1959, losing to Doug Harvey on the first two occasions and Tom Johnson on the third. He was voted first team all-star three times and second team four times. Over the course of his career, he played in eight all-star games.


#3 Mark Howe


Second and third places on this list were a close call. Mark Howe began his professional career in the WHA with the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers, moving to the NHL when the Whalers did. He did not have his father's famous mean streak, but was a highly effective two-way player, and strong on special teams, scoring 58 power play and 28 shorthanded goals during his NHL years. Twice he reached or eclipsed the 80 point mark, and is one of only a handful of players to register a plus/minus rating of +80 or more in a season, posting a +85 in the 1985-86 season. That season, he finished third in Hart Trophy voting. He was voted to the NHL's first team all-star team three times, and played in four all-star games. He was a top-five finisher in Norris Trophy voting four times, with three of those (1983, 1986, and 1987) being second place finishes. In those seasons, he was topped by Doug Wilson, Rod Langway, and Ray Bourque.


#2 Scott Stevens


In the later years of his career, Scott Stevens' penalty minutes dropped dramatically, but in his first 12 seasons, he broke the 100 PIM mark, breaking the 200 barrier four times. Those stats and his 2,875 total career penalty minutes show that he was not a man to toy with on the ice. He is probably best remembered as a shutdown, stay at home defenseman, but he made significant offensive contributions early in his career while playing for the Washington Capitals. In the 1984-85 season, he scored 16 goals on the power play alone. Most fans will probably always think of him as the anchor of the New Jersey Devils defense that, along with goaltender Martin Brodeur, led the team to three Stanley Cup championships. On seven occasions, he finished among the top five vote-getters in the Norris Trophy race. In 1988 and 1994, he finished second to Ray Bourque. On two occasions, he was on the league's first all-star team, and three times was on the second. He played in an impressive 13 all-star games.


#1 Brad Park


Brad Park's career is filled with irony. I personally think he is the best player in Rangers history, but while Brian Leetch won two Norris Trophies with the Rangers, Park has none. Bobby Orr is the main reason he has none, and the two of them were teammates during the 1975-76 season. If it had not been for Orr, Park likely would have been the guy to popularize the concept of the rushing defenseman. Later in his career, he shifted styles and excelled as a defensive defenseman. Park finished fifth in Hart Trophy voting three times in his career. Seven times, he had seven top five Norris finishes (all of them top three), and six of those were runner-up finishes. On four of those occasions (1970, 1971, 1972, and 1974), Bobby Orr was the man that beat him, and in 1976 and 1978, Denis Potvin topped him. He was on the NHL first all-star team five times, the second all-star team twice, and played in nine all-star games.


I do not expect everyone to agree with my list, as I know opinions as to who the top five are and what order they should be in will vary, but my hope is that this post will serve to bring some added awareness about some players that, while the voters passed them over, had great careers. They may have missed the Norris by that much, but these men all earned their place in hockey history and in the Hall of Fame.

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