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Who has best chance at individual award?

With preseason prognostications at full blast, we figured we would take a look at some of the Predators’ chances at winning an individual award this season. Steve Sullivan (Masterton, 2009) and Mike Fisher (Foundation Award, 2012) are the only two Predators to leave Las Vegas will an award in hand.

This season there are a few individuals that could win an award. Seth Jones (Calder), Pekka Rinne (Vezina), Barry Trotz (Jack Adams) and Shea Weber (Norris) are the first ones that come to mind. Obviously, others could emerge as the season goes along. Who has the best chance of excelling at a high level this season and taking home hardware next summer? Ryan Porth and Robby Stanley debate…

Seth Jones for Calder Trophy
By Ryan Porth

Seth Jones will be the first Predators draft pick to make the opening night roster in his draft year (Scott Hartnell, 2000, being the other one), and the prodigy defenseman has the best chance on the roster to win an individual award.

If Jones has a solid season and averages 20-22 minutes a night, or more, he has a big advantage for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL’s top rookie. Why? He’s already on every voter’s radar. Bovada listed Jones as the Calder favorite at 3/2 odds. Half of ESPN.com’s pundits picked Jones to win the Calder; a handful of NHL.com experts did the same.

Remember when Pekka Rinne had a good rookie season in 2008-09? He deserved to be a Calder finalist, right? Dan Ellis began the season as the Predators’ starter and it took a while for Rinne to hit his stride and take over as The Man in net. In the mean time, Steve Mason had an outstanding first half before backstopping the Blue Jackets to the playoffs. He left his mark on the voter’s minds as the Calder favorite.

Rinne’s stellar stretch from December to mid-March – which was much more consistent than Mason’s second half – wasn’t enough to make him a finalist for the Calder (partially, perhaps due in large part, because that Preds team missed the playoffs).

The point is, Rinne was at a disadvantage to win the Calder. He wasn’t on any sort of national radar and it didn’t help that he didn’t become the team’s starter until midseason. Before playing an NHL regular season game, Jones is on the radar of everyone around the league. Fair or not, that gives him an advantage.

Now, Jones is going to have back up the lofty expectations. If he has more rookie moments than we expect; if he doesn’t look as NHL-ready as thought; if his minutes dip, he won’t win the Calder. More importantly, it would hurt the Predators’ defense corps if Jones doesn’t turn out to be the top-four defenseman, for this season, they were expecting. Another thing to consider: Of the last nine Calder winners, only one was a defenseman.

Personally, though, Jones is my pick to win the Calder. The kid is the real deal. He has drawn rave reviews in training camp and preseason, and his experience of succeeding on the big stage will help him play beyond his years – on most nights – as an NHL rookie.
*****

Shea Weber for Norris Trophy
By Robby Stanley

Shea Weber has the best chance of any Predator to win an individual award for the 2013-14 season. He’s been nominated for the Norris Trophy two separate times, and has earned the respect of top players around the league for his stellar play over the past several seasons.

Weber is arguably the most complete defenseman in the game today with his good skating ability, an exceptional slap shot, an intimidating physical presence, good defensive skills with his stick and his overall hockey IQ.

Simply put, it’s Weber’s time to win the Norris. He’s been close two times and probably should have won in both of the instances where he was nominated. Weber has the ability to approach the 50-point mark offensively, while averaging close to 27 minutes of ice time per night. He plays in all situations.

One of the biggest challenges that Weber faces in terms of winning the Norris is the fact that he plays in Nashville. It may not be right, but the fact is that some defensemen on teams in bigger markets receive more league-wide attention than Weber does.

However, Weber has an advantage in that area this season. The 2014 Olympics will be taking place in February, and Weber will likely be the top defenseman for Team Canada. His performance in the Olympics won’t have any direct result in his Norris chances, but it is going to get his name out there even more than it already is (like Ryan Miller in 2010 when he won the Vezina).

With Team Canada trying to defend their Gold Medal, Weber is going to get a lot of exposure and will be able to display his talent on the world’s stage. That probably shouldn’t matter to Norris Trophy voters in the long run, but the fact is that it will.

Weber will also be thrust back into the Norris conversation this season because the Predators should have a better team than they did last season. Even though it took him a while to get going last season, Weber still finished the season right up near the top of the league from a statistical standpoint as far as defensemen are concerned. If Nashville’s back in the playoff picture, that’s only going to help Weber’s chances to win the Norris.

There is going to be a lot of competition for the Norris Trophy this season. There are all sorts of really good defensemen in both conferences that could make a serious push for the award. However, Weber has as good of a shot as anybody else, and I think this is the year that he’ll break through and win it.

 
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