The St. Louis Blues don’t need one of their best, young defenders to ever win an award for validation. However, a claim that it will never happen shows what’s wrong with the award.
The St. Louis Blues, without having ever played a game from March through July of 2020, have stayed in the conversation for one reason. That reason is the discussion over whether the team should/can keep Alex Pietrangelo on the roster.
There is little doubt that if he wants the most money, he is gone. However, if he can put dollar signs to the side a little, the Blues could still give him a big deal if they managed to make several moves.
That brings up the discussion over whether Pietrangelo is replaceable. On one hand, Parayko is ready and has the talent to play on the top duo. On the other hand, Pietrangelo does provide some intangibles that we do not yet know if Parayko has.
This is not just an idea being bantered by fans. On the BK and Rivers show on 101 ESPN, the show discussed this very topic with former NHL general manager and TSN analyst, Craig Button.
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I could write an entire article on Button’s assessment of Pietrangelo and perhaps I will. However, my bigger takeaway, was a line that might have been an afterthought to him.
While making a case for Pietrangelo, Button said he could be in the conversation for the Norris Trophy for many more years to come. He claimed Parayko would never be in the conversation.
As a Blues fan, that is hard to hear. We know how good Parayko is and you have to wonder if his quiet personality make him less noticeable for national pundits.
Of course, as Blues fans, we are prone to overvaluing our own players. It did make some sense when the guys on the show and Button all agreed that Parayko can be a top-pairing defender, but is not top defender in terms of the league.
However, my issue with the statement that he’ll never be in the running for a Norris Trophy shows what is wrong with the award now. The award was technically made for guys like Parayko, who do it all well, but it has transitioned to be another offensive award.
Parayko does not put up the type of offensive numbers as Pietrangelo or the league leaders in defensive scoring. He has enough skill that he could put up better numbers there, but it is likely he would never be in that upper echelon.
If that is the main detraction for him, however, then that shows the Norris Trophy is just another Hart Trophy. The Hart Trophy is supposed to go to the league’s MVP – some years it actually does – but it has become a higher profile Art Ross Trophy, which is given to the league’s leading scorer.
Basically, if you put up the most points in the league, you’ll be a finalist for the Hart. Taylor Hall won in 2018 and Hall is a fantastic offensive player. I would not consider him the best overall player in the NHL that year, but he won because he had the most points.
Similarly, the Norris Trophy has gone that route. Erik Karlsson is a good player, one who would be a top-pairing defenseman on many teams.
He is not what I would consider the best defenseman in the league. In fact, I think his defense is pretty bad at times. He has won the award twice.
Most fans don’t consider P.K. Subban too interested in playing defense with much consistency. He has won the award.
Brent Burns is decent defensively, but not world beating. He won the award and then proceeded to be a minus-16 for the regular season following his win.
The reality is that Parayko likely never will win the Norris. While there is little doubt the talent of the winners, there is a certain popularity contest to it as well.
Parayko just is not that well known at this point in his career. Additionally, Parayko is too interested in actually doing what his position should – defending.
Too many of the recent winners were offensive defendsemen. Some barely play defense and others are decent/good defenders. All score a lot.
Parayko is the complete opposite. The guy can skate like he’s a forward and has fantastic hands and a reach that would keep the puck away from anyone. Combine that with a blistering shot the likes of which Blues fans have not seen since Al MacInnis and it’s a recipe for offense.
However, unlike Button’s claim that Pietrangelo usually plays against the other team’s best offensive players, it is Parayko in that spot more often that not. Perhaps Petro sees the top offensive guys during the regular season, but when Craig Berube could force it, he was using Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester against all the top talent during the 2019 playoffs.
That’s because he could count on them to shut down the opponent.
Perhaps being too much of a team player and part of a duo is part of Parayko’s problem as far as personal accolades. He paired so well with Bouwmeester and now Marco Scandella that we wonder if Parayko is a pure defender by himself.
Maybe he needs that other guy to help him. Parayko is not Scott Stevens, but he’s still a defense first guy.
That is more what will hold him back than a true lack of talent. Button and Jamie Rivers and the other guys on the radio show are right that Parayko will probably never even get consideration.
That says more about what the award has become rather than what kind of player Parayko is. The definition of the award says it is given to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability. Parayko is as good a defender as anyone, but we see the award as an offensive showcase, just like everything these days.