Daily Herald
Keith remains top choice for Norris
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 4/6/2010 10:24 PM | Updated: 4/6/2010 10:25 PM

DALLAS - Maybe I'm a bit of a homer and maybe it's because I get to watch him play every night and appreciate what he does, but my Norris Trophy vote for the NHL's top defenseman this season is remaining with the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith.

While Keith's play dipped slightly before and after the Olympic break, the Norris is an award for the full body of work over an entire season.

And in my opinion Keith has been more of an impact player than Washington's Mike Green, Los Angeles' Drew Doughty and San Jose's Dan Boyle.

Keith was plus-17 with 66 points going into Tuesday's game against the Stars, averaging almost 27 minutes of ice time per night for the NHL's fourth-best defensive team.

Green was plus-35 with 74 points, but 35 of those points came on the power play. And Washington is 17th in the league defensively.

In addition, Keith made the Canadian Olympic team and Green didn't. That was Steve Yzerman's evaluation.

Keith looked to be a lock for the Norris a few months ago, and the exposure he received at the Olympics while winning a gold medal only enhanced his chances.

Keith was worn out after Vancouver but has appeared to catch a second wind here in the last week. Nothing that Keith did during those weeks following the Olympics should prevent him from earning the Norris Trophy he most certainly deserves for his play from October to April.

Still undecided: As for the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP, the choice is between Washington's Alex Ovechkin, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin.

Writers still have a week to make up their minds, but Sedin might be gaining more and more support. He led the NHL in scoring before Tuesday's games with 106 points and is just as important to the Canucks as Ovechkin is to the Caps and Crosby to the Penguins.

It's a career year for Sedin.

"I can't really put my finger on it," he said. "A lot of different things have come together. (Linemate Alex) Burrows is having a career year and Daniel (Sedin) is playing better than ever, too."

Let's see what happens through the weekend.

Toews for Selke: Anyone who doesn't think Hawks center Jonathan Toews is a worthy candidate for the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward isn't watching the games very closely.

Toews was plus-23 before Tuesday on one of the league's best defensive teams, a top faceoff man and, perhaps most important, controls the puck like no one else and wins most of his battles along the wall.

And he has surpassed 20 goals and 60 points.

Toews showed what he is all about at the Olympics when he was named the tournament's most outstanding forward. He has played that way all year for the Hawks.

This one should be a slam-dunk.

The end for Modano?: Hawks fans might have seen the last of Mike Modano on Tuesday.

Modano is hinting he might retire after 21 seasons in the league. If Modano does retire it's only fitting that his last game with Dallas will be in Minnesota on Saturday, where he started his career with the North Stars in 1988.

Many believe Modano and Chris Chelios are the best American-born players ever.

Red Wings watch: A lot of Hawks fans don't want to see Detroit in the first round of the playoffs, but maybe the Red Wings feel the same way.

You can't tell if Detroit wants to have anything to do with the Hawks in Round 1.

"There's no sense worrying about that," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. "It's mixed up at the top (of the Western Conference standings), and it's mixed up at the bottom. How do you know?

Around the rinks: Former Maple Leafs, Devils and Canadiens coach Pat Burns is battling terminal lung cancer.

• Why did the Wild miss the playoffs? A headline in the Pioneer Press in Minnesota pointed to a lack of a big-time scorer.

Wasn't Martin Havlat given 30 million bucks to be that guy?

• According to a report in the Dallas Observer, Brett Hull is trying to put together a group of investors, including Wayne Gretzky, to purchase the Stars from owner Tom Hicks.

• Retiring referees Kerry Fraser and Dan Marouelli will work the final games of their careers Friday.

• Colorado's Peter Mueller has a concussion and will miss the last week of the season. San Jose's Rob Blake hit Mueller from behind Sunday.

Ex-Hawk of the week: The Nashville Predators need only 2 points to reach 100 for the season, something nobody expected before the season. Steve Sullivan, whose career nearly ended because of back problems, is having a strong season for the Predators with 16 goals and 50 points and has appeared in all 80 games so far.

The list: These five players have had most disappointing seasons.

1. Nikolai Khabibulin, Oilers

Limited to 18 games (7-9-2) before season-ending back surgery. Edmonton has three more years of trying to nurse him along.

2. Tim Thomas, Bruins

Last year's Vezina Trophy winner just wasn't able to put it together (16-18-8) and appears to have lost the No. 1 job to Tuukka Rask.

3. Jay Bouwmeester, Flames

He was supposed to give Calgary a big offensive lift on defense, but in his first 79 games had 3 goals and 28 points.

4. Steve Mason, Blue Jackets

The reigning rookie of the year hasn't been the same goalie with a 20-25-8 record and .899 save percentage.

5. Martin Havlat, Wild

Not to keep picking on him, but Minnesota expected more than 18 goals and minus-19 from its prized free agent.

tsassone@dailyherald.com