A Flyer has won the Vezina, Hart, Selke, Ted Lindsay (called Lester B at the time), Conn Smythe, and Jennings trophies. That means that the only awards not won by Flyers’ players are the Maurice Richard, Norris, and Art Ross. Technically, Eric Lindros tied with Jaromir Jagr in points in the 94-95 season, but the Art Ross was awarded to Jagr since he played less games. That just leaves the Norris and Maurice Richard to be won. On top of that, a Flyer has led the league in goals when Reggie Leach had 61 goals in the 75-76 season. So, technically the Flyers only haven’t had the best defenseman in the league. We’ve had the best goaltender, best scorer, best point scorer, best defensive player, best player in the playoffs, and just best player. We also haven’t had a Lady Byng winner, but we don’t have anyone that looks like a guy that’ll take the least amount of penalties. In this we will look at the past with Flyers’ defensemen and who will probably be the first Flyers defenseman to win the award.
The Flyers have had 11 defensemen receive Norris votes. They are Barry Ashbee, Mark Howe, Brad Marsh, Eric Desjardins, Dan McGillis, Kimmo Timonen, Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Andrej Mezaros, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Ivan Provorov. Some of these were shockers, I mean Andrej Mezaros??? Granted he only got one, but still. The highest any Flyers defenseman has ever gotten was 2nd when Mark Howe was the runner up to Rod Langway in 1982-83. Guys like Eric Desjardins and Chris Pronger both had top 5 finishes when with the Flyers. But, that is the closest. Shayne Gostisbehere looked poised to probably get a Norris after his 65 point season in 2017-18 in only his 3rd season. We all know how that turned out… much to the dismay of this writer
Ivan Provorov is a young defenseman who has seemingly followed the Flyers’ trend of a good year and “bad” year. I put bad in quotations because some of his “bad years” were just him being slightly lower than expected. Ivan Provorov tied for the lead for goals by a defenseman in 17-18, his second season. The offensive ability for him to get noticed is there. He also has a stronger D core with him now, including his presumed D partner Ryan Ellis. Provorov seems to be the best homegrown Flyers defenseman ever. My money would be on Provorov being the first Flyer to have the distinction of being the league’s best defenseman.
If Not Provorov, Then Who?
A guy that I mentioned earlier is a prime candidate to possibly win the Norris. Ryan Ellis has been a very good defenseman throughout his tenure, all with a defensive juggernaut in Nashville, and is probably a good second pick to bring that hardware to Philly for the first time. A couple dark horse candidates could be Rasmus Ristolainen and Travis Sanheim. Honestly, there’s not as strong of a case for them to win the Norris, but they definitely can get some votes, and maybe them playing in a stronger D core will raise both their levels and have a phenomenal season at one point with the Flyers. Another big name that could do it for the Flyers is Cam York. The problem with Cam York is that we don’t know what he is yet. He could become a top defenseman in the league, he could also be a career AHL guy. The argument for whether Cam York is a Norris caliber defenseman should be started in maybe 3 year AT MINIMUM, unless he comes in and lights the league on fire. Outside of the names I have mentioned, there’s no real big name to look at. Maybe Yegor Zamula, but he hasn’t even gotten a full time spot on the Flyers yet. He is only 21, so he has time to break into the league and possibly exceed pretty much everyone’s expectations. If I had to rank who I think would be most likely to win the first Norris, it’d probably be Ivan Provorov, Ryan Ellis, Cam York, Travis Sanheim, Rasmus Ristolainen, Yegor Zamula.
By Noah Caplan (@Phlyers24 and @NoahlyPod)
photo creds: The Athletic, hockeycentral.co.uk