In seven seasons with the Nashville Predators the prevailing opinion of Ryan Suter was that he was no more than the second-best defenseman on his team.
In one lockout-shortened season with the Minnesota Wild he might have established himself as the NHL’s best.
Suter was named one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy on Tuesday. The others were P.K. Subban of Montreal and Kris Letang of Pittsburgh. All are first-time finalists.
The award is presented annually in recognition of the NHL’s best all-around defenseman.
Suter played all 48 games for Minnesota and led the NHL with an average of 27:16 of ice time per contest. He finished second among all defensemen with 28 assists and third with 32 points. Seventeen of his points came at even strength and 15 on the power play.
During a 22-game stretch from early February to late March he had three goals, 20 assists and a plus-9 rating as Minnesota went 16-5-1. Suter had a seven-game point streak during that stretch.
He signed with Minnesota as a free agent last offseason and broke up what had been the best defense pair in Predators history.
He and Shea Weber built a reputation as one of the league’s best blue line tandems. When it came to individual recognition, though, Weber overshadowed Suter.
Nashville’s captain was a Norris Trophy finalist each of the last two years (he finished runner-up both times) and a three-time participant in the NHL All-Star Game. Suter, the sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft, made one All-Star Game appearance and was not a Norris finalist — until now.
Letang and Subban each had 38 points, tied for the most by a defenseman despite the fact that each missed time due to injury. Letang played in 35 games. Subban played in 42.
They also had the top two plus-minus ratings among the league’s 10 highest-scoring defensemen. Letang’s was plus-16 and Subban’s was plus-12. Suter’s was plus-2.
Letang led all defensemen with 33 assists. Only 11 forwards had more. Subban’s 38 points tied a career-high and his 11 goals were second among all blue liners.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association voted for the award.