Edmonton Oilers can benefit from Evan Bouchard Norris Trophy snub

While there is a justified debate on whether Evan Bouchard should have been a Norris Trophy finalist, the Oilers can use his omission to their advantage.
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers - Game Two
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers - Game Two / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

As last season progressed, the Edmonton Oilers had significant concerns about Evan Bouchard. He was failing to living up to his status as a 10th overall draft pick and projection as a top-pairing offensive blue-liner.

However, everything changed after Mattias Ekholm arrived in a trade from Nashville. Ekholm helped his young teammate develop both in confidence and production, as the two combined to become the Oilers' top pairing.

This campaign saw Bouchard similarly struggle to begin with. In fairness however, the Oilers struggled defensively overall as a team, as they endured one of the poorest starts to a season in franchise history.

However, as with last season, Bouchard turned his form around, thanks in part to Kris Knoblauch taking over from Jay Woodcroft as Oilers head coach. Knoblauch applied a renewed focus on defence, including altering the game plan, and the results were evident for all to see.

A career year for Bouchard

By the end of the regular season, Bouchard had set a whole host of career offensive bests, including goals, assists, overall points and +/- rating. His defensive game also continued to improve alongside Ekholm, as he also averaged a career high of 23:00 ice time per game on the top pairing.

Given Bouchard's overall production and outstanding form, there was genuine reason to believe he would be among the Norris Trophy finalists. However, when the NHL announced the three nominees, he wasn't listed.

Instead, the Vancouver Canucks' Quinn Hughes, Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators and Cale Maker of the Colorado Avalanche made the cut. This understandably led to the question of if it was a mistake not to include Bouchard among the finalists?

As you'd expect, there are arguments both for and against Bouchard's inclusion as a nominee for the NHL's top defenceman, which included The Oil Rig's Gregory Babinski making the case on both sides for him being a finalist. No matter how much analytical data is available, it's all about perception being reality.

On a very basic level, Bouchard finished with fewer points than each of Hughes, Rosi and Maker, while also having less of a reputation at the defensive end of the ice (at least up to this point of his career.) On the flip side, @TeacherofPuck took to social media, to provide some compelling reasons why the Oilers' blue-liner was worthy of being a Norris Trophy finalist:

Oilers stand to benefit from Norris Trophy snub

As much as the Oilers and their fans would have clearly liked to see Bouchard named as a nominee, it could actually prove to be to the organisation's benefit, both in the immediate and near future. We're talking playoffs and his contract respectively.

Beginning with the playoffs, this is arguably the best roster the Oilers have put together during the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl era. There is also a real sense of urgency, given the financial issues facing the team with next season's salary cap.

The strongest roster in recent memory includes the best version yet of Bouchard, with him continuing to prove his worth by ranking tied-third for most playoff points among all players entering Saturday's action. Now consider him also being a pissed off version, fuelled on by the 'injustice' of not being a Norris Trophy finalist; if he becomes even more motivated by the need to prove people wrong, it can only help the Oilers.

As for the 24-year-old's contract situation, he is set to become a restricted free agent after next season with arbitration rights and is due to receive a strong pay increase. Giving credit where it's due, Jim Parsons of The Hockey Writers suggests that Bouchard's absence from this season's Norris Trophy ballot at least gives his agent one less positive to use as leverage in negotiating his next contract.

Next. Why Kris Knoblauch should be a Jack Adams finalist. Why Kris Knoblauch should be Jack Adams finalist. dark

Overall, regardless of Bouchard being named a Norris Trophy finalist or not, it's clear the Oilers have one of the most promising young defencemen in the NHL, capable of being a top pairing blue liner for a long time to come. If everything goes to plan in Edmonton, he will be sticking around and helping the team contend for the Stanley Cup for many years to come.

Recent Posts