Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar wins Conn Smythe Trophy
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar became the 12th defenseman in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded annually to his team’s most valuable playoff player.
Makar blew the gates in the 2021-22 playoffs, scoring eight goals and 29 points, rising to even greater fame thanks to his ability to produce on both sides of the ice.
Offensively, Makar’s point total was fourth in NHL playoff history for a defenseman, behind Al MacInnis (31 points, 1988-89), Brian Leetch (34 points, 1993-94) and Paul Coffey (37 points, 1984-85). ).
It was, from start to finish, an all-time great season for the 23-year-old. Makar has now become the third player in NHL history to win not only the Conn Smythe Trophy but also the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in the same season. Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr was the first to do so and is the only player to win both trophies at least twice in his career. The first came in 1970 and the second two years later in 1972. The second and most recent forward Makar to achieve the feat was Nicklas Lidstrom who, in 2002, won both with the Detroit Red Wings.
Makar narrowly edged Roman Josi for the Norris this year with 1,631 points to the latter’s 1,606, while Victor Hedman came third.
Makar took an unusual route to NHL dominance. After growing up playing minor hockey in Calgary, Makar played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, helping the Brooks Bandits win two championships before taking his game to the collegiate ranks where he started for the University. from Massachusetts. He helped the Minutemen win a Hockey East title in 2018-19 – a year that also saw him win the Hobey Baker award as the NCAA’s most valuable player. With his win over Conn Smythe on Sunday night, he became the second player to win the award as well as the Hobey Baker, joining fellow UMass alum Jonathan Quick.
Makar’s rise to NHL dominance was swift. His first NHL action came in the 2018-19 playoffs where he burst onto the scene scoring one goal and six points in 10 games. In the 178 regular season games he has played in the past three years, Makar has 48 goals and 180 points, the fourth most among NHL defensemen. Only Victor Hedman (185 points), John Carlson (190) and Roman Josi (194) have scored more.
This season, however, is where Makar’s game has taken to another level. In 77 games, he scored 28 goals and 86 points. His goals were the most by a defender since Brent Burns scored 29 in 2016-17.
But it’s not just his attacking play that has flourished. Makar’s play in his defensive zone has also reached another level. His elite speed and cutting edge work allows him to make quick jumps on the pucks, and it was shown in those playoffs against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
With McDavid still scoring four goals and seven points, Makar broke several zone entries where the former burst into the zone with his elite speed. Well, Makar was there to match him.
It’s things like this that have made Makar a dominant player at every level he’s played since his time in the Alberta Junior Hockey League where he played with the Brooks Bandits. From the start, it looks the same: elite speed, elite skills, elite thinking.
And these are the skills that will keep his name in the NHL spotlight for years to come.
Zach Laing is the News Director and Senior Columnist for the Nation Network. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaingor attached by email to [email protected]