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Get Ready for Victor Hedman, the Monster

Hedman is just smart, efficient, and has a sky-high panic threshold. You rarely, if ever see him rattled. And as the final kicks off, he's ready to show that on the biggest stage once again.
Victor Hedman

Let's get one thing out of the way: Cale Makar is a special player. The Colorado Avalanche’s young superstar defenseman has been elevating his game to rarely-if-ever-seen heights, and he’s about to have his first taste of Stanley Cup final hockey. The sport is expecting big things from him on its biggest stage, and he’ll probably deliver.

With that said, um, HELLO EVERYONE, are we forgetting Tampa Bay has Victor Hedman on its roster? We all remember Hedman, don’t we? Tall guy? Swedish fellow? Chap who, at age 31, just posted his best numbers on offense – 20 goals, 65 assists and 85 points in 82 games – and who leads all Bolts skaters averaging 24:30 of ice time per game, while contributing 12 assists and 14 points in 17 playoff games?

Yeah, that guy. Hedman may not have the flash-and-dash Makar has, but he’s not a Norris Trophy winner, and a finalist for this year’s best blueliner honors, by accident or great publicist. Hedman is just smart, efficient, and has a sky-high panic threshold. You rarely, if ever see him rattled. 

He’s got the best goalie in the league behind him, but Hedman makes Andrei Vasilevskiy’s life much easier with his instincts and vision, and savvy positional play.

Maybe Hedman doesn’t capture the minds of some people the way Makar does, and that’s OK. Again, nobody is slighting Makar. He’s going to be a superstar in hockey’s best league for years and years, and he’ll likely help lead the Avs to more championships. All we’re saying here is let’s pay some respect to a veteran difference-maker who still has lots of great hockey left in him.

Sometimes it feels like we take great defensemen for granted. Chris Pronger only won one Norris; Scott Niedermayer only won one Norris; that’s not a comment on either of them as individuals, but rather, an underscoring of how phenomenal Nicklas Lidstrom really was, winning six Norris Trophies in six years.

Being an elite D-man is a highly-competitive field, and you can be elite in any number of ways. For Hedman, it’s his consistency, his calm, and his quiet determination that sets him apart. When the Lightning have trailed in games or series in this (and the two previous) post-seasons, you never see Hedman squeezing his stick too hard or trying to do too much.

Along with Vasilevskiy, Hedman provides Lightning head coach Jon Cooper the mental relief of knowing Tampa Bay’s defense is going to be equal to, if not superior than that of their opponents, far more often than not. And he does it for the relative bargain price of $7.875 million per season, for three more seasons after this one. Makar is already earning more than Hedman (averaging $9 million per year for the next five seasons), but that’s life in the salary-capped NHL: teams now pay up front for phenomenal talents, and the longer you go into your career, the more likely you are to be earning less than the salary leaders.

But you’ll never see Hedman sulking over his pay. He’s a humble guy who loves to win, and he’s accepted less to stay in Tampa and anchor the Lightning's defensive efforts. He’s got two Cup rings to show for it, and when he’s through playing, there is, without question, a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame for him.

Yes, let’s celebrate Makar’s impact on the game and on the position. But we can do so while still acknowledging Hedman is a huge bedrock component of the Lightning dynasty. After more than a decade of NHL experience, he’s still a first-rate opponent-smotherer, and the Avs should expect to have trouble scoring as long as he’s on the ice.

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