Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 12/16/11
Awards are won over the length of a season -- not in a single night -- but nonetheless it's possible that Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber might have had a watershed moment on Thursday. With his team trailing by a goal with less than five minutes remaining in regulation against perennial power Detroit, Weber scored twice to deliver Nashville to a 4-3 victory, the team's fourth straight. If Nashville, which plays in a smaller, nontraditional market, were playing another team similar to itself -- Phoenix, for example -- the moment might have gone unnoticed. But Weber's big moment came against one of the marquee teams in the NHL, a team that gets plenty of national media coverage. It's the kind of moment that could stick in the collective memory of Professional Hockey Writers Association voters when they go to check their ballots in the spring when they pick the league's top defenseman. Weber was a finalist for the Norris Trophy last season for the first time. The other two candidates were each past winners of the award, Boston's Zdeno Chara and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, a six-time winner. "I'm a big believer, it's not just about one game, it's about what game it is," said NHL analyst Craig Button, former general manager of the Calgary Flames. "You're at home down 3-1 in the game. You make it 3-2. You're in the last five minutes and you score two goals against one of the best hockey teams in the league." Button said he was at the game when the University of Michigan's Charles Woodson virtually won himself the Heisman Trophy in 1997 against Ohio State. Woodson had an interception, returned a kick for a touchdown and played on offense. "Does it come down to one game? No, but is there a moment in time or call it a seminal moment that says, 'Wow, this guy now has now gone to another level,'" Button said. Thursday represented such a game for Weber. While both Chara and Lidstrom again are having strong seasons, Weber might be turning the corner this season as the favorite as season nears the halfway point. In points, Weber currently ranks third with 23 behind Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, who has 26, and Florida's Brian Campbell, who has 24. In plusminus, Weber is tied for third at plus-14. Chara is tied for the league-lead with Detroit's Ian White at plus-18. However, the Bruins' goal differential is plus-41 and the Red Wings' is plus-29 while the Predators' is even. That is a dramatic difference. Weber also ranks eighth in time-on-ice-per-game at 26:09 and the goals he scored on Thursday were his seventh and eighth of the season, moving him into sole possession of second place and putting him on pace for 21 on the season. As definitive as those statistics would seem to be, they still do not quantify what a 6-foot-4, 232-pound defenseman does physically. If Weber keeps up such a pace and -- not insignificantly -- the Predators again make the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons and show themselves to be a credible entrant, then Weber could bring the hardware home from Las Vegas in June when the NHL has its annual awards banquet. When Weber was awarded a one-year contract worth 7.5 million by an arbitrator in August, Predators general manager David Poile made the statement that as long as Weber is on the Nashville's team, he thinks the Preds will have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. For a team that has advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs once in its history, that statement might have seemed a little far-fetched. But a performance like Thursday's illustrated that maybe Poile is not so far off base. Competing for a Stanley Cup is a team venture. Winning a trophy is an individual honor, albeit one abetted by team success. Weber knows this. "Obviously," he said of potentially landing the Norris, "team success will help any personal success on this team." While Thursday marked a positive for Weber, the day also proved a negative for another one of the league's top defensemen. Philadelphia announced that Chris Pronger, a former Norris and Hart Trophy winner as MVP in 2000, would miss the remainder of the season with concussion-related symptoms. Pronger was a teammate of Weber's on Canada's gold-medal-winning Olympic team. He is 37. Lidstrom is 41. Chara is 34. Perhaps Thursday also served as a symbolic changing of the guard. "Shea Weber is -- you make whatever argument you want," Button said. "I'm a huge Nick Lidstrom fan, but right now the mantle might be, the torch might be getting ready to be passed."
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