To make the team, a player must show something beyond the stat sheet. Similar to TSN broadcaster Pierre McGuire's annual “Monsters Team,” the Prime Cuts squad is chalk-full of intangibles such as heart, determination, hockey IQ, two-way play, grit, and clutch scoring ability. Most of the players on this squad are also under appreciated (in both fantasy and real hockey circles). There are obviously some big stars on this team – the usual suspects – but there are also some under-the-radar players who you may not have noticed this season.
The Second Pairing: Keith Ballard and Mark Streit
It is rare that the top defenseman on the NHL's worst club is getting Norris attention, but that is exactly the case with Mark Streit on Long Island. Streit was cast off by Montreal who figured their power play could survive without him (it hasn't), and that they wouldn't miss him (they have). He has brought stability to a very young and volatile defensive group in New York. Streit is a mind-boggling plus-8, on a team that features some impressive golf scores (Brenden Witt with a Tiger Woods-like minus-33, and Radek Martinek at minus-16). Streit is an offensive catalyst as well. If the Islanders make some smart signings, and Rick DiPietro is healthy, look for them to surprise next season. Streit will be the focal point of any Long Island resurgence, and if he keeps playing this well, things are looking up. Streit was on the Prime Cuts roster last year as well. Many predicted that Streit's fantasy value would disappear with his decision to leave Montreal for New York, but his numbers are the same (and in the case of goals even better), and his overall game has developed leaps and bounds. It is tough to give the Norris to a defenseman on such a poor club, but Streit should get a nomination at the very least.
The Phoenix Coyotes already rue the day that they gave up heart-and-soul defenseman Keith Ballard for the extremely disappointing Olli Jokinen. Jokinen has been solid as a Flame, which makes you question the Coyotes coaching staff…. On to Ballard: he is a physical, mobile, aggressive two-way defenseman who has added a lot to an already impressive defensive group in Florida. He leads the Panthers defense in plus/minus with a solid plus-10, and he is third in scoring with 31 points (behind Jay Bouwmeester and Bryan McCabe). Ballard will become even more important to the Panthers if Bouwmeester skips town this summer, like many people are predicting. Ballard brings a bit of a defensive presence on this pairing, allowing Streit to take some risks offensively. Defensemen who can defe