Avalanche's Cale Makar joins elite company with Conn Smythe win

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Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar capped off a season for the ages, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs after posting eight goals and 29 points in 20 games.

Makar won the Norris Trophy earlier this week and vastly outplayed Tampa Bay Lightning star — and 2020 Conn Smythe winner — Victor Hedman during the Final. In doing so, Makar became just the third defenseman to win the Norris and the Conn Smythe in the same season, joining Bobby Orr (1970, 1972) and Nicklas Lidstrom (2002).

Cale Makar #8 of the Colorado Avalanche accepts the Conn Smythe trophy for Stanley Cup playoff MVP. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)
Cale Makar #8 of the Colorado Avalanche accepts the Conn Smythe trophy for Stanley Cup playoff MVP. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)
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It was a dominant Final from Makar, who excelled in all situations, posting three goals and four assists. He exited his own zone with remarkable patience and fluency, engineered a lethal power play, and though his credentials as the league’s best offensive defenseman are unquestioned, he may be the best defender in his own zone, too.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that Makar is just 23 years old, but he already has a decorated resume befitting a veteran 10 years his senior. Makar has now won the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, a Norris, along with a gold medal at the 2018 World Juniors, the Hobey Baker Award in 2019 (awarded to the NCAA’s best men’s player), the Calder Trophy in 2020, to go along with two NHL All-Star first team nods.

Selected fourth overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, Makar helps anchor an Avalanche core that is now poised to dominate the league for years to come. The team is replete with stars who are either in their prime (Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen, Devon Toews) along with a number of ascending talents who stand to improve for the next few years (Bowen Byram, Alex Newhook, the injured Samuel Girard).

Makar was the quarterback of an Avalanche power play that scorched opponents at a 33.3 percent clip prior to Game 6. His improvisational ability at the offensive blue line is second to none, he can shoot through traffic, and he can enter the zone at a gear that is perhaps only matched by MacKinnon and Connor McDavid. Makar’s partnership with Toews is the league’s best defense pair by a wide margin and only figures to improve over the next few seasons.

This is a fitting way to cap off one of the best individual seasons we’ve seen from a defenseman during the modern era. Makar is the best player on an Avalanche team full of stars who can fight him for this superlative on any given day, but he’s more than earned that distinction for now.

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