Perhaps this the downside of playing in a small media market like Tampa Bay.
After all, a scrum at Amalie Arena is a mild, easily navigable thing, nothing like what happens in Toronto, or Montreal, or New York. So maybe it's understandable that folks are just now noticing how good Victor Hedman is.
The truth is, he's been elite for two years.
Stuff like this is especially head-scratching:
Hedman, who stands 6-foot-6, 229 pounds, picked up just five points through 12 October games [in 2013-14]. One can only wonder what his totals would have looked like had he clicked at the rate that saw him produce 50 points over his next 63 games.
It indicates a basic misunderstanding of Hedman's play last year. Sure, he picked up only 5 points in 12 games to start the season. But he didn't ingest some magic Swedish meatballs that turned him into an offensive juggernaut overnight. The secret formula?
Power play time.
During the first 17 games of the 2013-14 season, Victor Hedman logged more than 30 seconds of power play time just four times (0:33, 0:34, 0:36, and 0:37). With Jon Cooper often opting for 1 blueliner and four forwards in his power play alignments, Hedman sat on the bench, as Sami Salo and Matt Carle were used as the primary triggermen at the top of the umbrella.
Then November 11th happened, and everything changed for the Lightning.
In the first game following Steven Stamkos breaking his leg, Hedman logged 5:06 on the power play, as the unit had to shift away from setting up faceoff circle one-timers and towards more backdoor/slot plays and point shots. Hedman took his new role and never gave it back, even after Stamkos returned from injury, and he's manning that top spot on Tampa Bay's power play this year, too. He logged over 4 minutes of power play time 13 times following the Stamkos injury (full game-by-game PP TOI available here) as he became a fixture on the blue line for Tampa Bay's top man advantage unit.
The extra role is the real reason for his "emergence". Hedman had already been one of the game's elite 5v5 scorers from the back-end for some time now. Take a look where he ranked among blueliners in 5v5 scoring during the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season:
He was third among all players at his position in 5v5 scoring -- but he managed just 20 total points in 44 games, mostly because he saw only 1:44/game on the man advantage (294th in the NHL among qualified skaters). Last season, he upped that rate to 1.55 5v5 points/60 to lead the entire NHL -- ahead of Norris Trophy winners and well-known offensive rearguards like Erik Karlsson, Duncan Keith, and P.K. Subban. His power play time eked upwards, too, to 2:29/game for the season (164th in the NHL, and still about half the PP time per game guys like Subban and Karlsson were getting).
This isn't Victor Hedman's coming out party because if you've been paying attention he's been "out" for a while now. He's always been a very skilled puckhandler with great vision and distribution ability. He's also capable of leading, joining, or finishing a rush, with mobility and vision being the parts of his game he's focused on instead of physicality or toughness.
Every facet of his game is honed, and, in fact, it was his well-roundedness that reportedly kept him off the Swedish Olympic team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Put plainly, Victor Hedman was too good at everything, which somehow turned off the Tre Konor to bringing arguably their best player to compete for gold.
In addition to stellar 5v5 play (and a growing power play role) he's a stalwart on the penalty kill, where his scoring touch doesn't go away completely -- he led the NHL in shorthanded scoring last year with 6 points (tied with Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils and teammate Tyler Johnson) mostly due to his uncanny ability to send forwards off on breakaways, sometimes even from behind his own goal line.
None of this even touches on his two-way play, which has been outstanding for three straight years. From Travis Yost at TSN:
Keep an eye on Victor Hedman as a real Norris Trophy contender this year. Hedman is one of only seven league defenders who has seen his RelativeCorsi% improve three years straight, and there's going to be ample opportunity to score points in big minutes with talent like Steven Stamkos, et al. More on-ice shooting opportunities likely means more points -- more capable shooting teammates doubles the possibility.
The formula is simple: Victor Hedman + more (power play) time on ice = points. So when people say things like this:
DeBoer on Hedman: "He's turned himself into an elite defenseman." #TBLightning— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) October 14, 2014
You can kindly remind them that he's been elite for a while. It's just taken a few years for everyone to catch on.