Gilles Marotte Trophy: Derek Morris the front-runner, Erik Johnson closing in

The last time we checked in on the Gilles Marotte trophy race -- awarded, we remind you, to the player who registers the most shots on goal in a single season without scoring, Ryane Clowe was the category leader. In fact, he's been out in front almost all year, and for all we know, if he'd finished the year in San Jose, he may have stayed there.

But Clowe saw an immediate impact upon being traded to the New York Rangers, scoring twice in his debut. He added another Friday night. Maybe that sad kid was onto something.

Most of the players whose goallessness was seen as a legitimate issue at some point this season have managed to get off the schneid. Drew Doughty's drought seems like a thing of the ancient past. He has six goals now.

Ryan Suter's early struggles are long since past. He's got 4 goals now to go along with his 28 assists. He's also a front-runner to win the Norris trophy. He's doing all right, I'd say.

These days, the high-volume shooters that remain no-volume scorers are primarily defensive defencemen. Sure enough, everyone within striking distance of this award is a blueliner. Here are your top five candidates ...

5. (tie) Erik Gudbranson and Mike Kostka, 49 shots

4. Ben Lovejoy, 53 shots

3. Matt Hunwick, 54 shots

2. Erik Johnson, 62 shots

1. Derek Morris, 66 shots

You've got to feel for Colorado Avalanche fans. When the Erik Johnson trade was made, he had the look of a big-time two-way defenceman. He sophomore year in St. Louis, he scored 10 goals and 39 points. He showed a lot of offensive promise.

Now he's in the running for this stupid, made-up award.

Morris is in the driver's seat here, however, with a four-shot lead and only four games left to play. But he could still be caught and, obviously, he could still score. After all, he averages well over a shot per game. The guys that do that tend to get one every now and then.

If he does, then a trade that already looks pretty bad is going to look even worse for Greg Sherman, especially in light of one very specific area of weakness in Colorado this season.

Johnson's struggles to score this season have punctuated a serious dearth of offence from the Colorado back end. You'll note Matt Hunwick sitting in the second runner-up spot. That's not surprising at all. In total, the Avalanche defence has combined for just three goals this season: 2 from Tyson Barrie and 1 from Jan Hejda. That's it.

To put that into perspective in this lockout-shortened season, the Montreal Canadiens lead the league in goals by defencemen with 27 (11 by P.K. Subban), the mean in the category is 18, and the NHL's second-worst team in defensive goal-scoring is the Calgary Flames, with 11. If you're looking for a place Colorado needs to improve, I'd say this is probably it.

It's worth noting that the Coyotes' second-to-last game is versus the Colorado Avalanche, so bite your tongue if you've been looking at that game and saying neither team will have anything to play for. The Gilles Marotte trophy could be on the line, and really, this is one accolade the Avalanche deserve to win.