The Norris Trophy Is Now A Sham

Karlsson

Nice shirt Karlsson, you fruit. 

The NHL “awarded” Erik Karlsson with the Norris Trophy last night and proved to the world that the trophy, much like the people who vote on said trophy, is nothing more than a joke. Now, I know I’m probably going to get a lot of hate for that statement, but I completely stand by it. Erik Karlsson is not a Norris Trophy worthy candidate. For those who aren’t aware the James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s top “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position”.

Let’s repeat that shall we:

Top defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.  

Get ready for a ton of stats all up in your face...

So lets look at the three finalists:

Games Played Goals Assists Points Plus/Minus
Erik Karlsson 81 19 59 78 +16
Zdeno Chara 79 12 40 52 +33
Shea Weber 78 19 30 49 +22

On the surface, these guys look pretty even. The biggest eye catcher is going to be Karlsson’s 78 points or Chara’s +33. Both are pretty impressive numbers, but let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s look at Time On Ice, since TOI usually indicates how valuable a player is to their team.

ES TOI/G PP TOI/G SH TOI/G
Erik Karlsson 20:51 (1st on OTT) 3:53 (1st on OTT) 0:33 (17th on OTT)
Zdeno Chara 19:37 (1st on BOS) 2:36 (2nd on BOS) 2:43 (1st on BOS)
Shea Weber 20:22 (2nd on NSH) 3:31 (2nd on NSH) 2:16 (5th on NSH)

There’s really only one thing that stands out here in a bad way and that’s Karlsson playing 33 seconds of short handed hockey per game. 33 seconds! How does playing 33 seconds of short handed hockey demonstrate the greatest all-around ability as a defenseman? 

In short, it doesn’t.

But maybe TOI isn’t the only factor, lets look at the goals scored by the nominees: 

ES Goals PP Goals SH Goals GWG Goals
Erik Karlsson 16 3 0 5
Zdeno Chara 4 8 0 0
Shea Weber 7 10 2 1

So if we’re looking at points as a benchmark for this award, shouldn’t when the goals scored matter as well? Karlsson is the lowest on this list in terms of PP goals scored, but highest on GWG goals scored. So which one outweighs the other? Is it more important to score a goal early in the first period of an eventual 1-0 game? It’s all subjective. 

Maybe I (and the NHL writers) need to stop looking at points. Maybe they need to start using the real-time stats feature on NHL.com’s stat page. Let’s look at some important defensive categories: Hits, Blocked Shots, Takeaways and Giveaways. We should all agree that these stats would determine how well someone is on the defensive end of the ice, no? 

Hits Blocked Shots Takeaways Giveaways
Erik Karlsson 60 65 67 84
Zdeno Chara 166 87 28 68
Shea Weber 177 140 51 46

 
Well Karlsson isn’t a burly defenseman like the other two guys are, so we can dismiss hits right away. Clearly Karlsson is what you would label an “offensive defenseman” so he may not be willing to sacrifice the body on his own end, which is evident in the blocked shots department. When I look at these real time stats, to me Weber is clearly the best among the group. He sacrifices the body more than the other two, doubled the amount of blocked shots than the winner did and his Takeaway/Giveaway ratio is the only one that’s actually positive. 

I guess my issue is I don’t see anything that jumps out at me and screams that Karlsson is the best defenseman in the NHL, which is essentially what this award is. Even with the 78 points and 59 assists (23 of which coming as the “second assist” which I believe shouldn’t even be considered a point). 

If the NHL was smart, they would break up the Norris Trophy into two separate awards going forward to evolve with the evolving defensive position. Keep the Norris Trophy for the best defensive defenseman. With multiple forward trophies, I think it’s fair that one position should get two awards. Make the second award geared towards offensive defensemen, since it seems that writers have raging Alfredssons for them. Nake it the Nicklas Lidstrom Award or something to that effect.  Or the Robert Orr award. Work with me here people. 

Either way the NHL and its writers proved, to me, that they care more about flash than they do about substance because looks at everything I broke down, Karlsson shouldn’t have walked away with that award.  

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