While I admit awards are mostly meaningless popularity contests, sometimes the nominees just don’t make sense. I’m not even going to touch the Hart Trophy since it appears just about all the voters think it’s a scoring title and not an award for total contribution to the team.
But the standards for the Norris Trophy are pretty damn specific, and have a long history for examples. More specifically, all the winners have been highly trustworthy in their own end. Shocking as it may seem, a defensemen should first be excellent in his defensive responsibilities and other aspects of the game should be used only to differentiate. Meaning roughly 80% of the criteria for consideration should be how well they perform in their own zone, (both entering and exiting), their use in penalty killing, in the neutral zone, and how well they contain the puck and opponents at the point when in the offensive zone.
If they aren’t in the top 5% of the NHL in that list they don’t get nominated. Period. That makes the nomination of Erik Karlsson highly curious. I’m hoping it was some sort of joke or that the voters just couldn’t spell the names Girardi or Pietrangelo.
Let’s just compare the three players in key categories:
Alex Peitrangelo, St Louis Blues:
· TOI: 24:43 ATOIG (1st on team), SHTOIG 3:12 (2nd on team), blocked shots 133, offensive zone starts 52.8%
Dan Girardi, New York Rangers:
· TOI: 26:14 ATOIG (1st on team), SHTOIG 3:18 (1st on team), blocked shots 185 offensive zone starts 44.2%
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators:
· TOI: 25:19 ATOIG (1st on team), SHTOIG 0:33 (7th on team), blocked shots 65, offensive zone starts 57.1%
In this comparison to two guys who should have been nominated the only category worth comparing Karlsson to them in is total time on ice. Clearly the coaches in Ottawa don’t trust him defensively. Jared Cowen a rookie played about ten times as much short handed time, even the concussed Marc Staal who didn’t play his first game of the season until the Winter Classic and was edged into an already effective penalty kill played almost twice what Karlsson did shorthanded. Karlsson’s got top shelf speed, are we to believe his 33 seconds of penalty kill time was all he could contribute? Are we to believe that he is both Norris quality and that any more time killing penalties wouldn’t have been a boost to the NHL’s 20th ranked penalty kill?
Girardi and Pietrangelo on the other hand were huge contributors to the fifth and seventh ranked penalty kills in the NHL. Zone starts are an interesting stat, but as put together by BehindTheNet.ca you have to reverse the percentages to see how much the coaches trust each player at neutral ice and in their defensive zone. The combined neutral and defensive zone starts for the three would be: Karlsson 42.9%, Girardi 55.8%, and Pietrangelo 47.2%, now compared to the other two nominees, Chara 51.9%, Weber, 55.4%. Meaning the average ND zone starts for these five would be 50.64%, who stands out in that grouping?
PuckSage is a hockey writer. PuckSage will be writing and tweeting all year round, track him down if you dare in his carefully hidden corner of the internet @PuckSage or other places with a similar name.