April 25, 2011
The Norris Trophy means different things to different people. For some, offensive achievement by a defenseman is essential; others discount it. For some, a gaudy plus/minus is an indication of effectiveness; others don't consider the stat to be a sign of anything but right place, right time.
If you were looking for a trend in the 2010-11 Norris Trophy nominees, consider this: Many of the defensemen (Lubomir Visnovsky(notes), Keith Yandle(notes), Dustin Byfuglien(notes)) who had the offensive numbers but didn't make the cut are also defensemen who don't play on the penalty kill. This probably is not a coincidence.
Who was nominated: Zdeno Chara(notes) of the Boston Bruins, Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) of the Detroit Red Wings and Shea Weber(notes) of the Nashville Predators are the three finalists for the 2010-11 James Norris Memorial Trophy, which is awarded "to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position," the National Hockey League announced today. The Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted five-player ballots for the Norris Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season.
So who takes the Norris this season?
Why Zdeno Chara deserves the Norris Trophy
From the NHL:
Chara is a Norris Trophy finalist for the third time in the past four seasons and for the fourth time overall; he finished second in 2004, third in 2008 and captured the award in 2009. The Bruins captain led the NHL in plus-minus in 2010-11 with a +33 rating, matching his career high set in 2003-04. He recorded 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists), marking the seventh consecutive season he has surpassed the 40-point plateau. Chara also ranked second among NHL defensemen in shots (264), tied for third in power-play goals (eight) and was sixth in average ice time per game (25:26).
Chara had essentially the same season stats-wise as he had in 2009-10, with an improved plus/minus rating. His ice time was up slightly from last season. As the next nominee nears the end of his run, one gets the feeling that Chara is going to be an automatic in this category; he didn't make the cut last season because the opinion was that the Bruins and Chara took a step back from their stellar defensive season one year earlier.
Not sure how much support Chara received from the Montreal voting block, but he's a finalist.
Why Nicklas Lidstrom deserves the Norris Trophy
From the NHL:
Lidstrom is a Norris Trophy finalist for the 11th time in the past 13 seasons. He has captured the award six times, placed second three times and third once. Lidstrom enjoyed one of his most productive seasons, ranking second among NHL defensemen in scoring with 62 points (16 goals, 46 assists) in 82 games, highlighted by a career-best 11-game point streak. He tied for fourth place among League defensemen in goals, was third in assists and tied for sixth in power-play goals (six). The Red Wings captain, who turns 41 on Thursday, led the Central Division champions in ice time, averaging 23:28 per contest.
Because he's Nick Lidstrom. Next.
OK, if you want justification, how about this: Quality of competition. Behind The Net's stats on how tough the talent is on the other side of the ice reveals that Lidstrom (at 0.128) faced better competition this season than any other defenseman in the League with at least 50 games played. It's not even close: Brent Seabrook(notes) was second at a 0.117 rating; Weber and Chara don't rank in the top 15.
Why Shea Weber deserves the Norris Trophy
From the NHL:
Weber, drafted by Nashville in second round of the 2003 Entry Draft, is a Norris Trophy finalist for the first time. Only two NHL skaters saw more ice time in 2010-11 than Weber, who appeared in all 82 games and averaged 25:19 per contest. The Predators captain set single-season career highs in several categories, including games, average ice time, assists (32) and shots (254). Topping all Nashville defensemen in scoring with 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists), his offensive contribution proved crucial to Nashville in securing a sixth playoff berth in seven seasons; the Predators posted a 13-2-1 record when he scored a goal.
Weber became a bit of a rock star pick as the voting was underway. He had better offensive numbers than Chara and is fresh blood for the award, which no doubt appeals to some voters. Plays in every situation. Watch any Predators game, and you're going to notice him; and not just because he can shoot the puck through the netting.
On the downside, he started growing his playoff beard somewhere around late February, which is a total cheat.
Weber wins his first Norris. Can't see Chara getting the support he did two years ago with the optics being that Tim Thomas(notes) was the backbone of that defense in 2010-11. Can't see Lidstrom winning the award at a minus-2, because as asinine as that measure is for a D-man's effectiveness, the voters are going to recoil from it. Via Matt Kozlowski: "Only 2 "minus players" have ever won the Norris Trophy: Rob Blake(notes) in 1998, -3 & Randy Carlyle in 1981, -15."
We can see Weber winning, for his ice time, his impact and being a primary reason the Predators qualified for the postseason. It's his turn.
How We Voted
Yep, Chara out of the Top 3. Didn't feel he had the impact that Visnovsky did, as 68 points and 116 blocked-shots are a compelling combination. Plus only 24 PIMs, which meant he wasn't a liability.
The lack of shorthanded ice time for Visnovsky makes this a harder argument to make, but he was still a well-rounded leading scorer among defensemen, which was good enough for us.
As for Lidstrom winning, it's a combination of plus/minus being a garbage glamour stat, quality of competition and his numbers again simply being outstanding. Weber can wait; it should still be Lids' award.