Does Erik Karlsson deserve to win the Norris Trophy?
Erik Karlsson is second in even-strength points behind Connor McDavid but playing on a bad San Jose Sharks team, the 32-year-old has a negative plus/minus. Are Adam Fox, Josh Morrissey or Rasmus Dahlin more deserving of the Norris Trophy award, given to the defenceman who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position throughout the season.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: There's a discussion I would like to have with you guys about the Norris Trophy. Because Erik Karlsson is killing it this year-- 90 points, 10 away from 100. Only one player, as of this recording, has more points at even strength than Erik Karlsson-- Connor McDavid, by one point.
He's doing amazingly well from an offensive standpoint. But for people who care about plus-minus, I get it. It's not looking too good. He's on a San Jose team that is not going to make the playoffs. He's not really good in his own end. That's followed him for the bulk of his career.
So there's a lot of questions about whether or not Erik Karlsson should be the clear front runner for a Norris Trophy. Or maybe he really should just be the front runner. Avry, I'll start with you. With Erik Karlsson, is he the guy for the Norris Trophy? Should it be somebody else?
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: I just don't see how you don't do it to Erik Karlsson. He's on points-- he's on point for the most points of a d-man in over 20 years. The plus-minus thing, it's an irrelevant stat. I don't see why it still has any credence. There's so many great players, past and present, who have a mark of a minus 10, 15, and they're still one of the best players in the league.
It's an irrelevant stat. He generates some, like, offense in the back end. Great passer. Like, I think Erik Karlsson [INAUDIBLE] also too. Like, it's the year-- a bounce-back year for him. Like, what he's done, I would say, back in San Jose this year, like, I don't know how you don't give it to anybody else not named Erik Karlsson.
I think he's the runaway Norris Trophy winner in my mind.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Like, it's just-- it's just 'cause I've seen other guy-- like, Roman Josi had a 96-point season last year, and that was not enough to win the Norris Trophy. John Carlson, I forget how many points he had a couple of years earlier, but he was leading all defensemen in scoring, and Roman Josi ended up winning it anyway.
And, like, the honor of the Norris Trophy, it's for all-around abilities on defense. And if you're doing really good on the offensive part, that's a huge reason to put you as a finalist. But we've seen voters in the past say, like, hey, man, like, if you're not great all around, you are going to end up, like, you know, just second place in this.
But also, Erik Karlsson is having himself an amazing season. Like, I don't know how you ignore that. But also, like, another fair point to make, who behind him is, like, really, like, a clear-cut number two or a clear-cut guy who should get it? Like, has Adam Fox been good enough, so much better than Erik Karlsson to get it?
Has it been Josh Morrissey, who people are calling him Josh "Norrissey?" Has Rasmus Dahlin in Buffalo done enough to get it? People have thrown out names like Hampus Lindholm, Brent Burns, as well. Like--
OMAR: I think you gotta look at Quinn Hughes, too, to be honest.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Quinn Hughes, absolutely, is a guy who has to be considered for all of this. Omar, what do you think about it?
OMAR: Yeah. I mean, like, I understand, like, Karlsson isn't, like, a full-on shut-down defenseman. He's never been that way either. And I think when it comes to his play-- so I was looking up numbers before we started recording. So Erik Karlsson leads all defensemen at five-on-five in total time on ice by, like, 80 minutes.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Geez.
OMAR: Like, so it's him at 1,498. And then the next is Adam Larsson at 1,419. Now, looking into the fantasy stats of it all, so Corsi against per 60, shot suppression, he's in the top 10 amongst defensemen. So he's there at nine. Quinn Hughes is there. Drew Doughty is there. MacKenzie Weegar. Weegar is there-- ironically. [LAUGHS]
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Why ironically? MacKenzie Weegar's been a sneaky, good defenseman all year.
OMAR: So it's just like-- and again, like, the trophy goes to, like, all-around defenseman. You know, he's not a-- he's not abysmal defensively.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: No.
OMAR: He's using the most situations. He's putting-- he's going to put up 100 points as a defenseman on a horrible team. Like, that's probably-- that probably wins it for him right there. He's doing this on a horrible team. They're selling at the deadline. They almost traded him.
Like, honestly-- like, I don't-- I don't know. Like, it's-- there are definitely a lot of names out there who could definitely get the recognition, but, like, I don't know. I think you also have to go into the story element of this. And I remember-- I remember this came up last year when we were talking about, like, trophies, is that it always comes down to the story too.
And, like, Erik Karlsson, people thought it was a bust, man. People thought it was done. It was over. You know, worst contract in the league. It was done. And he came out of nowhere. If you walked into this season thinking Erik Karlsson would do this, you are a boldfaced liar. Boldfaced liar.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I agree.
OMAR: Like, it is all the signs point to Karlsson being the winner. And I think-- and whether he continues to do this, I don't know. But, like, this year, I think it's going to be him. And I'm not saying that, like, he's more deserving than other players. You know, I think a lot of other defensemen have done a lot of good things this year.
But, like, I think all signs point to Karlsson.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: But, look, you made a point about how he's doing all this on a horrible team. But if the goal is to be good all around on defense, it's one thing if the team is horrible. But, like, how much better defensively is your team when you're on the ice? Is there anything that points to Erik Karlsson when speaking strictly off his defense that says, OK, the Sharks are a better team on that end?
They are better when he's on the ice when he's creating offense, absolutely. There's no doubt about that. He's one of the best defenseman we've seen over the last how many years and in that regard. But, like, if he's not doing so well on the actual defensive side of it--
OMAR: [LAUGHS] He's actually the best, like, as far as, like, shot generation. Like, he is the best. Like, he's number one on the back end. Like--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Like-- yeah, no. Look, I think for all of that, that's great. And playing offense now, especially in this type of NHL, where you need more mobility at the back end and you need those guys to generate offense, that's a huge thing, and that cannot be overlooked. But I wonder, like, how balanced it has to be at the end of the day.
And while I don't have-- like, the only plus-- and plus-minus itself as a stat is kind of wonky as it is. Because it's not like he's doing all those things that lead to goals against or having a minus come in. Like, that's not fair. And you can account for times he's been on the ice for when, like, the Sharks will-- are trying to press for an extra goal, and they allow an empty net. Like, that also plays into it too.
Like, I don't know. Like, there's some questions about--
OMAR: I haven't looked at plus-minus in so long. Let's take a gander.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. Like, plus-minus is it not-- like, it's such a flawed stat nowadays.
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: It is.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: But at the same time, like, Erik-- I mean-- I think what might end up giving him a win is the fact that, like, there's no one on defense--
OMAR: How is Quinn Hughes a plus 17? Yo, OK.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: See?
OMAR: You know what?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Vancouver's a bad team.
OMAR: That's pretty impressive.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: But think about it. Vancouver's a bad team, but his plus-minus-- again, plus-minus is a flawed stat. But, like, that looks good. And he's on a bad team.
OMAR: But that's pretty impressive.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: But in San Jose--
OMAR: That genuinely shocked me.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --Erik Karlsson does not have that. Like, that has to be accounted for that too. His offense is there, and I still-- and I still think that should be, like, a credit to him in some way.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: And I will push the fact, as I've done on other platforms, there should be an offensive defensive award. There should be a Paul Coffey award, where you reward the best offensive defenseman. And I think in this day and age, I mean, maybe it goes at the-- if you have it, it comes at the expense of the value placed on a Norris.
But at the same time, like, it's-- we're going to care about who wins an offensive defensive award. And if Erik Karlsson puts himself in that situation-- or Cale Makar or Roman Josi--
OMAR: I was about to say, let's just call it the Cale Makar award. If there's a best offensive defenseman, just call it the Cale-- actually, that's not true. He's good at both ends. That's not fair. I'm sorry, Cale.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: He is great at both ends. He's probably going to win-- I'll give him two or three more-- in his career. Absolutely.
OMAR: How many does he have? He has one?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Look-- I thought it was going to be back and forth between him and Adam Fox. Avry, what were you going to say, before we get Sam back in?
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: I was going to say, if you separate the two awards, who would the defensive award be named after? Who would that guy be named after for--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: You could keep it as the Norris Trophy.
SAM CHANG: Hmm.
OMAR: Well, yeah, because it was--
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: You could.
OMAR: Because they haven't-- didn't they, like, change the definition of it? Like, I don't think-- was it always, like, best all-round defenseman? Wasn't it just, like, best player in, like, a defensive role, or something like that?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I'd have to go back. But, like, I would want to check.
OMAR: Yeah. Because, like, that seems rather-- because I do remember there was big-- there was a big, like, narrative around it. I think it was-- it might have been a year-- it was between, like, Hedman and Doughty-- and maybe 2016-- I don't know-- where people were like, oh, it should be Hedman. But it was like, no, it should be Doughty. Or because, like, Doughty was a better, like, defender of that year, whereas Hedman was the better, like, offensive producer.
And then I think Hedman ended up winning it. And that was the conversation about it. So I don't know if they just recently changed the [INAUDIBLE].
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Victor Hedman should have more Norrises than he has, but that's another discussion.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Sam, what do you feel about the Erik Karlsson Norris discourse?
SAM CHANG: Yeah, I get it. I think he's been exceptional for a team that is truly unexceptional. I will say shoutout to Arun for writing the breakdown of whether or not Quinn Hughes deserves to be in the Norris conversation. The answer is yes.
SAM CHANG: And the only people who don't say yes are people who don't watch the Canucks, which, like, fair. But, like, you're missing out.
SAM CHANG: Dude has-- he's now third all-time most assists per game amongst defenseman in NHL history, only behind Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Quinn Hughes?
OMAR: In history.
SAM CHANG: Sorry. Per-- like, minimum 200 assists per game. Not most assists. Just most assists per game.
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: That's still wild.
SAM CHANG: Bobby Orr was 0--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: That's amazing.
SAM CHANG: Bobby Orr was 0.98. Paul Coffey, 0.81. Quinn Hughes, 0.76 on an absolutely abysmal team for the entire time he's been in the NHL.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah.
OMAR: Man. Man.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: If Vancouver-- they better keep that kid there. They better not mess him up. Quinn, he's--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --special. That's a special talent.
SAM CHANG: He's been really good this season. And Tocchet's playing him like 25-plus minutes a night.