Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Top Seven Norris Trophy Candidates, Ranked

Credit: Candice Ward - USA Today Sports
Over the next two weeks, I will be ranking my frontrunners for the respective individual trophies in the National Hockey League.

Today’s discussed trophy is the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defenseman.

Last year’s Norris Trophy race was cited by many as one of the closest in the sport, with many great candidates available. Erik Karlsson? Yeah! Drew Doughty? Of course! Shea Weber? Why not? Duncan Keith? Sure. Mark Giordano… you get the picture.

This year will likely be no different. All of those players will be back this year, along with a ton of other Norris-deserving candidates including Kris Letang, Victor Hedman, P.K. Subban, Ryan McDonagh, and more. Which of those players are the cream of the crop, though? Find out here.

All HERO charts come from ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Duncan Keith

If the Norris Trophy was influenced by post-season play, Keith would be a perennial finalist for the trophy. He brings and extra something in the extra season that not many other defensemen bring - that workhorse quality that so many teams would die for in those long, gruelling battles that are overtime games.

Alas, it is not, so we must go based off of Keith’s play in the 82-game grind to get to his best play. He’s still a remarkable defenseman in the regular season. He can score - he scored 45 points last year, an impressive total for a defenseman - and he can possess - albeit not as well as some of the others ahead of him on this list. Don’t expect Keith to phone it in - he’s a pillar on the backend, and has big size. Besides, how could you say no to this smile?

Credit: Andy Marlin - USA Today Sports

P. K. Subban

One of the flashiest, most dynamic defensemen in the entire league, Subban is a fantastic offensive defenseman. He isn’t the most disciplined blueliner in the world, but he more than makes up for that with his great offensive prowess - he set new career highs last year in every offensive category, with 15 goals, 45 assists, and 60 points - a mark that ranked second in the entire league.

Subban’s an exceptional possession player, as well - his Corsi is very, very good. He’s one of the best defensemen in the entire league, but he isn’t ranked higher due to his defensive deficiencies - he’s quite solid defensively, but can’t quite match some of the players above him in that regard.

Credit: Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

Victor Hedman

One of the greatest up-and-coming defensemen in the league, Hedman is a beast. Don’t let his hulking, 6’6” frame fool you - Hedman is a very quick skater who will blow by you as quickly as he’ll get back to stop an opposing player from doing the same. He’s a possession monster who can score - the 2009 second-overall pick totaled 38 points in 59 games last year, which extrapolates to 53 over a full season.

Why did Hedman miss 23 games last year? Injuries. They’re his biggest threat - he’s played 75+ games only twice in his career. However, if this Ornskoldsvik, Sweden native can keep healthy, watch out.

Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Shea Weber

Is Shea Weber ever going to win one of these? I mean, he’s pretty good, right? He has a pretty hard shot, and he can score some, right? His point totals went down last year, but he has a guy named Roman Josi patrolling the blueline with him who is starting to steal some of his thunder.

Regardless, Weber is a very, very good offensive defenseman who will punish you with a strong check. He’s got experience in big games - he’s won two Olympic gold medals - and is poised for a bounce-back year after a slight step back last year, due partially to the surge of the aforementioned Roman Josi. Just look out for some shoddy possession numbers.

Credit: Candice Ward - USA Today Sports

Mark Giordano

Many will argue with this pick - I guarantee it. But you can’t deny that, before his fluke bicep injury last season (seriously, you couldn’t do that if you tried), ‘Gio’ was running away with the trophy. He was the defensive leader in points with 48 in 61 games, with stellar possession numbers to boot. Giordano turned T.J. Brodie into a legitimate first-pairing defenseman, and will surely get paid when his contract expires come July. A concern, however, comes with his age: Giordano turns 32 in October and some decline may come in future seasons. Don’t expect it this year, however, as he’s still in the waning stages of his prime.

Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Erik Karlsson

Last year’s Norris winner should have another top-flight campaign in 2015-16. He’s a beautiful skater, a great offensive defenseman, and an outstanding possession player. Karlsson led all defensemen last year with 66 points, and he’ll only get better from now on: he’s just 25. The 15th-overall selection in 2008 is a great pick to win it all this year, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t, aside from the fact that he has incredible competition. Oh, and did I mention that he was named the best defenseman in the Olympics in 2014? It’s not just North American journalists who keep calling him the best. Simply put, Erik Karlsson is the real deal - to call him anything less would be a horrible insult.

Credit: Richard Mackson - USA Today Sports

Drew Doughty

How has this man not won the Norris yet? He’s a premier defenseman in today’s league. Last season, he scored 46 points, good for fifth on a pretty unremarkable Kings team that missed the playoffs. Expect that total to rise this year with a resurgent season from the hungry Kings, who will be ready to avenge their disappointing season. Doughty is a terrific possession player who will take the body on you with his 6’1” frame - he's registered 332 hits over the last two seasons - and, like Karlsson, is a silky skater who isn’t a stranger to big games. Expect Doughty to lead the charge on a resurgent Kings team next season.

Other Players Who Merited Consideration: Kris Letang, PIT; Roman Josi, NSH; Ryan McDonagh, NYR; Alex Pietrangelo, STL; Kevin Shattenkirk, STL; Aaron Ekblad, FLA; Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJ; Ryan Suter, MIN; Anton Stralman, TB; T.J. Brodie, CGY

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