And the nominees for the 2017 James Norris Memorial Trophy are……. Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
(I did a write up on Awards Predictions a little over a week ago, which included more in-depth discussion on the Norris Trophy. You can read it here)
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded to “the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” Burns has been nominated once before, with no wins to his name. Karlsson, a 2-time winner, has been nominated 3 times. This is Hedman’s first nomination.
Brent Burns scored 29 goals and 76 points in 82 games this season, both tops amongst defensemen. He lead his team in points, was tied for first in goals, and was tops in time on ice per game. Although he tapered off this season, scoring only 6 points in his final 16 games, Burns still had the highest amount of goals for a defenseman since Mike Green’s 31 goal season in 2008/2009.
Erik Karlsson scored 17 goals and 71 points in 77 games this season, good for (tied for) second and third, respectively, among defensemen. His points per game of 0.92 was second for defensemen however. Karlsson lead his team in scoring for the 4th consecutive season, and had a strong finish points wise, scoring 27 points in his final 25 games. He could move in to a tie for fifth all time in Norris wins with 3 if he takes it home this year. The only defensemen to win more than 3 or more times are Bobby Orr (8), Doug Harvey (7), Nicklas Lidstrom (7), and Ray Bourque (5). The defenseman Karlsson could become tied with at 3 should he win are Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Pierre Pilote, and Denis Potvin. That’s some pretty elite company.
Victor Hedman scored 16 goals and 72 points 79 games this season. His 72 points put him 2nd among defensemen this year. He finished second in team scoring on an injury depleted Tampa Bay Lightning squad, and nearly dragged them to the playoffs. Although Hedman had a tremendous season, both offensively and defensively, this award is almost assuredly going to either Karlsson or Burns, and along with the fact that the Lightning missed the playoffs (although that shouldn’t matter, it does), a Hedman win is very unlikely.
And the winner is……
Brent Burns. Although he had a disappointing finish to the year and Karlsson finished racking up points left and right, Burns will still likely be the winner. Burns was the Sharks’ best possession player this season, with a 5v5 CF% of 53.71, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, widely regarded as their best shutdown defenseman, had only a 48.10 5v5 CF%. Now the argument could be made that Vlasic faced tougher competition, but the point still stands, Burns had a monster season both offensively and defensively, thus showing a tremendous all-around ability at the position, and will likely take home the award. All that being said, Karlsson made a strong case for himself and it wouldn’t be a shock if he took home the award as well (perhaps as a make-up for last year).