Doughty, Hedman, Subban are 2018 Norris Trophy finalists

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Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators have been named finalists for the 2018 Norris Trophy. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Assocation, is given “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” will be handed out during the NHL Awards show June 20 in Las Vegas.

This is the fourth time Doughty has been name a finalist. He won the award in 2016 after finishing second the year before. Hedman finished third in the voting last season and this is the second time he’s finished in the top three. Subban, like Doughty, has a Norris Trophy on his resume (2013). This is the third time he’s been up for the award.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The Case for Drew Doughty: The Kings blue liner finished sixth in scoring among defensemen with 60 points, which included 10 goals. He also led all NHL players in total ice time with 2,200:31, finishing with an average of 26:50 per game. He had a strong possession game with a 53 percent Corsi and a 4.39 Relative Corsi, meaning LA fired nearly five shots more per 60 minutes when Doughty was on the ice.

“I’m not starting the season, thinking ‘oh I got to get the most points I can, so I can win the Norris,’” he told The Athletic last month. “I’m starting the season, thinking, ‘I’ve got to get my defensive game even better, because that’s where my team needs me the most – to lead the charge in that area. It’s a team game and it’s about winning championships.”

The Case for Victor Hedman: Hedman finished tied for first among defensemen in goals scored with 17 and finished fourth in points with 63. He set a career high in ice time with 1,990:30 total minutes, averaging 25:51 per night. The possession stats for the Lightning defenseman were solid as well, with a 52 percent Corsi and a 0.38 Relative Corsi.

“I’m fortunate to be on an unbelievable team that helped me out through my first decade in the league, to help me grow into the player I want to be,” he told Sports Illustrated in February. “Still got stuff to work on and get better at, but obviously winning the Norris would be something that I want to do. I want to be at the top of my game. I want to play my best every night.”

The Case for P.K. Subban: Subban was right behind Hedman in goals scored (16) and right behind Doughty in total points (59). He logged 1,977:24 of ice time, playing in all 82 games for the Predators this season. As you’d expect from a Norris finalist, his possession stats were good, as he finished with a 52 percent Corsi and a 0.3 Relative Corsi.

Earlier this season, Subban told the Tennessean he felt his defensive game was overlooked. “The offensive part of my game has always been there,” he said. “The defensive part has always been there as well, but for whatever reason, I don’t seem to get the credit for what I do in my (defensive) zone and how I contribute defensively for our hockey club.”

2018 NHL Award finalists
Lady Byng (Friday)
Selke Trophy
Vezina Trophy

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

TSN may have spoiled tonight’s NHL awards

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We were all tipped off about Montreal’s P.K. Subban winning this year’s Norris Trophy earlier this week, but there’s no way the other big award winners would get leaked early… Right?

On TSN’s Insider Trading segment Bob McKenzie, in speaking about Subban’s reported win, said other players were given a heads-up about who was going to take home what.

“In fact, Subban is the Norris Trophy winner. And now we’re hearing word that Jonathan Huberdeau will be in Chicago on Saturday. You can infer from that that the Florida Panther forward is going to be the rookie of the year.”

Darren Dreger followed that up saying that neither Sidney Crosby nor John Tavares would be in Chicago for the Hart Trophy award tonight and Alex Ovechkin, who is in Russia, would accept the award via video. While that’s not confirmation Ovechkin is going to win it, it’s about as close as it can get.

Meanwhile, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston says Chicago’s Jonathan Toews kept his Selke Trophy win a tight-knit secret with his family and that award winners have known for a while that they were victorious.

If you’re a fan of suspense, this was not the year for you to have a stake in the NHL awards as the Lindsay Award and Vezina Trophy are the only two left with an element of surprise for the time being.

Paul MacLean believes Erik Karlsson “has done enough to win” the Norris

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We all know coaches play favorites with their own players when it comes to awards and Senators head coach Paul MacLean is no different.

MacLean is headed to Las Vegas this week for the NHL Awards and he tells Allen Panzeri of Senators Extra defenseman Erik Karlsson should be the Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman.

“Will he win? I don’t know. Should he win? I believe he has done enough to do it.”

Karlsson was, by far, the league’s highest-scoring defenseman this season with 78 points, 25 better than Dustin Byfuglien and Brian Campbell. Karlsson, however, is up against Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber for the Norris and that’s where things get sticky. Those two guys bring offense but also play a stronger defensive game, a bit of a key component when it comes to an award for best defenseman.

Still, Karlsson’s big offensive game was impressive just the same and worthy of commendation. Perhaps a firm handshake and a pat on the back will have to suffice.

Sizzling Senators shut down Bruins, spawn some bold questions

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Erik Karlsson might not have the defensive acumen to please people who cringe at the points-centric Norris Trophy voting, but his scoring ability is making the Ottawa Senators an intriguing sleeper in the East.

Karlsson’s power-play goal was the only marker as the Senators beat the Northeast Division-leading (and defending champion) Boston Bruins at their own game 1-0.

Well, either that or their promising backup goalie won a significant duel with Tim Thomas. Nope, it wasn’t recently acquired netminder Ben Bishop; instead, Robin Lehner made a compelling argument for his NHL-readiness by stopping all 32 Bruins shots. Thomas was brilliant in making 37 out of 38 saves, but Ottawa beat the B’s in Boston to make a statement.

Either that, or they raised some questions.

1. Circling back to Karlsson, is his resounding offensive production reason enough to make him deserve the Norris? Normally I’m in that embittered hockey nerd group in regard to that trophy’s voting, but one could argue that he’s essentially the most valuable defenseman in the NHL because of his offense.*

2. Does Ottawa have a decent chance to steal the Northeast title from Boston?

Rather than going too deep on this question, I’ll merely present you with some crucial points.

  • The Bruins are currently ahead of the Senators points-wise 77-76.
  • Boston also has a fairly massive games in hand advantage, with four more games remaining (21 to 17) than Ottawa.
  • On the other hand, the Senators are streaking up (two wins in a row; 7-2-1 in their last 10) while the Bruins are bumbling a bit (4-5-1 in last 10).
  • The Bruins have 10 home games and 11 road games left.
  • The Senators have nine home games and eight road games remaining.
  • Both teams actually possess remarkably balanced win-loss records on the road vs. at home, which means that games remaining and streaks are probably the biggest factors.
  • Well, except for tie-breaker considerations, perhaps. The Bruins have 37 wins to Ottawa’s 34 and 30 regulation/OT wins to the Senators’ 29.

Looking at that information, it would take a serious run (and/or significant Boston struggles) for Ottawa to shock the hockey world by winning its division. Still, it’s pretty amazing that such a question would need to be examined with March just a breath away.

* – The Norris Trophy isn’t defined as the MVP of the blueliners, but the point must be made.

Assessing Erik Karlsson’s Norris Trophy hopes

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The 2012 All-Star weekend was, in many ways, a celebration of Daniel Alfredsson’s career with the Ottawa Senators.

Obviously, he wasn’t the only Senators representative in the event, though. Bruce Garrioch indicates that it was something of a coming out party for budding star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who might still seem like a relative unknown to many media members despite being far and away the leading scorer at his position.

That’s what happens when you’re in your third NHL season on a team that fell off the radar a bit after a tough 2010-11 season. Garrioch argues that Karlsson strengtened his Norris Trophy argument this weekend, so I thought it might be fun to break down how he compares to his peers in more traditional stat categories (sorry Corsi lovers).

Scoring

Karlsson is a gifted point producer, starting with his assists. He has 40 in 51 games, which places him eight points ahead of Brian Campbell – the only other blueliner with more than 30 helpers at the moment. In fact he’s second in the entire league in assists.

His seven goals ties him for ninth amongst defensemen and he’s firing a ton of shots. In fact, he’s also first overall in shots on goal with 168; Dan Boyle is second with 157. Karlsson’s 4.2 shooting percentage could rise a little bit, too, although D-men generally pile up low-quality shots as they often aim to create dangerous rebounds in many cases.

There’s little reason to expect Karlsson to slow down much offensively as Ottawa plays in high-scoring games. Karlsson had 26 points in 60 games in his rookie season and 45 last year, so it’s clear that the 21-year-old is still improving in an already strong area.

Time on ice

It’s not like Karlsson is just swooping in on the power play and doing nothing 5-on-5, either. (Although his 4:06 minutes of PP time per game ties him for eighth overall with Ryan Suter.) Karlsson is 10th overall with 25:27 minutes per game, ranking him slightly ahead of Dion Phaneuf, Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty.

The one area that hurts him – in my eyes, anyway – is that he’s not killing penalties. He only averages 41 seconds of PK time per contest.* If you ask me, a Norris-worthy blueliner should be a team’s go-to guy in nearly every situation.

Team success

Fair or not, my guess is that the Senators need to make the playoffs for Karlsson to have a real shot to win. I’d say that Ottawa is in the “second tier” in the East with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers as team’s who might fall short of division titles but should be safe for a postseason run as long as they avoid a total meltdown.

***

Overall, I think Karlsson has a solid Norris argument, with competitive total ice time, unparalleled offense and a respectable +5 rating. (I don’t like plus/minus, but voters do.) I’d probably lean toward a do-everything guy like Chara or Shea Weber instead, but wouldn’t be offended if he lands in the finalists group.

Where do you think Karlsson falls in the Norris argument right now?

* – Only Cam Fowler’s 35 second average (24:05 minutes per game for 20th place) and Dustin Byfuglien’s 43 second of shorthanded time per game (2:38 minutes per game at 30th place) compare to Karlsson’s scant PK time for top-30 time on ice guys.