Sometimes the wording of an award can provide some insight, or perhaps semantic debates, on an award, so note that the Norris Trophy is described as: “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” Do with that, what you may.
Giordano, 35, didn’t have the instant transition into the NHL that, say, Hedman enjoyed. The 35-year-old went undrafted, and was playing in Russia as recently as 2007-08 before finally truly cementing his spot with the Flames starting in 2008-09. He’s been one of those “hidden gems” for some time, but he won’t slip under the radar any longer, as Gio is now a Norris Trophy winner.
As you can see the voting really dropped off after the top five, while John Carlson and Morgan Rielly weren’t that far from being in the top three.
NHL awards season rolls on with Sunday’s announcement of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, which is handed out annually to the defense player that demonstrates the greatest all-around ability at the position throughout the entire season.
Hedman and Burns have won the award the past two seasons, while Giordano is a finalist for the first time in his career. He has finished in the top-10 of the voting three times. Before this season sixth was the highest he ever finished.
The Norris Trophy is named after former Detroit Red Wings owner James E. Norris and has been handed out annually since the 1952-53 season. Red Kelly was the first player to win it, while Bobby Orr won it an NHL record eight times during his career.
The winner will be announced on June 19 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.
The case for Giordano: Probably the favorite to win the award for much of the season due to his dominance at both ends of the rink. The 35-year-old Giordano had a career year in Calgary that saw him play a shutdown defensive game on the top pairing for the best regular season team in the Western Conference, while also finishing with a career-best 74 points in 78 games. Among defenders that logged at least 1,000 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time, Giordano finished in the top-five in shot attempt differential, scoring chance differential, and goal differential (all via Natural Stat Trick). He is trying to become the first Flames defender to ever win the award.
The case for Burns: Simply the best and most productive blueliner in the NHL this season offensively. Burns appeared in all 82 games for the fifth year in a row, logged more than 25 minutes of ice-time per game and finished with 83 total points. He not only finished as the top-scoring blue-liner in the NHL this season, he was the only defender to average more than a point-per-game and just the fourth to do so since 1995-96 (minimum 70 games played), joining a list that includes only Erik Karlsson, Mike Green, and Nicklas Lidstrom. He won the award during the 2015-16 season and is trying to become just the 14th player to win it multiple times.
The case for Hedman: The reigning Norris Trophy winner, Hedman was limited to just 70 games this season due to injury but still finds himself in the top-three of the voting due to his consistently brilliant play. When he was on the ice, he was once again the driving force for one of the league’s best teams, helping the Lightning tie the NHL record for most regular season wins. Hedman played more than 22 minutes per night and scored 12 goals, making it the sixth year in a row he scored at least 10 goals in a season. He is trying to become the first defender since Nicklas Lidstrom to win the Norris Trophy in back-to-back seasons. This is his third consecutive year as a finalist for the award.
After he was a late scratch for Saturday’s game, the San Jose Sharks have announced that defenseman Erik Karlsson will be shut down until the All-Star break, missing the team’s next two games on Monday and Tuesday due to an undisclosed lower-body injury.
While he will miss the upcoming games against the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals, coach Pete DeBoer said on Monday that it is still possible that Karlsson could play in this weekend’s All-Star game which will be held in San Jose.
“I just want to get him healthy, so if he’s healthy enough, I would hope he’ll play,” DeBoer said via NHL.com. “And I know he would play. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that he’s healthy enough to play.”
If he can’t play you would have to think that it would open up a spot for Calgary Flames defender Mark Giordano to get a much-deserved call to the game as he one of the many defenders in the Pacific Division (including Karlsson, and fellow Sharks All-Star Brent Burns) that are playing at a Norris Trophy level this season.
Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larson would also be a possibility, but Giordano would almost certainly be the favorite given how great he has been this season.
After a slow start on the scoresheet this season Karlsson has really come on over the past couple of months and is back to playing at the high level we’re used to seeing him at. He has 43 points in 47 games this season, and has recorded at least one point in 16 of his past 18 games, a stretch that has seen him total 27 points. He is also near the top of the league for the season when it comes to shot attempt and scoring chance differentials when he is on the ice.
Burns and Joe Pavelski are the Sharks’ other two representatives at this year’s All-Star Game.
The 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 25 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2019 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).
The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, but there’s one aspect of their game that the Calgary Flames don’t want to emulate.
During the 2015 playoffs, Chicago leaned heavily on defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Johnny Oduya. In early May Michal Rozsival suffered an ankle injury and that led to the Blackhawks using their top-four defensemen even more extensively as no other blueliners averaged more than 10 minutes per contest.
That worked out, but it was also a big burden on those four players. Calgary had a group that, when healthy, could similarly carry that kind of load in T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, and Kris Russell, but after acquiring Dougie Hamilton over the summer, Calgary won’t have to resort to that. The Flames should be able to use all three pairings with confidence, which has the potential to pay off as the campaign progresses.
“When we throw a defenseman on the ice, he will be 100% rested because part of our style is go, go, go,” Flames coach Bob Hartley told the Calgary Sun.
The main question now is what the Flames’ defensive pairings will look like as Hamilton potentially throws a wrench in their old setup. It’s a good problem for Hartley to have and he’ll deal with it by trying a lot of different combinations over the preseason.
Mark Giordano couldn’t play past Feb. 25 last season because of torn biceps, but that’s not an issue for him anymore.
“It’s been a while,” Giordano told the Calgary Herald. “I started skating a bit toward the end of last year and shooting the puck a little bit. I got home, took a bit of rest, and got right into the strengthening phase of my recovery. I’ve felt great. Honestly, I’m 100 per cent today.
“There’s nothing in my mind that’s physically going to hold me back.”
Giordano was having a fantastic campaign prior to his injury, which has led some to speculate that he would have won the Norris Trophy had he been able to complete the campaign. Although he still has a season left on his five-year, $20.1 million deal, the Flames moved all uncertainty about his future by inking him to a six-year, $40.5 million extension over the summer.
At least on paper, Calgary is going into the season with one of the most impressive defensive groups in the league as they’ll also feature Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, and Kris Russell.