Karlsson For Norris? You Must Be Kidding

By JD Lagrange – Well, the NHL is at it again. At least, the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) is. In a head shaking but not surprising news, the league announced the three finalists to the Norris Memorial Trophy and Erik Karlsson is in the top-3. Anyone shocked? Unlikely. But he is far from deserving of being there.

Erik Karlsson finished the season with 100 pts. Impressive, isn’t it? Particularly for a defenseman. But he also finished the season at minus-26. That is the fifth worse differential on his team! Meh, whose are just words, right? Okay, look at it deeper.

  • 26 of Karlsson’s 100 points were obtained on the power play. That leaves 74 points not while on the man advantage. Still impressive… offensively speaking.
  • Now bear with me as it’s a process here. Say he had he not been on the ice for a goal against at even strength or while his team was on the power play, this would mean that he would have been a +74. It’s unrealistic, but we’re heading somewhere with this. Play along.
  • Now get this… In order to get back to zero differential, to break even (with a 0 +/-), he has to be on the ice for 74 goals against at even strength or with the man advantage. Ouch!
  • Because he finished with 100 points and was minus-26 on the season, this means that he was on the ice for 100 goals against (74 + 26) in spite of his 100 points.

Sure, he was on the ice for something like 20 goals against in an empty net. But he was on the ice for them regardless…

And that’s some people’s definition of the “greatest all-round ability”? Gimme a break!

Norris definition

The NHL’s own definition for the Norris Trophy is, and I quote:

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the regular season. Source

You will NEVER convince me that Erik Karlsson is one of the best all-round defensemen in the NHL. The PHWA has changed the meaning of the Norris Trophy. Not surprisingly, it’s the same group that has also changed the meaning for the Frank J. Selke Award, created for the best DEFENSIVE forward in the game. Often, they have awarded that trophy to guys who don’t play short-handed (should be a requisite, no?) and who are accumulating tons of points.

For the PHWA, every award is based on offensive production. They are drawn to offense (even for defensive positions), like moths are to light. I just wish someone invented a zapper for journalists who do such absurdities.

I’ve written about this before, but it’s time to reward the Karlsson’s of this world for their offensive prowess by adding the Bobby Orr Award. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t pretend that a forward playing defense is the greatest all-round defenseman. We’re not as ignorant as some think we are.