Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban voted Norris Trophy finalists

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Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban voted Norris Trophy finalists
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Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens are the three finalists for the 2014-15 Norris Trophy “given to the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” the National Hockey League announced Monday.

To be perfectly blunt, there were really no super great choices for the award this year. Mark Giordano was the likely winner – provided enough East Coast Professional Hockey Writers’ Association voting members watched Calgary play – but he got hurt in early March and missed the last month and a half of the season, basically crushing the whole “throughout the season” element of the award.

This left us with defensemen having not-as-awesome years who normally are in the conversation (Shea Weber), one having an excellent year but playing for a team that missed the playoffs (Doughty), someone who actually had a solid all-around year, but didn’t get a ton of Norris love (Subban) and Karlsson who a lot of voters love, because he is a really good hockey player but doesn’t play on the penalty kill – 33 seconds per-game to be exact. In my opinion, this should muddle his candidacy for an award that is given to the best “all-around” defenseman, since penalties do happen, and not playing on the penalty kill is important for an “all-around” defenseman. Regardless, he’s an incredible hockey player, so it’s easy to overlook this detail as the award is defined.

So, here are your finalists for the Norris Trophy, which was probably the toughest one to pick, just because there really was no clear-cut favorite with Giordano out.

Why Drew Doughty Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Doughty anchored a Los Angeles defense that finished in the top 10 in the NHL in goals against for the sixth consecutive season. He played in all 82 games for the second time in his career (also 2009-10), pacing the League in total time on ice (2,377:40) and ranking second in average time on ice (28:59). Doughty also posted 7-39—46, his second-best offensive season behind 2009-10 (16-43—59), and led the NHL in a number of enhanced statistics categories, including the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential) – the Kings registered 410 more shot attempts than they allowed with him on the ice at 5-on-5. Doughty is a Norris Trophy finalist for the second time after finishing third in voting in 2009-10.

So if Doughty had made the playoffs would he be a slam-dunk Norris Trophy winner? Perhaps. As the NHL notes, his advanced stats are there. He played basically half a game every game because of LA’s thinness on defense. He put up these numbers playing with Jake Muzzin, Robyn Regehr and Brayden McNabb at various times. Goo! But it’s hard to win this award – which has basically become defenseman MVP – if you don’t make the postseason. Also, his 46 points were far-and-away the lowest of the finalists. Some voters probably just vote based on point totals. It’s this way with every award.

Why Erik Karlsson Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Karlsson (21-45—66) led all defensemen in points for the third time in the past four seasons, including a career-high 21 goals (second only to Oliver Ekman-Larsson: 23). He appeared in all 82 games for the second consecutive campaign, ranking third in the NHL in total time on ice (2,234:55) and average time on ice (27:15) to carry the Senators to a 23-4-4 record down the stretch en route to their 15th playoff berth in franchise history. Karlsson also shared first among defensemen in power-play points (30), highlighted by a career-high six power-play goals. He is a Norris Trophy finalist for the second time after capturing the award in 2011-12.

He scores a lot of points. Defensively he’s underrated because in spite of his smallish frame, he gets the puck out of his zone quickly and can regroup on odd-man rushes (he creates with his offensive play) because of his speed. Also, his advanced stats are quite excellent. The Senators often possess the puck when Karlsson is in the game. His inability to play on the penalty kill isn’t his fault. It’s the coach’s decision to not employ Karlsson in this spot so why must we as voters penalize him for this fact?

Why P.K. Subban Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Subban powered a Montreal defense that shared first in the NHL in goals against (189), helping the Canadiens to their best single-season performance since 1988-89. He also skated in all 82 games, producing career highs in goals (15), assists (45), points (60), plus/minus (+21), game-winning goals (5) and shooting percentage (8.8%). Subban ranked fifth in the League in total time on ice (2,148:40) and sixth in average time on ice (26:12) – both career highs. He is a Norris Trophy finalist for the second time after winning the award in 2012-13, when he became the first Canadiens defenseman to earn the honor since 1988-89 (Chris Chelios).

The NHL forgot to include Subban’s ability with a GoPro camera! That’s maybe his best attribute. Per the NHL’s enhanced stats website, Subban is solid – so he passes this test with a plus-124 SAT. He’s an all-situation player, playing 2:09 per-game short handed. In a lot of ways, Subban is a better all-around version of Karlsson … minus the diving issues of course.

Who Wins The Norris?

Karlsson

He has some weird voodoo when it comes to Norris voters. And coaches love him, as evidenced by Bob McKenzie’s end-of-season poll on TSN. Karlsson is one of the top talents in the game and a fantastic offensive player. His offense in some ways masks how he helps his defense, by preventing plays from occurring in his own zone because his team possesses the puck a lot when he is on the ice. He’s an understandable choice in today’s puck analytics world. But as an all-around defenseman? There are much better options. If you were trying to protect a one-goal lead at the end of a game, or needed a late penalty kill, is he the guy you want on ice?

Our Top Choice

Giordano?

I add the question mark, because how do you rate a guy who played 61 games, but was absolutely the best all-around defenseman in the NHL this season when he did play. He had 48 points, played 25:10 per-night and was one of the few Flames who were decent in the fancy stats department. It’s hard to know if Giordano would have folded the final month of the season – probably not, but again you never know – but he seemed to be the best all-around defenseman this year. So yeah, he’s our choice, I guess. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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