Norris Trophy Finalists: Zdeno Chara vs. Duncan Keith vs. Shea Weber

Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators are the three finalists for the 2013-14 James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” the National Hockey League announced on Monday.

The finalists are the top three vote getters from the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Chara (2009) and Keith (2010) are both previous winners of the Norris. Weber finished second in the voting in 2012 and 2013.

Who wins the Norris?

Why Zdeno Chara Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Chara led a Boston defense that paced the Eastern Conference and ranked second in the NHL in goals against (177), helping the Bruins capture their second Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history and first since 1989-90. He averaged a team-high 24:39 of ice time per game, nearly 3 minutes more than the next-closest player, and also placed in the top 10 among NHL defensemen in goals (17), plus/minus (+25), power-play goals (10) and game-winning goals (3). Chara is a Norris Trophy finalist for the sixth time, including the third time in the past four seasons, and won the award in 2008-09.

One of the knocks on Chara was his offense, with 40 points in 77 games. But as the League notes, his goal-scoring put him fourth among defensemen. Of the finalists, Chara faced the toughest offensive competition (27.4 percent of his time was against elite forwards).

Why Duncan Keith Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks Keith led all defensemen with 55 assists and ranked second among blueliners with 61 points to power a Chicago offense that paced the NHL with 267 goals. He recorded his 40th helper of the season in his 46th game, becoming the fastest defenseman in franchise history to reach the milestone, and posted a career-long, eight-game assist/point streak from Nov. 19 to Dec. 3. Keith played a team-high average of 24:38 per game, topping the Blackhawks in ice time for the ninth time in as many NHL seasons. He is a Norris Trophy finalist for the second time after capturing the award in 2009-10.

Keith’s offense is his selling point, as his 61 points was second only to that freak of nature Erik Karlsson (74 points in 82 games). Take this stat as you will, but he also had more takeaways (48) than either of the other finalists.

Why Shea Weber Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Weber ranked first among defensemen with 23 goals and set a franchise record for points by a blueliner with 56, leading the Predators in scoring for the second consecutive season. He also paced all defensemen in power-play goals (12), ranked fourth in the League in average time on ice (26:54) and set a career high in shooting percentage (11.8%). Weber got better as the season progressed, posting 14-20—34, three game-winning goals and a +11 rating in the final 42 games of 2013-14. He is a Norris Trophy finalist for the third time after finishing as runner-up for the award in both 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Hey, what do you know: The Nashville Predators “sizzle reel” worked!

Must be that music from “Shark Tank.” At least we think it’s from “Shark Tank.”

Who Wins The Norris?

Keith. Too many voters will see the points, the plus/minus, the time on ice and the lack of penalty minutes and cast their vote accordingly, misguided as it is.

Our Ballot

1. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

2. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

3. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

4. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

5. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks

With all due respect for Weber, Giordano’s insane numbers in just 64 games (including +10.3% corsi rel, showing an extraordinary impact on possession when he was on the ice) was too good to ignore. Again, no offense to Weber, who ended up being a finalist anyway.

Drew Doughty would have been No. 6 on my ballot, but I felt Vlasic’s season was more impressive given expectations. But Pickles wasn’t going to get a sniff of an award where either monster stats or name recognition are the calling cards.

To that end, my final two were Chara and Keith, whose offensive numbers and overall impact for the Blackhawks make him a worthy finalist … but not the winner.

The winner is Chara, part of that holy trinity of defense with Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask with the Bruins. He wins for many reasons, but here’s the simplest one: We can’t give the Norris to a player that doesn’t draw the toughest defensive assignments for his team at 5-on-5. Chara does for the Bruins; Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya do for the Blackhawks. There are other determining factors mentioned here, but that’s a big one for the big guy.

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