Norris Trophy Finalists: Burns vs. Hedman vs. Karlsson

Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators are your finalists for the Norris Trophy, the annual award given to “the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”

(The finalists haven’t officially been announced, but a press release announcing them was prematurely published by the Lightning. Whoops.)

The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on the award, on a ballot that features the top five ranked candidates.

So will Brent Burns fulfill the destiny assigned to him by most hockey media and win his first Norris Trophy? Or will one of his Swedish rivals take the prize?

Why Brent Burns Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Burns, 32, a Norris Trophy finalist for the second straight season, set San Jose records for defensemen and led all defensemen in goals (29) and points (76). He led the League with 320 shots on goal and ranked seventh in total ice time (2,038:44). Burns played in all 82 games for a third straight season and the Sharks took 223 more shots than they allowed with Burns on the ice at 5-on-5. He drove puck possession with a 53.55 SAT percentage in 5-on-5 situations.

Burns didn’t just drive puck possession – he was a possession beast. He had a 14.77 Corsi-for relative to his teammates (per 60), which was best in the NHL for all skaters.

Why Victor Hedman Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Hedman, 26, a first-time finalist, was first among defensemen and fourth overall with a career-high 56 assists in 79 games. He also set career highs in goals (16) and points (72), which ranked second among defensemen and were the most by a Lightning defenseman since Roman Hamrlik had 65 points during the 1995-96 season. Hedman finished second in the NHL with 33 power-play points, and led the NHL with 29 power-play assists. The Lightning controlled 53.39 percent of all shots when Hedman was on the ice.

Perhaps most impressive for Hedman, in comparison to previous season, is that he did much of this away from Anton Stralman, who certainly bolstered his numbers in the past as his defensive partner.

Why Erik Karlsson Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Karlsson, 26, can win the trophy for the third time (2012, 2015). He played 77 games and ranked third among defensemen with 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists). The Senators captain was tied for eighth in the League and was tied for second among defensemen with 27 power-play points (four goals, 23 assists) and was sixth among defenseman with 218 shots on goal. He was fourth in the NHL in average ice time (26:50) and even-strength average ice time (21:00).

His 59 takeaways were six better than Burns. And nary a word about his 201 blocked shots?

Who Wins The Norris

Brent Burns. His late-season swoon won’t be enough to turn off voters who want to reward a remarkable season or reward a remarkable 12 months or just like the way his beard moves when he’s giving a good quote.

Our Overall Ballot (in alphabetical order)

Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

Who Should Win The Norris

Burns. This is after very, very careful consideration of the seasons that Burns, Hedman and Karlsson had. I originally said Hedman, as you see in the video below. But then I got insider the numbers of the other two candidates. It’s a close margin, so if Karlsson wins, that’s fine. But the more you dig into the numbers, the more impressed you are with Burns’s season. Karlsson, in the end, is the better defenseman, and we suspect will be remembered as such in 20 years. But this is a special season for Burns, and the award simply covers this season.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.


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