Off he goes...
We're continuing our survey of postseason award candidates today with the Norris Trophy for the defenseman "who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability at the position.
This year's finalists pose the kind of classic dilemmas we haven't seen in a while: At what point does an overwhelming amount of offensive production (padded by assists) make up for defensive deficiencies or one-dimensional use?
Some would say Erik Karlsson is at that point. His 78 points were good for 10th overall in the league and the most by a defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom compiled 80 in the offense-heavy 2005-06 season. They were a full 25 points more than the second-highest total. (Though another red flag for those obsessed with points at the expense of defense here: #2 on the list was Dustin Byfuglien.)
Is that enough to give Karlsson the nod despite him logging the lowest PK time on his team? In the rest of the metrics, his quality of competition is strong; his Corsi is also high -- though as expected considering his offense-friendly percentage of offensive zone starts. He may not be all there yet as an all-around defenseman, but he's not being hidden from the competition. And even if his margin over the next guy is padded by some Gretzky-style "he was totally near the puck!" assists, his puck-driving play was essential to a playoff team's offense.
Meanwhile, Karlsson logged 50 even strength points alone -- including 34 of his 59 assists. By any measure, it was a special year for Erik Karlsson. He wasn't my top pick for the award, but I won't be offended if his remarkable, perhaps unrepeatable season is commemorated with a Norris Trophy.
Norris Trophy Ballots
Here his how some of the authors at LHH voted and why. Per tradition, we also considered who the best D-man was on the Islanders this season.
As you can see, there is split consideration for Chara, Karlsson and Weber -- with Karlsson and Chara each getting a first-, second- and third-place vote. Good thing our vote and process doesn't matter. [UPDATE: And of course I originally forgot to include Mike B.'s vote, which firmly tips our scales Karlsson's way.]
PGI: 1. Weber. 2. Karlsson. 3. Chara.
Karlsson can win it next year and the year after. He's spectacular and a key reason for the Senator's wonderful season. But Weber brings the offense and the defense, unlike Karlsson. Also, he's due. Also, he's a beast. Chara's Chara.
Islanders Norris: Hamonic. Again, not close. Get used to this.
Chris McNally: 1. Karlsson 2. Weber 3. Pietrangelo
Karlsson's season was a 2000's equivalent to a Paul Coffey 1980's season. For one season I thought he was hands down better than the three closest competitors, Weber, Pietrangelo, and Chara. This was a no-brainer.
Isles Norris: Mark Streit. I'm prepared for the backlash, and while I thought Hamonic was better defensively, Streit was definitely better offensively. And while the award is for the best defenseman, historically the award goes to the better offensive defenseman...and who am I to mess with history?
Mike B.: 1. Eric Karlsson; 2. Zdeno Chara; 3. Shea Weber.
I loves me some Chara, but Karlsson was exceptional and I think his offensive contributions are impossible to ignore.
Mark D.: Chara
Chara, because I've always been a fan and he really hasn't won the Norris since 08-09? I know Nicklas Lidstrom is good, but 7 wins in the last decade(ish) seems a bit much. It seems like guys always fall through the cracks when it comes to NHL awards, and now is as good a time as any to give Chara another Norris.
Islanders Norris: Hamonic. How did this kid fall to the 2nd round?
Dominik: 1. Alex Pietrangelo; 2. Zdeno Chara; 3. Erik Karlsson
I read somewhere a very in-depth explanation why Pietrangelo was most deserving and, hell, in a trophy where voters tend to just follow the hype, that was good enough for me. Seriously, Pietrangelo's pretty fantastic (and young -- not that that matters here, but I'm just saying) and worthy of consideration regardless. He handled all kinds of tough minutes, produced points, carried Carlo Colaiacovo at times -- and his team's blueline completely falls apart without him.
Chara, meanwhile, seems to deserve more than just one Norris like Mark said -- and having his highest offensive season to date, at age 35, draws attention. Karlsson, no matter what his "soft" assignments and fortunate bounces to create his massive scoring lead among defensemen, he still had a massively productive season, the likes of which we don't expect to see in 2012. I'd honestly be pleased if any of these three won the real deal.
Islanders Norris: I think it has to go to Travis Hamonic, but I want to register a statement that Mark Streit had a much better season than many Isles followers recognize. Don't let the slow start post-injury poison the whole season.
For historical fun: Remember that we gave the 2010-11 Isles Norris to Andrew MacDonald, though in 62 games that season it was already clear that 20-year-old rookie Travis Hamonic was well on his way. I'm not sure Hamonic will have a rival for the award on this team for as long as he's an Islander.
Previously, we discussed our in-law-tastic Vezina Trophy votes.