Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Making the Karlsson Norris case.

There is some debate about the validity of Erik Karlsson as this years Norris Trophy winner.  Many believe it is not even worth the debate.  He is so clearly the winner why debate.  I am in that category.

Karlsson is in the tail end of an historic season.  In the entire history of the NHL only 3 players have done what Karlsson is doing.  He currently has a 27 point lead over the next best defenceman in point production (Brian Campbell in Florida).  Only 3 other players have had a gap this large over their next closest peer.  Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin and Paul Coffey.  The massive gap more than outweighs the debate about his comparative defensive play when measure against some of the other considered candidates like Chara, Weber, Keith and Lidstrom.

Karlsson is also not a power play monger.  He leads all defencemen in even strength points and is tied for the league lead in power play points.

He is (today) a +19 which puts him 13th among defencemen.  That leaves him tied with Weber and ahead of Keith.  He is just 8 behind Chara and Lidstrom,  so relatively similar.

One of the historic problems with the voting procedures by the hockey writers is reputation.  Too often this award is considered with a players entire career factoring into the equation.  This is supposed to be a single season, individual achievement award.  There is no question at 21 years of age, Karlsson has not had the same kind of career as Chara or Lidstrom but again, this is supposed to be an award for single season achievement.

And what of the "if you had to start a franchise today,  which guy would you pick" debate.  Well again it is not a "franchise" or "career" award.  In today's game where few teams now score 300 goals a season, I would argue that many or most GM's now would put a higher premium on a defenceman who may score 100 points at some point in his career over a good offensive defenceman who is a great shut-down guy.

I know it is difficult to get some writers to consider a skinny, 21 year old Swedish kid over a future hall of famer or a giant,  but Karlsson's performance this season has dwarfed both of their achievements and he should be the Norris Trophy winner in a walk.

See you at the rink.