During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Aerys NHL writers have been revealing their picks for the NHL award categories. You can find the previous prognostics over on the side bar.
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded each year to the NHL’s top “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” The award was first given in 1954 and since then, it has been awarded 58 times to 24 players. It is named for James E. Norris, owner Detroit Red Wings from 1932 to 1952.
Last season Aerys projected Erik Karlsson to win this award and he did! You can read more about that here.
Other notable past winners include Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger.
This year, perhaps because of the shortened season, the pool of quality candidates is large and hard to separate from one another but the following are my own nominations for this year’s Norris Trophy.
PK Subban – Montreal Canadiens
Subban’s season began a little later than everyone else’s as he was a restricted free agent without a contract. But soon he and the Montreal Canadiens reached an agreement and he was well on his way to leading all NHL defensemen in points with 38 (11 goals, 27 assists) in just 42 games played. In addition, seven of those points came on the powerplay and he was a combined +12 for the year. His success was instrumental in helping Habs go from the bottom to the top of the Northeast division.
Ryan Suter – Minnesota Wild
When Suter hit free agency this past summer, we all knew that a sweepstakes of sorts would take place. The Minnesota Wild were the winners then and continued to be winners as Suter proved himself to be an invaluable asset to their organization. Offensively, he contributed four goals and 28 assists, which when combined adds up to 32 points, the third best in the league among defensemen. In addition to offense, Suter also provided leadership as he wore an “A” on his sweater and mentored his rookie partner, Jonas Brodin into becoming a potential Calder Trophy winner. Suter played in all 48 of the Wild’s games and he averaged 27:13 minutes of ice time per game. However, in nine instances he played over 30 minutes, even three times playing more than 32. Even with playing those kind of minutes, Suter was a +2 for the season.
Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins
Letang brings an interesting argument for his candidacy to the table. Despite playing in only 35 games this season, he collected 38 points (five goals, 33 assists). He was an overall +16 for the year and only amassed eight total penalty minutes. Many have dismissed Letang’s worthiness of this recognition due to argument that his impressive stats are more as a result of his fortune to play on a star-studded team than his actual play. Regardless, it would be silly to not include him as a Norris Trophy finalist.
My winner of this year’s James Norris Memorial Trophy is Ryan Suter. Not only does he fit the description of being proficient in all aspects of his position, he has done much of the heavy lifting in helping the Minnesota Wild to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Throughout the season he played a huge amount of minutes against the Western conference’s best players and was able to contribute offensively while still anchoring the team’s defense–everything that you want in your number one defenseman.