“The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season”.
This year’s crop of defensemen nominated for the Norris should not surprise anyone. Lidstrom has won it 6 times in the past ten years and has been nominated a total of 11 times. Chara took home the honours in 2009; this is his fourth nomination. The only newcomer to the list is Shea Weber, making his debut on the list at 25 years old.
Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins
Chara appeared in every game for the Bruins except the final game of the season, when he took a game off to rest up for the playoffs with the Bruins berth already secured. Chara posted 14 goals and 30 assists for 44 points, with 264 shots on goal, finishing the season with an amazing +33 rating. Eight of Chara’s goals were on the power play, where he was in impact player, but he was equally as important on the penalty kill. Chara racked up 88 penalty minutes while averaging 25:26 time on ice. Chara registered 153 hits and blocked 111 shots during the regular season. Importantly, Chara had a rotating body of defence partners, none of whom you would consider to be close to this category, making his performance even more impressive.
Nicklas Lidstrom – Detroit Red Wings
At 41 years old, Lidstrom is still on top of his game. He appeared in all 82 games for the Red Wings, registering 16 goals and 46 assists on 175 shots on goal (a surprising 9.1% shot perecentage!), and finished the season at -2. Lidstrom’s 20 penalty minutes, despite playing 23:28 per game, were part of the reason he has also earned a nomination for the Lady Byng. His gentlemanly play is also seen in his low level of hits compared to the other two nominees (49). Lidstrom did use his body though, blocking 92 shots over the course of the season.
Shea Weber – Nashville Predators
The newcomer to the list, Weber has been quietly making a name for himself in Nashville. Playing each of the 82 games this season, Weber put up 16 goals and 32 assists, finishing with a +7. Weber accumulated 56 PIM and averaged 25:19 time on ice. He was not afraid to punish the opposition, laying 211 hits. He also blocked 113 shots. Nashville was the most offensively-challenged of the teams represented here, only scoring 2.60 goals/game (22nd in the league), highlighting the importance of Weber’s defensive play.
The crew from VFMS weigh in:
Carlos: It is a little known fact that Chuck wins the Norris each year, he just let’s someone else accept the award because he doesn’t like to brag.
So this year, the “winner” should be Chara. It’s pretty hard to argue with the numbers he put up in both offensive and defensive categories and, as you stated, he did that with different (and less than spectacular) defensive partners throughout the season.
He is also very tall and goofy, and looks funny when he wears a gigantic suit, so I’d like to see that.
Matt: Talk about a rough year to pick this award. Don’t get me wrong, all of the nominees are worthy of consideration. Actually, they got it right with the three finalists. But here’s the thing: there isn’t really a slam dunk answer this year. I love Shea Weber but I’m not sure that he’s even the best blueliner on his team. Nicklas Lidstrom is one of the best defenseman the planet has ever seen, but the guy was a minus 2 this year. I don’t care if the plus/minus is a flawed stat, he was on the ice for more goals against than he was for goals. He’s still great, but the best defenseman in the league would score more than he allowed. That leaves Zdeno Chara. He’s one of the best defensive defenseman who led one of the best defensive teams in the league. One of the most potent offensive players—and I don’t mean offensive in the way Habs fans would mean it. He does everything extremely well and without him, the Bruins are a completely different team.
CJ: I’ll gladly eat my words if he (Chara) is the best player on the ice (in Game 7 vs Tampa Bay)! Maybe it’s my overly critical expectation for Zee but I don’t think he had the same Norris-worthy season he did in when he won it last. Maybe no Dman did…but there is little doubt if he were on any other team in the League he would be the most feared match-up, and likely launch said team to new heights.
Hoping that is finally true for the Bruins. Zee has not yet carried the team over the hump to the promised land, and given the year that Thomas has had, I hope Zee delivers on the high expectations of Bruins fans across the land.
…with the following addition made the day after Game 7 of the ECF:
Annnd words eaten! Chara and Seidenberg were absolute beasts last night!! Give the man the hardware!
Ryan: I’m giving it to Chara, mostly because he haunts my dreams on a nightly basis. On the flipside, I’m giving the “Snorris” to Johnny F*cking Boychuk. Did I read it right that the last 8 goals against the Bruins occurred with him on the ice?!
Jen: I must say that I am shocked that, after being traded from Dallas, Matt Niskanen wasn’t nominated for the defensive depth he brought to the Pittsburgh blueline. Alas, maybe next year.
While I don’t really want to pick Chara for my Norris vote, it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it. Take him out of the Bruins lineup, and it’s a completely different team. And I’m not even talking about the reduction in team average height. He lead his team (and the league) with a plus-33.
Now if we could just see him lead his team to a SCF win, I might feel even better about this vote!
What do you think? Who should take home the Norris this year?