It's not easy to take something from someone who is 6' 4" and 234 pounds. It's even harder to take something from someone who is 6' 9" and 255 pounds. But that's what the Professional Hockey Writers' Association did last night to Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara. They stole the Norris Trophy from them and gave it to Erik Karlsson, a 175 pound Swede known more for his offense than his defense.
The Norris Trophy is given to the NHL's top "defense player [defenseman] who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position." Frequently, however, it is given to the defenseman with the most points.
There's no denying Karlsson's offensive prowess. He led all defensemen with 78 points (25 more than 2nd place). He scored 19 goals, which tied with Weber for tops among defensemen. And he had 59 assists, 10 more than any other defenseman.
But if you were starting an NHL team, who would be the first defenseman you'd take? For me, I'd take Chara. Shea Weber would be my second choice. As talented as Karlsson is, I would rather have a defenseman that can play defense first, then contribute on offense. And maybe the 22 year old Karlsson will one day be that all-around player. But not today.
Karlsson was a +16, which isn't bad, but Chara was +33. Weber was +21. And to those who might argue that +/- is a team stat, so are assists. And assists are what gave Karlsson the offensive edge over Weber. They both scored 19 goals.
A good defenseman should be a good penalty-killer. After all, that's the most defensively minded part of the game. Weber averaged 2:16 of shorthanded time per game, and over 176 minutes total. Chara averaged 2:43 per game, and over 214 total. Karlsson averaged 0:33 per game, and totalled about 45 and a half minutes. That's the lowest among Ottawa defensemen. 166 NHL defensemen had more shorthanded ice-time than Karlsson. That's more than 27 teams worth of defensemen.
How does someone who doesn't kill penalties be deemed the best defenseman in the NHL?
Maybe Chara and Weber split the old school vote. Anyone who voted for Chara would probably pick Weber in a head-to-head contest against Karlsson. Weber lost to Karlsson by a slim margin. 1,069 to 1,057.
Maybe Karlsson's nationality helped. Swedes dominated the awards this year. Lundqvist won the Vezina, a Swede was the top rookie, Alfredsson won the King Clancy Trophy.
Maybe the voters wanted first-time winners. Chara was a distant 3rd in the voting, but I think he should have won. He won the Norris in 2009 and these awards seemed to be about new faces. Every other trophy was won by a first-timer.
I think the NHL needs an additional trophy. They need a reverse Selke, which is awarded to the best defensive forward. They need a trophy for the best offensive defenseman. Call it the Orr Trophy. Then guys like Karlsson can get recognition for their offensive contribution without siphoning accolades from all-around defensemen like Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara.
To Chara's credit, he had this to say about Karlsson:
"Well, he's obviously having a great year and very productive. He's got unbelievable skills so I would like to congratulate him."
And also said this about Bergeron winning the Selke:
"Tonight’s about Patrice. I'm happy, I'm extremely happy for him and, honestly, I almost screamed when he won. He deserves it, he's been such a great teammate and friend and I'm extremely happy for him."
Is it too late to nominate Chara for the 2013 Lady Byng?