A P.K. Subban Norris nomination might seem a far-fetched possibility considering the Montreal Canadiens recent struggles and the negative publicity directed towards them. Erik Karlsson is easily the front-runner for the trophy awarded to the best defenceman, but his team isn’t much better than that of Subban’s. A lot of pundits would argue that what separates a great player from a good player, is how well his team plays. But this year, the race to the Norris Trophy includes players on non-playoff teams, so individual stats and play must be taken into consideration. That being said, is a Subban Norris nomination a possibility?
P.K. Subban Norris Nomination: A Possibility?
After winning the Norris Trophy in just his third season in 2013, Subban was nominated again last June, only to lose to Karlsson. The Ottawa Senator defenceman is currently chasing his third Norris in four years, and his 65 points in 60 games strongly suggests that he will win it.
Subban is well behind in points, with 46, but a good arms length in front of Karlsson in terms of defensive responsibility. Karlsson leads the league with 1748:30 time on ice, an average of 29:08/game, but only 70 of those minutes have been on the penalty kill, as Senators head coach Dave Cameron clearly does not trust his captain when down a man.
Subban, on the other hand, is averaging 26:04 TOI, while he has been on for over 136 minutes on the PK, nearly doubling the minutes of Karlsson.
Subban’s overall defensive numbers are also stronger than Karlsson’s. In all situations, Subban has a Corsi of 57.19%, compared to Karlsson’s 56.86%. Karlsson has a high relative offensive zone start of 26.57%, while Subban has half of that. 739 scoring chances have occured against Ottawa with Karlsson on, while 635 scoring chances were directed to the Montreal net with Subban on. And most importantly, Karlsson has been on the ice for 101 goals for and 82 goals against, while Subban has been on for 97 goals for, and only 69 goals against.
If Karlsson merits the trophy for his undeniably stellar offensive play, Subban should at least be in the talks for his solid, and yet underrated, defensive play.
The Montreal Canadiens star defenceman is not bad offensively, either. After seasons of a pro-rated 65 points in the shortened 2013 season, 53 in 2014 and 60 last season, Subban is currently on pace for 69 points. His slow start left many to question his star power, but he has bounced back in 2016 with 20 points in 20 games. Although he didn’t score his second goal until January 9th, he currently sits with five goals, just six behind Karlsson. Subban also rode a career-high eight-game point streak from late-January to mid-February. He has become an offensive force on a Canadiens blue line that has scored 18 goals.
What may keep Subban away from a Norris nomination is his competition. A lot of defencemen have excelled this season, and the Calder Trophy may even go to a defenceman for a second year in a row, with Shayne Gostisbehere riding a 15-game point streak for the Flyers- a record for a rookie defenceman.
Drew Doughty, who has two Stanley Cups, two Olympic golds and a World Junior gold tucked in his trophy case at home, is still without the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Doughty is arguably the most defensively responsible out of Karlsson and Subban, and is putting up career offensive numbers this season.
His 38 points are just 8 points shy of his career-best from last season, he is third in the league for total time on ice, his Corsi is 0.15 percentage points higher than Subban’s, and he only has a 0.57% offensive zone start percentage. Doughty has the highest scoring-chance differential out of the three, with a +159. Most importantly, Doughty has been on for the least amount of goals against, with only 61. Doughty’s offensive numbers aren’t stellar, but his defensive game is magnificent.
That’s where the debate begins: is the Norris awarded to the best offensive defenceman or the defenceman with the best all-around game? According to the NHL, the trophy is awarded to the “defence player who demonstrates throughout the season the best all-around ability in the position”. That leaves many questions unanswered…
Knowing that Karlsson has two Norris trophies, it is clear that the voting committee prefers offence over defence, which isn’t right. This allows players like John Klingberg (10 goals, 47 points), Roman Josi (11 goals, 42 points) and Brent Burns (19 goals, 49 points) to be included in nomination talk, although the former is on a high-scoring team, and the latter plays forward at times. Subban and Doughty take the shortfall from this, as they are more complete players. Not saying Karlsson, Klingberg, Josi and Burns aren’t good in their own zones, but that Subban and Doughty are just better.
Then again, the debate that a great defenceman should carry his team into the playoffs, will emerge for Subban’s case, but not for Karlsson’s, because he is just an exceptional player. Subban is currently carrying the team as much he can, but there is only so much he can do. The Canadiens sit eight points out of the playoffs, and will likely be outside looking in come the springtime, but without Subban, they might as well have been in battle for last.
Does a P.K. Subban Norris nomination seem realistic? With his defensive numbers, it certainly seems so. Will he win? That’s a debate for another day.
All stats are courtesy of war-on-ice.com.