The 2015-16 NHL season is coming to a close and what better way to cap off the year by taking a look at the front runners for the NHL Award winners? The Awards ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, but there is no harm in getting our predictions in now. For a look back on yesterdays article on the Vezina, click here.
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position, and there are multiple names who have a shot this year, each with their respective arguments to why they’re the best this season.
Predictions for the 2015-16 Norris Trophy
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins: 70 games, 16 goals, 50 assists, 66 points.
The first name in the shortlist, and falling into the Honorable Mention category, is that of Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Letang has had a great season for Pittsburgh, and is surely one of the many reasons they are continuing to be successful and seeing themselves in the playoffs once again. He ranks top ten among all NHL defenseman in virtually every relevant category, but it just isn’t enough to see him into the top three this season for the Norris. Despite not being top three, his 16 goals, 50 assists, and 26:53 TOI per game are numbers that anyone can argue for.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes: 73 games, 21 goals, 32 assists, 53 points.
The second, and final, name on the list of honorable mentions for the Norris this year is Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes. Ekman-Larsson has been one of the shining stars on another disappointing season for the young Coyotes organization, and he is surely one of their main men moving forward into the future. He’s second among all NHL defenseman in goals, with 21 on the season, as well as being fifth in shots with 221, making for a very respectable shooting percentage of 9.5%. To add onto those impressive offensive numbers, he’s widely seen as one of the best special teams defenseman in the league and is continuing to prove that an astute observation with his 12 PPG and 27 PPP.
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators: 80 games, 13 goals, 46 assists, 59 points.
Josi has played a pivotal role in the Predators run to the playoffs this season, and will continue to play a huge role for them during their potential run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has been arguably one of the best defenseman in the entire league, and for that he deserves to be mentioned among the finalists for the Norris Trophy.
Josi has come into his own this season and has become a household name league-wide, instead of just in Bridgestone Arena. He sits fourth among all defenseman in the league in total points, with 59, and that is no surprise when you see the 25-year old play on a consistent basis. He also sits fourth among all defenseman in assists with 46 on the season, and despite not being a prolific scorer, he can contribute with the odd goal here and there. Another impressive statistic to bolster his case for inclusion is the amount of time he spends on the ice per game. He averages 25:27 per game in TOI, which is also another statistic in the top 10 for defenseman across the league, coming in at eighth. Another talking point for Josi this season has been the impact he has had on the power play for the Predators, and ranks in the top ten in the league for defenseman in power play points and power play goals with six PPG and 24 PPP.
Roman Josi records his 57th point, breaking the #Preds record for points in a season by a defenceman set by Shea Weber in 2013-14.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) March 29, 2016
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators: 80 games, 16 goals, 64 assists, 80 points.
Coming in second in the voting, and arguably the best defenseman in the league, is defending Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators. This may come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the league this year, and the last few for that matter. But the big difference between him and the chosen winner is the inability to help push his organization into the playoffs, despite his utterly impressive scoring performance.
Last season Karlsson won the Norris Trophy with a total of 66 points (21 goals and 45 assists) and it was a well-deserved win for him. And, despite the fact that he has improved on what was an already impressive point total this year, it’s just not enough to get the trophy for the second straight season. He has racked up the most points this season among defensemen with 16 goals and 64 assists for a total of 80 on the season. His 64 assists is also tops in the NHL for any position. Karlsson is also first in the league in time on ice per game with a whopping 29:03 TOI.
Points on the season: 80
Goals in his career: 100
Erik Karlsson is a special talent.https://t.co/jX1fwYJmBM
— NHL (@NHL) April 6, 2016
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 80 games, 27 goals, 47 assists, 74 points.
The decision for first and second for the Norris Trophy voting this season is entirely a matter of opinion, and will change from person to person. One thing cannot be denied though, and that’s the absolutely massive impact that Brent Burns has had on the San Jose Sharks this season, as he’s having the best year of his career. Just like Karlsson, has had a serious improvement on his point output and is the choice for the trophy this season.
For those of you out there who focus solely on point totals, your argument is heard and understood, but Burns has been tremendous this season and fully deserves the Norris. The same argument, solely on points, can be made for Burns as well as he is top of the table for NHL defenseman with 27 goals on the season. Alongside his impressive season of consistently putting the biscuit in the basket, he is third in assists with 47, second in total points with 74, third in P/PG with 0.93, first in PPP with 29, and first in shots, with a whopping 347 on the season. This massively impressive statistical output comes with him only sitting seventh in TOI per game, at 25:54 per game.
Burns has been a key performer this year for the Sharks and his impact cannot be understated as one of the main reasons they are in with a chance at Lord Stanley’s Cup. All of these things combined add up to one sure thing, a truly worthy winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) April 5, 2016