On Monday, the NHL named its finalists for the Norris Trophy. The Norris Trophy is annually presented to the defenceman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability. This year, the NHL named John Carlson, Roman Josi, and Victor Hedman the finalists. Last season, the Calgary Flames Mark Giordano was the recipient of the award. Lots of legendary defencemen have received the Norris, with Bobby Orr leading the way at eight wins. Soon, Shea Theodore could be another defenceman to win this award.
Although Shea Theodore is young, he has progressed to become one of the best defencemen in the NHL. When the Vegas Golden Knights traded for Theodore at the 2017 Expansion Draft, they received their future top defencemen. Theodore was already a promising young defenceman with the Anaheim Ducks and has recently blossomed into a play-driving rock with Vegas. He regularly dominates possession when on the ice, and scored a career-high 46 points this season. Theodore will only get better as time goes on, as he is only 25 years old. In the last 20 years, only Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban have won the Norris at an age younger than Theodore is now. Karlsson has had a Hall of Fame calibre career and is one of the best defencemen of this generation. Subban looked to be on that path, before his eventual decline the past few seasons.
Shea Theodore is a Norris Contender
Shea Theodore is an excellent offensive defenceman, who tends to take a lot of chances. While this can lead to odd-man rushes the other way, it is what allows Theodore to produce so many expected goals. As Theodore gets older and matures, he will be able to recognize the right time to join a rush and go up ice. This will allow him to not only maintain his offensive outputs but also help in the defensive zone more. This chart shows that Theodore is among the very best when it comes to creating chances in the offensive zone. His lower goals for numbers can be attributed to a low PDO, meaning that he is unlucky on the ice. Once his on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage start to regress to the mean, his offensive numbers will rise even more.
This graph also shows that while Theodore is elite at suppressing quantity against, he can give up a lot in terms of expected goals. This shows that he is giving up quality chances while on the ice. However, Theodore is still young and will increase his defensive IQ as he progresses. Due to this weakness, Theodore doesn’t receive any time on the penalty kill, lowering his value a bit.
While he doesn’t play on the penalty kill, Theodore plays a critical role in Vegas’ power play. He has outstanding possession numbers, and his on-ice goals totals will rise to these levels soon. Theodore played the most minutes on the power play out of any Vegas player this season. He played the critical role of being the power-play quarterback and will continue this role when returning to play.
Shea Theodore Vs. John Carlson
Carlson’s graph is similar to Theodore’s, as it shows both of their dynamic offensive impacts. However, Carlson scores a lot more goals while on the ice, and his team benefits where it matters most. Carlson might not display possession metrics as dominant as Theodore’s but creates a lot more goals. This may be due to Carlson’s more offensive teammates, as Theodore doesn’t have players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Where Carlson is better than Theodore is on special teams. Carlson’s Washington Capitals score a ton of goals on the power play, and Carlson is a huge part of that. The way that he quarterbacks the power play and takes the pressure off of Ovechkin is vital for Washington’s success. Carlson also plays on Washington’s penalty kill and is slightly above average at suppressing quality against.
Where Theodore has Carlson beat is in the defensive game, and also the transition game. Carlson’s defence is below average at best, as he lets up a ton of quality chances against. While Theodore lets up quality as well, Carlson does it at a much more alarming rate. Theodore is also great in the transition game and routinely transfers the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone with ease. Carlson is average in his transition game and needs to be in the offensive zone to be truly effective.
Shea Theodore Vs. Roman Josi
Josi is a much more complete player than Theodore and Carlson, and it shows on this graph. While his offensive numbers are just as good as the other two defencemen, his defensive numbers stand out as well. Josi was great at suppressing quality chances against, something the other two defencemen couldn’t do. His transition numbers are very elite as well, and he is among the very top in creating exits and entries.
Josi is also better than Theodore on special teams and plays a role in Nashville‘s power play and penalty kill. Theodore and Josi have very similar power play numbers, as both create lots of goals and chances through their offensive abilities. Where Josi shines is in his defensive numbers, as he posts relatively average defensive numbers while playing against elite competition most of the time. While Theodore only plays 23 percent of his ice time against elite players, Josi plays 33 percent. Josi is much older and more refined than Theodore, but it shows what it takes to be nominated for the Norris.
While Josi is considerably better than Theodore now, it gives a glimpse into Theodore’s future. If Theodore can continue to improve his defensive abilities, Vegas will trust him more in the defensive zone. This will allow Theodore to start in the defensive zone more and show that he is worthy of winning this prestigious award.
Shea Theodore Vs. Victor Hedman
Hedman is the only nominee to have won the Norris before. He is also the nominee who will most likely have the best career, as he is the youngest and on one of the elite teams in the NHL. The former second overall pick also had a monster season and isn’t far behind in Carlson and Josi for overall value. Hedman put up much better goals metrics than possession metrics. This is most likely due to the amount of offensive talent the Tampa Bay Lightning have. Hedman was much better at suppressing quality, but not quantity, where Theodore was the opposite. Hedman gave up a lot of low-danger chances, while Theodore gave up a small number of dangerous scoring chances. The Swede is much more experienced than Theodore, and he will learn to not give up dangerous chances as he ages.
Theodore and Hedman both were great in transition, but Theodore shined in the offensive categories. Theodore put up many more exits and entries than Hedman, but Hedman was able to stop more entries. The two both put up similar power play numbers and achieved very similar expected goals while on the man advantage.
However, Hedman was one of the league’s best penalty killers. Hedman suppressed quality on the penalty kill extremely well and did it all while playing against the likes of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews. Hedman also routinely played against elite competition, which is something that Theodore didn’t. Theodore was given a lot more shifts in the offensive zone, which shows his lack of defensive prowess at his young age.
Shea Theodore’s Trajectory
While Theodore may not be as good as these defencemen yet, they are all about five years older than him. This gives Theodore lots of time to progress into the top pairing defenceman Vegas needs him to be. Theodore is locked into the Vegas system for years to come and comes at the low cap hit of just $5.2 million. If Theodore continues the track he is developing on, he will be a minute-eating, offensive defenceman who can contribute everywhere on the ice.