This series will be tracking the top Norris Trophy candidates through numerous amounts of stats to monitor and analyze their progression, production, efficiency, and reliability as we progress through the abbreviated 2021 NHL season.
The Norris Trophy
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is named after hockey icon James E. Norris. After spending some time with other professional hockey franchises, Norris purchased the Detriot Franchise in 1932. Shortly after, he ended up changing the team’s name to what we all know today as THE Detriot Red Wings. While Norris owned the sport organization for 50 years, they went on to win the Stanley Cup seven times. Even though the Red Wings went through quite a rough patch after being sold in the 1980’s; everything that James Norris did laid the groundwork for one of the most historical hockey franchises ever.
With that, the NHL has a real affection for honoring their past builder and leaders. In comparison, Norris is on a long list of unique trophy names within the game. It is one of the most coveted awards to receive. The trophy has been around for 48-years. Within that time frame, only 26 different players have been distinguished the title of ‘Norris Trophy Winner.’ This surely helps paint the picture of how difficult it is to receive such an award.
Now that you know some of the histories behind such a sought-after award, we will continue the conversation with what this ‘watch’ is all about…
What is this Norris ‘Watch’?
The Norris watch will revolve around tracking and monitoring who, I believe, are the top Norris Trophy candidates throughout the shortened season. You can guess that my list is quite similar to some of the league’s top analysts. Yet, this is more about taking a deeper dive into these skaters’ on-ice performance on a more daily basis. While this will be a process that relies heavily on numbers and analytics, the eye test shall never be ignored.
Furthermore, the Norris is awarded annually to the NHL’s top “defence player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.” At the same time, it feels as if they are measured by their offensive production versus the whole package. Nonetheless, this project will help put that debate to rest; while also shedding a bright light on what it takes to be the best defenseman in the world’s best league.
To truly measure ‘s progress these defensemen’s progress, many different types of stats will be used to paint the clearest picture possible. To make this series the best it can be, I will be gathering data from a few different genius individuals who have helped show the hockey community the true power that lies behind the numbers. I will be using various statistics from ChartingHockey.ca, JFresh Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, Money-Puck, and Evolving-Hockey.
Using the numbers they provide, I will be overseeing the more basic data points like goals, assists, games played, and penalty minutes. With the combination of more advanced stats like Expected Goals For and Goals Against(xGF/xGA), along with Goals Above Replacement (GAR), Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and much much more.
Way Too Early Thoughts
Now that we have established what this series is, we can jump into some thoughts bound to just change because they were mentioned, haha! To start, Vegas Golden Knights Shea Theodore is a stud. Yes, he has been deemed an “analytical darling” but after this past playoff run. It is easy to say that Theodore can straight out play. With a GAR of 3.6 and xGF of 5.4, Shea is a gamer in every sense of the definition.
Another name worth mentioning also comes from the west division. Colorado Avalanche‘s Cale Makar picks up right where he left off after winning the Calder Trophy last year. Through seven games played, Makar has eight assists, an incredible 62.8 percent Corsi for, and a GAR of 4.2. Both of these young guns are here to show that they are the future of this league.
Overall, there is such a small sample size of these players so far. With teams missing games related to COVID-19 protocols, to say that anyone is the true ‘leader’ in the Norris race is premature. Nonetheless, players stand out above the rest, but no one has even played ten games yet. There is not a whole lot to be working with. As the season continues, the Norris Trophy race will undoubtedly heat up.
**Analytics gathered and observed before the start of the January 27th games**