Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Debating the Norris Trophy finalists

Image (1) Green3-thumb-200x300-10108.jpg for post 1168

With the announcement today of the Norris Trophy finalists, there has rung out a debate across the internet over the validity of said finalists and whether the hockey writers had any clue what they were doing when voting. With Mike Green, Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith named as finalists, there was some consternation that Chris Pronger and Nicklas Lidstrom were left off the list.

I wasn’t surprised by the finalists at all. I don’t have a vote, but from talking to other writers and reading articles across the internet the past few weeks it was obvious that Green, Doughty and Keith were the consensus top three. They are all under 26 years old and with a number of other young defensemen in the mix, namely Shea Weber, it felt that a torch was being passed from the old guard of Pronger and Lidstrom to the new and the younger guys in the NHL.

All of this has raised a debate as to what the meaning of the actual award is. The Norris Memorial Trophy is given each season to the “the defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.”

Green, Doughty and Keith are the three top scoring defensemen in the NHL, and some believe that the PWHA have relied too much on offensive stats in their voting and have forgotten that actually playing defense is part of the award as well.

None can question Doughty and Keith’s ability in their own zone, so naturally the debate has centered around Mike Green, because we can’t go more than 36 hours without some heated debate regarding the Washington Capitals.

Anthony SanFilippo, a great beat writer for the Philadelphia Flyers, says today that he’s “embarrassed” to be a hockey writer since Green was named a finalist.

We all look pretty bad today. I mean REALLY bad today. We all look like we don’t know the first thing we’re talking about when it comes to the sport of hockey.

How else can anyone explain Washington Defenseman Mike Green being a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the sport’s best defenseman over Chirs Pronger and Niklas Lidstrom, among several others?

I’m not so sure about why he feels so embarrassed. The reason it’s a five-player ballot, spread across the various writers of the PWHA, is so that those with different opinions will be balanced out into one consensus vote. While he may not agree with the finalists, I don’t feel that’s a requirement to call out his profession. Unless everyone is completely blinded by offensive stats. More on that in a bit.

Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy says that while Green certainly doesn’t have the defensive ability of the other two finalists, it’s his offensive ability that balances him as a player:

He’s not better defensively than the other two, and probably the top 5 on most ballots. If you consider that aspect to be the critical factor in who wins the award, then he falls short. If the totality of his game is more important, then he’s worthy.

The outpouring of negative sentiment towards Mike Green has brought about some heated defense by Capitals fans, who cite his outstanding +/- numbers as reason why his defense is not as bad as some may believe. If he has hands down the best plus/minus in the NHL, then surely he’s not as big a liability on defense as some claim he is, right?

What hurts Green the most in these arguments are the statistics. Not the great offensive numbers he puts up, but the deeper statistics that are being used now to measure a player’s true effectiveness.

Of the three, Mike Green has the lowest Quality of Competition (0.005) and the highest Quality of Teammates (0.323). Compare that to Drew Doughty (0.027 QCMP, 0.098 QTM) and to Duncan Keith (0.081 QCMP, 0.034 QTM). Green also plays on a team with the highest overall goal differential in the NHL, and had a disproportionate number of offensive zone starts as compared to defensive zone starts.

These are just stats and numbers, but they show that the statistics used to put Green on this list aren’t infallible. Green’s numbers are great because that’s the position he was put in, on an aggressively offensive team that scores a ton of goals.

As far as Lidstrom and Pronger go, some feel that they were snubbed by the inclusion of Green. While I don’t necessarily agree that Pronger is one of the best defensemen in the NHL, there’s no doubt that Lidstrom still has the ability to be the best lockdown defenseman in the league. His numbers were down this season, and that likely didn’t help him.

Were the writers blinded by the offensive numbers by the three finalists, ignoring the fact that being a defenseman means playing defense as well? Tough to say, although the fact that we were having this same debate last season about Mike Green is saying something.

Personally, I think the argument is moot. Even if Pronger and Lidstrom had made the cut it seems that Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty will get the award, and they’ll both deserve it.