FanPost

Senators Alphabet: E is for Erik

E is for Erik, as in Erik Karlsson, Ottawa's new superstar. While those of us who cheer for the Senators have known it for some time now, the rest of the league is starting to take notice. If Erik Karlsson had been a flop, I think I would still have a special place in my heart for him. I was able to attend the NHL Draft when it was held in Ottawa in 2008 and was privileged to see Alfie announce his name. Fortunately Karlsson, like his fellow Swede, is playing his way into Senators lore.

If you've followed the site for any length of time, you're probably aware of Adnan's love for Karlsson and his proclamation that Erik is the greatest defenseman of all time. While most regard Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr as the best there ever was, Adnan begs to differ. So let's look at Bobby and Erik.

On the surface of things, there is no comparison. Erik Karlsson is a two-time NHL all-star. Bobby Orr is Bobby Orr. Which means: Calder Trophy winner, eight consecutive NHL First Team All-Star selections, eight consecutive All-Star Games (including MVP in 1972), 6 time NHL Plus/Minus leader (most in history), eight consecutive Norris Trophies, three consecutive Hart Trophies, the Lester B. Pearson Award, two Stanley Cups, two Cup clinching goals, two Conn Smythe Trophies, MVP of the 1976 Canada Cup, and Hall of Fame induction at age 31 in 1979. Perhaps most impressively, he remains the only defenseman to lead the league in scoring, and he did it twice, earning the Art Ross Trophy in 1969-70 and 1974-75. He remains the only player to ever win the Norris Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, and Conn Smythe Trophy in one season (1969-70). He has the fourth highest all-time point-per-game average (1.393) which is the highest among defensemen. He was the first defenseman in history to score 30 goals in a season and the first defenseman to score 40 goals in a season. In 1974-75, Orr played his last full season in the NHL at 27 (knee surgery that off season limited him to just 36 more games over the next four seasons), he scored 46 goals and added 89 assists for 135. Entering what should have been the prime of his career, Orr recorded his career high in goals and his sixth consecutive 100 point season.

If Orr had two good knees, it seems likely that both his award totals and his career point totals would be considerably higher. Such award dominance just doesn't happen a lot in the NHL (Nick Lidstrom begs to differ). At this stage in Erik's career, the best point of comparison between Orr and Karlsson is how they altered and are altering the perception of a defenseman's role in the NHL.

Bobby Orr created the offensive, rushing defenseman. He smashed the scoring records for defensemen because he dared to play the position differently. In the fourteen seasons in which the Norris Trophy was awarded before Bobby Orr won the award, six different men won the award.

YEAR

WINNER

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM








1953-54

Red Kelly

62

16

33

49

18

1954-55

Doug Harvey

70

6

43

49

58

1955-56

Doug Harvey

62

5

39

44

60

1956-57

Doug Harvey

70

6

44

50

92

1957-58

Doug Harvey

68

9

32

41

131

1958-59

Tom Johnson

70

10

29

39

76

1959-60

Doug Harvey

66

6

21

27

45

1960-61

Doug Harvey

58

6

33

39

48

1961-62

Doug Harvey

69

6

24

30

42

1962-63

Pierre Pilote

59

8

18

26

57

1963-64

Pierre Pilote

70

7

46

53

84

1964-65

Pierre Pilote

68

14

45

59

162

1965-66

Jacques Laperriere

57

6

25

31

85

1966-67

Harry Howell

70

12

28

40

54

In this 14 year span, 50 points was eclipsed only three times. Until Bobby Orr, the highest single season point total by a Norris Trophy winning defenseman was 59. The average point total was 41 points/season. Offense was fairly stable during this period: the goals per game in 1956-57 (the year modern powerplay rules were adopted) were at a low 5.38; at the end of the period the goals per game was at 5.96. In general, these men had offensive upside, but were primarily defensively responsible.

Offense increased with expansion and at the end of Bobby Orr's career, 1977-78 (he would only play 6 more games in the NHL), goals per game had risen to 6.59. However, since Erik Karlsson is breaking records this season, in a league with a low goals per game (5.34), his totals need to be adjusted to compare his stats to those of other eras. These statistics are adjusted for schedule lengths, roster sizes, and scoring eras (from hockey-reference.com).

Bobby Orr's career stats and adjusted numbers:



REAL





ADJUSTED

YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS


G

A

PTS

GC

1966-67

18

61

13

28

41


14

30

44

16

1967-68

19

46

11

20

31


12

22

34

13

1968-69

20

67

21

43

64


20

42

62

22

1969-70

21

76

33

87

120


33

91

124

43

1970-71

22

78

37

102

139


34

95

129

44

1971-72

23

76

37

80

117


36

81

117

42

1972-73

24

63

29

72

101


27

67

94

33

1973-74

25

74

32

90

122


30

87

117

40

1974-75

26

80

46

89

135


39

78

117

43

1975-76

27

10

5

13

18


4

11

15

5

1976-77

28

20

4

19

23


4

17

21

7

1978-79

30

6

2

2

4


2

2

4

2

Even with his totals adjusted, Bobby Orr still had historic numbers for a defenseman. Because Karlsson has only three seasons of NHL statistics available, I will compare his current season, his third in the league at the age of 21, to other elite defensemen at the age of 21 and in their third seasons. (GC = goals created; OPS = offensive point shares, an estimate of the # of points contributed by a player due to his offense; DPS = defensive point shares, an estimate of the # of points contributed by a player due to his defense; PS = point shares, combined OPS and DPS; see http://www.hockey-reference.com/about/point_shares.html for more info).

BOBBY ORR


REAL






ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

1968-69

20

67

21

43

64

23


20

42

62

22

6.5

6.5

13


3rd Season

1969-70

21

76

33

87

120

42


33

91

124

43

12.8

6.7

19.6


4th Season


















ERIK KARLSSON

REAL






ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

2011-12

21

64

15

51

66

22


21

71

92

31

7.2

3.9

11.1


3rd Season


















PAUL COFFEY


REAL






ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

1982-83

21

80

29

67

96

35


23

54

77

27

7.4

4.7

12.1


3rd Season


















MIKE GREEN


REAL






ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

2006-07

21

70

2

10

12

4


2

10

12

4

0.2

1.1

1.3


2nd Season

2007-08

22

82

18

38

56

20


20

41

61

22

6

4

10


3rd Season


















NICKLAS LIDSTROM


REAL





ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

1991-92

21

80

11

49

60

20


10

43

53

17

4

5.5

9.5


1st Season

1993-94

23

84

10

46

56

18


9

42

51

16

3.8

5.4

9.2


3rd Season


















RAY BOURQUE


REAL






ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

1981-82

21

65

17

49

66

23


12

36

48

16

4.5

4.8

9.3


3rd Season


















BRIAN LEETCH


REAL






ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

1989-90

21

72

11

45

56

18


9

38

47

15

3.5

3.4

6.9


3rd Season


















SHEA WEBER


REAL






ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

2006-07

21

79

17

23

40

15


18

23

41

16

4.1

4

8.1


2nd Season

2007-08

22

54

6

14

20

7


7

15

22

8

1.6

1.7

3.3


3rd Season


















ZDENO CHARA


REAL






ADJUSTED






YEAR

AGE

GP

G

A

PTS

GC


G

A

PTS

GC

OPS

DPS

PS


SEASON

1998-99

21

59

2

6

8

3


2

7

9

3

-0.1

1.9

1.8


2nd Season

1999-00

22

65

2

9

11

4


2

10

12

4

-0.2

0.9

0.7


3rd Season

What do these stats show us? Erik Karlsson is amazing and would dominate in the 1980s. He is producing at rates that have been rarely achieved in the NHL. Also, offense is underrated. Looking closer at his Norris winning season, Chara's point shares were 4.8 OPS, 5.7 DPS, for a total PS of 10.5, the best of his career. Given his reputation as a shutdown defenseman, Weber has only had a DPS higher than 5 once, last year when he registered 5.5 DPS. His highest PS came four seasons ago (10.5 PS). In contrast, Mike Green's career best PS is 13.9 (4.9 DPS) and three times in his injury-ravaged six seasons compiled a PS over 10.

This week, NHL.com ran an article on possible Norris candidates and declared Nick Lidstrom the consensus pick at the three quarter mark of the season. Lidstrom's point shares so far this season? 2.8 OPS, 4.7 DPS, 7.5 PS.

So how is Erik Karlsson changing the way hockey fans perceive defensemen? He is helping shift the discussion. The Karlsson Norris debate breaks down along two lines: the traditionalist "defense wins championships" mentality and those who rely on advanced statistics to understand just how this works. Mike Green's 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons were dismissed by many despite his point totals. His lack of defensive ability was believed by many to be the reason why he did not make the 2010 Canadian Olympic team. Green's reputation worked against him, plain and simple. Statistical evidence was ignored and Green was evaluated on perception. He didn't look like a shutdown defenseman and therefore wasn't elite. Yet, two seasons later advanced statistics are being used by main stream media to vindicate Green's play.

In fact, NHL.com staff writer Corey Masisak now suggests Green should have won the Norris both times: "He probably deserved to win in 2008-09 -- not only did finish with 31 goals and 73 points, but he wasn't nearly as bad on defense as some pundits opined -- Green led all defensemen in advanced-metric website Behind The Net's plus/minus per 60 minutes at even strength stat, and was on the ice for fewer goals-against than that season's Norris winner, Boston's Zdeno Chara. The next season there was little doubt Green should have won. He finished with 19 goals and 76 points -- again leading all defensemen -- and was even better at even strength. He was on the ice for 96 Washington goals while only 51 goals-against -- 23 fewer than Norris winner Duncan Keith."

Karlsson's sheer offensive dominance this season is causing more discussion of advanced statistics - if only to disprove his dominance. Masisak's chief reason for suggesting Lidstrom deserves the Norris this season is that Nick faces the "toughest competition and yet his team dominates at even strength when he's on the ice". Karlsson faces tough competition as well (36th overall) yet dominates individually. If Karlsson continues to dominate, his offensive play becomes a kind of shutdown defense. If he keeps producing like this (at season's end it is possible only Bobby Orr will have had more points in a season at 21), Erik Karlsson will continue to push the way defense is evaluated.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Silver Seven community, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the site managers, editors, or Sports Blogs Nation, Inc.

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