Erik Karlsson has played in eight full NHL seasons, yet somehow has only two Norris Trophy wins to show for it. Certainly a few of those seasons he did not deserve to win, but the last two seasons he was arguably the better player compared to Drew Doughty and Brent Burns.
The narrative surrounding those two players (Doughty in particular) was that they had never won a Norris, and that they were “due” to win one, while Karlsson had already won. Now it seems like a running joke that every season there will be a new defenseman that hasn’t won the award who will get more votes than Karlsson no matter what.
Karlsson’s play in the playoffs have made the majority of people finally realize that he is the best defenseman in the league, and his 17 points in 11 games to begin the season is nothing short of incredible. However, that doesn’t mean he’s a lock for the Norris.
For those who have lost their way onto this Senators website, this isn’t really meant to be a serious exercise. Then again, I could see one of these defensemen winning, so there is some truth to this. But the only takeaway I want from this is that it would be hilarious, sad, and predictable if one of these players does win the award.
This is the player that got me thinking about this kind of article. Jeremy Rutherford’s tweet took a lot of flak, and deservedly so:
Pietrangelo tied for NHL lead in goals by defensemen (4) and alone at the top in points (12). It's early but he's off to a Norris-like start— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 26, 2017
Is Pietrangelo a great player? Certainly. But he’s 27 years old and has never come close to a Norris caliber season, so I don’t see how he’ll magically have one now.
However, the narrative around his play makes him appear much better than he actually is. He’s been in the league full-time since 2010, and it’s a strong possibility that the media thinks he deserves at least one Norris in his career. He currently has 16 points in 19 games, and if he blows past his career high of 51, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him near the top of the voting.
Hedman is legitimately a top-5 defenseman in the game, and I wouldn’t be nearly as upset if he won. I don’t think people realize this, but he actually had more points than Karlsson last year with 72 (albeit, in two more games played).
He is a force on the ice, and while he has the obvious offensive upside, his defensive prowess is more noticeable than Karlsson’s because of his huge frame. The media loves defensemen who can lay out big hits, so Hedman has the best of both worlds.
With the way that the Tampa Bay Lightning are playing, he’ll certainly get lots of publicity, and even if Karlsson does win, Hedman will probably be a runner-up.
I predicted that Weber would win last year to create perfect back-to-back “he’s due” campaigns, but Weber’s production took a huge after the first month or so. Despite the narrative shifting on him as a player, he still has plenty of supporters.
And with 12 points in 18 games, he’s off to a good enough offensive start. Weber has also been in the league since 2005, so for the big proponents of his game, he’s more than earned a trophy by now.
It would be incredible to see him win just because of the outrage from everyone. With the way that things are going for the Montreal Canadiens though, Weber may not get enough support.
After the first three players (two, really), the last two possibilities are less likely. However, Kris Letang’s name has always been thrown around in Norris discussions as a candidate in the 4-6 range. If he can stay healthy for the entire season (which he has only done once) and score 50+ points, you can be sure that there will be talk about him being under-appreciated.
He’s never really been an eligible candidate just because he has always been hurt, or there has been a more obvious candidate, but with a solid season like he is having, Letang could be due.
Carlson has always been a solid top-pairing defenseman, but he’s not quite in that elite tier. However, he benefits from the “Elite Team Effect” where he gets more credit than he probably should simply because he is on one of the best teams in the league and gets credit for that.
Just like Pietrangelo, he is also 27 years old, which is the prime age for the media to present this as the perfect time for him to win his first Norris. I highly doubt that he actually will win, but knowing his reputation and the fact that he is on a good (or at least should be good) Capitals team, he will get some recognition.
Honourable Mentions: Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, Roman Josi
The pair of Columbus Blue Jackets defensemen have looked fantastic so far, although they are probably too young for people to sympathize with them not winning. And while Josi has gone from underrated to overrated, there are certainly enough people that love him.
Do you think there’s anyone I left off? Give me your best pitch as to who’s “due” to win over Karlsson. Pretend as if you love this candidate as much as Pierre LeBrun loved Drew Doughty.