Erik Karlsson has finished in the top-three of voting for the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the fourth time in his career. He won the award in as the NHL’s best defenceman in 2011-12 and 2014-15, and finished as the runner-up in 2015-16. It represents the 6th consecutive year that Karlsson received at least one Norris vote.
Karlsson finished the season with 71 points (17 G, 54 A) in 77 games, good enough for second in defensive scoring. He finished with 27 points in his final 25 games to push him up to within five points of Burns. Karlsson finished 17th overall in terms of points, and sixth in assists. It also marked the fourth season in a row that Karlsson has led his team in points, joining Denis Potvin as the only defencemen to achieve that feat. Karlsson also has the four highest point totals over the last season by any defenceman (Jason Spezza ties him for the fourth-best). Karlsson scores a lot of points on a team that doesn’t have another top scorer.
Karlsson only finished the season with 49.7% of the 5v5 shot attempts (via Corsica), marking the first time in his career he was a negative possession player. However, he still finished with a relative Corsi of +2.1%, meaning that the team did significantly better with him on the ice. In other words, Ottawa was a poor possession team that Karlsson could almost drag back to respectability.
There is definitely an argument to be made for Karlsson to win thanks to his late-season push, but it’s likely he won’t. Brent Burns finished with 76 points, and was the presumed front-runner for most of the season. Burns’ late-season taper off (six points in his final 16 games) probably wasn’t enough to push Karlsson past him. Still, as many of us point out, Burns gets the opportunity to score so much partly because the Sharks have Marc-Edouard Vlasic to serve as shut down defenceman. Though Boucher has used Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci as his shutdown pairing at times, Karlsson is the only defenceman on this team that can reliably contain opponents’ top lines, and he still puts up his point totals.
The third nominee for Norris was Victor Hedman. No offence to him, but this was really a two-horse race between Burns and Karlsson.
Note that the official announcement will be happening later tonight, but a mistake by the Lightning website leaked the nominees a little early: