The 2016-17 NHL season is coming to a close and what better way to cap off the year by taking a look at the front runners for the NHL Award winners? The Awards ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, but there is no harm in getting our predictions in now.
The Norris Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s top defense player who best demonstrates the greatest all-around ability throughout the season. At the end of each season, members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote to determine the winner.
Predictions for the 2016-17 Norris Trophy
Ryan Suter has been an elite defenseman in the NHL for close to a decade now. Fans just don’t hear much about him because he is not flashy or a big point-production player.
Suter averages the third-highest time on ice in the NHL at just over 27 minutes. This year, Suter has had a career-high nine goals to go along with 28 assists for 37 total points. For a defenseman that doesn’t produce a ton of points, his defensive skills in his own end need to be near flawless.
Suter’s Corsi-for percentage is at 50.2% and starts his shifts in the offensive zone 50% of the time as well. But his goalie’s save percentage when Suter is on the ice is 93.4%, which are all decent numbers, but not enough to win the Norris.
His offensive numbers really hamper his chances at winning the Norris trophy. Which is a shame because Suter has been an elite defenseman, and would be a candidate every year if his offensive numbers were better.
2016-17 has been Victor Hedman’s breakout year. The NHL knew Hedman was good defensively, but he elevated his game this season and has unquestionably enter into being one of the NHL’s best all-around defensemen.
The former second-overall pick has had his best offensive season as a pro. Scoring a career-high in goals with 15 and assists with 51 which has ultimately led to a career-high in points with 66. which is second most on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hedman has elevated his play on special teams as well, recording a second-best 32 power-play points.
The 2016-17 All-Star has kept up with his strong defensive game as well. He is leading the Lightning in blocked shots with 120. Injuries have plagued Tampa Bay all season which goes hand and hand with the disappointing season. The one bright spot has been Hedman. Tampa’s game has gone through Hedman this season sporting a CF% 53.7. Despite Hedman’s terrific season, there are clearly two better candidates that have been more impressive than the 26-year-old Swede.
With all due resepct to Hedman, Suter and the other defensemen in the NHL, but the 2016-17 Norris Trophy is a two-horse race.
Make it two straight years for the Senators captain. After an impressive season last year where Erik Karlsson recorded 82 points in 82 games, Drew Doughty ultimately won the Norris Trophy. This year could be the same story. His numbers aren’t quite as impressive as his 82 points from a season ago, ranking second for NHL points by a defenseman. Through 75 games this season, the two-time Norris winner has scored 15 goals and 53 assists for a team-leading 68 points.
More importantly to the Senators is Karlsson’s new-found defensive game. Karlsson has always been a dangerous offensive defenseman His issue was that he was a liability in his own end. Karlsson’s defensive improvement is a reflection of first-year head coach Guy Boucher, who for the most part is a defensive-minded coach.
The most unexpected stat this season is the block shots. Karlsson leads the league with 201 blocked shots. That’s not the only impressive defensive stat the Sens captain carries. He has helped turn a penalty kill that was ranked 29th last season into a unit that is in the top 15 of the league.
The big turnaround in his own end has actually impacted his offensive game slightly. Karlsson’s puck possession numbers have gone down since the defensive system has taken place. Karlsson’s Corsi rating is at 49.4%.
Karlsson is the engine that drives the Ottawa Senators. His new-found defensive game has led Ottawa to becoming a top-10 team in overall defence. Karlsson has led the Senators into second in the Atlantic Division and are ready for the playoffs. Karlsson is having the most well-rounded season as an NHL defenseman in his career. Although he will once again fall short as the Norris Trophy winner.
At the mid-way point of the season Brent Burns looked to have run away as this year’s Norris Trophy winner. This season for Burns has been one the league hasn’t seen in quite some time.
Since the turn of the century, there has been only one defenseman that has amassed 80 points and that was Karlsson last season. The difference between Karlsson last season and Burns this season is that Burns has 28 goals compared Karlsson’s 16. His 28 goals this season is his career-best and puts him into a tie for first on his team with captain Joe Pavelski. Burns still has a legit opportunity to reach 30 which has only happened once in the past 17 years for a defenseman. Mike Green scored 31 in 2008-09 season.
Burns offense has been impressive. He leads a stacked San Jose Sharks squad in points with 73 in 76 games. Even with his unbelievable offensive output, Burns is not a liability in his own end. Burns showcases a 53.8% Corsi rating. While he’s on the ice, the Sharks score nearly 60% of the goals. And he’s doing this with a 99.36 PDO, which means he has the potential to do a bit more.
Both Burns and Karlsson are deserving of the Norris Trophy this season. Burns gets the edge for the freakish offensive numbers he carries as a defenseman. San Jose is a Cup contender once again after falling just short last season. The Sharks are a dominant team in the NHL and Burns is the main reason why San Jose is a threat.