Handicapping The 2009-10 Norris Trophy

Mike Green shoots. Mike Green Scores. (Photo by Greg Fiume)

Schultz For Norris? (Illustration by @megHamonster)

Schultz For Norris? Maybe next year, Sarge. (Illustration by @megHamonster)

The Norris Trophy sounds simple to award: “The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”

Not surprisingly, it seems the voters (Professional Hockey Writers’ Association) use how many points a defenseman scores in the season as the “offensive component” when looking for their winner. Since the 1997-8 season, only last year’s winner (Zdeno Chara) has been out of the Top 10 in Points for defensemen – and he wasn’t out by much, ranking 12th.

A defenseman’s Plus/Minus factors in to the voting as the “defensive component.” In the same time frame, all but two winners had a Plus/Minus less than 10 – Nicklas Lidstrom in 2000-1 had a +9 and Rob Blake in 1997-8 had a -3 (the only other winner of the Norris with a negative Plus/Minus was Randy Carlyle in 1980-1). And you would have to go back to when the “Secretary of Defense” won the first of his two Norris Trophies to find another winner with a Plus/Minus not in the double digits.

We can narrow down the list to who should be the finalists, and eventually the winner, if we use these two stats to guide us through the candidates (as of Apr 10, 2010):

  • Mike Green, WSH – 75 points, +37
  • Duncan Keith, CHI – 68 points, +21
  • Drew Doughty, LAK – 58 points, +19
  • Chris Pronger, PHI – 55 points, +22
  • Nicklas Lidstrom – DET, 49 points, +22
  • Tyler Myers, BUF – 47 points, +14

We can further narrow down the list by age. If we take out Bobby Orr‘s Norris domination from 1967 to 1975, with the exception of Dennis Potvin (who sucks) in 1975-6, no other Norris winner was younger than 23 years old. That appears to eliminate Drew Doughty (20 years old) and Tyler Myers (19). My guess is the voters also look at the award as a “right of passage.”

That leaves us with four candidates – Green, Keith, Pronger and Lidstrom – with a chance to win.

If we go back to the criteria to win, “greatest all-round ability in the position,” it is hard to ignore Mike Green. He ranks first in Points for defensemen and second in Plus/Minus for defensemen and 4th overall for the entire NHL.

Looking at it another way: Mike Green would have the best expected win% (and wins) based on Goals For and Against when he is on the ice, even with less ice time than the other candidates:

  • Mike Green, expected win% .761, 24 wins.
  • Duncan Keith, .559, 20
  • Chris Pronger, .625, 22
  • Nicklas Lidstrom, .621, 21

The lone argument that could be used against Green is that he has played against weaker competition than the other Norris finalists. However, the Caps sit atop the Top 5 spots in the NHL for Plus/Minus, so this could skew the results a bit.

If “the greatest all-round ability in the position” doesn’t include being the top defensemen offensively (Points scored), the second best defensemen in Plus/Minus (4th in the NHL overall) and giving your team the best chance to win when you are on the ice, what does it mean?

Let’s hope the voters see it through and vote Mike Green for the Norris.