by PuckStopsHere on 06/23/13 at 01:13 PM ET
When I posted on (most of) the NHL Award recipients, there were a few awards that I noted would need further discussion. One is the Norris Trophy that was won by PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. Subban was the highest scoring defenceman in the season with 38 points. He put up a solid +12 +/- rating which led the Montreal defence. Statistically he is a strong choice for the Norris Trophy. The problem is he wasn't playing against a particularly tough opposition. In fact he was sheltered from the big minutes that a typical Norris Trophy winner. His slightly over 23 minutes per game was 35th among defencemen in the NHL. This was because he is not as trustworthy in all circumstances. Of the top Norris Trophy candidates, Subban is the least reliable defensively.
The other two Norris nominees Kris Letang and Ryan Suter were more reliable in more situations. Letang scored as many points as Subban and he did it in only 35 games played. He also did it while playing more than two minutes a game more for a strong Pittsburgh team with more competition for ice time. Letang was more reliable defensively and scored at a higher per game rate. That made him a better Norris candidate.
Ryan Suter played in the lower scoring West Conference and finished third in scoring among defencemen with 32 points. He led the league with over 27 minutes played per game, so he was clearly trusted far more situations than Subban and he too was a better Norris Trophy candidate.
It is kind of alarming that the Norris Trophy nominees were the three highest scoring defencemen in the NHL. The top scorer won the award. That shows that voters tended to look at offensive numbers and not defensive play. Subban was less reliable defensively and that is most clearly shown with his ice time.
If we look outside the top scorer defencemen, Zdeno Chara should have been a nominee ahead of Subban as well. He was fourth in terms of first place votes for the Norris Trophy. The problem was he didn't post the offensive numbers of the eventual nominees. He put up 19 points, which was good for 15th among defencemen. He did so against very tough opposition. He had a tougher quality of opposition than any of the nominees and yet he played a very strong season. He dominates the ice a lot more frequently than Subban does.
Any of Letang, Suter and Chara would have been better Norris nominees than Subban, but that is not what the voters thought. They tended to look at the scoring race and give PK Subban the Norris Trophy. He had a good season but he was clearly beaten by all three of these people. The Norris Trophy was poorly decided based upon a superficial view of offensive statistics. That is a poor way to decide a trophy for a defenceman.
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