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PK Subban Is A Poor Norris Trophy Winner

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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Laran's avatar

My god you’re a negative blogger. All you do is criticize others opinions and offer recaps while reeking of arrogance in the process. It’s no wonder there’s no comments on 90% of your posts.

Should be the “Bitch and Moan” blog.

Posted by Laran on 06/23/13 at 02:26 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

It is awfully negative to write about how Kris Letang, Ryan Suter and Zdeno Chara all had seasons that were so good that each of them outplayed the guy who won the Norris Trophy.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/23/13 at 02:38 PM ET


It is kind of alarming that the Norris Trophy nominees were the three highest scoring defencemen in the NHL.

It might be if one were completely and utterly unfamiliar with he NHL.

Posted by Garth on 06/23/13 at 02:44 PM ET

Laran's avatar

Right…..because the entire focus of the article wasn’t to cut down on Subban, his “defensive liabilities” compared to the others, and the legitimacy of the entire voting process.

Posted by Laran on 06/23/13 at 03:05 PM ET


I totally agree. Defencemen should be first and foremost regarded for their defensive play, not their offensive. Now if a player can do both equally well, such as a Lidstrom, Orr, Bourque, then it becomes a different discussion. However here voters simply displayed their ignorance by simply picking the highest scorer, and letting their other attributes, one’s more important to the defensive position, get ignored. I think Suter was most deserving for the honor this year. He shows poise in difficult situations, and as a coach one wants someone they can consistently trust.

Posted by Wheresmyhat on 06/23/13 at 04:01 PM ET


I’ll stick up for PSH here. Being a poor choice for the Norris is not the same as being a poor player, and in a previous post he even said that he would have picked Subban in fourth place on his own hypothetical Norris ballot.

Saying a guy was the fourth best player in the world at his position but maybe not quite AS good as some guys who weren’t quite as prolific offensively but were probably better defensively and played tougher minutes is not a particularly harsh stance, nor is it a particularly controversial one. Subban had a great year but I think PSH is probably right that, all things considered, there were others who were probably more deserving.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 06/23/13 at 04:21 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Next story: How The Red Wings Are the Worst NHL Team of the Last Two Decades

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 06/23/13 at 04:24 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Letang was a Train wreck in his own zone & had a a steady stream of brain farts

Posted by Evilpens on 06/23/13 at 04:28 PM ET

topshelf14's avatar

Subban had the top corsi rating out of all the nominees, most pts scored and played top line minutes on his team alongside Andrei Markov. He is a deserving winner in this shortened season.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 06/23/13 at 04:59 PM ET

DrewBehr's avatar

The problem is he (Subban) wasn’t playing against a particularly tough opposition - he played against Eastern Conference teams.

Chara - played against the same Eastern Conference teams.
Letang - played against the same Eastern Conference teams.

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 06/23/13 at 05:54 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

Even in the eastern conference, there’s a difference in the quality of first and forth lines, DrewBehr.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 06/23/13 at 08:02 PM ET


There’s no question if you had watched Eastern Conference teams who your Norris winner would be and that’s PK Subban.

Was he better than Chara during the regular season? Yes. Was he better than Letang? Yep… And of course Karlsson was injured which helped his cause.

As to Gary Suter, you might have a case. Pierre Lebrun who has watched games in both conferences during the shortened season and has seen Suter and Subban play many teams over the course of the season thinks they are 1 and 2 (with Suter being first due to his insane minutes played).

As for PK’s alleged defensive shortcomings, you’re probably thinking of the previous season. Had you watched the Habs this year, you would have seen the best D man in the East. (And while you’re at it you might have seen a great rookie too…)

Posted by ME10 on 06/23/13 at 08:06 PM ET


“This was because he is not as trustworthy in all circumstances.  Of the top Norris Trophy candidates, Subban is the least reliable defensively.”

Totally disagree. What’s being omitted is that Subban held out, and thus had no training camp and was playing under a new and unfamiliar coach. For the first 10-15 games he was playing less minutes, primarily used in offensive situations. By season’s end, he was the shutdown guy on the team. His role changed as the season progressed. And don’t even get me started on the idea he’s not as good defensively as Kris Letang. He’s miles better than Letang. Tougher and more committed to defence as well. His all around game is at another level.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 06/23/13 at 08:39 PM ET


PSH is getting pretty good at these award commentaries. Thorough reasoning leads to correct conclusion. All three guys more or less backed into a nomination this year, but Subban was likely the 4th best choice in the league.

Posted by ME10 on 06/23/13 at 08:06 PM ET

Gary Suter retired over a decade ago and PK Subban’s usage reflects his play. Better than any non-Karlsson D on the powerplay this year. Doesn’t really have the overall game to be given tough minutes.

Take a look at Turris’ goal.


This is a junior hockey level misplay on this 2 on 1 by Subban. He plays the shot instead of the pass, which is the first problem. The second problem is his gap is completely wrong to attempt that. The third problem is he’s playing zone while the backchecker is (correctly) man to man. As soon as Turris leaves Subban’s zone, Subban abandons him and covers nobody (which means nobody is on Turris). That’s three botched reads on the same play leading directly to a goal. If you’re going to make the unconventional play and take the man, then you’ve gotta get into position to take him and take him.

His transition isn’t comparable to Letang’s or Suter’s and his defensive game is laughable compared to Suter’s and Chara’s. Giving him this award is like giving it to Streit when he lead the league in powerplay points by a D.

But PSH is right when he says there weren’t really any good candidates this season. So Subban merely won the award over another guy who probably shouldn’t have won it.

Posted by larry on 06/23/13 at 08:54 PM ET

topshelf14's avatar


This article highlights a comparison to Erik Karlsson’s season last year to Subban’s this year. Performance, defensive partner and possession shows he either matched or performed better against Karlsson.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 06/23/13 at 09:04 PM ET


Touche on Suter. I of course meant Ryan.

Nice cherry picking on one goal. Watch Chara’s entire season or Letang’s and you’ll see much the same mistakes. But I guess you’re trolling here so go right ahead. I always appreciate a good troll.

Lockout seasons are notoriously unpredictable. Subban was full value this year. Other than Suter, there wasn’t really a viable alternative if you look at a full season objectively. Chara’s game was off for long spells and Letang suffered an injury that set him back som.

If you want to zoom in on a particular game, you might want to look at the last meeting between Boston and Montreal. In that game, Subban was outstanding and completely outclassed Chara. It wasn’t even close. Great game by the way. Absolutely crazy back and forth with the lead changing hands a couple of times.

The good folks here at Wing Nation are going to get a steady dose of PK next year. I suspect he’ll quickly join the likes of Claude Lemieux and Patrick Roy as one of the most hated players in recent memory… (Oh and you’ll love Marchand too! That kid is special…)

Posted by ME10 on 06/23/13 at 09:12 PM ET


Nice cherry picking on one goal. Watch Chara’s entire season or Letang’s and you’ll see much the same mistakes. But I guess you’re trolling here so go right ahead. I always appreciate a good troll.

I didn’t cherry pick anything. Just went back to the Habs Ottawa series, clicked the first game that came up and the first goal Subban was on the ice for, which happened to be 100% his fault due to three egregious errors on one play.

But plays like this are common from him. Blows reads frequently. Under pressure, he has an alarming tendency to throw the puck blindly into traffic dead center of whatever zone he’s in—a tendency which is normal for a young, talented defenseman (I expect to see the same from Jones until he works it out of his system, particularly coming from Portland) but almost unheard of from a Norris winner.

Letang also makes plays like these, which is why he’s another bad candidate for a Norris. However, he also nearly triples Subban’s per minute production at even strength despite receiving tougher assignments.

Chara does not make plays like these on anything that would constitute a regular basis.

Posted by larry on 06/23/13 at 09:47 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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