by PuckStopsHere on 02/13/09 at 03:59 AM ET
Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins is seen as the front runner for the Norris Trophy by many people. I think he is a poor selection being put forth because there isn’t a runaway leader for the Norris. Of the contenders, Chara has had a very good career and has not won any major NHL awards. He is being considered for a large part because of the quality of his career. This would make the 2009 Norris Trophy effectively a career achievement award.
Last season, Zdeno Chara finished third in the Norris Trophy voting and made the Second Team All Star. It was his second appearance on the Second Team All Star (the other in 2005/06). This goes with his 2003/04 First Team All Star appearance.
The Boston Bruins have made a big step forward this season and are in first place in the league. It is easy to give Chara too much personal credit for that team achievement. The Bruins rise is another justification for giving Chara the Norris Trophy, when it is clear that they are a team built around many stars.
I am currently supporting Mike Green of the Washington Capitals for the Norris. I feel he has a much better case than Chara.
Let’s look at Chara. I argue he is not having as good a season this year as he did last year when he finished third in the Norris race. Chara current has 32 points in 55 games played. That is good for 15th place among defencemen. Last season he scored 51 points in 77 games. That placed him tenth among defencemen and gave him a better points per game. Offensively he has had a moderate decline. Defensively he has as well. You can see that by looking at on/off ice adjusted +/- as calculated by behind the net.
This season Chara has a -0.10 rating. His team has a slightly better +/- when Chara is not on the ice than when he is. That is explained by the fact that he plays against top competition. Among Bruins with significant ice time (thus removing the one game Johnny Boychuk) he has face the highest quality of opposition. Last season, he has a +0.83 on/off ice adjusted +/- while facing an even higher quality of opposition than he has this year. His defensive numbers have declined.
I think the simplest explanation for the decline might the emergence of Dennis Wideman. He has played at All Star level this year. This has given Boston two All Star calibre defencemen. Wideman does not face as tough a quality of opposition as Chara, but he faces some of it (thus reducing Chara’s quality of opposition number) and he helps the Bruins succeed while Chara is off the ice. This improves the off ice numbers, thus hurting an on/off ice comparison. I don’t imagine this effect could be large enough to explain the entire drop in Chara’s numbers. I think some of it is due to a drop in Chara’s play.
Zdeno Chara is not having as good a season this year as he did last year. Last year he was third in the Norris Trophy race. Assuming that voters did not horribly underrate him last year, it is odd that he is having a weaker season and considered a better Norris Trophy candidate.
I think that barring a collapse in the rest of the season it is very likely that Chara will be nominated for (if not win) the Norris Trophy. I think it would be a bad selection (barring a large contribution from him for the rest of the season). I find it odd that he can drop in the quality of his play and rise as a Norris candidate simultaneously. I think it is largely due to voters rewarding him for his career achievements (and reputation) in a year where there is no clear-cut Norris trophy leader.
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