"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. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season."
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
The Case for Drew Doughty
20-year olds are not supposed to play this position this well. 30-year olds generally don’t. On the offensive end of the spectrum, Doughty finished second among defensemen in goals, third in points, 11th in plus-minus, tied for second in power play goals, and first in game-winning goals. But Doughty also finished 25th,in hits, more than Anton Volchenkov and Zdeno Chara. He scored seven of his 16 goals in 32 games (of 82 total) against the other seven teams making the playoffs out of the Western Conference and 25 of his total of 59 points. He was very consistent, home or away, compiling an 8-22-30 line at home and an 8-21-29 line away from Staples Center. He also became quite a workhorse as the season wore on. In 41 games in the 2010 portion of the season, he logged fewer than 25 minutes of ice time only 13 times. And it is rare to find a defenseman this young given such heavy power play responsibility – only six defensemen in the league logged more average power play time than did Doughty.
The Case for Mike Green
Mike Green established a record for goals scored in consecutive games by a defenseman in the 2008-2009 season and finished with 31 goals, establishing himself as the top offensive defenseman in the NHL and earning himself a nomination as a Norris Trophy finalist. This year, Green might have had a better all around year. He didn’t have the consecutive goal streak (not that such things happen regularly for any player), but he still finished with 19 goals to lead all NHL defensemen. He also led in assists, total points, power play goals, power play assists, and total power play points. “Game Over Green” tied for second in game-winning goals, was second in plus/minus, and was in the top-ten in average ice time. Not generally thought of as a big hitter, he did finish in the top-40 in that statistic, ahead of Robyn Regehr, Ed Jovanovski, and Chris Pronger, to name three defensemen you might not think would finish behind Green. He also finished among the top dozen defensemen in takeaways. And he was more than solid against playoff-caliber competition, going 8-19-27, plus-29 in 24 games against the other seven teams in the East making the playoffs.
The Case for Duncan Keith
When you are tops in ice time on the team that allowed the fewest shots on goal in the league, you might be thought to have had a part in that. Add to that the fact that you finished sixth among NHL defensemen in goals, second in assists and points, and ninth in plus/minus, you are contributing in the offensive end of the ice as well. That’s the season Duncan Keith had for the Chicago Blackhawks. On top of that, Keith finished in the top-25 in blocked shots and in the top-ten in takeaways. His takeaway-to-giveaway ratio of 0.76 was the best among the three finalists for the Norris. Keith had a fine record among playoff-eligible teams in the West, finishing 7-23-30, plus-6 in 32 games. He had a remarkable consistent season, too. If you discount the months of February and April for the small number of games played in each, he recorded 13 or 14 points in each of the other four months of the season.
The citation states that this award goes to the best “all-around” defenseman. In that respect, Green probably gets less credit than he is due, but some of his statistics (his assist and plus/minus numbers) are also undoubtedly a product of a very prolific offense playing with him. Doughty could be said to have a balanced game, but it also was one with some holes in it, too. He had by far the worst takaway-to-giveaway ratio among the finalists, and he also had a distinct propensity to commit obstruction types of penalties (16 of his 27 minors were for hooking, holding, and tripping; the comparable numbers were 12 of 27 for Green and 12 of 23 for Keith). These are the equivalent of picking nits – as finalists, Green and Doughty had excellent years. But in the end, the best “all around” performance by a defenseman was that of…