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Norris Trophy Finalists: Doughty vs. Karlsson vs. Burns

The NHL announced Friday that Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks are finalists for the Norris Trophy, given annually to “the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” 

The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association votes for the award.

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So which one of these guys will win the Norris?

Why Drew Doughty Deserves The Norris

From the NHL: 

Doughty appeared in all 82 games for the second consecutive season and was third in the League in average ice time (28:01), helping the Kings to a third consecutive top-five finish in team defense (third, 2.34 GA/GP). He registered his highest goals and points totals since 2009-10 (14-37--51), posted a career-best +24 rating and topped the NHL in several enhanced statistics categories, including the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential) – the Kings recorded 537 more shot attempts than they allowed with him on the ice at 5-on-5. Doughty is a Norris Trophy finalist for the second straight season and third time overall, placing third in 2009-10 and second in 2014-15.

Doughty was an all-situation matchup defenseman for the Kings this season. Los Angeles Coach Darryl Sutter used him almost equally on the power play (3:03 of ice-time per-game) and the penalty kill (2:56 of ice-time per-game). Doughty also led the NHL in shifts per-game at 33.3, two more than Minnesota’s minute-cruncher Ryan Suter.

Doughty was the least-impressive offensively of the finalists, but this mostly had to do with how Sutter employed him as well as the Kings’ bruising defense-first style. Los Angeles finished with the third-best defense in the NHL and Doughty was on ice for more than half of the Kings’ games.

Why Erik Karlsson Deserves The Norris

From the NHL:

Karlsson set single-season franchise records for assists and points by a defenseman (16-66—82), leading the NHL in assists and topping all defensemen in points for the third consecutive season and fourth time in the past five campaigns. He appeared in all 82 games for the third straight season and led the NHL in total time on ice (2,375:55), even-strength time on ice (1,885:26) and average time on ice (28:58), all career-high figures. Karlsson is vying for his second consecutive and third career Norris Trophy, having won the competition in both prior years as a finalist (2012, 2015). 

The Senators were a far superior team with Karlsson on the ice. According to War on Ice, his CF% Rel 5-on-5 was a plus-7.22. He was the only one of Ottawa’s blueliners in positive territory in this statistic.

He became the first defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom in 2005-06 to record 80-or-more points in a season. The last blueliner to hit that mark before Lidstrom was Brian Leetch in 1995-96. Karlsson’s Senators did not make the playoffs, which was a mark against Doughty last season when he finished second in Norris voting, but had the most first-place votes. 

The knock on Karlsson is that he’s not as defensively strong as Doughty, but he's always proved the best offense is a good defense by keeping the puck away from the opposition.

Why Brent Burns Deserves The Norris

The NHL says:

Burns set several Sharks records for defensemen this season, including those for most goals (27), assists (48) and points (75). He also set an overall team mark for most shots on goal (353). The first-time Norris Trophy finalist ranked near the top of the League in several categories, including shots (second), goals by a defenseman (first), points by a defenseman (second) and assists by a defenseman (T-third). Burns appeared in all 82 games for a second consecutive season and logged a team-leading and career-high 25:51 in ice time per game (fourth in NHL), helping the Sharks jump from 24th in team defense last season to 11th in 2015-16. 

Burns was almost as dynamic as Karlsson offensively with 75 points and 27 goals. His 25:51 of ice-time was less than the two Norris front-runners, but Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn’t need to use Burns as much since his team had more defense depth than the Kings and the Senators.

Burns averaged 4:05 of power play ice-time, and 2:08 of ice-time per-game shorthanded and excelled in both spots. His 30 power play points were the most amongst defenseman, and he was one of 18 defensemen with at least one shorthanded goal.  

Who Wins The Norris? 

Karlsson. His offensive numbers were overwhelming to voters. With both Burns and Doughty probably splitting some of the Western Conference vote (voters out West also saw a lot of Roman Josi, Suter and Shea Weber) it seems like Karlsson had the easiest path to winning the award. Plus, he’s won it twice before beating Weber in 2012 when Karlsson was considered an underdog, and last year when Doughty had more first-place votes. Karlsson seems to find a way to get the most votes in his Norris worthy campaigns.

Who Should Win The Norris?

Really, it’s a two-horse race between Doughty and Karlsson. Coaches and other old school hockey insider types lean towards Doughty. Advanced stats champions love Karlsson. Burns plays a similar style to Karlsson but has more size. Still, he’s considered a distant third despite his big goal total this year.

Who you think should win the award just depends on how you view the game. Karlsson vs. Doughty is the new Paul Coffey vs. Ray Bourque.


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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!




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