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NHL Norris Trophy - 2012 Finalists By The Charts

The James Norris Memorial Trophy, named after former Detroit Red Wings owner-president James Norris, is an award given to the NHL's top defenseman during a season. The winner is chosen through a poll of the members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.

The NHL record for most Norris Trophy wins is held by Bobby Orr, who won the award eight times and in consecutive seasons (1967-68 to 1974-75). Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom all have won the award seven times during their careers, and other winners include Ray Bourque, Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Denis Potvin and Larry Robinson.

The 2012 Norris Trophy winner will be contested between defensemen Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators. The winner will be made known on June 20 during the 2012 NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

We analyze their performances using the charts below:


Karlsson put up spectacular offensive numbers this season, leading all NHL defensemen with 78 points, 25 points more than Dustin Byfuglien and Brian Campbell, who finished second in scoring among defensemen. His 78 points helped him finish tied for 10th in scoring among all NHL players. Karlsson's tremendous play allowed the Senators to finish 5th among NHL teams in goals scored, despite finishing 8th in their conference and barely making the playoffs.

Chara finished the year with 52 points, a career-high for the giant defenseman. Weber finished with 49 points, including 19 goals, which ties him with Karlsson for the league high in goals scored by a defenseman. Despite Chara reaching a career high in points and Weber being 5 points shy of a new career high, there is really no discussion as to who of the three defensemen gets the nod in this category.

Advantage: Erik Karlsson

Power Play Points

Karlsson once again leads the way in this category, scoring 28 points on the power play. However, he is not the clear-cut winner of this category as was the case with the Scoring category. Despite Weber finishing with 22 points, 6 less than Karlsson, he did score 10 goals on the power play (the league high among defensemen) and was a key contributor to the Predators having the best power play in the league. In contrast, Karlsson only scored 3 goals on the power play, and the Senators' power play ranked 11th in the NHL. Chara finished with 8 goals and 10 assists for 18 points, but the Bruins' power play ranked 15th.

The difference in Karlsson's power play stats and Weber's is that they have different roles on the power play; Karlsson is a passer and set-up man, while Weber is a shooter. Thanks to Weber's blasts from the point, his defense partner on the Predators' power play, Ryan Suter, finished tied for 4th in the NHL in power play assists. With Karlsson distributing the puck on the Senators' power play, two of his teammates ( Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek) finished in the top 25 among NHL players in power play goals with 10. The battle for the winner of this category is close, but the edge goes to Karlsson by the slightest of margins.

Advtanage: Erik Karlsson

Short Handed Points

A good play from a defenseman in his own zone almost always precedes a shorthanded goal. Although shorthanded goals are rare, defenseman sometimes have the opportunity to record a few shorthanded points. It is more impressive when a defenseman scores a shorthanded goal, and almost surreal when he scores more than one goal shorthanded. Not only was Weber one of only 10 defensemen to score a shorthanded goal this season, he scored 2 of them when his team was down a man. 

Weber's 2 shorthanded goals gives him his only shorthanded points for the year, and it gives him the edge in this category. Chara finished the year with 1 shorthanded point (1 assist), and Karlsson did not record a point in a shorthanded situation. In fairness, Karlsson is known as an offensive defenseman, meaning he does not often play on the penalty kill. Weber and Chara are the first-choice defensive defensemen for their teams and see a little more time on the penalty kill.

Advantage: Shea Weber

Plus / Minus

Chara is the group's leader in the plus/minus category, ending the season with a +33, which ranked 3rd in the NHL and 1st among defensemen. In fact, the top 5 players in plus/minus in the NHL are all Bruins players. As a team, the Bruins led the league with a goal differential of +67 (they scored 67 more goals than they allowed). Thanks in part to Chara, his defensive unit partner Johnny Boychuk finished 3rd among defensemen with a +26.  This is the third time in his career that Chara finishes a season with a +33 ranking; +33 is also his career high.

Erik Karlsson finished the season at +16, which is a solid number considering the Senators allowed the 6th most goals against in the league (the five teams that allowed more goals than them did not make the playoffs). Shea Weber finished the year with a +21, setting the Predators franchise record among defensemen for plus/minus in the process.

Advantage: Zdeno Chara


Weber, at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, and Chara, at 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, are known for their physical play and for their bodychecking. To no one's surprise, they finished among the top 25 defensemen in hits, way ahead of the 6-foot, 180-pound Karlsson, who is not known for his physical play.

Weber leads the trio in hits, with 177, with Chara coming second with 166. Karlsson, presumably concentrated more on his offensive game, threw only 60 hits last season.

Advantage: Shea Weber

Penalties in Minutes (PIM)

Chara and Weber play a rugged style of hockey, so it is expected that they may pick up an extra roughing penalty here and there. Chara ranked 9th among defensemen for the most penalty minutes with 86; 20 of those minutes were assessed for fighting majors and 10 for a game misconduct. Weber was more disciplined, picking up 46 penalty minutes, all for 2-minute minor penalties.

Karlsson was the most well-behaved of the group, picking up 21 minor penalties throughout the year, for a total of 42 penalty minutes. Karlsson gets the advantage here, although credit should be given to Weber for receiving only 46 PIM's despite playing a more physical game than Karlsson.

Advantage: Erik Karlsson

Giveaways and Takeaways

One of the consequences of being an offensively-minded defenseman is that you are prone to turning the puck over more than usual. Karlsson ranked 4th among all defensemen in giveaways with 84, averaging more than one giveaway per game. Chara ranked 10th among defensemen, giving the puck away 68 times. It was Weber who was the most effective; he turned the puck over only 46 times.

While Karlsson turned the puck over the most, he also had the most takeaways of the three, with 67. Weber is next with 51 takeaways, while Chara only had 28. Looking at the difference between giveaways and takeaways, Weber is the only one with a positive rate; his 51 takeaways and 46 turnover give him a +5, while Karlsson and Chara finish in the negative with a -17 and a -40 respectively.

Advantage: Shea Weber

Shots on Goal

All three defensemen rank in the top 5 when it comes to shots on goal among defensemen. Karlsson led all defensemen with 261 shots on goal, Weber was third with 230, and Chara was fifth with 224. It was Weber who finished with the highest shooting percentage however, with 8.3% of his shots hitting the back of the net. Karlsson finished at 7.3% and Chara at 5.4%.

The advantage goes to Karlsson, who took 31 more shots than Weber and 37 more than Chara.

Advantage: Erik Karlsson

Blocked Shots

Shot-blocking is more important than ever in today's NHL because of how fast and how accurately opponents are able to shoot the puck. Shot-blocking defensemen are sought by all teams nowadays. Shot-blocking is not easy, it can be dangerous, and there are not many who are willing to do it.

Among the three finalists for the Norris trophy, Weber is by far the best shot blocker, having blocked 140 shots this season. Chara and Karlsson are well behind, having blocked 87 and 65 shots respectively.

Advantage: Shea Weber

Time on Ice

It is not easy being a top defenseman on an NHL team, because they will usually play the most minutes out of all their teammates. They are deployed to shut down the opposing team's number one line, and they are used on the first wave of special teams (power play and penalty kill). Weber, Karlsson and Chara are all number-one defensemen on their teams and are the players that average the most ice time of all their teammates. Weber's average time on ice per game is 26:09 minutes, followed by Karlsson at 25:19 minutes and Chara at 25:00 minutes.

Not only has Weber played more per game than Chara and Karlsson, but he has taken more shifts per game than them (29.4 vs. 28.6 vs. 27.2) and has average more special team minutes per game than them (5:47 vs. 5:22 vs. 4:26). The time on ice category is dominated by Weber, who has been a workhorse for the Predators this season.

Advantage: Shea Weber

And the Winner Is...

If we compare the three finalists using their offensive stats, there is no question that Karlsson is the winner. However, when basing ourselves on defensive statistics, this award is Weber's to lose. The question to ask is who of Karlsson and Weber has dominated the other finalists more in these areas.

Except for scoring, Weber came very close to getting the advantage in all the categories that Karlsson won. The reverse isn't true however; Weber had over 100 more hits than Karlsson, he had a giveaway-to-takeaway difference of +5 while Karlsson's was -17, and he blocked 75 more shots than Karlsson.

Shea Weber is an elite defenseman who is equally effective offensively and defensively. There is no question that Karlsson is a star offensively, but he needs to improve defensively. Karlsson's impressive offensive numbers will make the race for the Norris Trophy a tight one, but expect Shea Weber to take home his first Norris Trophy.

Norris Trophy winner: Shea Weber

As always let us know what you think in the comments below!

Editor's Update (06/20/2012): Erik Karlsson won the 2011-2012 Norris Trophy.

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