Like it or not, the Norris Trophy seems to be the one award where guys get their “turn.” Maybe it’s because the criterion for best defenseman is a little more subjective, maybe it’s because you can have many of the same candidates for years, but this is the impression I get.
To wit: Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman easily could have won his Norris one year earlier, when he put up 72 points in 2016-17, but San Jose’s Brent Burns flirted with 30 goals and ended up the winner. So Hedman won the next season, with 63 points. Still deserving, mind you – just kinda funny how things work out. Especially since Drew Doughty also put up great numbers last year. Better offensive numbers, in fact, than he did when the Kings stalwart claimed his trophy in 2015-16.
And of course there are the Erik Karlsson fans who will tell you their boy has been robbed in the past, that two Norris trophies don’t do him justice (and maybe they’re right).
Which brings us to Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, the No. 1 blueliner on one of the best teams in the NHL right now. ‘Gio’ has never won a Norris and at 35, he’s not the typical age for a contender. But nothing has been typical in his career. Famously undrafted out of major junior, Giordano took the long road to NHL glory, which included a season in Russia between Calgary stints. Giordano was in his thirties before he even played in an NHL all-star game.
Now, he’s a powerhouse. The captain faces top competition and is one of the best possession defensemen in the league. His 43 points in 43 games puts him on pace to smash his previous career-high in points (56 in 2015-16) and as I mentioned before, the Flames are pretty darn good this year.
So is this Giordano’s trophy to lose? Well, it won’t be a sure thing. After all, Burns and Karlsson have both been excellent in San Jose and Karlsson in particular has a great narrative (which is important since writers vote on these awards), in that he got off to a slow start with his new team but has since blasted up the scoring charts. Both Karlsson and Burns have better possession numbers than Giordano and all the players face tough competition (Karlsson a bit more so than Burns).
Now, will there be some vote-splitting on the West Coast between Karlsson and Burns? That’s certainly a possibility. There are also a couple Eastern Conference candidates to keep in mind in Washington’s John Carlson and Toronto’s Morgan Rielly, though it feels like it’s going to be one of the three West guys right now. And Columbus’ Seth Jones is still young, but he’s going to need Norris recognition soon, too, let’s not forget.
Unfortunately, the Norris is only given out once a year and some excellent defensemen just run out of time. Is Shea Weber ever going to get one at this stage in his career, what with all the injuries and playing on a middling team? What about Ryan Suter, who continues to defy theories on aging with the massive minutes he plays in Minnesota? If it hasn’t happened for him by now, will it ever?
Picking awards is rarely easy (see: Hart, McDavid), but the Norris is always an interesting challenge. Giordano is a great candidate for this season, but not the only one. If he continues his top-end play, we’ll still have to wait and see if it’s his “turn” for the award.