Last season, the No. 1 spot on the Norris Trophy ballot I had the privilege of submitting belonged to Boston's Zdeno Chara. But at the end of the breakdown of my vote for the Norris, I said "One of these years, though, Weber has to be the recipient".
This is the year it ought to happen. And as it stands, I'm giving my first-place Norris vote this season to Predators captain Shea Weber. There are good cases to be made for more than a few blueliners (including Chicago's Duncan Keith, L.A.'s Drew Doughty, Montreal's P.K. Subban and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson), but it's about time the hockey world acknowledged Weber's unique skill set.
Weber certainly isn't having a career year on offense (that came last season with his 23-goal, 56-point campaign), but he's in the top 10 among NHL defensemen in scoring in 2014-15 with 15 goals and 45 points. With an average ice time of 26:24, he's nearly three full minutes behind Doughty (29:17) and slightly behind Preds defensive partner Roman Josi (26:28). But if you're basing your vote strictly based on points or time on ice leaders, you're voting wrong. The Norris goes to the blueliner deemed to have displayed the greatest all-around ability, not the one who makes the most highlight reels. And Weber's multitude of abilities make him capable of hurting you physically, in any zone, and have a direct effect on the scoreboard at both ends of the playing surface.
The 29-year-old Weber ranks third on his team in shots (217), second in power play goals (5) and second in power play points (18). He averages 3:04 of power play time a game and 2:31 of penalty kill time. He's even got a shorthanded goal. And he plays what can kindly be called a robust game, and can unkindly be called the ability to knock you through the next three news cycles. You have to fear him strategically as much as you do by watching what he's done to opponents over the course of the past decade:
Weber has been the best and most consistent defenseman on arguably the deepest defense corps in the NHL this year. If we're voting by the Norris criteria and are truly taking stock of a blueliner's impact on all parts of the game, he's the one who deserves it most.
In this era of NHL parity, you might be able to mount an equally strong Norris argument for another d-man. But you won't be able to make a stronger one this season than the one for Weber.