Why Erik Karlsson Shouldn't Win the Norris Trophy
As is the case in just about any sport, it's the hockey players who score goals and create offense that stand out.
While there are several reasons why people love this game, it's the speedsters, snipers and danglers that bring us out of our seats, not the skaters who "simply" make smart decisions with and without the puck or block shots.
It therefore comes as no shock that Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators has received so much attention these days. After all, the 21-year-old Swedish sensation is having one heck of a season, at least in the offensive zone.
Karlsson's amassed 66 points (15 goals, 51 assists) in 64 games with the Sens in 2011-12, a performance that has captured the attention of hockey fans everywhere.
That appreciation for offensive flair is both understandable and justified, but it's important to keep it all in perspective, and in doing so, to realize that there's more to hockey than goals and assists.
This is especially true when it comes to certain awards, including the Norris Trophy.
As defined by the NHL, the Norris is "given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position." It is not given to "the defense player who records the most points," contrary to popular belief.
Karlsson's a very talented kid with a promising future in this league. He's an absolute magician with the puck, has a cannon of a shot and is a gifted passer. But for all of his offensive skills and instinct, Karlsson's two-way game is, at best, mediocre.
Is that something he'll improve upon over time? No question about it. But make no mistake, Karlsson's defensive miscues have added up, and he's got plenty of work to do. His plus-15 rating can be more closely attributed to his offensive prowess.
Karlsson has been caught out of position by oncoming forwards too many times to count this season, and his giveaway numbers aren't pretty, either.
I'm not going to say he doesn't deserve any recognition. There's certainly a valid argument to be made that Karlsson should win the Hart Trophy because he's as valuable and vital to his team's success as one could possibly be.
However, the Norris Trophy needs to be handed out to a defenseman who's impressed at both ends of the ice—someone like Shea Weber (my pick) or Nicklas Lidstrom. That isn't to undermine Karlsson's accomplishments, but he is not the best all-around blueliner in the NHL.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Mike Green and Lubomir Visnovsky both had tremendously productive seasons and, even so, failed to capture the Norris. There's more to it than offensive statistics, and as was the case with Green and Visnovsky, the same logic can and should be applied to Karlsson.
Down the road, Erik Karlsson will likely straighten out his defensive issues and becomes a complete player. When that happens, you better believe there's a Norris waiting for him. As far as this season is concerned, he's not there yet.
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